“Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery.” – Psalm 86
Blame it on having listened to a lot of Bob Marley and the Wailers, but I can seldom read a psalm without imagining how it would work as a reggae lyric. After all, having lived in Kingston’s notorious Trenchtown neighborhood, Marley and his fellow reggae artists certainly knew what it meant to be poor and in misery — and they certainly weren’t above cribbing from the Old Testament to describe what that felt like.
Taken together, our devotional passages from the Old Testament could easily make up a musical “call and response”. In our psalm reading, we call upon the Lord “all the day long” to “gladden the soul of your servant” — and we do so, secure in the faith that, “among the gods, there is none like you, O Lord, nor anything like your works.” And so, we beseech the Lord to, “Teach me your way…and I will walk in your truth.”
And just what is God’s truth, our song might consider? The answer to that musical question comes from the prophet Isaiah, who would probably have been a Rastafarian had he grown up in Jamaica. As it turns out, walking in God’s truth requires more than God’s mercy. It means that we first “remove the yoke from among you…the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil” (I can so hear Bob Marley singing that). The psalm further instructs us to “knit our hearts to God,” while Isaiah tells us that to do so will require us to, “offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted.” With God there’s always a catch, isn’t there?
As our Gospel reading reminds us, however, we have the perfect model for how to achieve this state of grace — one who “came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” All we must do is follow Him, and, as Bob Marley might well have sung, “you shall be like a watered garden.”
Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.