“God’s Righteousness and Ours” A Devotion on Psalm 111:2-3

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is God’s work, and God’s righteousness endures forever.”—Psalm 111:2-3

The concept of “righteousness” was important to Ancient Israel’s self-understanding of their covenant with God. The Hebrew word usually translated as righteousness could also mean integrity, justice, prosperity or wholeness. Righteousness was both an attribute belonging to God, and the order of things that God put into place for the well being of Israel.

There were two contesting schools of thought about Israel’s special covenant with God. There were those who believed that God’s choosing of Israel was unconditional and could never be revoked.

The other opinion, associated with the prophets, was that Israel’s election came with the responsibility to manifest God’s righteousness in the life of their society.

And the prophets’ test for national righteousness was how it treated the most vulnerable of its citizens. In patriarchal Israel the most vulnerable were widows and orphans, who had no male to give them status or protect them. Other vulnerable people were foreign migrants, who had no claim to the land. And finally, as in every society, the poor were vulnerable. Whenever this collection of “the last, the least and the lost” were being mistreated it called into question the integrity and identity of national life.

This idea of societal righteousness was important to our Puritan ancestors, and, though it has never been fully realized, remains in the DNA of American identity. For example Dr. King powerfully employed this Biblical notion in his plea to our national conscience during the struggle for civil rights.

A pressing question for our time is this: can the soul of a nation be considered sound if it mistreats its most vulnerable members?

Prayer: You are righteous, O God. Pour out your righteousness on our troubled land, that our national soul may be healed.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for August 16, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here)

“We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” A Devotion on Psalm 23:4

Valley“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 KJV

The “shadow of death” is a colloquial saying in Hebrew meaning “mortal peril.” For many people in our world who are in mortal peril “the shadow of death” is literal. We might think of the people of Syria, or refugees in leaky boats, or young men in gangs. Or we might think of people we know who are dying. They live in “the shadow of death.” Continue reading

“Living Water and Leaky Containers” A Devotion on Jeremiah 2:13

“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”—Jeremiah 2:13

When you live in the desert you know the difference between green and brown, between wet and dry. In the parched lands from which we get our Bible water was not only a precious resource, but also an important metaphor for life itself. Continue reading

“Did God Say?” A Devotion on Genesis 3:1

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1 Continue reading

“Signing up for the Loyalty Program”

“Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people.” —Proverbs 3:3-4

Many of the companies I do business with, such as on-line retailers, airlines, and hotel chains, have “loyalty programs.” They offer “rewards” to customers who are loyal to their brand. Continue reading

“Silence is Golden!” A Devotion on Job 42:3

“I have spoken what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” —Job 42:3

I was taught never to say, “Shut up!” It was considered rude. So I still don’t.

But I am tempted from time to time. I have an allergy to certain pious phrases that I know are meant to give comfort but do not, at least to me. Continue reading