Thursday, December 1

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

How long will you assail a person,
    will you batter your victim, all of you,
    as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence.
    They take pleasure in falsehood;
they bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse.Selah

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12     and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

Psalm 62 (NRSV)
(For use with the EVENING Daily Prayer)

advent-1

In 2006, my wife and I purchased our very first home in a quickly growing community outside Nashville, TN, just a couple of miles from the plant that manufactured Saturn vehicles. The new construction of a first home was an exciting part of the process and date-nights for us often consisted of going to take pictures of the house in various stages of construction. We sensed an excitement in the community about the future of the area and new residents flooded in. And then, of course, the financial crisis struck. General Motors scrapped the Saturn brand in 2009 and many of the workers were laid off. The local economy tanked; the housing market suffered as home values plummeted and inventory abounded. When it came time for us to move in 2011, what we thought would be a great first investment turned out to be anything but. We learned a very hard lesson that not much in this world is solid and dependable, even things as big as the American economy.

In Psalm 62, the Psalmist has experienced this lesson in the arena of human relationships. Whoever they might be, the Psalmist has found that people can be adversarial and unreliable, like leaning walls and tottering fences in danger of collapsing (v. 3). They are “but a breath” and a “delusion” (v. 9), not able to hold up to the challenges that life brings (v. 9). By contrast, the Psalmist pronounces determined confidence that through it all, God is unwavering, reliable, and steady. While the human community fails, the Psalmist’s language celebrates an experience of God’s dependability in no uncertain terms. God is a rock and fortress (vv. 2 and 6), a refuge (v. 7), and the source of power that displays steadfast love (vv. 11 and 12). The Psalmist declares a foundational truth of faith: people and institutions are bound to end in disappointment, but God is utterly trustworthy.

The Psalmist calls us to consider: In what and in whom do we place our trust?

Advent points us in the direction of this Psalm’s claim. The story of God’s coming work in Jesus Christ reminds us that we cannot manufacture our own rest, peace, security, and salvation. Neither can we find the full measure of them in the people and institutions around us. Our faith and trust best lie with the God whose steadfast love comes over and over to us, and through a child who comes to fully embody God’s love. In Advent, we align our voices with that of the Psalmist, taking stock of where we have placed our trust and singing the praise of God’s unfailing love and protection. Of course, that does not mean that this kind of faith comes easily. While we might identify with Psalm 62 as an expression of our deepest experiences of faith, sometimes repeating this psalm as our own becomes a kind of hopeful prayer for what our faith might be. There is room in the psalm for both declaration and aspiration.

In 1991 the Taizé Community in France set this psalm to music. Entitled “In God Alone,” the song can be found in the PC(USA) hymnal Glory to God, #814. For those unfamiliar with the music from Taizé, the songs are short and repeated, functioning as meditative, prayerful songs for the gathered community. You can find a version of the song online here. The words for “In God Alone” are simple; perhaps you will join your voice to the Psalmist, praying/singing them as your own today on the Advent journey:

 

A Prayer for the Fifth Day of Advent

In God alone my soul can find rest and peace,
in God my peace and joy.
Only in God my soul can find its rest,
find its rest and peace.

 

Richard W. Voelz
Assistant Professor of Preaching & Worship
Richmond, VA

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