Living from the Gut and Other Reflections on Scripture
What Happened at the Bridge?

Psalms of Hope in Times of Trouble


Buried in the last psalm of the day are some words that Paul quotes in Romans 8:

"Indeed, for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

But he does not just quote them; he counters them, even to the point of nearly refuting them.

"No!" he declares,

"In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

In reviewing history and present threats in the three psalms, it is the word of hope that emerges, the love, favor, and blessing of God.

The wicked are put down and the righteous are exalted.

Those who regard the poor and weak are lifted up in time of trouble.

Enemies do not triumph. God is always God and God prevails.

The mind wanders back to Romans 8:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39 NRSVU

Nothing can separate the believer from the relentless, persevering, and all-pervasive love of God.

St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated this month as an odd feast for little is known of its namesake.

In fact, there were several martyred saints by the name of Valentinus. Most notable, perhaps, was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth. He was arrested and imprisoned for two offenses: marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted in Rome.

They seemed defeated.

Sweethearts claim the day today as a celebration of martial and pre-marital love and devotion. It is rightly a time to reaffirm the sacred vows of matrimony and lift of the sanctity of godly family life, but the story has the larger implications that Paul exalts. God's love causes us to triumph over all evil.

It is also a time to reflect upon the love of God of which every human love is a dim reflection. It is God’s love that never lets us go and sees us through all manner of trial, tribulation, and persecution.

After his sister’s wedding George Matheson entered a time of deep pain and despair. As a direct result of his mental anguish, he felt God dictating the words of this great hymn:

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

Psalm 41
Beatus qui intelligit

Happy are they who consider the poor and needy! *
the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.

The Lord preserves them and keeps them alive,
so that they may be happy in the land; *
he does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.

The Lord sustains them on their sickbed *
and ministers to them in their illness.

I said, “Lord, be merciful to me; *
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

My enemies are saying wicked things about me: *
“When will he die, and his name perish?”

Even if they come to see me, they speak empty words; *
their heart collects false rumors;
they go outside and spread them.

All my enemies whisper together about me *
and devise evil against me.

“A deadly thing,” they say, “has fastened on him; *
he has taken to his bed and will never get up again.”

Even my best friend, whom I trusted,
who broke bread with me, *
has lifted up his heel and turned against me.

But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up, *
and I shall repay them.

By this I know you are pleased with me, *
that my enemy does not triumph over me.

In my integrity you hold me fast, *
and shall set me before your face for ever.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, *
from age to age. Amen. Amen.

Psalm 52

Quid gloriaris?

You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness *
against the godly all day long?

You plot ruin;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor, *
O worker of deception.

You love evil more than good *
and lying more than speaking the truth.

You love all words that hurt, *
O you deceitful tongue.

Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, *
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!

The righteous shall see and tremble, *
and they shall laugh at him, saying,

“This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, *
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.”

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; *
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

I will give you thanks for what you have done *
and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

Psalm 44
Deus, auribus

We have heard with our ears, O God,
our forefathers have told us, *
the deeds you did in their days,
in the days of old.

How with your hand you drove the peoples out
and planted our forefathers in the land; *
how you destroyed nations and made your people flourish.

For they did not take the land by their sword,
nor did their arm win the victory for them; *
but your right hand, your arm, and the light of your countenance,
because you favored them.

You are my King and my God; *
you command victories for Jacob.

Through you we pushed back our adversaries; *
through your Name we trampled on those who rose up against us.

For I do not rely on my bow, *
and my sword does not give me the victory.

Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries *
and put those who hate us to shame.

Every day we gloried in God, *
and we will praise your Name for ever.

Nevertheless, you have rejected and humbled us *
and do not go forth with our armies.

You have made us fall back before our adversary, *
and our enemies have plundered us.

You have made us like sheep to be eaten *
and have scattered us among the nations.

You are selling your people for a trifle *
and are making no profit on the sale of them.

You have made us the scorn of our neighbors, *
a mockery and derision to those around us.

You have made us a byword among the nations, *
a laughing-stock among the peoples.

My humiliation is daily before me, *
and shame has covered my face;

Because of the taunts of the mockers and blasphemers, *
because of the enemy and avenger.

All this has come upon us; *
yet we have not forgotten you,
nor have we betrayed your covenant.

Our heart never turned back, *
nor did our footsteps stray from your path;

Though you thrust us down into a place of misery, *
and covered us over with deep darkness.

If we have forgotten the Name of our God, *
or stretched out our hands to some strange god,

Will not God find it out? *
for he knows the secrets of the heart.

Indeed, for your sake we are killed all the day long; *
we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Awake, O Lord! why are you sleeping? *
Arise! do not reject us for ever.

Why have you hidden your face *
and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

We sink down into the dust; *
our body cleaves to the ground.

Rise up, and help us, *
and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

Scriptures  - NRSVU