There's alot of people who don't like a structured reading or preaching schedule such as The Book of Common Prayer or the Lectionary (which is what I am using for my reading during this time), mostly because as they claim "it takes the Work of the Spirit" out of the work of the proclaimer. Well. This Psalm selection by those who select such things, aptly titled in my Bible Thanksgiving for Recovery from Grave Illness, could not be anymore from the Spirit as it is for me this morning.
I am home alone, on the couch, while my children and Hubby take a roadtrip to the farm. It's an adventure for sure, but I am certain it is not what my very tired Hubby longed to do on this snowy day. But he is so good to me. He didn't ask me if this was okay. He told me that he felt I needed the weekend to rest and work towards gaining strength. I am recovering from major surgery six weeks ago, a surgery that we hope is the next big step in how God is healing my body and spirit.
I don't know if David the Psalmist ever suffered from grave illness. He suffered from alot of things so I suppose this could be prayed on his own behalf. But that is hardly the point. The point is that this Psalm, one I had forgotten was here long ago, touches me deeply this morning, a word from the Holy Spirit, that indeed He, the Giver of Life who has the Power to Restore Life, is healing me.
I've prayed for healing for years from the pain and sorrow and weariness that comes from chronic illness. I've knelt at altars sobbing, begging. I've been surrounded by pastors as they laid hands on me. I've been anointed with oil. Prayed over by pastors from Africa, who know how to touch heaven even from the depths of hell. I have also watched as people are miraculously, instantly healed from disease and pain. I've walked with friends and parishioners as well, as their healing became full. I have prayed and begged for healing, and promised God that He would get all the glory for healing. I have done it for others and I have done it for myself.
Sometimes God heals as we hope he will. And sometimes He has other plans that we can't see or even begin to understand. This Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving and so beautiful, and truly a help in a time of healing for me, as I seek God's peace and joyy in the middle of it all.
And verse 5 is the core of this passage to me, speaking of how really short-lived illness is in the whole scheme of things. Illness doesn't mean that God is angry with me but essentially, the need for healing comes out of God's justice for the whole human race. God wouldn't be angry had we not sinned in the first place. And healing would not be needed in this world had we not sinned in the first place. God is angry because of our sin, and one of the consequences of our fallenness is disease. God's healing is a sign of God's favor, undeserved in its full essence. So I can beg for it, and make all sorts of promises, but I really, in the whole of it, deserve nothing but what I get. None of us do. The fact that God shows His Favor at all to this obedient generation shows God's true character.
The Psalmist so beautiful sings:
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones.
Give thanks to His Holy Name. (4)
For his anger is but for a moment. His Favor is for a lifetime. (5)
And here's the thankful part, where we shout for joy regardless of our present state:
You have turned my mourning into dancing.
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O LORD, I will give thanks to you forever.
Writers of Scripture since have echoed this sentiment... my circumstances do not define the need to give thanks.
And just two psalms later there is this... a psalm that expresses the freedome and lightheartedness in the greatest healing of all, that of the clean heart that comes from humble confession and utter forgiveness. I have a hard time reading this Psalm as it was originally presented, by those looking still, longing for the Messiah who would set things right. It was hundreds of years yet until the Jesus we know as the Ultimate Forgiver was born.
But still, this writing expresses the central FACT of forgiveness. When I am silent, bearing the weight of the sins I have committed, my body literally groans and wastes away (4) from the heaviness of it all. It is in the 'acknowledging' of sin (5), in not hiding it anymore, in confessions, that the weight of guilt has the possibility of going away through the forgiveness of God.
Don't be stubborn and hang onto the things that should be confessed to God. It's not good for me or anyone. Confess, and I will "find my hiding place" (7). I will be delivered. (7). I will shout for joy. (11)
Ezekiel again? What are they trying to do to me? The contrast for Israel between exile and deliverance is fairly constant in their history. And God always come through, keeping his promise to "restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel" (25). God is so faithful. How can anyone not see it? People cry out at what a vengeful God He is, how horrible that someone might actually suffer the consequences of their actions. God is an awful God, isn't he? Who would want to be loyal, to trust a God who gets angry?
Israel certainly suffered and felt that way ...exile, captivity, slavery, wandering, and on and on. And God could have delivered them from it all, but really, would that have helped? Do we need to sometimes go through stuff so we see God's mercy has clearer, truer? Do we need to suffer some so we understand the grace of God? Would we appreciate His restoring power, His deliverance, His Spirit upon us (29) if it weren't for the times of exile?
John 17: 20-26
Jesus continues to pray like the priest/pastor that He is, this time, pouring out His requests to the Father for those who do not yet know the Truth. Through Jesus' life and death, He left behind the potential for us on earth to live as one people, in unity. He prepared the potential believers for glory. He longed in the deepest of His being as expressed in His interceding prayer, that every single person "may be with me where I am" (24). He knew where he was going, what He was walking through, and what the final result would be. And He wanted that result for us, His brothers and sisters, too.
In this prayer, Jesus prayed FOR ME. He prayed for everyone who reads this. He prayed for those who do not yet know who He is, that His Name would be made known to all, so that all could be saved.
He prayed FOR ME.