I have heard often that reading the Bible for 20 minutes or so a day is an excellent way to start to meditate and grow closer to God, to learn more about what He is saying to me personally. Although I read the daily Mass readings almost every day, this will be a new way for me to read. The instructions recommend choosing some portion of the Bible to read, and then to read until something strikes you, recognizing this passage as something God is trying to tell you. Then after thinking about the passage a short time, move on further again until something strikes you as important. So this is what I did.
I opened the Bible to the Psalms and began reading Psalm 18. It is a Psalm of “David who sang to the Lord the words of this song, when the Lord had rescued him from the grasp of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The Psalm is divided into three major parts with each part having several stanzas. I know that I have read it before, for I underlined many of the words in the first two stanzas of part A. This time as I read it, I paused more often, exploring the meanings of the words, letting the meanings of the words and the sentiments spoken, become more familiar to me.
I was struck by the terms of protection that the Lord gave to David – strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold. When our Bible group studied this Psalm, we reflected on the meaning of “rock”, on what a rock could be used for. It could be thrown at someone or used to strike someone, or if it was large enough, a person could hide behind it. Rocks can be formidable things; they can block our way as we walk, they can cause us to stumble; they can be used to build a wall or a house or other structure. They can be difficult to remove if you are building a garden, as we experienced. Some rocks are so large as to be un-moveable – I have seen this characteristic used to describe God – He is so powerful that no one can overcome Him.
In the second stanza David cries out to God, describing in quite visual language how he was about to die because of the forces railed against him. “The destroying floods overwhelmed me; the cords of the nether world enmeshed me” – we see a man trapped, his life rapidly being taken away from him. When David cries out to the Lord, God hears him, though God lives in a far off realm.
The third stanza is amazing in the detail that is given. It tells us how God let nothing stand in His way, how He overturned every obstacle to reach David and be of help to him. And after overcoming all of the obstacles, he came to David. “He reached out from on high and grasped me; he drew me out of the deep waters.” It is a beautiful description of the lengths to which God will go to, to save those who love Him. David tells us God “rescued me, because He loves me.”
In the fourth section of part A we are told the God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. “Toward the faithful, you are faithful, toward the wholehearted, you are wholehearted, Toward the sincere, you are sincere, but toward the crooked you are astute.” God recognizes those who are not faithful or sincere; He can accurately determine who are His friends and who are not. And I loved the line: “You indeed, Oh Lord, give light to my lamp“. What a perfect description of the help which God gives to us – He watches over us; He shows us the way . Even when it is spiritually dark, and we are unsure of our direction, God is there to help us. “For with your aid I run against an armed band, and by the help of my God I leap over a wall.” One can see the strength and courage God imparted to David, how He made David strong and resourceful. David gives all the credit to his God, who is worthy of all his faith in Him.
A book I am reading, entitled “Out of the Depths” by Bernard Anderson explains Israels’ picture of the universe as “one that depicted the world as surrounded on every hand by “the waters of chaos”, which at the time of creation, the Creator subdued to perform their God-given tasks. The earth is portrayed as a kind of island, suspended over the waters of the deep, within which is located Sheol, the kingdom of death…..This language is used religiously or poetically to express the awareness that on all sides the historical world is threatened by powers of chaos that, were they not held back by the Creator, would engulf the earth and reduce existence to meaningless confusion. The earth is not self-sustaining, but is contingent, dependent upon God.” Though this is an ancient description of the world, it seems still appropriate. We know that the earth is “suspended in space”, surrounded by others planet, asteroids, meteors and the blackness of space, with our sun and stars far away. But life itself seems surrounded by “chaos”, by the evil forces that would destroy life. The comment that the earth is dependent on God still holds true.
August 24, 2013 I spoke with Judy yesterday and we talked a bit about this Psalm. She asked me if I could see this Psalm in my experience of the Consecrated Host? I never reflected on how this Psalm has anything to do with my own life. I just tried to understand the words and see in them a “picture” of how God is with us, when we call on His help. I guess that is another area that I need to consider – that meditation is more than studying about God and about Scripture.
So I looked again at Psalm 18 this afternoon. The second part of the Psalm which speaks of “breakers of death surged round about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me” could be taken as my devastation at my experience with the Consecrated Host left in my bag. Bernard Anderson says in his book “Out of the Depths” that the examples of danger and devastation used in the Psalms can be expressions of many kind of experiences which overwhelm us emotionally as well as physically. That certainly describes my feelings at finding the Consecrated Host in my bag. “In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried out to my God“. In my desolation it is what I did, certain that I had offended God and unsure what to do next. I begged for forgiveness and mercy. The experience with Fr. Tim and his compassion could be taken to be “God reached out from on high and grasped me; he drew me out of the deep waters.” I was relieved after speaking with him, comforted that I had done nothing wrong intentionally. And of course, beautiful Karen, who saw something so miraculous in the event – that I had a tabernacle next to my bed. I am so fortunate in having met her and received acceptance from her. What a beautiful child of God!