Into Your Hands (May 24, 2013)

…Opening To…

We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind,
To notions of our day and place, crude, partial, and confined;
No, let a new and better hope within our hearts be stirred;
The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his word. (George Rawson)

…Listening In…

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. (Psalm 31:5: context)

…Filling Up…

A verse from Psalm 31 comes next on my guitar case. It might be classified as one of those psalms of lament that I keep talking about on devotiONEighty. But Psalm 31 varies from classic lament psalms in one specific way: rather than moving from sorrow to timid statement of faith to the desire but not the ability to praise (which is the standard format), Psalm 31 is more of a roller coaster ride. It begins with a statement of faith: “In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge…” Then the middle of the psalm sinks into lament: “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.” Then it rises once again, finally concluding with these words: “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.”

I’m so glad that the psalmist put such a roller coaster ride into words. The poetry of this psalm speaks deeply to those who grieve, giving them both the permission to feel sorrow and the expectation to find comfort. And while it falls just five verses into the twenty-four verse poem, the verse above forms the centerpiece of the psalm. Notice the way the verb tenses work across the sentence. In the first half of the verse, we find a present tense action verb, rendered above as “commend.” In the second half, we find a present perfect action verb, rendered above as “have redeemed.” In English, this means that God accomplished the redemption at some unspecified time before the writer commends his or her spirit to God. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but I’m pretty sure the verbs work in a similar way in the original language.

While studying verb tenses might not get your blood flowing, the progression this verse evokes is incredibly important for our faith in God. I would be utterly incapable of commending my spirit to God if God had not already initiated some sort of relationship with me (in this case, in the form of redemption). This commendation of spirit is the very action that fuels the rest of the roller coaster psalm: there are ups and downs, but the entire varied experience of the psalmist exists within the palm of God’s hand. And in that, I find comfort.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are holding me in the palm of your hand. Help me to feel the support of that hand, a solid and holy ground for my feet. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, grateful for the opportunity to reflect on your word and looking forward to discovering its impact on my life.

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