Would you welcome some hope today? How about some perseverance and encouragement? Perhaps you could read Psalm 69 in communion with Jesus.
Psalm 69 begins with an urgent cry for help: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.” (69:1) It includes an honest confession: “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.” (69:5) Like many other Psalms, it also includes imprecation [cursing]: “Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.” (69:23) And like every Psalm except one or two, it concludes with an expression of both personal and communal hope: “For God will save Zion and…the children of his servants shall inherit it; and those who love his name shall live in it.” (69:35-36)
Each of these verses and all of them together offer hope, along with faith and love, as we read them in communion with Jesus. That was Paul’s experience, and we can share that experience with both the Apostle and our Lord.
In Romans 14-15 [our Willowdale passage for November 4 is Romans 15:1-13], Paul speaks to a community in which some members despise others, and the others respond by passing judgment. (Romans 14:1-4) In addition to addressing quarreling among his fellow believers in Rome, Paul also speaks to them about the “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” he feels in his heart because the people he loves the most do not share his faith in Christ. (Romans 9:1-5) In dealing with both personal anguish and communal insults, Paul finds faith, hope, and love in Psalm 69, (See Romans 11:9-10 and Romans 15:3) and so can we. Reading Psalm 69 in isolation might make it seem an unlikely source for these highest virtue-gifts; but reading Psalm 69 in communion with Christ makes them overflow with faith, hope, and love. (1st Corinthians 13:13) When we know that Jesus himself drank in strength through Psalm 69 even as he suffered crucifixion, (see John 19:28-30) we can trust that we, too, can drink in God’s Spirit through this gritty and trusting poem. And if that’s true for one Psalm, how much more can we gain from the entire Psalter and the other Scriptures Jesus read?
The Apostle Paul testifies that “by the [perseverance] and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) On the basis of my meager Psalm reading this morning, I add my testimony to the Apostle’s. I believe that if you spend some time in the Psalms or Genesis or 1st Samuel or anywhere in what we call the Old Testament, you can seek Jesus there and find him. And therefore you can experience the benediction Paul offers in Romans 15:13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”