Wisdom for every day

In various monastic writings we find two verses emphasized as being among the most spiritually effective prayers. Psalm 71:1-2 (NIV)–

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and save me.

It is emphasized because it is the prayer of desperation, encapsulating a heart’s cry, pointing it efficiently towards God. The spiritually wise suggested repeating this regularly, throughout the day. Not only for those who are encountering crises. For everyone. Because while it is the prayer of the oppressed, pleading for God’s salvation, it is also a prayer of grounding. Those who deal with pride, or arrogance, or easy living are reminded of their status and their goal. This establishes the relationship, a pledge of allegiance of sorts. We are all in need of God’s salvation, and asking for it reminds us of those places that we might like to hide from or ignore–or do not see in the moments of bounty.

Worth looking at other translations.

New Living Translation:

O Lord, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me and rescue me,
for you do what is right.
Turn your ear to listen to me,
and set me free.

New King James:

In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.

NRSV:

In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

Along with the Jesus prayer–“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”–these verses are a way to center and re-center, orienting us right in the midst of our busy lives. Easy and profound expressions of deep theology and deep faith.

As I’m writing today I’m hit with another passage that serves much the same purpose. Rather than being prayer towards God, however, this one is a reminder from God to us.

Exodus 14:13-14

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Here we have an antecedent to Ephesians 6 and Isaiah 31.

The Israelites have been freed from Egypt, but they are not yet free. They stand at the edge of the Red Sea, blocked. Pharaoh realizes he made a mistake. Who is this God of Israel that could take away his slaves? He gathers his army. He pursues the newly emancipated.

Exodus tells us:

They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

Life became overwhelming. They were terrified, broken, emptied of hope. They saw what was following them and they despaired.

“Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

The Egyptians throughout Scripture represent ‘the world’–its terrors, its promises, its enslavements, or its companionship. Sometimes it is a place of God given safety. More often it is the feared oppressor or the false security. We run from Egypt because of its power. We embrace Egypt because it promises protection.

We see the Egyptians about us. In our struggles and in our temptations. We fear. We lose hope. We stumble in the strain. We go crazy, act angry, no longer reflections of Christ.

And God reminds us.

“Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

This entry was posted in church, contemplation, Exodus, prayer, quotes, Scripture, spirituality, theology, wisdom from the desert. Bookmark the permalink.

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