Friday of the Week of Advent I
Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad;
let those who love your salvation continually say, “Great is the Lord!”
Though I am poor and afflicted, the Lord will have regard for me.
You are my helper and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God. (Psalm 40)
This psalm begins, “I waited patiently upon the Lord; he stooped to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the desolate pit…” It continues, “Be pleased O Lord to deliver me; O Lord make haste to help me.”
When reading the psalms, it is common to wonder, “Who is speaking here?” On the one hand, Psalm 40 could be the prayer of anyone in danger, struggling in life, beset by those “who seek after my life to destroy it…” Some hear Israel, as a people, speaking in this psalm, as the chosen people have often found themselves the object of scorn, attack and persecution.
Luther is clear, however, that this is a psalm giving voice to the coming life of Jesus. In the psalm, Luther hears Jesus saying, “In the roll of the book it is written concerning me: ‘I love to do your will, O my God; your law is deep in my heart.” In spite of his obedience and devotion, Jesus could say, “innumerable troubles have crowded upon me.” When Jesus speaks of “his” sins having overtaken him, they are our sins which he has taken upon himself, which are a heavy burden for him to bear. Yet, the message of the psalm is Jesus’ steadfastness in the face of opposition, suffering and death — that Jesus bears our sins on the cross.
As we are even now thinking of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, it is important for us to be mindful of the fact that God became human, that Jesus was born for us and for our salvation. He knew from the beginning that this would be his fate — to give his life on the cross. But he also knew that he would have a deliverer — even as he prays in this psalm, “Great is the Lord! Though I am poor and afflicted, the Lord will have regard for me. You are my helper and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God.”
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for delivering Jesus from the bonds of death, raising him to new life, that we too might have eternal life in him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Advent Action: If you place a nativity scene in your home, find (or make) a small cross to place in the stable, as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.