Happy Saturday! Some of you have been walking with me on this slow and steady journey through Psalm 37.
We started reading and chewing on and praying and resting with God in these verses on Sunday. Hopefully you have found times when you were able to delight in God.
Today we come to the final portion of this magnificent Psalm.
Once again, let us read it Lectio Divina Style: Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.
1. Read through verses 35-40 slowly, at least 3 times.
35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
2. Meditate. Choose a word or phrase and spend some time thinking deeply about what it says and what it means.
For me, two contrasting phrases stand out and speak loudest to me. “A future awaits those who seek peace” and “there will be no future for the wicked.”
I have spent a considerable amount of time in recent months studying the phenomena of despair and the state of depression. Life expectancy in the United States has declined for three consecutive years. More younger people are dying from what has been labeled “deaths of despair.” These are deaths that result from drug addiction, alcohol related deaths and suicide. The rate of deaths of despair is massively increasing. Despair can kill a person.
In the story, The Inferno, Dante has the gates of hell have a sign over it that says “abandon hope all ye who enter.” Dante wasn’t really talking about an afterlife here, but more likely a state of being. Hell is where people find themselves when they are living without hope. The absence of hope is despair. When a person lives without a meaningful hope for the future it is soul destroying. As I see it, as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be agents of hope who are called to share that hope with a world of people who are in despair.
In a world in despair and hopelessness we bring with us a message of hope and with that, the opportunity to bring people into a state of shalom or peace. People need not live in alienation from God, from others or from themselves. People can be reconciled to God, to others and selves. They can be made whole. They can experience salvation/wholeness from God which results in healing and hope. The Psalmist rightly says “the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord.” Only God can save us, heal us, make us whole and bring an end to our existential despair.
God, I want to continue to be one who lives life with a hopeful future. I want to be one who seeks peace/shalom. Jesus was probably thinking about this Psalm when he spoke in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (See Matthew 5:9).
3. Pray. Whatever your meditation brings up, bring that to God in prayer. For me I pray- “God, am I living as a peacemaker? Am I acting as an agent of your shalom/healing/wholeness/salvation in this world. Am I living life out of the deep well of hope? In what ways do you still want me to seek peace in my home, in my church, in my workplace, in my neighborhood and community, in my country and in this world?
4. Rest in God. Living as a peacemaker and an agent of hope in this divided and despair filled world can be spiritually and emotionally (as well as physically) exhausting at times. We need to draw our strength from the deep well of God’s love and mercy. As you prepare for whatever the day may bring you as you prepare to be a peacemaker, spend a few moments resting in God’s love.
This concludes our slow and deep reading of Psalm 37. We have divided the 40 verse Psalm into 7 smaller sections and, within each section we have read, meditated, prayed and rested in God. I hope that you have come to appreciate how this form of reading and praying the Bible can deeply enrich your spiritual life as you seek to serve God. I encourage you to practice Lectio Divina prayer/scripture reading on a regular basis and note how it helps strengthen your life of prayer with God.
Pastor Jeff Fletcher