Today’s reading is a psalm of praise. It is unclear if the psalmist’s context is the Exodus or the exile. However, it is clear that the psalmist believes in the sovereignty of God in difficult situations. The psalmist is intent on giving God praise. In verse six, Israel is implored, “Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands.” This is sometimes a less palatable vision of praise in our time. The second part of this imperative seems aggressive if not violent. However, its essence is an aspect of praise that we often ignore.
The psalmist outlines a two-part strategy to praise. The first part is our commonly understood meaning of praise: Praise is the vocal articulation of God’s goodness. We not only must take note of God’s action, but we must give it language. We are called to bear public witness to the ways in which God provides, protects, and sustains.
The second part of praise is one that I often forget. We are called to defend and protect God’s mission. This work does not require death and dismemberment. On the contrary, this battle requires that we be willing to work hard to protect those who fall prey to the overreach of empire. If we are to be faithful, our praise is to work for justice and equality. Our praise is to care for others. Our praise is to tear down systems of power that hold people captive. That is the highest praise we have.
Dear God, may your praise always be in our mouths, our hands, and our feet. Remind us that praise is not to heap empty flattery upon you but instead to walk in a way that reflects who you are. Amen.
This week includes All Saints Day, when we remember those who have come before and handed down the faith to us, especially through trials. Habakkuk reminds us that our predecessors sometimes suffered discouragement, but the righteous have always lived by faith. The psalmist also has experienced hard times, but he knows that God’s commandments are true and lead to life. The Thessalonians have experienced persecution as well; yet through their strength their faith and love continue to grow to the glory of Christ. May the same be said of us and our church communities! The famous story of Zacchaeus illustrates that the crowd of faithful witnesses that we celebrate on All Saints Day includes those who have been lost—outsiders—for Jesus comes to seek and save the lost.
Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. How can you wait actively for God’s response to your prayers and complaints? How will you enact God’s response when it comes?
Read Psalm 119:137-144. How do you persist in following God’s commandments in the face of injustice and corruption?
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. The work of the church has never been easy. How does your faith community work to exude God’s love in a time when many reject or feel rejected by church institutions?
Read Luke 19:1-10. When have you run to Jesus? How can you share your experience so others pursue Jesus as well?
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