Massages of Hope: March 24, 2020

Messages of Hope

JMPC Lenten Devotional

March 23, 2020

One of the emotions I am feeling periodically during the coronavirus pandemic is anger. Anger is a pretty common human emotion. It seems hard wired into our psyche. The Psalmist felt intense anger at times. What the Psalmist wrote in anger are what we call imprecatory psalms. These are psalms that invoke God’s wrath onto certain people who the Psalmist blames for the Psalmist’s troubles. These psalms can be hard to read. Here is one of the best-known imprecatory psalms.

Psalm 137

1 By the rivers of Babylon—
   there we sat down and there we wept
   when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
   we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
   asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
   ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
   in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
   let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
   above my highest joy.

7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
   the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down!
   Down to its foundations!’
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
   Happy shall they be who pay you back
   what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
   and dash them against the rock!

At the outset of this devotional I mentioned that I have had periods of anger during this pandemic. I am angry at the restrictions that have been “recommended” by the government. Later I am angry that the government did not “recommend” those restrictions sooner. Then I am angry at the people who are panicking and crying out that the world is coming to an end. Later still, I am angry at the people who are still congregating in large groups and appearing to thumb their nose at the clear danger. Back and forth I go. But what makes me really angry is that I am angry! What is the point? I can’t change the circumstances. I can’t change the people who care too much or care too little. Who can I vent to? Who will hear my rant? God.

When you read this psalm, you can certainly feel the Psalmist’s anger. It is beyond our comprehension. But what is important is that the Psalmist believes, as do I, that God will listen. And that God is present. To the Psalmist, Jerusalem represents God’s presence. The Psalmist vows not to forget that. And tells God just how angry the Psalmist is.

We can do that, too. We need to remember that God is right there – at our elbow, at our fingertip, in a still small voice in our ear. God hears us and understands. Then God does what God does. God’s will. To close this devotion, take a moment and recite the Lord’s prayer. Then say, “though I am angry, God, your will be done.”

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