Let your steadfast love,
O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you
While Israel was camped at the foot of the mountain, God called to Moses and Moses went up to hear what God had to say to him (Exodus 19:1-6). There God spoke to Moses giving him instruction for the journey through the wilderness, including the Ten Commandments.
Back to the ground, while Moses was away, the people misbehaved.
Moses came down from the mountain. His time with God had changed his very appearance. People looking at him could see that he was different from before. Moses continued to go in before the Lord to hear what he was commanded to do.
Moses could speak with God, could understand what God wanted. The experience changed him. But, he couldn't stay on the mountain. In order to carry out God's instructions, Moses had to go back down to the ground and once again mingle with the people.
For other references to the light that changes a prophet's appearance, see Ezekiel 1:27-28; Habakkuk 3:4; Psalm 104:2 (The Jewish Study Bible.)
Pilate infers the motive of the religious authorities in handing Jesus over to him and tries to extricate himself from the problem by getting the crowds to agree to release Jesus. After all, the crowds had been so enthusiastic about him only a few days earlier. This crowd, however, is ready to see him killed. When Pilate asks them, "Why, what evil has he done?" they shout louder than they had before, "Let him be crucified!"
So Pilate gives in and hands him over to the soldiers. They mock Jesus by dressing him up like a king, putting a robe on him and a crown of thorns, and putting a reed in his hand. They then spit on him and strip him of the costume, put his own clothes back on him, and lead him away to a place called Golgotha.
The first readers of verse 12 of course were Jews and they would have sung this psalm as an affirmation that God had picked Israel out of all the nations to be the special people. How do we Christians today read it? Don't we really think that God likes us best of all the rest?
As I read verses 13-15, I am reminded of the conflict in the early church (see Paul's letter to the Galatians for example) when those of them who had always been faithful, practicing Jews began to concede that non-Jews could also be good Christians. Back to us--can we read verse 13 as a reminder and an affirmation that God cares for more people than just us?
And what do we care about? Where do we place our faith? our trust? Verses 16-17 are reminders that we have often tried to substitute things that we have control over for the unmatchable power of God.
Yet, this psalm allows us to admit that God's people are not free from fear or pain--see verse 19 with its explicit reference to death and famine.
Thus, it is with an open realization that the world has dangers and that we can't control those dangers no matter how powerful we are, that we rely on the care of the Lord.
Prayer for Today: Forgive us for those times that we have dressed up our image of Christ but not truly given our allegiance to him. Deepen our worship, make it true. Amen.