I’m not sure how you felt about History at school, most people I know seem to see it a bit like marmite, you either love it or hate it. I loved it, mainly because of the teacher I had, able to make the stories of the unification of Italy and Germany come alive, able to help us see back into the past and get some idea of what motivated people to do the things they did. All good history lessons help us do that, they help us see the very humanness of the people involved so what seems strange, far off and distant comes to life, is made colourful, real and familiar.
It’s tempting to read a Psalm like this one and just pick out the verses that seem particularly relevant, to choose the juicy ones like, “Look to the Lord and his strength, seek his face always”. I’m not saying that’s not an incredible verse, it’s clearly a brilliant summery of how to live our lives, but if we just looked at the verse that jumps out in neon lights we’d miss so much of why it’s good to look to the Lord, we’d miss what his strength is really like and why we need to seek his face always in the sea of faces we encounter each day.
It’s also tempting to read this Psalm as a bit of a history lesson, a history lesson that has no relevance, that is a bunch of stories about people who lived a long long long time ago. I’m tempted to do that. But, again, there is more to be discovered because this God is our God. This God who does so much here is our God who is around today, and he hasn’t aged in the way we understand ageing. He hasn’t lost his marbles, got confused, grown weak and weary. He is the same God of action, purpose and goodness.
The Psalmist takes us through a vast spread of the history of the people of God. The exuberant praise in the first 5 verses isn’t just randomly stuck there, it’s coming out of the Psalmist being bowled over in wonder at the actions of the God he is praising. He calls us to remember, to remember the wonders God has done, to look back and see the vast landscape of God’s dealings with his people, from the moment he promised Abraham a nation, through his promises proving true with Joseph, through his people rescued from Egypt into a new land flowing with blessing and goodness. We’re called to remember how God has provided for his people, how he has called them out to be a people who belong to him, who do things his way, who walk in his paths. This is the God we’re called to look to for strength, this is the God whose face we seek always because he is full of grace, provision and power to act in our circumstances.
And so we remember, we see that this God of action and care is our God, is the one who called us out of darkness into his light, he is the one who opened our eyes to see him, who is at work today helping us love, providing for us, forgiving us, calling us still to walk in his paths, know his way of doing things and delighting in him as we do so. He hasn’t given up working in the lives of his people.
Tell of his wonderful acts: Reflect on what God has done, both throughout the Bible and in your life. Write down the situations you have seen his hand in, remember his goodness to you, look again at the God who never gives up on his promises.
How does looking at these things give you perspective in situations where you can’t see God at work?
What from this Psalm will help in those times?