“When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:18-19).
These words of gratitude and joy remind us of God’s love. They may awaken memories for you, as they do for me, of times when when I lost my spiritual (or physical) bearings, yet learned that God stilled care through the care of his people or reminders from his Word, the Bible. Reading the Bible is a necessary companion for prayer. When we join the two spiritual disciplines, we hear God’s voice more often in the conversation. I think that is rather important.
Surprisingly, this prayer of gratitude and thankfulness surfaces in the middle of a prayer for vengeance. The prayer in fact begins with these words,
“O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve.”
The prayer continues by listing the sins of the proud: arrogant words, crushing God’s people, killing the widow and the sojourner, murdering the fatherless. The prayer laments that the proud exult in saying, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive” (verse 7). The person who prayed this prayer first, however, had a foundation of faith in a God who hears, who sees, who teaches, who knows our thoughts. He also believed that the “God of vengeance” would avenge his people. He prays,
“Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the LORD will not forsake his people who will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it” (verses 12-15).
After the words of confidence that I noted as I began this post, the psalmist asks a rhetorical question, “Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute?” This person of prayer assumes that those who condemn the innocent to death cannot be allies of God. He is not afraid, however, and continues his prayer, “But the Lord has become my strong hold, and my God the Rock of my refuge” (verse 22). He concludes his prayer with his certainty that God will avenge the righteous.
When frustrations with politicians or others who seem to delight in hurting the vulnerable or innocent discourage, or setbacks depress, we too need to remember the character of God. He is a God of justice and of love. When we believe ourselves to be under attack, we need to reach for more ammunition (reading the Bible and seeking the company of other believers) and call for fire (pray).
O God who avenges and consoles, May we remember your legacy of love in your relationship with us and others who follow you. May we listen to your assurances, but also to your words of correction and discipline, for both will enable us to persevere when tested. Protect those whose lives are endangered by people who do not value life or who do not recognize your care for the weak and vulnerable. Awaken those who rebel to the reality of your justice and your discipline. May we always make you our fortress, the rock of our refuge. In Jesus’ name, Amen.