I wonder how many have been watching the Democratic National Convention in Denver. It started on the 25th and tonight will likely draw the most watchers yet (Obama is going to do his thing). During these conventions and campaigns people start to raise expectations that bad things are about to start stopping and good things will start starting. With new candidacies / regimes comes good things (that’s the theory). Of course, a little digging will reveal that’s more a biennial hope than a present reality (Pew Research 1st 100 Days of Democratic Congress).
But, still, the impulse is not bad: no one likes days of affliction. And we’re all looking for the ways to make things better. I’ve been considering my own “affliction” and the search for change and lately been resting in how one helps me to see through to that change.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (12)
Return O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! (13)
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (14)
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. (15)
Let your work be shown to your servants and your glorious power to their children. (16)
Look here. Anyone who’s lived through a regime change or two knows that things don’t change with the banging of gavels in hallowed white power halls. It doesn’t stop us from hoping things would change, but ultimately they only slight shift. In these Bible verses, we see a different picture.
What the folks who are so attentive to political campaigns, conventions and coronations need is to see those things through a grid informed by those verses. It is not as if we should no longer care about the political process – now, by all means, care. It is just that caring means thinking rightly about them…
First, start with verse 15. Our days are difficult and full of affliction. The verse is honest even if we’re not. Admit it: anger, frustrations, disappointment, pain, suffering, fear, and uncertainty are what we’re swimming in. Ignoring it only makes us look stupid. And, in that stupidity we tend to attribute those to things we cannot understand (which is untrue). In fact, our difficulty the writer attributes to God. Look again. The Bible never impugns God for this (a story for another post) but simply here attributes these things to God and His plan. But, God doesn’t act without a reason.
So, secondly, why all of this affliction and difficulty? Look at verse 12: we’re proud. In that verse, the author asks God to “teach us to number our days” which is another way of saying, “teach us to think rightly and humbly about our lives.” Without it, we are fools. With it, we get a “heart of wisdom.” We are afflicted because we are proud not because a Republican is President, Democrats control the Congress or Roe vs. Wade is the law. Here is where convention watchers go astray.
You – eyes glued to MSNBC – are proud and BH Obama can’t do a thing about that.
You and I need perspective on our lives. We are, in fact, significant yet small. It gets tough for us when we think we’re just significant. That was the problem the Psalm was written to address because we ARE significant but we are ALSO small.
What’s the pathway out of affliction? It is the one to humility. That road is paved with the work and power of God and it doesn’t go through Denver or Minneapolis. So, thirdly, verse 16 asks God to imprint His work in our minds and His power in the minds of our children. The author believes if we are cozy with the work of God in the Bible (and our lives), we are likely to be more prone to consider ourselves rightly. In so doing, God will figure prominently and we will not. That will please Him and He will restrain affliction upon us.
One thing more, though. Verse 14 shows us that even as God is pleased with our self-awareness of smallness, He is just as pleased to satisfy us with His steadfast love which leads to great joy. Smallness like this and joy go together.
Watch the conventions, but once they end, turn the channel to consider the majestic work of God and there is where you’ll find answers to your questions.