A Meditation on Psalm 20: 8-13

Kevin J Youngblood
Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9 You will make them as a blazing oven
when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
11 Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12 For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.
13 Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalm 20:8-13)

The above excerpt from Psalm 20 is either bracketed off or omitted altogether in most prayer books and liturgies, clearly suggesting that these portions of Scripture not be read in public worship, if at all. While such omissions are understandable and the intentions clearly good, it is still dishonest, and I would even go so far as to say that it is spiritually unhealthy. Could it be that our theology of prayer has become so anemic as to not see the proper place of such petitions in Christian prayer?


A Meditation on Psalm 18: 31-35

Kevin J Youngblood
For who is God, but the YHWH?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who girded me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your humility made me great.
(Psalm 18:31-35)
The Bible is full of paradoxes. This is at once both a frustration and a fascination (itself a paradox). On the one hand, paradoxes interfere with my attempts to wrap my faith up in a nice little package and tie it up with a bow. It just doesn’t all fit my prefabricated packages and boxes. On the other hand, it stimulates constant thought and reformulation that makes Scripture and the Christian faith anything but boring. 

Psalm 18:35 hit me with a new adjective, and with it a new paradox for YHWH that I have seldom if ever used – humble. How can the perfect, glorious God who is worthy of all praise and adoration be humble? Now don’t get me wrong. It is not that it has never occurred to me that Jesus is humble. Yes, certainly I have often thought of God the Son as humble – the God who came to us incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. The God who stooped to wash filthy human feet is certainly humble. I had not, however, transferred this adjective to God the Father. I had not really thought of God as humble UNTIL the incarnation. The God of the OT, however, never really struck me as humble.


A Meditation on Matthew 9: 35-38

Kevin J Youngblood

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Matt 9:35-38)

I hate crowds. When I see crowds, I turn away and head in the other direction. When I see a crowd, I focus on the jostling and shoving, the noise and the obstruction that it creates. I try to avoid crowds. Jesus’ reaction to the crowd was quite different. When he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion and he commanded his disciples to pray that God would send more workers into the crowds.

As I read this text this morning, it occurred to me that Jesus is asking me directly to pray this prayer.


A Meditation on Psalm 6: 6-10

Kevin J Youngblood
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.
(Psalm 6:6-10)

Grief is exhausting, relentless, and persistent. It feels like it will never end. The psalms’ honesty regarding the real nature of grief is perhaps the secret to their power and appeal. These poignant images of tear drenched beds from nights spent weeping alone resonate with us at a deep level. The psalms are also unafraid to question God’s apparent absence and inactivity when we need him most. Why does he leave us in this state for such prolonged periods of time? How long, O LORD?

On the other hand, the suddenness with which the psalmist shifts from lament to confidence in verse 8 is enough to give any reader literary whiplash. What happened between v. 7 and v. 8 to account for this immediate, drastic turn?


A Meditation on Psalm 147: 8-11

Kevin J Youngblood
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
(Psalm 147:7-11)

YHWH’s activities in Psalm 147:8-11 are so mundane, so ordinary, one wonders why they are even mentioned much less so raucously celebrated by the psalmist. YHWH is described as a groundskeeper who waters the grass and the flowers so they grow. When is the last time I even noticed, much less praised a groundskeeper? YHWH is the caretaker at the zoo who makes his rounds at the crack of dawn ensuring that all of the animals are fed. When is the last time I ever even gave a thought to the person who rises early to care for the animals at my local zoo?

Yet, the psalmist reminds us, YHWH’s delight is not in what his creatures can do for him. He needs no cavalry (strength of the horse) or infantry (legs of a man) to advance his cause. What does bring YHWH pleasure is the pleasure we experience when we suddenly wake up to his presence in the monotony of living. That is to say that YHWH takes pleasure in those who fear him. Once again, this expression is so easy to misunderstand.


A Meditation on Acts 8: 1-4

Kevin J Youngblood
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1b – 4)

Sometimes the Spirit has to give us a shove in order to get us out into the world of pain and brokenness. We do not go voluntarily. The church never has. The pattern in the Book of Acts is that the Spirit scatters us, usually through some kind of hardship like persecution, in order to place us where we need to be for the sake of the world. This seems an odd strategy for one we call the “Comforter.”

The comfort that the Spirit gives, however, is not coddling. It is not the growth-restricting, maturity-inhibiting protectiveness of a helicopter parent. It is not the comfort of avoidance, not the reassurance that we will never have to do anything hard and painful, but comfort in the midst of the hard and painful things that God calls us to do. Words like “lamentation” and “ravaging” punctuate this text. The truth is we will never know just how powerful the Spirit’s comfort is until we’ve experienced it in the very midst of our most intense trials.