Advent Meditation: Psalm 61

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Unlike the provincial deities of the ancients, Yahweh is not limited by geography. David boldly prays—desperate, yes, but bold—”from the ends of the earth,” and even when his boldness outstrips his strength (“when my heart is without strength”) he is still heard. Neither Tarshish nor Nineveh is beyond the LORD’s reach or earshot.

David then prays the prayer God loves to hear: I can’t, but You can; You lead the way.

Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for you have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy (61:2-3 CSB).

David can’t get to the rock himself; God must take him there. God alone has been a refuge and a strong tower. God is the rock higher than David. The next verse makes this even clearer:

I will dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of your wings (61:4 CSB).

The allusion in Psalm 57 is more explicit here: God’s tent is the tabernacle, and the shelter of His wings would be beneath the cherubim and the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.

The connection between the rock and the tent, then, is this: David can’t go into the Holy of Holies himself. God must come to him and lead him there. That’s precisely what He has done in the Incarnation: Jesus has come as the Great High Priest in Melchizedek’s line to rend the curtain and lead us into the New Jerusalem—Revelation’s Holy of Holies.

David celebrates the “heritage” given to every God-fearer. What is this heritage? It’s the king’s own inheritance, for we are “heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17 CSB)!

What king is this? The one whose “years span many generations,” who sits “enthroned before God forever” (61:6-7 CSB). This King who is God sits before God; the Word was with God and was God (John 1:1).

The King’s bodyguards are faithful love and truth. You have to go through them to get to Him. John also says that’s exactly how Jesus comes: full of grace and truth (John 1:17).

This King is Jesus, Emmanuel, the curtain-tearing High Priest who leads us into the shelter of the cherubim’s wings. This King is the one we serve, the one we sing of, and the one we sing to.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

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Beneath Your Wings’ Shadow (Psalm 61)

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8.7.8.7.8.7.

With the last gasp of a crushed heart
Hearken to my cry, my God!
Set the pieces of my crushed soul
On a rock so high above.
You have been for me a fortress:
Strong, secure before the foe;
In your presence I will ever
Dwell beneath your wings’ shadow.

In that shadow, wings o’erspreading,
In your tabernacle dwell:
Where no priest dare come without blood
Where the wrath-fire is kindled.
Mercy there will be my shelter;
I will not there be consumed.
But in perfect peace before you
Watch your endless days ensue.

May your King, whom you appointed,
Reign forever on your throne.
May his days be without number;
May his years be ever long.
Faithful love and truth to stand by,
Guarding, obeying his will.
Then may I in loving gladness
Live obediently still.

4-4-2017

Near and Far

The movement from “far” to “near,” which is the whole business of prayer, is a great deal more than a mere psychological experience. It has to do, rather, with the mystery of redemption: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). It is not a matter here of our “feeling far off.” Our feelings on the point are futile and unreliable. It is not a feeling but a fact that without Christ, we are far off, and the anxiety of heart, mentioned here as characteristic of our being far off from God, is well-founded: “At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). …

Our true hope is founded, then, not in the native aspirations of the human spirit but in the redemption wrought by the God to whom we say in our psalm [61]: “For You have become my hope.” Our Christian hope is described as “a better hope, through which we draw near to God” (Heb. 7:19), and of the man who has this hope our psalm [61] says: “He will live forever in the presence of God.”

— Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, 119-120.