Psalm 31:1-8

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.

Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.

I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have taken heed of my adversities, and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Psalm 31:1-8

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave his acceptance speech at his party’s state convention upon being nominated to run for the United States Senate. In that speech he said these words:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

As we pray this week for the victims and families of the law enforcement officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, as well as the victims and families of those killed by law enforcement officers, I thought of those words. Then the driving force behind the spirit of division within our country revolved around race. Aren’t we in much the same place today?

At some point, the book of Psalms was gathered together, each psalm numbered and placed in the order they now appear in our Bibles. This wasn’t a matter of coherence and careful topical arrangement. As a book of poetry it isn’t arranged by poetic genre. But many psalms are set together, they flow together, as they offer words to accompany the chances and changes of our lives.

Both Psalms 30 and 31 are written as pleas for help and mercy in times of trouble. Psalm 30 expresses the hopefulness of deliverance. Psalm 31 expresses the pain of yearning for deliverance. We all sense that yearning in our country today.

Many voices, commenting on the role that race plays in community relationships between people and police, say that we have moved far beyond where we used to be. That we are far beyond the time of racial division, or at least we ought to be. They say that race has little or nothing to do with these events. They express disappointment that, having elected our first black President, we seem to be moving backwards into old divisions.

Other voices say that such divisions have continued to exist, but largely out of sight and out of mind of the wider society. Racial divisions are not being exploited, stoked, or fanned today, they are being exposed. Coming to the light is painful for those who have so long walked in darkness.

In such an atmosphere, President Lincoln reached for the words of the Bible, from Mark 3: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

In another moment, a man of peace who spoke of the vastness of God’s mercy in the Kingdom of God, was crucified by the government as a subversive troublemaker. He too reached into the Bible, to today’s verses from Psalm 31, for words, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”

Mutual commitment to the love and mercy of God will be our path toward healing. Out-shouting and out-shooting each other will never get us to where God wants us to be.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we are a stubborn and stiff-necked people. We are driven by thoughts and ideas which have long possessed us, consciously and unconsciously. Then things happen and people suffer and we are shocked out of our complacency and feel set adrift. Continue to bring hope to those grieving the loss of loved ones. Continue to bring us to that point where we yield our wills and our spirits to your will and your Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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3 Responses to “Psalm 31:1-8”

  1. Mary Harper Says:

    Thank you so much for these words of wisdom in these trying times.

  2. Sharon Longnecker Says:

    P. Kerry, I am so grateful for these devotions and have sent them along to my morning devotions groups. Thank you for the wisdom and encouragement.

  3. Carolee Says:

    Rev. Kerry, I appreciate your appeal for “mutual commitment to the love and mercy of God towards a path to healing”.

    This biblical passage in James 1:22-25 addresses the perfect law of liberty and beseeches us to abide by it.

    “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
    But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

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