Consolation Series - Part 50

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler,
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers.
Under his wings you will take refuge.
His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day,
nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
and ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes,
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made Yahweh your refuge,
and the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall happen to you,
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
For he will put his angels in charge of you,
to guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
so that you won’t dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and cobra.
You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.
“Because he has set his love on me, therefore I will deliver him.
I will set him on high, because he has known my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him in trouble.
I will deliver him, and honor him.
I will satisfy him with long life,
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

Image: Tim Daniels, Summer Sunrise

Consolation Series - Part 49

Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.
Before the mountains were born,
before you had formed the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
You turn man to destruction, saying,
“Return, you children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight are just like yesterday when it is past,
like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as they sleep.
In the morning, they sprout like new grass.
In the morning, it sprouts and springs up.
By evening, it is withered and dry.
For we are consumed in your anger.
We are troubled in your wrath.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days have passed away in your wrath.
We bring our years to an end as a sigh.
The days of our years are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty years;
yet their pride is but labor and sorrow,
for it passes quickly, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of your anger,
your wrath according to the reverence that is due to you?
So, teach us to count our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, Yahweh!
How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your loving kindness,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work appear to your servants,
your glory to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us.
Establish the work of our hands for us.
Yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90

These are the last lines and the haunting psalm prayed by the prisoners as they are led to the gas chambers in God on Trial.

Consolation Series - Part 48

God, give the king your justice;
your righteousness to the royal son.
He will judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
The mountains shall bring prosperity to the people.
The hills bring the fruit of righteousness.
He will judge the poor of the people.
He will save the children of the needy,
and will break the oppressor in pieces.
They shall revere you while the sun endures;
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
He will come down like rain on the mown grass,
as showers that water the earth.
In his days, the righteous shall flourish,
and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
from the River to the ends of the earth.
Those who dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him.
The kings of Tarshish and of the islands will bring tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
Yes, all kings shall fall down before him.
All nations shall serve him.
For he will deliver the needy when he cries;
the poor, who has no helper.
He will have pity on the poor and needy.
He will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence.
Their blood will be precious in his sight.
They shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba.
Men shall pray for him continually.
They shall bless him all day long.
Abundance of grain shall be throughout the land.
Its fruit sways like Lebanon.
Let it flourish, thriving like the grass of the field.
His name endures forever.
His name continues as long as the sun.
Men shall be blessed by him.
All nations will call him blessed.

Praise be to Yahweh God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Blessed be his glorious name forever!
Let the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and amen.

Psalm 72

Martin Buber read this psalm in place of a eulogy for his friend, Franz Rosenzweig.

Image: Frederick Edwin Church, Tropical Scenery (1873)

Consolation Series - Part 47

But you have rejected and spurned.
You have been angry with your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant of your servant.
You have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have broken down all his hedges.
You have brought his strongholds to ruin.
All who pass by the way rob him.
He has become a reproach to his neighbors.
You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries.
You have made all of his enemies rejoice.
Yes, you turn back the edge of his sword,
and haven’t supported him in battle.
You have ended his splendor,
and thrown his throne down to the ground.
You have shortened the days of his youth.
You have covered him with shame.

How long, Yahweh?
Will you hide yourself forever?
Will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is,
for what vanity you have created all the children of men!
What man is he who shall live and not see death,
who shall deliver his soul from the power of death?

Lord, where are your former loving kindnesses,
which you swore to David in your faithfulness?
Remember, Lord, the reproach of your servants,
how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the mighty peoples,
With which your enemies have mocked, Yahweh,
with which they have mocked the footsteps of your anointed one.

Blessed be Yahweh forever more.
Amen, and Amen.

In contrast to the first half of this psalm, the second half is grim.  But the psalm ends with a prayer. 

I am reminded of the ending of the PBS movie, God on Trial.  A group of Jewish concentration camp prisoners have held a trial and declared God guilty of abandoning them and breaking the Covenant.  One of the prisoners, who up until then had been cynical and dismissive, plaintively asks the rabbi what they are to do now.  The rabbi answers simply, “pray.”  They are led away to their deaths praying the haunting Psalm 90.  “Satisfy us in the morning with your loving kindness, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen evil.”

Jesus too, must answer this question for himself and for his apostles.  His death occurs on Passover, the celebration of God’s rescue of His people by His strong arm.  Like the prisoners, Jesus must make sense of the strong, Passover God’s apparent absence in his moment of need. 

He, too, simply prays. 

Consolation Series - Part 46

This is my favorite Psalm.  The first half, reproduced here, is a beautiful exchange between David and God, where they each affirm their total love and allegiance to one another.  I have italicized God’s lines to make it easier to read.  Clearly, we are expected to place ourselves in David’s shoes and to receive God’s loving words to David as though they are directed to us. 

Inevitably, if this is read aloud to a group for discussion, the participants report being particularly intrigued by the conditions God seems to put on His love, and the punishment He is willing to mete out:

If his children forsake my law,
and don’t walk in my ordinances;
if they break my statutes,
and don’t keep my commandments;
then I will punish their sin with the rod,
and their iniquity with plagues.

I think this is misplaced emphasis. God acknowledges that David and his descendants will disappoint, but we are supposed to note the emphatic reaffirmation of God’s love that immediately follows.  This is the overwhelming message of the psalm.  This is covenantal, irrevocable love.


I will sing of the loving kindness of Yahweh forever.
With my mouth, I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
I indeed declare, “Love stands firm forever.
You established the heavens.
Your faithfulness is in them.”

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David, my servant,
‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build up your throne to all generations.’”

The heavens will praise your wonders, Yahweh,
your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?
Who among the sons of the heavenly beings is like Yahweh,
a very awesome God in the council of the holy ones,
to be revered above all those who are around him?
Yahweh, who is a mighty one, like you?
Yah, your faithfulness is around you.
You rule the pride of the sea.
When its waves rise up, you calm them.
You have broken Rahab in pieces, like one of the slain.
You have scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours.
The earth also is yours,
the world and its fullness.
You have founded them.
You have created the north and the south.
Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.
You have a mighty arm.
Your hand is strong, and your right hand is exalted.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
Loving kindness and truth go before your face.
Blessed are the people who learn to acclaim you.
They walk in the light of your presence, Yahweh.
In your name they rejoice all day.
In your righteousness, they are exalted.
For you are the glory of their strength.
In your favor, our horn will be exalted.
For our shield belongs to Yahweh,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Then you spoke in vision to your saints,
and said, “I have given strength to the warrior.
I have exalted a young man from the people.
I have found David, my servant.
I have anointed him with my holy oil,
with whom my hand shall be established.
My arm will also strengthen him.
No enemy will tax him.
No wicked man will oppress him.
I will beat down his adversaries before him,
and strike those who hate him.
But my faithfulness and my loving kindness will be with him.
In my name, his horn will be exalted.
I will set his hand also on the sea,
and his right hand on the rivers.
He will call to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the rock of my salvation!’
I will also appoint him my firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
I will keep my loving kindness for him forever more.
My covenant will stand firm with him.
I will also make his offspring endure forever,
and his throne as the days of heaven.
If his children forsake my law,
and don’t walk in my ordinances;
if they break my statutes,
and don’t keep my commandments;
then I will punish their sin with the rod,
and their iniquity with plagues.
But I will NEVER take my steadfast love from him,
nor allow my faithfulness to fail.
I will not break my covenant,
nor alter what my lips have uttered.
Once I have sworn by my holiness,
I will NEVER lie to David.
His offspring will endure forever,
his throne like the sun before me.
It will be established forever like the moon,
the faithful witness in the sky.”

Consolation Series - Part 45

My cry goes to God!
Indeed, I cry to God for help,
and for him to listen to me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord.
My hand was stretched out in the night, and didn’t get tired.
My soul refused to be comforted.
I remember God, and I groan.
I complain, and my spirit is overwhelmed.

You hold my eyelids open.
I am so troubled that I can’t speak.
I have considered the days of old,
the years of ancient times.
I remember my song in the night.
I consider in my own heart;
my spirit diligently inquires:
“Will the Lord reject us forever?
Will he be favorable no more?
Has his loving kindness vanished forever?
Does his promise fail for generations?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he, in anger, withheld his compassion?”

Then I thought, “I will appeal to this:
the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
 I will remember Yah’s deeds;
for I will remember your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all your work,
and consider your doings.
Your way, God, is in the sanctuary.
What god is great like God?
You are the God who does wonders.
You have made your strength known among the peoples.
You have redeemed your people with your arm,
the sons of Jacob and Joseph.

The waters saw you, God.
The waters saw you, and they writhed.
The depths also convulsed.
The clouds poured out water.
The skies resounded with thunder.
Your arrows also flashed around.
The voice of your thunder was in the whirlwind.
The lightnings lit up the world.
The earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea;
your paths through the great waters.
Your footsteps were not known.
You led your people like a flock,
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 77

Consolation Series - Part 44

Hear, Yahweh, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my soul, for I am godly.
You, my God, save your servant who trusts in you.
Be merciful to me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to the soul of your servant,
for to you, Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
abundant in loving kindness to all those who call on you.
Hear, Yahweh, my prayer.
Listen to the voice of my petitions.
In the day of my trouble I will call on you,
for you will answer me.
There is no one like you among the gods, Lord,
nor any deeds like your deeds.
All nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord.
They shall glorify your name.
For you are great, and do wondrous things.
You are God alone.
Teach me your way, Yahweh.
I will walk in your truth.
Make my heart undivided to fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with my whole heart.
I will glorify your name forever more.
For your loving kindness is great toward me.
You have delivered my soul from the lowest Sheol.*
God, the proud have risen up against me.
A company of violent men have sought after my soul,
and they don’t hold regard for you before them.
But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth.
 Turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give your strength to your servant.
Save the son of your servant.
Show me a sign of your goodness,
that those who hate me may see it, and be shamed,
because you, Yahweh, have helped me, and comforted me.

Psalm 86

Consolation Series - Part 43

Yahweh, you have been favorable to your land.
You have restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people.
You have covered all their sin.

You have taken away all your wrath.
You have turned from the fierceness of your anger.
Turn us, God of our salvation,
and cause your indignation toward us to cease.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you draw out your anger to all generations?
Won’t you revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your loving kindness, Yahweh.
Grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, his saints;
but let them not turn again to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who revere him,
that glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed one another.
Truth springs out of the earth.
Righteousness has looked down from heaven.
Yes, Yahweh will give that which is good.
Our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness goes before him,
And prepares the way for his steps.

Psalm 85

“Mercy and truth, my friends, have met together.  Righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!”

These words are the crescendo of Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen’s pseudonym) spoken by General Löwenhielm as the mystical nature of Babette’s feast becomes evident to the participants.

So often, we say mercy must be tempered by truth, that bliss can only be achieved by justice and righteousness.

The question posed by God is, “Why?”

‘Man my friends,’ said General Löwenhielm, ‘is frail and foolish.  We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe.  But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we image divine grace to be finite.  For this reason, we tremble ….’Never until now had the General stated that he trembled; he was genuinely surprised and even shocked at hearing his own voice proclaim the fat. ‘We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it tremble again in fear of having chosen wrong.  But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite.  Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude.  Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty.  See! That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly.  For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!’ (pp. 44-45)   

Consolation Series - Part 42

In you, Yahweh, I take refuge.
Never let me be disappointed.
Deliver me in your righteousness, and rescue me.
Turn your ear to me, and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge to which I may always go.
Give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For you are my hope, Lord Yahweh,
my confidence from my youth.
I have relied on you from the womb.
You are he who took me out of my mother’s womb.
I will always praise you.
I am a marvel to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth shall be filled with your praise,
with your honor all day long.
Don’t reject me in my old age.
Don’t forsake me when my strength fails.
 For my enemies talk about me.
Those who watch for my soul conspire together,
 saying, “God has forsaken him.
Pursue and take him, for no one will rescue him.”
 God, don’t be far from me.
My God, hurry to help me.
 Let my accusers be disappointed and consumed.
Let them be covered with disgrace and scorn who want to harm me.
 But I will always hope,
and will add to all of your praise.
My mouth will tell about your righteousness,
and of your salvation all day,
though I don’t know its full measure.
I will come with the mighty acts of the Lord Yahweh.
I will make mention of your righteousness, even of yours alone.
God, you have taught me from my youth.
Until now, I have declared your wondrous works.
Yes, even when I am old and gray-haired, God, don’t forsake me,
until I have declared your strength to the next generation,
your might to everyone who is to come.
Your righteousness also, God, reaches to the heavens;
you have done great things.
God, who is like you?
You, who have shown us many and bitter troubles,
you will let me live.
You will bring us up again from the depths of the earth.
Increase my honor
and comfort me again.
 I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God.
I sing praises to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.
My lips shall shout for joy!
My soul, which you have redeemed, sings praises to you!
My tongue will also talk about your righteousness all day long,
for they are disappointed, and they are confounded,
who want to harm me.

Psalm 71

Image: Vermont Road by Kristina Applegate

Consolation Series - Part 41

Hurry, God, to deliver me.
Come quickly to help me, Yahweh.
Let them be disappointed and confounded who seek my soul.
Let those who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
Let them be turned because of their shame
who say, “Aha! Aha!”
Let all those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation continually say,
et God be exalted!”
But I am poor and needy.
Come to me quickly, God.
You are my help and my deliverer.
Yahweh, don’t delay.

Psalm 70

Consolation Series - Part 40

Now Yahweh, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, says to bring Jacob again to him,
and to gather Israel to him,
for I am honorable in Yahweh’s eyes,
and my God has become my strength.
Indeed, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and to restore the preserved of Israel.
I will also give you as a light to the nations,
that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”
Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One,
says to him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and rise up,
princes, and they shall worship,
because of Yahweh who is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Yahweh says, “I have answered you in an acceptable time.
I have helped you in a day of salvation.
I will preserve you and give you for a covenant of the people,
to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritage,
saying to those who are bound, ‘Come out!’;
to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’
“They shall feed along the paths,
and their pasture shall be on all treeless heights.
They shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun strike them:
for he who has mercy on them will lead them.
He will guide them by springs of water.
I will make all my mountains a road,
and my highways shall be exalted.
Behold, these shall come from afar,
and behold, these from the north and from the west;
and these from the land of Sinim.”
Sing, heavens, and be joyful, earth!
Break out into singing, mountains,
for Yahweh has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his afflicted.

 But Zion said, “Yahweh has forsaken me,
and the Lord has forgotten me.”
“No,” Yahweh, answers, “can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Yes, these may forget,
yet I will not forget you!
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
Your walls are continually before me.
Your children hurry.
Your destroyers and those who devastated you will leave you.
Lift up your eyes all around, and see:
all these gather themselves together, and come to you.
As I live,” says Yahweh, “you shall surely clothe yourself with them all as with an ornament,
and dress yourself with them, like a bride.
“For, as for your waste and your desolate places,
and your land that has been destroyed,
surely now that land will be too small for the inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children of your bereavement will say in your ears,
‘This place is too small for me.
Give me a place to live in.’
Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has conceived these for me, 
since I have been bereaved of my children and am alone, an exile, and wandering back and forth?
Who has brought these up?
Behold, I was left alone. Where were these?’ ”

The Lord Yahweh says, “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
and lift up my banner to the peoples.
They shall bring your sons in their bosom,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth.
Then you will know that I am Yahweh;
and those who wait for me shall not be disappointed.”

Shall the plunder be taken from the mighty,
or the lawful captives be delivered?
“Yes,” Yahweh says, “even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
and the plunder retrieved from the fierce,
for I will contend with him who contends with you
and I will save your children.
Then all flesh shall know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Isaiah 49:5-26