In God we trust
[Published in Mennonite Weekly Review, 10/18/10]
In what (or whom) do we truly trust? The Bible, from start to finish, places this question at the heart of its portrayal of the life of faith. One term that has often been used in relation to this question is “idolatry.” Do we trust in the creator, covenant-making, healing God of Israel — or in something else, some kind of idol?
Psalm 63 is an excellent exhortation toward trust in God instead of idols. And it gives some good reasons for choosing God.
The joys of God’s presence
First, God is seen as analogous to water in the midst of a dry desert. The water is the life force when the land is “dry and weary” (63:1). No water, no life. No God, no wholeness. Our lives should be lived in gratitude — life is fragile, God’s sustenance keeps us going.
Second, God is a God of “steadfast love” — a love “better than life” (63:3). As we reflect on the biblical story, the story of faith communities over the past two millennia, even in our own lives, we also find reminders of how often we (and those before us) have tested God’s love. Too often God’s love for us has not translated into love for others. Yet, God’s love remains steadfast.
Think about how great cold water feels, even tastes, when you are really, really thirsty. Few experiences are as intensely pleasurable as a long drink when you really need it. And think about the times when you truly feel loved. No wonder these images, when used of the sense of God’s presence, evoke worship and blessing (63:4).
Continuing the imagery of satisfaction and joy, the psalmist uses a third image: “You have been my help.” “Your right hand upholds me” (63:8). Often our sense of God’s care is retrospective — we only see God’s care as we look back. God’s “right hand” is not often visible in the present. But in faith, we may see that indeed God has seen us through.
Lingering in the background here, we may see hints that other objects of trust (“idols”) may make the same claims. The psalmist joins in praise and worship in the community in order to re-emphasize that life comes from God alone.
God will deal with our enemies
Our final set of images in this psalm provides some challenges unless we approach it with some care. God indeed blesses those who trust in God — like water in the desert, full of steadfast love and with an upholding right hand.
And then, we read, God will deal with our enemies (63:9-11). Certainly, those who trust in God will have enemies. Trust in God requires distrust in the various nationalisms, consumerisms and ideologies that seek to usurp God in our lives. When we embody this distrust, we will ruffle some feathers.
The question is: What shall we do about that? One way to read these verses in Psalm 63 is to say we ourselves seek to send those enemies “down into the depths of the earth” (63:9) and make them “prey for jackals” (63:9).
However, the message of this psalm as a whole is about trusting in God, not in our own might and power and wealth. Maybe the best way to read 63:9-11 is parallel to what the Book of Revelation shows. The Lamb’s witnesses cry, “How long?” seeking vengeance toward their oppressors (Rev. 6:10). God says, just wait (Rev. 6:11). Then, in the end, God’s type of “vengeance” is wreaked, and these tormentors — the “kings of the earth” — are transformed and welcomed into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21–22). And the witnesses rejoice.