Short-Circuit Oppression

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 26.5-12
5 Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. 7 Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. 11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. 

12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 

Reflection: Short-Circuit Oppression
By John Tillman

Those who have been abused are not immune from becoming abusers. In history, those who overthrow oppressors, often succumb to the temptation of becoming oppressors. 

Moses, in his many instructions to the people before entering the land, is intentional about trying to prevent those who escaped oppression in Egypt from becoming oppressors themselves. Part of his strategy to short circuit oppression was in worship practices and prayers.

The declaration worshipers were to make when they brought in the firstfruits and the tithe was part history lesson, part confession, and part mission statement. It acknowledged humble beginnings, celebrated what God had done, accepted all peoples into God’s family, and committed the worshiper to care for the vulnerable. This was intentional. Because they had been oppressed they were commanded to care for the oppressed. Because they had been foreigners, they were to treat foreigners as native born.

Bringing our “firstfruits” and tithes to God is inextricably tied in the law to care for the poor, the foreigner, and the outcasts. It won’t matter what we do with our money if our hearts aren’t bent toward caring for the vulnerable.

Today we will pray based on this declaration from Deuteronomy 26.5-19:

Because of what you have done, Lord, we are yours.
Your hands have set us free of our own chains.
When we were hard pressed you brought us into a spacious place.
When we had nothing you gave to us abundantly more that we could imagine.

Lord we bring to you the firstfruits, tithes, and offerings of our lives.
Not our material things only but our hearts, thoughts, and souls, we give to you.
Let us not carelessly “eat” the tithe by participating in the mindless consumption of our culture and economy.
Bend our hearts to care for your church but not to neglect the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow.
May they eat in our towns and cities.
May they be satisfied and treated with dignity.
May our offerings and our care for others cause you joy.
As you have set us free, may we work to free all humanity.
As you have treasured us, may we look on all people as your treasured ones.

As you have made us holy and blessed us, may we extend to others your blessing and call others to your holiness.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — Psalm 3.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13)
Psalm 117-118 (Listen – 2:52)

Read more about Occupation of Meditation
The results of true prayer are tangible actions on our part, empowered by God to make a difference in our world.

Read more about Deuteronomy’s Dream for the Poor
Christians can look the darkest realities of poverty in the face and confidently say, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Occupation of Meditation

Psalm 119.23-24
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Reflection: Occupation of Meditation
By John Tillman

In a letter to a frustrated friend, Amy Carmichael wrote:

“Did you notice the words ‘occupied in Thy statues’ in Psalm 119.23 (Prayer Book Version)? It is a beautiful word. I have nothing to do today but to please Thee.

That is true of you, for this weariness is part of life, bonds that are allowed to be. But I do hope for health and ask for it. He knows what He is doing. ‘Jesus himself knew what He would do.’ (John 6.5-6) There will be a lovely ending to this story of frustration, something worth all it has cost.”

The word Carmichael refers to as “occupied in” is translated “meditate on” in most modern translations. Siyach carries an additional meaning beyond pondering or thinking. It also implies telling, speaking, and producing thoughts and words. As Carmichael implies, meditation is more than just privately “thinking” about God’s word. It is occupation—something that implies action.
Prayer and meditation are real for Christians not only because our relationship with God is real, but because the results of true prayer are tangible actions on our part, empowered by God to make a difference in our world.

This is illustrated in the biblical story Carmichael references. In John, Jesus is asking Phillip how to feed a large crowd. Feeding the crowd is impossible for Phillip. It is even impossible for the united power of the disciples working together. But it is Christ’s will that they act in faith—doing what little they can do. Christ accepts our ineffectual actions when accompanied by effectual faith. He then miraculously works his power through us to change the world.

In the Psalm, the writer is being slandered and attacked by rulers, representatives of government and this world’s systems of power. The psalmist’s response of meditation is not one of plugging one’s ears with God’s Word so as to retreat from the world. It is that of filling one’s mind, and then one’s mouth with God’s Word—speaking that truth to the powers of the world.

Whatever our earthly frustrations, and whatever the tactics of the powerful princes and rulers who would slander or attack us, our source of strength is not human wisdom. Only meditation on and occupation with God’s Word can bring us peace in our frustrations, and give us power to oppose evil and help the suffering in this world.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?… — Luke 6.46

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13) 
Psalm 117-118 (Listen – 2:52) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28:19 (Listen – 13:27), Psalm 119:1-24 (Listen – 15:14) 
Deuteronomy 28:20-68 (Listen – 10:11), Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14) 

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Read more about A Discipline for the Anxious
The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God…in the midst of doubts and fears, he remembers God’s faithfulness in the past. He meditates on these memories in the heated moment of stress.

Read more about Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
Meditation is not new age, but old. However, in the modern age, it has often been forgotten on the shelf as many Christians and Christian leaders followed our culture into frenetic clamor instead of leading our culture from a place of peace and rest.