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Lent, day 32 – the Lord will sustain us!

This morning’s reflection comes from Margaret McVeigh

Psalm 41: 1-13
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
2 The Lord protects and preserves them –
they are counted among the blessed in the land –
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3 The Lord sustains them on their sick-bed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
4 I said, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.’
5 My enemies say of me in malice,
‘When will he die and his name perish?’
6 When one of them comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it around.
7 All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,
8 ‘A vile disease has afflicted him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies.’
9 Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
10 But may you have mercy on me, Lord;
raise me up, that I may repay them.
11 I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.
12 Because of my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence for ever.
13 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.

Have you ever wakened up in the morning with that sickening feeling of fear in the pit of your stomach? I certainly have, at times when I was facing something challenging like an interview or when I was concerned about a family member perhaps, who was ill or was facing challenging personal circumstances. Certainly in the circumstances in which we have found ourselves in recent days it would not be unreasonable to wake up with such a feeling. The news is full of information … and sometimes misinformation – about the coranovirus and it’s deceptive spread throughout the world. We are all in lockdown and it’s impossible to get away from the repeated news bulletins about the alarming progress of this insidious pestilence.

It seems to me that David must have often experienced that sickening feeling of fear as he faced many challenging circumstances in his life – some self-inflicted due to his sinful behaviour – but often from his enemies. Here in this Psalm he turns to God and makes a statement of principle that the man who considers how he may help the needy is well regarded by God. Regard for the needy or weak here is broad term and includes caring for the marginalised, the homeless, the distressed, the poor. The person who considers how he will do that can trust that God will deliver him in times of trouble, will protect him and will sustain him even when he is ill. The hopes of his enemies can never defeat the grace of God.

So when we find Satan flooding our minds and hearts with fear we can turn to the Lord, as David did, and remind ourselves that the Lord will sustain us through every challenging circumstance. However, rescue does not always come easily, as we have seen in the spread of the coranovirus and in the many who have suffered and died as a result.

In verses 4-9 of this Psalm David recounts his own bitter experience with false friends from whom he might have expected understanding and support, but instead returned him only deceitfulness and antagonism. When they come to see him they speak only platitudes and in their hearts they wished him dead. The unkindest cut of all was that a close friend turned against him and joined the poisonous company of his enemies. That was heart-breaking for him.

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

However, in spite of this disappointment, David’s trust in God was unimpaired. He prayed that he would be restored to health so that he could fulfil his role as a judge and he made a threefold testimony to the Lord:

God reveals his good pleasure in vindicating his own (v.11)
God does not allow integrity to go unrewarded (12a)
God brings sinners into a personal relationship with Himself (12b)

In this Psalm we learn how God regards those who consider carefully how they will help the weak and needy. This is something that pleases him and in our current circumstances we have ample opportunity to care for others and to allow others to care for us. Those who stretch out their hands to give support to those in need are acting as God’s hands in our community and nation today. He smiles on such action.

But perhaps the most powerful thing we learn here is in David’s declaration in verse 12b: “[you] set me in your presence for ever.”
David’s relationship with God was a personal one – he knew he had not always lived as he should, but he had always returned to the Lord for forgiveness and he was accepted into personal friendship with the Living God. His trust in God never wavered.

This same friendship is open to everyone who calls on the Lord for forgiveness and commits his or her life, with all its challenges, to his mercy, his grace and his love. From this position of strength we are then able to counter all the ‘fiery darts’ of the Evil One, and we have the power and strength of Christ to stretch out our hands to a world in need and bring the Good News of Jesus and his love to everyone we meet. There was never a time when this was needed more than today – place your trust in Him, come into the fellowship of his presence and from there reach out in faithful prayer and loving support to those who are suffering today.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.”

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