By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Psalm 105:1-22
1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Search for the LORD and his strength; *
continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
O children of Jacob his chosen.
7 He is the LORD our God; *
his judgments prevail in all the world.
8 He has always been mindful of his covenant, *
the promise he made for a thousand generations:
9 The covenant he made with Abraham, *
the oath that he swore to Isaac,
10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob, *
an everlasting covenant for Israel,
11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan *
to be your allotted inheritance.”
12 When they were few in number, *
of little account, and sojourners in the land,
13 Wandering from nation to nation *
and from one kingdom to another,
14 He let no one oppress them *
and rebuked kings for their sake,
15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed *
and do my prophets no harm.”
16 Then he called for a famine in the land *
and destroyed the supply of bread.
17 He sent a man before them, *
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet in fetters; *
his neck they put in an iron collar.
19 Until his prediction came to pass, *
the word of the LORD tested him.
20 The king sent and released him; *
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
21 He set him as a master over his household, *
as a ruler over all his possessions,
22 To instruct his princes according to his will *
and to teach his elders wisdom.
Spread out over morning and evening today, we read Psalm 105, the admonition to remember the things the Lord has done followed by the recitation of the early history of God’s people. He chose Abraham; later he chose Jacob rather than his brother Esau; he saved the people by paving a road for them to Egypt in a time of famine — and allowed them to become slaves there — before delivering them back out again.
I’ve been teaching these very stories to my children this fall, and the thing is, they aren’t exactly flattering. Sarah is downright mean; Abraham mucks everything up with Hagar and Ishmael; Isaac is kind of a coward. Jacob is a lying liar who lies. Leah and Rachel taunt each other. Joseph is full of himself. If God hadn’t ensured that the people remember and record this history, they would have buried and forgotten it on purpose. No other people write and then sing and recite songs about their disreputable ancestors — just us.
So here is a lesson about history: when we forget the nuances, when we make people out to be irredeemable villains or perfect, shining heroes, we inadvertently kill our own hope and our capacity to see others as images of God. Because we’ve all mucked up something important somewhere in our lives; we’ve all lied at some time or other; we’ve all compromised on something that history will frown on; we’ve all been mean. The unflattering history tells us that we — and everyone else — will sin. And that God will choose us and love us and rescue us anyway. Thank God that he preserved our history.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of the Niger Delta – The Church of Nigeria
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans