One of the most healthy spiritual disciplines for me is to regularly sit before a holy God during my prayer time. I use Exodus 9:9-25 and visualize myself sitting on the holy mountain as one of those original Israelites. I try to feel the emotion that comes with trying to comprehend the vast chasm between God’s holiness and my sinfulness. Then I turn my prayer and meditation time toward Colossians 1:22, Romans 8:15-17, and Matthew 3:16-17. The chasm of separation between me and God gets filled as the floodgates of Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy open. I can only unlock the riches of this gift if I first walk the path of understanding how much I don’t deserve it. When I begin to comprehend that I don’t deserve it, I can begin to experience how beautiful and amazing it is that I get to have it.
Oppression and injustice happen when a person or a group of people is deprived, usually by law or by force, of basic and equal rights that are allotted to others. Often oppression and injustice use categories of people to afflict their damages. For example, our country was founded and built on laws that allowed for the brutal killing and enslavement of blacks and Native Americans, with many laws explicitly benefiting white people by name. This is oppression and injustice. Refugees are oppressed by something going on in their home country that they are fleeing from in order to save their lives. This is often religious or ethnic persecution and is often related to wars or guerrilla warfare dangers. The oppressed are the ones under the boot of those with power. We get less comfortable talking about oppression and injustice when we start looking at the vast inequities in the United States between whites and people of color. It’s a lot easier to talk about oppression of biblical times and the distant past, but much more uneasy when it’s right under our nose and we may or may not even be aware of it or acknowledge it.
It is okay to feel small sometimes. We always need to remember we are significant, have value, and are incredibly loved by God. But we can experience those truths while also meditating on how small we truly all in this universe. As already mentioned, this turns us toward God in worship. But it also helps with our daily stressors and anxiety. It’s helpful to zoom out. It helps to know I am part of something way bigger than me. It helps to know that this whole operation doesn’t rise and fall on my shoulders. It helps to know God was on the throne before I was born and he will be on the throne after I am gone. It helps to know that when something feels like the end of the world… it isn’t.
Covenants aside, this psalm is still a great reminder to let God search our hearts. As followers of Jesus, we don’t want sin in our lives. Jesus is the path of life and we want that life flowing through us and in us. And we love Jesus! He clearly tells us if you love me, you’ll obey what I command (John 14:15). We don’t obey to earn his love, our obedience is the expression and result of our love for him. Sometimes it feels like there are two types of churches: those that talk about sin and God’s wrath way too much and those who don’t talk about it nearly enough. Psalm 7 is a good reminder that we need to talk about our sin and God’s wrath. We can’t fully experience the joy and depth of God’s mercy unless we realize we don’t deserve that mercy. We can only fully experience this joy if we know it is a gift, and what an elaborate gift it is!
Man. If someone who is struggling and suffering ever needed Scripture to relate to, they only have to look to the Psalms! Psalm 6 continues the prevalent theme of the first five psalms of crying out to God for mercy in the midst of suffering. I’ve read through the psalms countless times, but taking this methodical approach through them to write these devotionals is having a profound effect on me. I’m not sure I have ever noticed how strong the theme of suffering is, and we are only six psalms in! This only makes it even more astounding that Western Christianity has gravitated toward the unbiblical teaching that God will make everything go right for you if you follow him. I don’t mean to write the same thing in each of these devotionals if you are following along each day, I just can’t get away from these themes that God has put in BOLD, ITALICS, ALL CAPS, WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!… and yet we have still missed them.
What I love about Wesley is his ruthless honesty. He essentially spends all of chapter 5 making sure the reader understands he is not presenting a quick fix to the emotional ache that gay / SSA people feel. He wants to make sure gay / SSA Christians, as well as pastors looking for the magic bullet solution to all of this, understand that there is no magic bullet. He wants to make sure people understand if they walk down the path of kinship / covenantal friendship, they will meet pain and disappointment. This is not a good sales pitch! But it is real and it is honest. Us pastors hate this. We want a systematic theology that fixes everything. We want the right answer that grounds us in Scripture and that gives everyone warm fuzzies.