Tuesday of 4 Lent

Blessings on Zion, Shame on Her Enemies – Psalm 129

“May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!”

Psalm 129:5

There is a story that I heard many years ago about a banker who, each evening on his way to the bus stop for his ride home, would pass by a homeless man living in a cardboard box.  The man wore threadbare clothes, a thin blanket wrapped about his shoulders, and a can with a sign propped against it reading, “Hungry, please help”.  The banker would put a coin or a bill in the man’s can each time he passed, but nothing ever seemed to change for the man.  One day, the banker decided to take a different approach.  He purchased a $100 gold coin from the bank, and when he came to the man’s box, he saw that the homeless man was asleep.  So, rather than put the coin in the can where someone might steal it, he put it in the man’s pocket.  The next evening as he approached, again nothing seemed to have change.  The man had on the same ratty clothes, the sign leaning against the can still read, “Hungry, please help.”  The banker asked the man, “Did you not cash in that coin I gave you?”  “What coin?” came the reply.  “It’s in your pocket,” said the banker.  The homeless man reached in his pocket and pulled out the gold coin.  He looked at the banker and said, “I didn’t know it was there.”

God’s blessings are always there.  In Ephesians 1:3, Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”  God HAS BLESSED us in Christ with EVERY spiritual blessing.  It is a done deal.  But many of us live as if we are completely oblivious to those blessings.  Even though we are residents of the New Jerusalem, living in Christ’s paradise, too often we live as if our home is no better than a cardboard box.  We are waiting for blessings that are already there, but we are not actively seeking Christ and His love in the everyday things of this world.  

As mentioned in yesterday’s meditation, the latter part of Psalm 129 is what is known as an imprecatory psalm.  It is a curse upon those who would do harm to the righteous.  These reproaches and curses that we find in Holy Scripture may make us uncomfortable, but we must acknowledge that these are honest expressions of what is in the human heart.  Jesus said that “from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21).  That is a nasty collection of things.  And though we may want to deny that we are holding onto all of this unpleasantness, nevertheless, these thoughts are there.  The Psalmist has simply expressed what all of us feel from time to time.  But in Psalm 129, the imprecation is stated in the negative.  He is saying, the blessings are there for the wicked as well as for the righteous, but these blessings are simply not received by the wicked.  The wicked have absented themselves from the flow of God’s grace.  They are oblivious to the presence of God’s love and favor, because they have chosen to turn their backs on Him.  There is a gold coin in their pocket, but they aren’t looking for it.

As a Song of Ascent, this psalm is well-suited to remind us that as we walk the pilgrim way and begin to make our home in the Lord, we are never to take our blessings and privileges for granted.  May the Lord give us grace to be receptive when we hear, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you! We bless you in the name of the Lord!”  And let us thank the Lord for His abundant provision of blessings.

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