The Righteous Judge — A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Psalm 9.7-14
7 The Lord reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation. 

Psalm 10.1-7
1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off? 
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, 
who are caught in the schemes he devises. 
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart; 
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. 
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; 
in all his thoughts there is no room for God. 
5 His ways are always prosperous; 
your laws are rejected by him; 
he sneers at all his enemies. 
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.” 
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.” 
7 His mouth is full of lies and threats; 
trouble and evil are under his tongue. 

Reflection: The Righteous Judge — A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Psalm nine and ten may originally have been one psalm. Today we combine them in a prayer to God, the only righteous judge and the only one who dispenses justice without failing. May he hear the cries of all victims. May he bring every wrong-doing to light. May those who seek to cover their secrets have their plans exposed by his light and truth.

Our Righteous Judge
May our highest, most prized right, be to stand before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause,
  sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

May we learn from you, true judgment.
Make us a part of bringing your kingdom, your justice and righteousness on earth.
And this is your justice on earth—to be a refuge and stronghold for the weak and troubled.

He rules the world in righteousness
  and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
  a stronghold in times of trouble…
  he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted…
Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
  let the nations be judged in your presence.

The world hates us, because it first hated you, Lord.
Trouble comes to us in different ways and in different levels of severity, in every corner of this world, God.

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
  who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
  He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
  trouble and evil are under his tongue.

In times of trouble, Lord, we look to you.
Do not abandon us to the schemes of the wicked.

Break the arm of the wicked man;
  call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
  that would not otherwise be found out.

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
  you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
  so that mere earthly mortals
  will never again strike terror.

We commit ourselves to you, O Lord.
See our trouble. Hear our cry. Take our grief.
Give us courage to shake the world with your love.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 28 (Listen 2:44)
Psalm 9 (Listen 2:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 29 (Listen 2:26Psalm 10 (Listen 2:13)
Job 30 (Listen 3:14Psalm 11-12 (Listen 1:59)

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The Moon and the Cross

Scripture Focus: Psalm 8
1 Lord, our Lord, 
how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
You have set your glory 
in the heavens. 
2 Through the praise of children and infants 
you have established a stronghold against your enemies, 
to silence the foe and the avenger. 
3 When I consider your heavens, 
the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place, 
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, 
human beings that you care for them? 
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels 
and crowned them with glory and honor. 
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; 
you put everything under their feet: 
7 all flocks and herds, 
and the animals of the wild, 
8 the birds in the sky, 
and the fish in the sea, 
all that swim the paths of the seas. 
9 Lord, our Lord, 
how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

John 15.5
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Reflection: The Moon and the Cross
By John Tillman

In 1969, Buzz Aldrin, an elder in his church, got permission to take communion elements to the Moon. From the Moon’s surface, he radioed Houston, calling for a worldwide moment of reflection. Then Aldrin silently read John 15.5 while taking communion. He read Psalm 8.3-4 over the air on the journey home.

The psalmist who wrote, “You have put everything under their feet,” might be shocked that the Moon would be under human feet one day. But the spiritual reality is even more impressive than the Apollo missions.

Psalm 8 is the first psalm without a hint of lament. It is a perfect circle of praise in the center of a group of psalms that are laments or mixed bags of praises and worries. 

The enemy, the foe, and the avenger are silenced. What stops these forces that oppose God and his creation? Fire from Heaven? A chaotic beast? A mighty warrior? No. At the center of this psalm, we see the power that defeats evil. It is not the command of a king or the sword of a warrior but the praise of infants.

When children praised Jesus, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” religious leaders objected. Jesus was not the Son of David they wanted. He healed the sick and cared for the poor instead of throwing off Rome and stoning adulteresses. Instead of galloping in on a warhorse, Jesus plodded through the streets on a donkey. Jesus defended the children by quoting this psalm.

The contrast of Aldrin’s verses is interesting. In one, we marvel that the God who made the moon and stars condescends to honor humanity. In the other, we see the depth of that honor. Jesus sits with his followers at Passover. He has just washed their feet. The one whose fingers formed stars scrubbed dirt from human toes. He is about to die on their behalf. The one who hung the moon will hang on a cross. Then Jesus tells his disciples they can do nothing without him.

God uses the weak to oppose what is strong and what is humble to shame what is proud. If we give Jesus our childlike praise, we will find strength for our steps, no matter who scoffs at our weakness. Let childlike praise strengthen our steps for the great leaps of faith he will show us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen 2:21)
Psalm 7-8 (Listen 2:58)

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Fringes of Creation

Scripture Focus: Job 26:14
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
     how faint the whisper we hear of him!
     Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Reflection: Fringes of Creation
By Erin Newton

In a recent lecture, I heard Diane Langberg speak about the mental and emotional weight of constantly counseling those in grief. When asked how she handles the psychological toll of such heaviness, she said one thing she does is reconnect with nature by getting out into the garden and planting flowers.

What hope is gained by looking out the window at birds near a feeder or gazing up to name the constellations in the starry night? How is it that creation can feed the soul and bring a downcast spirit a momentary reprieve? The words of Job hint at this phenomenon. He calls us to consider creation as we try to understand the mysteries of our suffering. 

Looking across the stormy ocean, there is a certain hue of blue-green that is only shown in the tossing of waves. “He wraps up the waters in his clouds.” The skies that settle into a dark gray as the air begins to mist and you can smell rain is on the way—this is done through the hands of God.

Even in the calm mornings near the lake, where the fog clings to the silent motionless waters. There is a calm serenity that creation exemplifies for us each day. “He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters.” It is within reach but often outside our present focus.

The binding of the waters, the limitations of the darkness, the stillness of the sea—all of these speak of the power of God. For Job, it is just the fringe of God’s work.

The mythic dragon that lives in the primordial sea—Rahab, the gliding serpent—has been silenced by the hand of God. The spirit which hovered over the waters is the spirit that split the Red Sea. “By his breath the skies became fair.”

God’s power calmed chaos and brought order. God’s power provided a way through the waters and into deliverance. This is the fringe of God’s works that Job and his friends long to understand.

But just as innocent suffering seems to reside outside our ability to understand, so does the magnitude of God’s power. Reaching down into the dirt, looking out across the valleys, exploring the depths of caves, and climbing above the tree line onto snowcapped mountains—this momentary pause to look at the fringes of his works is one place we find respite in our suffering.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 25-26 (Listen 1:52)
Psalm 5-6 (Listen 2:45)

Read more about Tense Conversations
“Tension” is a good word for the dialogues between Job and his friends. The greatest tension is the conflict between how each person views the world.

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Vulnerable Quartet

Scripture Focus: Job 24.1-12
1 Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? 
Why must those who know him look in vain for such days? 
2 There are those who move boundary stones; 
they pasture flocks they have stolen. 
3 They drive away the orphan’s donkey 
and take the widow’s ox in pledge. 
4 They thrust the needy from the path 
and force all the poor of the land into hiding. 
5 Like wild donkeys in the desert, 
the poor go about their labor of foraging food; 
the wasteland provides food for their children. 
6 They gather fodder in the fields 
and glean in the vineyards of the wicked. 
7 Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked; 
they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. 
8 They are drenched by mountain rains 
and hug the rocks for lack of shelter. 
9 The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; 
the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. 
10 Lacking clothes, they go about naked; 
they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry. 
11 They crush olives among the terraces; 
they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst. 
12 The groans of the dying rise from the city, 
and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. 
But God charges no one with wrongdoing.

“If you aren’t intensely concerned for the quartet of the vulnerable…it’s a sign your heart is not right with God.” — Tim Keller

Reflection: Vulnerable Quartet
By John Tillman

The “quartet of the vulnerable” is a term for those vulnerable to harm, particularly in the Bible: the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, and the poor.

Job sees wrongs in his community, questioning why God has not acted on behalf of three of these four groups. He shines a light on the sufferers and has compassion for them.

Job starts with the subtle crime of moving boundary stones. Doing this made one’s land more profitable and incrementally stole influence and livelihood from neighbors.

An action in Job’s list that particularly infuriates me is driving away the orphan’s donkey. Driving away the donkey is an act of financial sabotage, equivalent to breaking a farmer’s tractor or burning down their barn. It is intended to cause bankruptcy, loan default, and desperation. It cuts their bootstraps to prevent them from pulling themselves up, ensuring that there is no escape from poverty and enslavement. 

Another wrong Job lists is sending “the poor of the land into hiding”, forcing them into deserts where there is no food for their children. (Job 24.4-5) These wrongs make me think of current issues.

When we look honestly at our society as Job did, can we not see those incrementally “moving boundary stones” stealing wealth and influence from their neighbors? Can we not see those financially and educationally sabotaging people working to escape poverty? Can we not see those sweeping the poor out of sight or allowing them to languish and die?

Laws have been opposed and defeated to help the poor or penalize financial crimes. Programs or money that would feed hungry children have been attacked or eliminated. Churches, programs, or pastors who help the poor or migrants have been criticized, intimidated, fined, and prosecuted for doing so.

What kind of society does these things? Not a great one. Not a righteous one. God judges the righteousness of kings, countries, and cities by the condition of these groups. God is concerned for the welfare of this vulnerable quartet. We should share his concern.

Job began this section with despair that these things were happening. We may identify with that despair. Job ends this section with certainty that God will destroy and punish abusers of the vulnerable.

If Job looked past his pain to shine a light on the sufferers, have compassion for them, cry out to God for them, and take action on their behalf, so can we.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught the disciples, saying: “Look, I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves; so be cunning as snakes and yet innocent as doves. Be prepared for people to hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as evidence to them and to the Gentiles. But when you are handed over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.” — Matthew 10.16-20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 24 (Listen 2:56)
Psalm 3-4 (Listen 1:56)

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Kiss the Son

Scripture Focus: Psalm 2
1 Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 

Reflection: Kiss the Son
By John Tillman

Psalm 2 has layered meanings about both earthly politics and spiritual realities.

One layer is a coronation song about a newly installed king. At times of transition, enemies inside or outside the kingdom tested or threatened new rulers. We see this in scripture in many places, including the transition from David to Solomon and from Solomon to Rehoboam. When read this way, the psalm seems to say, Don’t test me. God’s on my side. But it’s not that simple.

God is on the side of order and peace rather than insurrection or war but that does not mean he supports every human ruler. If that were true, the psalm wouldn’t shift to dire warnings for human kings. Parts of the psalm probably were originally intended as a warning against rebellion and disorder but other parts don’t fit for a human ruler and never did.

If you continue to read the rest of the psalm from this human viewpoint, it doesn’t line up with reality. God never promised David or any king they would rule the world. These parts of the psalm have transitioned from talking about a current human king on Jerusalem’s throne to a future ruler on a heavenly throne. It is less about a king now than the righteous king to come. 

As we read, we know Jesus has come. He is seated at God’s right hand and we are united with him through the Holy Spirit.

We are adopted sons and daughters of God. We are commanded to ask our Father that his will would be done on Earth as in Heaven. We pray for the salvation of the nations and weep over those broken by rebellion. As co-heirs with Christ, we are warned to serve with fear and trembling and to take refuge in him. These blessings and warnings are not just for kings of the past or politicians of the present. They are for us, the regents and ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

Heed these warnings and seek these blessings not with the hubris of kings or the violence of empires but with the humility of the servant king on the donkey and the love of the slain yet living Lamb of God.

Christ’s rule is not oppressive. Neither should ours be. His burden and yoke are easy and light. So should ours be. Come close, kiss the son, and become like him.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. — Psalm 71.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 23 (Listen 1:43)
Psalm 1-2 (Listen 2:05)

Read more about The King We Want
I’ve sent a king, God says
He rode in on a donkey
My servants prophesied him
You rebels crucified him

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Did you catch Friday’s podcast episode, Defining Moment? We pray it encourages anyone who feels labeled by a mistake. Share it with a friend who feels defined by a failure.