Psalm 41

Blessed is the one who considers the poor!

What a great truth to open with.  When the Coronavirus pandemic began many Christians immediately showed concern for the poor.  We might first think of financial poverty, but also those who are relationally poor, in poor health, housing, vulnerable in any way.  The stories in the media (mainstream and social) were stockpiling and loo-rolls, self-centred actions.  But the better story was that people were immediately looking for ways to express God’s heart, which is to provide for and protect the poor.  I’m encouraged by the way we at St.Chad’s made this a key part of our response from day one.

The Psalm calls those of us who do this ‘Blessed’.  this rich deep word has many meanings, (as we know from the beatitudes), including ‘happy’ and ‘given good things by God’.  The Message translation goes down the ‘happy’ route, and there’s truth in that.  There is a special sort of joy which comes from generosity, when we care for the poor, we resonate with the heart of God & draw nearer him.  The Psalm also highlights that God’s provision and protection will follow those who put the poor first, the end of v1 tells us that God will deliver those who care for the poor.

It’s possible to read v2-3 as formulaic an automated transaction, especially in the midst of a virus outbreak.  That if we consider the poor, then God will ensure full immunity from Covid19.  We all know that life is more complicated than that, it’s not a book of formulae and Psalms are poetry not a legal contract.  Yesterday I read of a Catholic priest who gave up his respirator to a younger person and himself died.  Confident of eternity with Jesus, he laid down his life for others.  This isn’t a formula, but it is a truth, God is with those who love the poor and he will heal and strengthen many as we truth him and seek his healing.

The second section of the Psalm, deals with shame, both in relationship with God and the mockery of others.  It’s an intriguing tussle this one, different from many other Psalms or parts of Job. Often the wisdom literature has the writer claiming their innocence, whilst others mock or criticise them.  This time, the Psalmist acknowledges his sin, but then his confession is turned around by others and used as a weapon against him.  That’s hideous. It’s just the sort of thing social media can do.  Yesterday I saw a really nasty tweet, from an organisation I profoundly disagree with, it angered me.  Later I saw that they had publicly apologised, which I respected.  Sadly, I’ve often seen public apologies online met with vitriolic attacks and point scoring.  Let’s flood the internet with grace and push back the negativity.

As Christians, v9 takes our thoughts to the Last Supper.  As well as their meaning in the context of this Psalm, they are a prophesy of Jesus and Judas, which transforms the Psalm for us.  We see that God himself, in Jesus, took on that same mockery, he is with us in our darkest times.  V10 turns it up and out, looking in hope to when Jesus was raised up in triumph over the schemes of the enemy.

The Psalm lands, with the truth, that God delights in us.  His voice is louder than the enemy’s.  

Integrity is wonderful, it gives us peace of mind and intimacy with God.

Grace is wonderful, when we are forgiven, we are fully forgiven, loved by God.

In both, God delights in you.

This extended period of life changing pace, may mean all sorts of memories, regrets & buried emotions will bubble to the surface in us.  That may be painful, confusing, disorientating.  We may be misunderstood through digital media, we may find deep buried regrets cause us to feel shame.  As life slows down, draw near to God through that journey, let him bring healing to the buried parts of your heart. Don’t listen to the voice of condemnation, remember ‘He is from eternity past and will remain for eternity to come’.

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