Dietrich Bonhoeffer noticed that in the Psalms, there are repeated requests for provision and protection. His conclusion of what this is, and how this leads us to Christ is startlingly relevant;
“It is striking to many earnest Christians as they pray the Psalms how frequently there occurs a petition for life and good fortune. When looking at the cross of Christ there arises in many the unhealthy thought that life and the visible earthly blessings of God are in themselves certainly a questionable good and in any case not to be desired. They then take the corresponding prayers of the Psalter as an early first stage of Old Testament piety that is overcome in the New Testament. But in doing so they want to be even more spiritual than God is.
As the petition for daily bread includes the entire sphere of the needs of bodily life, so the prayer that is directed to the God who is the creator and sustainer of this life necessarily includes the petition for life, health, and the visible evidence of God’s friendliness. Bodily life is not disdained. On the contrary, God has given us community in Jesus Christ precisely so that we can live in God’s presence in this life and then certainly also in the life to come. For this reason God gives us earthly prayers so that we can know, praise, and love God all the more. It is God’s will that it go well on earth for those who are devout (Ps. 37).15 This desire is not set aside by the cross of Jesus Christ, but is established all the more. And precisely at the point where in following Jesus people must take on many privations, they will answer the question of Jesus, “Did you lack anything?” as the disciples answered it: “No, not a thing.” (Luke 22:35).16 The assumption behind this is the teaching of the psalm: “Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked” (Ps. 37:16).
We really ought not to have a bad conscience in praying with the Psalter for life, health, peace, and earthly good, if only like the psalm itself we recognize all these as evidences of God’s gracious community with us and thereby hold fast to the knowledge that God’s goodness is better than life (Ps. 63:4 , 73:25f.).
Psalm 103 teaches us to understand all the fullness of the gifts of God, from the preservation of life to the forgiveness of sins, as a great unity and to come before God with thanks and praise for it (cf. also Ps.65). For the sake of Jesus Christ, the Creator gives us life and sustains it. So God wants to make us ready, finally, through the loss of all earthly goods in death, to obtain eternal life. For the sake of Jesus Christ alone, and at his bidding, we may pray for the good things of life, and for the sake of Christ we should also do it with confidence. But when we receive what we need, then we should not stop thanking God from the heart for being so friendly to us for the sake of Jesus Christ."
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Vol. 5
In this message, Pastor Jeremy ‘dove’ back into an examination of the Red Sea crossing. To begin with, he had us try to re-conceive our love for the sea and look at things through the superstitious eyes of the ancients. One has only to skim the pages of Homer’s epic masterpiece, The Odyssey to realize that for the ancients, the sea was the symbol of untameable chaos. It was this widespread relationship with the sea which both the Israelites as well as the Egyptians carried with them to the very shore of the Red Sea. (Exodus 14)
Which Side of the Sea Are You On?
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