August 5, 2020

The True Source of Blessing

Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad; you restored your heritage when it languished; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
☂︎ Ps 68:9-10 ☂︎

In talking about rain as a way God's providence is made known, the psalmist, I think, is reïnforcing the notion that God—not humans, and not even the cycles of nature—is the true source of blessing. Rain comes down from heaven and is beyond our control. The people did not restore themselves, nor was the land responsible. It was God. Those who depend on God are then described as God's flock—a perfect description of those who are loved by God and who depend on God. So how else can we describe God's people than as "the needy"—for those who truly depend on God can be described in no other way.

Those who ignore the needy, or take advantage of them, or hold them in derision, cannot by the very definition offered here be thought of as part of God's flock, or number themselves among the people of God.
When God sends abundant rain and restores God's heritage, this providence is therefore intended for the needy. A country where the rich are allowed to call dibs on the choicest of God's blessings, while the needy are left more and more vulnerable with each passing day cannot call itself a Christian nation. Such a claim makes a mockery of the God who loved the poor so much as to become one of them.

When you restore your heritage, O God, I pray that I will not be so preoccupied with protecting what I think of as mine, that I fail to become needy. For it is your restoration that I and my languishing people need; in his Name who taught me to pray: Our Father...


This song, written by Robert Robinson in 1758, seems fitting on a day I talk about God as the source of all blessing. A couple of notes here:
  1. The ebenezer mentioned in the second stanza (אבן העזר‎ in Hebrew) means stone of help. It refers to an account found in 1 Samuel in which the Philistines were defeated in battle after Samuel had made a sacrifice to God. This reference is often changed in contemporary hymnals. For example, in the Chalice Hymnal of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we find "Here I raise to thee an altar," while The New Century Hymnal of the United Church of Christ has "Here I pause in my sojourning."
  2. Chris Rice's rendition (above) includes a stanza, omitted in virtually all hymnals, that was Robinson's final stanza. Rice (very wisely, in my opinion) made it the penultimate stanza. These are the words: 
  3.     O that day when freed from sinning,
           I shall see thy lovely face;
        clothèd then in blood-washed linen
           how I’ll sing thy sovereign grace.
        Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
           take my ransomed soul away;
        send thine angels now to carry
           me to realms of endless day.

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