This post is a part of our series of Psalms reflections for Lent.
Psalm 118: 1-14
I couldn’t understand why she smiled today. I recognized her blue dotted dress as it brushed past the pew hurriedly on the way to the front of the church. Her hands were clutched together tightly and shoulders uncomfortably hunched. Up the steps towards the altar her feet almost ran before her knees kneeled next to the brothers and sisters in Christ that had patiently surrounded her for years.
It was the first time in several months I had seen her. She had been at home on Sunday mornings for the past year taking care of her husband. Within the last weeks, we had heard that his health was going downhill fast. Hospice had set up in their sweet home of 35 years. Round the clock, she sat with him, read to him, watched TV with him, and prayed with him as he slowly died of cancer. Only last Wednesday, we received the sad, expected news. Twenty-two months after his diagnosis, her husband, her dear friend, was gone.
She had been pushed to the edge and pushed so hard she fell. There was no one left to care for her, to kiss her cheek, to ever wonder again where she was on a Sunday morning. And she fell, not unlike the people that knelt at the rail right next to her. One pushed so hard when a teenage pregnancy caught everyone in the picture-perfect family angry by surprise. Another pushed so hard when he silently gave everything to his bitter ex-wife even while she kept his kids away from their father’s love. Others pushed so hard after their 16-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. And still, another pushed so hard when his dad committed suicide in the bedroom upstairs. All of them pushed so hard they fell.
“I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me” (Ps. 118:13).
A blur of a man steps up to the deep, dark crowd that kneels in shame. “Broken and shed for you,” he says. Forgiveness and eternal blessings, he speaks. A taste of the feast to come, he gives. In that moment at the Lord’s table, Christ speaks that the fall down is not the end of their story. Here they are fed the Lord’s strength. Here they are given the Lord’s song. Here, they brought low before God because of the darkness within and surrounding. Here, they are helped by the promise of their risen Savior. Salvation is for them.
God has done great mercies like this for His people ever since the beginning. Brought low by slavery and oppression, God parts the waters for His people to escape. Falling with fear for enemies, God drowns hard-hearted Pharaoh in the Red Sea. He acts for a purpose, not just to show off as an Almighty God. God acts to save His people. He acts for you.
Psalm 118 confesses these very words. In the original Hebrew, verse 6 and 7 begin, “YHWH is for me, I will not fear… YHWH is for me, as a helper.” Again, in verse 14, “He is for me, for my salvation.” What a comforting song of praise. YHWH, the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that amazing, incredible acting God is for you.
This God of action committed His Son to a perfect sacrifice. He killed what He loved most, His only begotten, most dearly beloved Son. But God acted for a purpose, not just to maliciously destroy the only One who really listened and truly loved His Word. God acts to save His people. He acts for you.
The great steadfast love of God is shown by His work on the cross. Christ’s sacrifice captured the condemnation for sin, the just penalty of death, the conclusion of every perversion, and the weight of every evil. He graciously gives the blessings, comfort, victory, and life-ever-after to people who can only kneel in shame. Broken and shed for you. Forgiveness and eternal blessings. A taste of the feast to come. And in that moment at the Lord’s table, Christ speaks that this fall is not the end of their story. Salvation is for them.
“Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free” (Ps. 118:5).
A ragged line of broken, fallen sinners rises to their feet. Fed, forgiven, free by the blood of Jesus. A new breath fills their walk. They part paths on either side of the church pews, making their way back to their seats. That blue, dotted dress brushes across my elbow as she passes. Catching a glimpse of her tear stained cheeks, clumping mascara, and sticky nostrils, I began to understand her smile. It wasn’t the carefree, joyful grin we’ve shared in the past, but a sad enduring smile stretched between her silent sobs.
She smiles this morning not because her situation and circumstance turned around for the better. The Word of Christ assured her that this present distress was not the end of her story. Christ has answered for the pain and hurt and loneliness she feels in this moment. God’s mercy is hers right now. His steadfast love endures forever for her. She smiles through tears because she just tasted that promise, yet again. In every trouble and fear, she knows that God is for her.
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, because he is good; truly his steadfast love endures forever!” (Ps. 118:1)
She did just what you will do. Give thanks to the good Almighty God, because the steadfast love that is Christ is for you.