Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Out of Bowshot

You have made your people suffer hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us reel.
You have set up a banner for those who fear you, to rally to it out of bowshot.
Psalm 60:3-4

These two verses are a bit odd, but I think I can make sense of them. In the garden, Jesus prayed that God would "let this cup pass from" him, referring to the agony of the crucifixion. The idea that our difficulties are a lot that has been given to us like a cup of wine, then, is not unheard of, even to those who have never studied Hebrew idioms. But here it is expressed in a psalm which refers to the difficulties God either lets us suffer or sends our way: they are like a cup of wine that makes us "tremble"—which is a better translation of תַּרְעֵלָה (tremor or tremulous) than "reel" in my opinion. I wonder if Bonhoeffer wasn't thinking of Psalm 60 when he penned these beautiful words:

And when this cup you give is filled to brimming   
with bitter suffering, hard to understand, 
we take it thankfully and without trembling,   
out of so good and so belov'd a hand.

The next verse is very different from those which preceded it, and stands in stark contrast to the bitter cup of suffering. I picture Hamlet's "to be or not to be" speech when he was contemplating suicide:  

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer 
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, 
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing end them?

The person of faith, though, has an option that others may not realize even exists. In the battlefield of life, there has been raised a banner, just out of bowshot, which we may run to to find safety. Faith in God may not remove us from the battlefield—indeed it is God's will that we remain engaged—but when we are overwhelmed, we need not give in, and we need not fall. For me as a Christian, the emblem of safety is nothing other than the Lord's Supper. There I eat the bread that strengthens me for the journey, and drink the cup that makes my steps firm.
When the storms of life are raging, Lord, stand by me to uphold me, beneath me to keep my steps firm, before me to show me the way, and above me as a banner of safety. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Sam, from the trenches of the hospital.

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