Pledge of Allegiance

A Meditation upon Psalm 20

 

Let it be understood from the outset that Christ’s people are not waging a physical war. As He did not fight His enemies with a sword but with words of truth and gracious deeds, so His followers must love their enemies in the world. Now read on.

 

This psalm is not what it appears to be at first. It may sound like a sweet, simple blessing that we could pronounce over our children as they go off to college: “May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” But nearly everything about that interpretation is wrong. This is not a prayer asking God’s blessing on human plans. It is not an uncommitted invocation that we can bestow and forget. There is nothing innocuous or human or uncommitted about it.

 

It seems that David wrote this prayer to be used in the liturgy of the Hebrew people for a very specific purpose. This psalm was an invocation of blessing recited by the people of God over their king before he went to war. Notice that the recipient of the blessing is the anointed one, and it is his aspirations for the nation, not his people’s desires, which are being affirmed.
Pledging allegienceThe people of Israel also constituted the army of God, so this is, moreover, the benediction of the army upon its general. In that context it is not merely a blessing – because the success of the king’s plans depended greatly upon the commitment of his army, it is also a pledge, their pledge of allegiance. What an encouragement it must have been to David on the eve of battle to hear this prayer for his well-being and for the triumph of the kingdom, to hear the declaration of his fighting force to do their utmost to achieve the victory.

 

We, too, are the army of God’s Anointed. When Christ rides out to battle on that last, great day of trouble, “with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers” (Rev 17:14). And in the meantime, we do battle every day in His name with fear, temptation, sin, suffering and Satan. If we do not recognize those battles, like sleeping disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, then they are already lost to us. But if we meet them prayerfully, they are already won. This psalm is our pledge to take up the banner of Christ, to honor His sacrifice, to follow His lead and to realize His objectives. It’s not God’s job to bless our plans – it’s our job, as the army of God, to bless His plans. This psalm is not asking for good weather, a better job or another child. It proclaims our willingness to wage war for the sake of God’s agenda, to do brave things because they are His things. Look around at what God is doing in your life, your church, and the world today. It’s your job to join His campaign. Let Psalm 20 be your prayer of blessing upon the King’s plans. Our King is worthy of our blessing and deserving of our pledge.

 


Questions:

1. Are you more likely to ask God to bless your plans or to seek to be a blessing to God’s plans?

 

2. What battles do you see being fought in God’s name right now? Is there a role for you in some of those struggles?

I Will Not Forget You

The following post is a letter to my children which I have included with my will and other end-of-life information.


Elderly manLong after Alzheimer’s disease ravaged my grandfather’s confidence, his humor and his past, it finally drained his body of breath and life. Once he died, his wife began the same, slow descent, and I went to her, hoping to comfort her with Christ while she still knew me. However, in human terms, it was already too late; a sweet, vacant smile was her only response to love or logic. So I left her with a Bible, which has now come back to me, unmarked and unruffled, and she left me with a new struggle of my own. Can God’s word sustain those who are beyond words? Does His Spirit indwell those whose spirits are vanishing? Because I became a Christian as an adult, the specter of returning to childhood, of forgetting the best news I ever heard, weighs heavy on my mind. There are a thousand losses in that possible future.

 

Yet, if I should experience the slow, sad leave-taking which is Alzheimer’s, I would not wish anyone to grieve over-much for my sake. Whatever else it may be, the disease is surely a metaphor.  It leaves behind what cannot be taken forward. As perception, kindness, the fruits of faith, a loving heart and the twinkle of an eye fade from our sight, they cannot be lost. Those are the elements of a child of God which will never be lost but will be infinitely improved. Just out of sight, those pieces wait for the final exhalation of the last remnant of a soul which has been yearning toward God all along. We will all leave behind a dry husk of flesh and sin, a seed “sown in dishonor.” It is no necessary thing for us. A thousand years from now, will it matter if I shed my skin more slowly than you shed yours?

 

Psalm 139 speaks eloquently of the omnipresence of God not only in the world, but in all the days of our lives which are ordained and written in His book. Are some of the pages blank?  If they are, it must be those pages that I have wasted on myself, taken hold of and shared with no one, refusing the difficult prose of God. Those are the meaningless pages, the ones that will burn in the fire of salvation. The pages which God alone has written with His own finger, like those days in my mother’s womb, those nights of mysterious slumber, those years which may be lost in confusion or delirium, must not be waste. The script on those pages is gibberish and foolishness to the wisdom of this world, but waits like mirror-writing to be revealed in the perfect light of grace. He who is familiar with my going out and my lying down will write on all the pages just as He wishes until that glorious morning when I arise to His call and behold the glory of His face. (Ps 17:15)

 

I do not wish to forget my children or my parents or my husband. I do not wish to drop my sword while still on the field of battle. But I will be yielded to His will and used to His purpose. And even if I forget God, He will not forget me. Having forgotten that there is hope or life or a beautiful God, I will still wake one day to the most breathtaking of all surprises: to hope and to life and to my beautiful God.

 


Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isa 49:15-16

He Could Have Come Down

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Matt. 27:38-44, NIV)

 

Jesus stayed on the cross despite indescribable physical agony, excruciating psychological torture and supernatural temptation.  He stayed despite the jests of His mockers.  He stayed despite the tears of His loved ones mingled in the dirt with his blood.  He stayed despite the fact that He could have come down.  He could have come down.  He might have pulled the nails out like hair pins or passed right through their flimsy atoms, called a legion of angels to lift Him away or summoned fire from Heaven to destroy His tormentors.  He is the One in whom all things hold together; He might just have let it all fly apart.  If you have ever struggled to hold still while a needle pierced your vein, then perhaps you know an infinitesimal fragment of the courage and control it must have taken not to do the human thing.

 

He stayed on the cross to hold our sins there.  Nailed firmly to Him, in Him and through Him were countless debts requiring infinite payment.  Every tragic, evil and twisted thought, word or deed of every one of God’s children throughout time was fastened to the cross through the flesh of the Man who could have come down.  He didn’t because to rip His flesh away from that unholy torture would have scattered all those sins homeward in the breeze, obligations owed and never credited, agonies of repayment waiting to afflict their rightful owners: you and me.

 

If Jesus had come down from the cross, perhaps Pilate might have believed.  Possibly a few Pharisees would have owned Him the Christ.  One or two Roman soldiers may have knelt before Him that day.  And it would have done them no good.  Because without the cross, there is nothing to believe in.  There is no sin-eater, no forgiveness, no atonement.  Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are still in our sins, without hope, without help, without righteousness, without heaven.  He could have saved Himself.  Instead, He saved us.