Under Siege

By Ken Asel

A Reading from Psalm 102

1 LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you;
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.

2 Incline your ear to me;
when I call, make haste to answer me,

3 For my days drift away like smoke,
and my bones are hot as burning coals.

4 My heart is smitten like grass and withered,
so that I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of the voice of my groaning
I am but skin and bones.

6 I have become like a vulture in the wilderness,
like an owl among the ruins.

7 I lie awake and groan;
I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.

8 My enemies revile me all day long,
and those who scoff at me have taken an oath against me.

9 For I have eaten ashes for bread
and mingled my drink with weeping.

10 Because of your indignation and wrath
you have lifted me up and thrown me away.

11 My days pass away like a shadow,
and I wither like the grass.

12 But you, O LORD, endure for ever,
and your Name from age to age.

13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to have mercy upon her;
indeed, the appointed time has come.

14 For your servants love her very rubble,
and are moved to pity even for her dust.

15 The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory.

16 For the LORD will build up Zion,
and his glory will appear.

17 He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;
he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.

19 For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high;
from the heavens he beheld the earth;

20 That he might hear the groan of the captive
and set free those condemned to die;

21 That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD,
and his praise in Jerusalem;

22 When the peoples are gathered together,
and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

23 He has brought down my strength before my time;
he has shortened the number of my days;

24 And I said, “O my God,
do not take me away in the midst of my days;
your years endure throughout all generations.

25 In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations
of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
26 They shall perish, but you will endure;
they all shall wear out like a garment;
as clothing you will change them,
and they shall be changed;

27 But you are always the same,
and your years will never end.

28 The children of your servants shall continue,
and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight.”

Meditation

There are two significant sections to Psalm 102. The first is a prayer in the midst of despair: “All the day long my enemies taunt me, those who deride me use my name for a curse.” C.H. Spurgeon spoke of the psalm as a patriot’s lament.

In today’s Old Testment reading, Jerusalem is under siege. Alone and apart stands Jeremiah. He foresees the destruction of the kingdom. At first he can imagine only defeat. Judgment must come for the faithlessness of the king, his priests, and his wealthy, powerful clients. Imprisoned, then freed, Jeremiah speaks first of God’s wrath and need for repentance. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the prophet brings a troubling future: “everyone shall die for his own sin, each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” These brutal, frightening words harken back to the destruction of the nation of Israel and its desolation some 200 years previously. But immediately, he proclaims other sacred words, which bring hope instead of fire and brimstone: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. … I will put my law within them; and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they will be my people.”

These are words of possibility, of new beginnings, salvation, and blessing, and, in words of the Methodist hymn of A.J. Showalter, of “leaning on the everlasting arms.” Jeremiah’s story was true for Judah as well as in our own day, especially for the poor, the frightened, the beleaguered — the “homeless,” the “captive,” and the “condemned,” as it says in today’s psalm. God’s love will ultimately prevail, and anyone now who is discarded, ignored, or left behind will find redemption beyond imagining.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest of the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than thirty years and reside on the Front Range.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Luweero – The Church of the Province of Uganda
Jerusalem Peacebuilders, West Brattleboro, Vt.

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