Few experiences are so distressing as having someone lie about you. Anger and bitterness threaten to consume my soul when I am the victim of slander. The writer of Psalm 120 prays for deliverance from lies. He warns of the vengeance that the Lord will mete out to deceivers when he delivers him. The psalmist laments that the tortuous situation is compounded by his living in an isolated location among a people who do not share his values.
Psalm 120 is the first of several Psalms traditionally called psalms of ascent. They allegedly were recited or sung by pilgrims on their way to a feast at the temple. These worshippers, if they travelled far, may have known well themselves the pain of which they sung as they repeated these words:
“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! Woe to me that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Psalm 121:1-7)
When we go to worship with others, we struggle to lay aside anger, frustration, and weariness that cripple us when we respond to attacks (verbal or physical) against us. If we engage social media, we may find it difficult to avoid being drawn into bitter exchanges with people who have religious, social, or political preferences that differ radically from our own. I myself have learned to review what I write before I press send. Often, I will delete my comment before I publish it, realizing that what I have written will only spark more conflict. When we pray, we find reprieve from our face turning red and our heart racing in anger as we pour out our distress to God. Deception angers us today as much as it did then. The pain of the deceived helps me remember the value of truth told with love.
- Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible
O God who calls us to worship, as we prepare to worship you, arguments of previous hours and regretted decisions (or visions of future choices) cloud our mind. We want clarity in our lives and fairness from those we encounter. To make good decisions, we need truth from those with whom we deal. Mold us more perfectly into people of integrity. Rescue us from those who lie to us. Show us the way to peace. Help us to persuade those who have chosen wrong courses and grant us ample dosage of humility so that we may recognize when we are the ones who are for war when we should be choosing peace. May we worship you, our protector and friend, with focus, love, and truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.