How Awesome Is Our God

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God: “How tremendous are your deeds!”

Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
Bless our God, you peoples;
loudly sound his praise.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue.
(Psalm 66:1-3, 5, 8, 16-17)

Scripture Study

66:1–4. The initial invitation is addressed to all the earth, as a sign that God is in charge and sends his blessing upon it (cf. Ps 47:1) and it is followed by references to the “name” of God (vv. 2, 4), that is, it has to do with the God who has revealed himself to Israel (cf. Ex 3:14ff).

66:5–7. The psalmist invites his hearers to “see what God has done” because these wondrous works and their effects can be seen in the temple insofar as they are celebrated there. He recalls the crossing of the Red Sea (cf. Ex 14–15) and of the Jordan (cf. Josh 3:7–17). The power of God can also be discerned in the very existence of his people, whom God protects from the Gentile nations (v. 7). All have reason to recall benefits received from God: “When the soul recalls the gifts he has received from God over a long time, and contemplates the graces that God gives him in abundance in the present, or turns his eyes to the future and the infinite reward that God has stored up for those who love him, he gives thanks in the midst of inexpressible waves of joy” (Cassian, Collationes, 9).

66:8–12. All peoples can appreciate the God of Israel, for, despite the reverses suffered by the people of God—the “test” God has put them through may be a reference to the Assyrian wars against Israel (cf. 2 Kings 18–19), or to the Babylonian exile—they still enjoy peace (cf. Is 40:1–2).

66:13–15. After acclaiming the nation’s deliverance, the psalmist moves on to acknowledge his own. This shift in the psalm has led some commentators to think that it is the king who is speaking in representation of the nation; but it could also be an act of thanksgiving by an individual Israelite who has experienced salvation in his own right and is now associating himself with the proclamation of the people’s deliverance. As is customary in acts of thanksgiving, the speaker begins by stating his resolve to keep the vows he made to God (vv. 13–15).

66:16–20. His promise is followed by acknowledgment of the benefit he has received. The “Come and hear” cf. v. 16 links up with the “Come and see” (cf. v. 5). As also happens in the psalms in which enemies figure (cf. Ps 17; 59), the psalmist’s innocence is the underlying reason why he is blessed, and why he has been vindicated (v. 18).

Scripture Reflection

The psalm is a song that celebrates the deeds of God for the people of God. That is the theme and purpose that unites it. Worship transcends time, and the congregation that sings the psalm becomes part of the astonished joyous people of exodus.

In the same way, Christians sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” This must be the answer to how the nations are to come and see the works of God; the works are rendered by the congregation’s praise, made perceivable in their re-presentation in liturgy through the presentation of offerings by a representative person whose thanksgiving is made in identity with and on behalf of the entire congregation.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Mary the true Israel

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
(Luke 1:39-56)

Scripture Study

1:43 Even before his birth, Jesus is identified in Luke as the Lord.

1:45 Blessed are you who believed: Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Lk 1:20). Mary’s role as believer in the infancy narrative should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believed” after the resurrection at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:14).

1:46–55 Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat. Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if not composed by Luke, it fits in well with themes found elsewhere in Luke: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. The loose connection between the hymn and the context is further seen in the fact that a few Old Latin manuscripts identify the speaker of the hymn as Elizabeth, even though the overwhelming textual evidence makes Mary the speaker.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her great Magnificat, Mary is the new Isaiah and the new Jeremiah and the new Ezekiel, for she announces with greatest clarity and joy the coming of the Messiah.

What was only vaguely foreseen in those great prophetic figures is now in clear focus: “He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” There is nothing stronger or more beautiful in any of the prophets.

Mary is the true Israel, she knows what to do and she does it with enthusiasm. No dawdling, back-pedaling, straying and complaining: she moves, she goes. And she goes upon the heights, which is exactly where God had always summoned Israel, so that it could be a light to the nations.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Dying to Self

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.

When they came to Capernaum,
the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.
(Matthew 17:22-27)

Scripture Study

17:24 The temple tax: before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in a.d. 70 every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obliged to make an annual contribution to its upkeep (cf. Ex 30:11–16; Neh 10:33). After the destruction the Romans imposed upon Jews the obligation of paying that tax for the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. There is disagreement about which period the story deals with.

17:25 From their subjects or from foreigners?: the Greek word here translated subjects literally means “sons.”

17:26 Then the subjects are exempt: just as subjects are not bound by laws applying to foreigners, neither are Jesus and his disciples, who belong to the kingdom of heaven, bound by the duty of paying the temple tax imposed on those who are not of the kingdom. If the Greek is translated “sons,” the freedom of Jesus, the Son of God, and of his disciples, children (“sons”) of the kingdom (cf. Mt 13:38), is even more clear.

17:27 That we may not offend them: though they are exempt (Mt 17:26), Jesus and his disciples are to avoid giving offense; therefore the tax is to be paid. A coin worth twice the temple tax: literally, “a stater,” a Greek coin worth two double drachmas. Two double drachmas were equal to the Jewish shekel and the tax was a half-shekel. For me and for you: not only Jesus but Peter pays the tax, and this example serves as a standard for the conduct of all the disciples.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus offers an important example of humility here. As God’s Son, he does not have to pay the temple tax. However, he pays it to avoid unnecessarily offending the collectors. There is nothing immoral in paying the tax and no larger religious principle is at stake. So rather than exert his rights, he humbly gives in to their request in order to build bridges with his opponents.

Imagine how much greater unity there would be in Christian marriages, families, parishes, and communities if people had the humble attitude of Jesus. In things nonessential, it is often better to give in to the preferences of others than to insist on one’s own opinion or way, even if we are convinced that we are right. Sometimes it is better to humbly die to self for the sake of unity with our spouse, friend, or colleague than to cause division by fighting vehemently for a position that in the end is not a serious matter. If Jesus was willing to give in to others rather than defend what was justly due to him, we should not do any less.

– Edward Sri

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Master of All

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”
(Matthew 14:22-33)

Scripture Study

14:25 the fourth watch: The 12 hours of the night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. were divided into four “watches” (cf. Mk 13:35). This event took place between 3 and 6 a.m. and suggests the disciples were battling the storm most of the night. walking on the sea:

14:27 it is I: Literally, “I am.” ● In light of his power over nature, Jesus’ statement may allude to God’s self-revelation at the burning bush (Ex 3:14; cf. Jn 8:58; 18:5, 6). Jesus thus goes beyond reassuring the disciples and claims for himself a divine identity and authority (14:33).

14:33 you are the Son of God: Anticipates the confessions of Jesus’ divinity by Peter (16:16) and the centurion (27:54).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus comes to his disciples walking on the sea. And he came at the darkest time of the night when they found themselves isolated and in danger.

God’s mastery of the sea is a Biblical commonplace. The spirit of the Lord hovered over the surface of the waters in Genesis; in Exodus, God splits the Red Sea in two. In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God is described as having conquered the monsters of the deep.

The water—especially the stormy water—represents all of the cosmic powers that oppose themselves to God, all those spiritual and physical forces that threaten the Church, most especially death itself. In walking on the water, Jesus shows that he is the master of all of these forces, that his power and authority are greater.

Paul says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John says concerning Christ, “I have conquered the world.”

And so Jesus comes to his Church precisely when it is threatened. “Behold, I am with you always, even until the close of the age.” The Lord accompanies his Church, coming to it and subduing the evil forces that surround it.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Little Faith

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:14-20)

Scripture Study

17:14–18 A man approached with great reverence and knelt down before Christ. This is the first time the word knelt is used in Matthew. He addresses Jesus with honor as Lord, and humbly begins his request by saying have pity on my son, echoing the petitions for divine assistance in the Psalms.

The man calls his son a lunatic, a word that means “moonstruck,” or affected by the moon, reflecting an ancient belief that the moon’s phases cause seizures in some people. The son has symptoms similar to the condition we call epilepsy, as he often falls into fire and water. The narrative later informs us that the source of this particular boy’s self-destructive behavior is not merely a physical ailment but demonic possession (17:18). Jesus rebuked him and the demon immediately came out of him.

The efficacy of Jesus’ word stands in contrast to the disciples’ inability to cure the man’s son (17:16), even though they had been given authority to heal the sick and expel demons (10:8). Jesus responds to this situation forcefully: O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? He compares the present generation with the wayward Israelites in the desert whom Moses called a “perverse and crooked generation” (Deut 32:5 RSV) and “a perverse generation” whose children have “no faithfulness” (Deut 32:20 RSV)—the same critique leveled against the scribes and Pharisees in 12:38–39.

17:19–21 But against whom is Jesus’ critique directed? While some interpreters think it is the father and the people at large, the story’s emphasis on the disciples’ failure to expel the demon (17:16) and their “little faith” (17:20) seems to indicate it is Christ’s own followers who are the target of his lament. Jesus explains that they were unable to drive out the demon because of their little faith, which in Matthew refers to those given to anxiety because they do not trust God to provide for them.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel we meet a boy driven mad by a demon and the disciples could not heal him. They asked Jesus why they had failed, and he said, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In all circumstances, you have to pray with faith. Have you noticed how Jesus, time and again, says to people before working a miracle, “Do you believe I can do this?” Once, Matthew tells us, Jesus was unable to perform many miracles because he was met with so little faith among the people.

Lots of people today, especially in the healing ministry, seem able to reproduce what Jesus did, precisely because of the purity of their faith. Is part of our problem simply a lack of faith? We allow our skepticism to get the better of us; we’re just a little embarrassed by asking God for things, or we’re convinced that he is a distant power only vaguely connected to our lives. But God is far greater than that.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Cost

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”(Matthew 16:24-28)

Scripture Study

16:24 Deny himself: to deny someone is to disown him (see Mt 10:33; 26:34–35) and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the center of one’s existence.

16:27 The parousia and final judgment are described in Mt 25:31 in terms almost identical with these.

16:28 Coming in his kingdom: since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as “the world” and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes his final coming in glory (Mt 13:38, 41), the coming in this verse is not the parousia as in the preceding but the manifestation of Jesus’ rule after his resurrection.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in our Gospel for today Jesus outlines the cost of becoming his disciple: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We have a very antiseptic view of the cross, for we have seen it for so long as a religious symbol.

But for the first nine centuries or so of the Christian dispensation, artists didn’t depict the cross, for it was just too brutal. Say what you want about the violence in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, it probably came as close as any work of art to showing the reality of a Roman crucifixion.

But here’s the point: we are meant to see on that cross, not simply a violent display, but rather our own ugliness. What brought Jesus to the cross? Stupidity, anger, mistrust, institutional injustice, betrayal of a friend, denial, unspeakable cruelty, scapegoating, and fear. In other words, all of our dysfunction is revealed on that cross. In the light of the cross, no one can say the popular philosophy of our times, “I’m okay and you’re okay.” This is why we speak of the cross as God’s judgment on the world.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Serve Me

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

(John 12:24-26)

Scripture Study

12:24 This verse implies that through his death Jesus will be accessible to all. It remains just a grain of wheat: this saying is found in the synoptic triple and double traditions (Mk 8:35; Mt 16:25; Lk 9:24; Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33). John adds the phrases (Jn 12:25) in this world and for eternal life.

12:25 His life: the Greek word psychē refers to a person’s natural life. It does not mean “soul,” for Hebrew anthropology did not postulate body/soul dualism in the way that is familiar to us.

Scripture Reflection

There is an apparent paradox here between Christ’s humiliation and his glorification. St Augustine said, “it was appropriate that the loftiness of his glorification should be preceded by the lowliness of his passion.” This is the same idea as we find in St Paul, when he says that Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, and that therefore God the Father exalted him above all created things. This is a lesson and an encouragement to the Christian, who should see every type of suffering and contradiction as a sharing in Christ’s cross, which redeems us and exalts us.

Our Lord has spoken about his sacrifice being a condition of his entering his glory. And what holds good for the Master applies also to his disciples. Jesus wants each of us to be of service to him. It is a mystery of God’s plans that he—who is all, who has all and who needs nothing and nobody—should choose to need our help to ensure that his teaching and the salvation wrought by him reaches all men

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Perseverance

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But he did not say a word in answer to her.
His disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed from that hour.
(Matthew 15:21-28)

Scripture Study

15:21 Jesus next ventures outside of Galilee into the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon. These are two Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast north of Palestine. In the ethno-geographic worldview of Israel, the region had historically close ties with the ancient Canaanites (Gen 10:15, 19). The woman who is featured in this account is thus described as a “Canaanite” (v. 22).

15:22–24 Jesus’ reputation as a healer and exorcist had apparently preceded him here, for a local mother whose daughter was afflicted by a demon identified him and pressed him to intervene. At first, Jesus gave no answer to her pleas, and the disciples grew annoyed that she kept calling out for his help. When he finally responded, he explained his reason for not getting involved: his ministry was directed not to the Gentiles but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The people of Israel, being the Lord’s collective firstborn (Exod 4:22), stand first in line to receive the Messiah’s blessings (see Acts 3:26).

15:25–26 Not content with this response, the woman did him homage, which probably means that she bowed before him or performed some comparable gesture of reverence. Then she renews her request with the words, Lord, help me. Accepting his lordship, she is confident that Jesus wields the divine power necessary to release her little girl from demonic oppression. Still, Jesus declines. It is inappropriate, he says, to toss the food of the children to dogs. His first priority is to bring blessings to the Israelites, the “children” of the Lord by covenant (Deut 14:1). The Gentiles, for their part, are depicted more like little house dogs than true family members, for they are ignorant of the God of Israel and his ways.

15:27–28 Many would have given up after this second failed attempt at soliciting Jesus’ help, but not this woman. Undaunted, she presses forward, engaging the details of the parable. Please, Lord, she begs, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. At last Jesus responds favorably with glowing words of praise: O woman, great is your faith! He is impressed with her persistence and rewards it by freeing her daughter from the nightmare of demonic assault. And from that hour on, the woman’s daughter was delivered from the evil spirit.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel we witness the strange exchange between Jesus and a feisty woman. It is one of the only scenes in the Gospels where someone seems to get the better of Jesus. First Jesus refuses even to acknowledge her. Then his disciples tell her to back off. Finally, Jesus hits her with a devastating one-liner: “I have come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; it is not right to throw food to dogs.”

This woman—probably a widow and certainly a foreigner—is given a triple brush-off. In this she stands for all those who stand outside, on the margins, alone. Then we hear the woman’s snappy come-back: “Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.” She will not be put off by this brusque behavior.

Now, what do we make of this story? A long tradition stresses the perseverance of the woman in the face of the “test” that Jesus sets for her. And there is something right about it. Augustine says that we pray in order to expand our will to accept what God is going to give us.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Be Merciful O Lord for We Have Sinned

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

For I acknowledge my offense;
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned;
and done what is evil in your sight.”

That you may be justified in your sentence,
vindicated when you condemn.
Indeed, in guilt was I born,
and in sin my mother conceived me.

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

(Psalm 51:3-7, 12-13)

Scripture Study 

 51:3–4 In confessing his sin, the psalmist recognizes that he has sinned against God Himself. He acknowledges God’s right to judge him. While his sin may have involved and harmed others, the psalmist is primarily concerned with his offense against God. This fits David’s response when Nathan confronts him about his sin with Bathsheba.

51:5 Behold, in iniquity I was born The psalmist makes no excuses but recognizes that iniquity has been with him since birth. In doing so, he does not condemn his mother or conception; rather, he confesses the extent of his iniquity (Isa 6:5).

51:7 hyssop Israelites used hyssop branches to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to their doorposts (see Exod 12:22 and note). They were also used in other purifying rituals (Lev 14:49–53; Num 19:18–19). I shall be whiter than snow Signifies the complete purity the psalmist wishes for

51:13 I will teach transgressors your ways When restored, the psalmist pledges to teach other sinners about God’s restorative forgiveness. Because of this, they will also turn to God.

Scripture Reflection

Psalm 51 is an individual prayer for help, “Be gracious to me, O God.” The psalm is a prayer made by David after the prophet Nathan had confronted him with his sin in the affair with Bathsheba.

The confession of sin is based on the grace of God. The plea appeals to God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy and is not merely an expression of human remorse or preoccupation with failure and guilt; it looks beyond self to God and lays hold on the marvelous possibilities of God’s grace.

Those who confess their sin know and believe that their life is judged by God. The confession of sin seeks renewal as well as forgiveness, “Create a clean heart for me, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The synonyms “heart” and “spirit” do not merely designate parts of a person; rather, they stand for that through which the self is expressed. A clean heart would be a mind and will open to God, oriented to God. A steadfast spirit would be a mind and will fixed and steady toward God—ready to praise, true to God’s covenant, and always trusting.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Sing with Joy to God

“My people heard not my voice,
and Israel obeyed me not;
So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts;
they walked according to their own counsels.”

“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
Quickly would I humble their enemies;
against their foes I would turn my hand.”

“Those who hated the LORD would seek to flatter me,
but their fate would endure forever,
While Israel I would feed with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”

(Psalm 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17)

Scripture Study

Psalm 81:11–12 Yahweh regrets his people’s disobedience, but he allows them to reap the fruit of their own stubbornness. Here God does not directly address the people; he seems to be speaking to himself. It would be very odd if the psalmist thought of God speaking to someone else, someone not identified. Stubborn hearts in this context is rendered idiomatically in many languages as “I let them follow their blindness,” “… their hard hearts,” or “… their closed ears.” Follow their own counsels: instead of coming to the Lord for advice and guidance, they guide themselves and ignore God.

Psalm 81:13–14 In verse 13 there is again the parallelism my people and Israel, here in reverse order from the order in verse 11. In verse 14b turn my hand against means “fight,” “strike,”  “punish,”  “conquer.

Psalm 81:15–16 Most commentators and translators take verses 15–16 also to be the Lord’s words. In verse 15a the Hebrew is “Those who hate Yahweh would cower before him,” which has represented with the first person pronoun “me … me,” since it takes Yahweh to be the speaker. In verse 15b the Hebrew is “their time would last forever,” which is taken to mean their fate (rsv), their doom, “their punishment.” Some take “their time” to be a reference to Israel’s good times, which would last forever; this is possible but does not seem probable. Verse 16a in Hebrew is “he would feed him,” refers to God feeding Israel, parallel with I would satisfy you in verse 16b. Honey from the rock is taken by most to mean wild honey.

Scripture Reflection

God keeps hoping that his people will turn back to him and obey him, so that he can overwhelm them with favors—saving them from their enemies, causing them to be respected by all nations, and giving them good things in plenty.

God’s call here is applicable to all circumstances of human life, no matter how dire. Even when things are very bad, God is still “our strength.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.