"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” - Psalm 25:1-3
Appropriate to this first Sunday in Lent, Psalm 25 is a lament. While there are many great expressions of faith in the mercy of the Lord, there are also the confessions of sin and the acknowledgement that they are a people in need of God’s great salvation. To fully appreciate the words of Psalm 25, it is good to look back to Psalm 24 in which David asked the question: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3). In essence, David was asking who are those who truly seek the Lord, and who can enter the worship of a holy God? David answered his own question: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4). To have clean hands and a pure heart would be to faithfully uphold the first two commandments of the Lord – to worship God alone and to make no idols. Exclusive worship of the Lord was required.
As David began this Psalm, he declared that he would bow to the Lord alone. In lifting up his soul, David was declaring his whole-hearted worship. As the king of Israel, David sought to lead his people into this covenantal faithfulness to the Lord. David and the nation of Israel would trust in God alone. To trust in God alone as opposed to forming alliances with the surrounding nations would set King David and the nation of Israel apart from all the other nations. These nations looked to one another for assurance, protection, and safety. Israel would look to God alone.
With this declaration of trust came David’s plea to the Lord to be faithful to them, to protect them, and to display his glory to those who would oppose Israel. David’s hope, and Israel’s hope, was firmly grounded in God alone. David declared that hope, and then reminded God to acknowledge their faithfulness and to remain faithful to Israel in turn. It’s as if he were reminding God but likely he was reminding himself; David said that none who waited on the Lord would be put to shame. Instead, those who opposed the Lord were the objects of shame. Unlike Israel, these people and nations would eventually see and experience the futility of their misguided hope and trust.
As we enter this season of Lent, we are invited to renew this whole-hearted commitment to the Lord, to repent of the ways that we have sought security, protection, and hope in this world. Just prior to receiving the ashes upon our foreheads, the priest prays: “Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen” (Ash Wednesday service, BCP). We are but dust; we are mortal, here for just a season. But God is the immortal one; God is the one whose promises will never fail; God is the giver of eternal life through his Son. Are we looking to the Son for that life, for the forgiveness of sins, and for reconciliation?
May we embrace David’s confidence this Lenten season. God is faithful to his people. And may we truly lift up our hearts in worship to this trustworthy God admitting our many sins and failures while trusting fully in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
To whom or what do you lift up your heart? In whom or what do you put your trust? How is the Lord calling you to a renewed commitment to him this Lenten season? That renewal begins with acknowledgement that you have looked to other people and other things followed by repentance. We can acknowledge our sin and turn from it because of the great salvation given to us in Christ Jesus. Repent but do not despair! Through Jesus, we have hope.
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