When we look around us these days we are often tempted to despair. It feels like all of the traditional Christian values and moral certitudes are under attack from all sides these days.
The Psalms have been a source of prayer and consolation for thousands of years. They are rich with human emotion and with theological insight and often prove to be the catalyst for further prayer and contemplation. They are often old favorites gone back to, over and over again, for comfort and consolation. The following psalm is a good example, especially in our own times where it often feels that ‘the holy ones are no more.’
“Save me, O Lord, for the holy ones are no more;
The faithful have vanished from the sons of men.
They babble vanities, one to another,
With cunning lips, with divided heart.”
When we look around us these days we are often tempted to despair. It feels like all of the traditional Christian values and moral certitudes are under attack from all sides these days. There are many around us who have ‘golden’ tongues, who gain fame for their wittiness in decrying all things religious as superstition and the like. Sadly, sometimes things are done by ‘religious believers’ in the name of religion that are worthy of true condemnation. Even more sadly, there are some who, while wearing the robes of religious authority, do things that are abominable sins, and when they do these things, they give ammunition to those who want to harm religion, or to lessen its influence on society. When there are those with glib tongues who lead the innocent astray, whether they be the promoters of some secularist philosophy, or the wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing who use religion to enrich themselves, the results are the same; pain, suffering, and injustices of every imaginable kind. Both of these cunning types are in opposition to God and God’s ways. Their interests are in themselves alone. Some do not care that such suffering is due to their behavior. Others will deny their role in the chaos, even when they guilt is revealed.
May the Lord destroy all cunning lips,
The tongue that utters boastful words,
Those who say, ‘We prevail with our tongue;
Our lips are our own, who is our master?’
The last two lines of this verse are very recognizable. The world is full of those who believe that they are their own masters, that no one, not even God, can challenge their world view. They believe that they are the sole determiner of right and wrong, ‘for them.’ Sometimes they try to impose their own determinations on the rest of us. Some of these have great positions of political power, some have the power that comes, strangely and incomprehensibly, from some sort of fame. Our culture is enamored with those who, because of some talent, be it acting, or athletic prowess and, as a result, are rich beyond imagining. Why else would we be going to an Oprah, or a Dr. Phil, or, of all people, a Jane Fonda, to get important advice about anything, much less complicated and difficult moral problems. Indeed, more people today, in this all encompassing social media environment, will listen more attentively to the inane comments, dressed up as intelligent quotes, on some ‘famous, or powerful’ person’s Twitter account than they will to the word of God. When we have Christ and holy Scripture to go to, why would we not see the foolishness of this?
‘For the poor who are oppressed and the needy who groan,
Now will I arise,’ says the Lord;
‘I will grant them the salvation for which they long.’
The words of the Lord are words without alloy,
Silver from the furnace, seven times refined.
Our times, for all of their supposed sophistication, have done nothing to relieve the suffering of the poor. They groan even more today, because they are even more isolated, more marginalized, than they have been in history. They are forgotten by many, and are often used by the powerful few, for their own political or social benefit. They will often speak of the poor with tearful eloquence making us ‘feel’ that they are on the side of the poor using sweet sounding words, and poetic rhetorical arguments, yet everything they do hurts the poor even more. In the end, they will be the fools, for the Lord’s words are the only words that are pure, that are ‘without alloy.’ The words of the Lord are perfectly pure, like silver refined seven times. The words of the cunning are always like brass; they are polished, they shine like the sun, but because they are alloyed with selfish intent, they eventually begin to tarnish and dissolve away. The words of the cunning can appear to be as hard as steel, but because they are alloyed with false pride, or incomplete, or distorted thinking, they will eventually give way to rust. But the words of God are purer than the finest gold, or silver, for they are free of the corruption of falsehood. They are the very source of all that is perfectly and purely good, true, and beautiful. They are eternal. They do not fade or rust. That is why we can say with the psalmist:
It is you, O Lord, who will keep us safe,
And protect us forever from this generation.” Psalm 12:2-8
Lord, we pray that you help us keep our eyes on you. Inspire in us a deep and abiding love for your word in the holy Scriptures. Give us discerning minds and pure hearts so that we may recognize the differences between your words and those of the cunning around us. Let us speak only in the light of your words. Let us act only in that same light. In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
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