Pay attention, God!

1-3 Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
    Can you make sense of these ramblings,
    my groans and cries?
    King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
    you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
    I lay out the pieces of my life
    on your altar
    and watch for fire to descend.


In 1977, Nathan Sharansky, a Russian Jew and advocate for human rights for Russians, was arrested by the KGB for treason.  His wife, Avital, gave him a book of Psalms while he was incarcerated.  Sharansky, in his memoir, Fear No Evil, shares that his meditation on the psalms gave him the strength to withstand brutal conditions for nine years.  Upon his release, Sharansky found himself without his beloved book of psalms.  The prison commandant’s last petty act was to withhold the book from his most famous prisoner.  Sharansky refused to leave.  Laying down in the snow in front of the prison -gate he refused his freedom until his Psalter was returned.  Such can be the power of the word of God.   

Psalm 5 is a prayer addressed to King-God.  It reminds us of the power of  human speech and of its importance in standing with or against God.  It matters what we say.  Words can give life, and words can kill.  (James 3.8-9).   Talk is cheap is conventional wisdom but truly its effects can be terribly costly.  Here the psalmist confidently comes to God basing his confidence on God’s hesed (steadfast love, vs.7).  Hesed means I can enter the sanctuary in total assurance that I shall be welcome there, since my presence depends, not on me, nor on my quality of life, but upon God and God’s unconditional promise.

The prayer also reminds us that prayer speech is speech that aligns itself with God’s purposes: that evil not go unopposed and that God’s justice and shalom prevail.  OT scholar James Mays writes that ‘The psalm asks us whether we take the opposition between truth and lie seriously enough as a matter of faith, whether we are ready to stand with those damaged by falsehood and propaganda, and whether we are alert to the lies to us told by the powers and opinions of our culture.’      

This week we were reminded of the persecution under which many Christians in India lived.  This prayer, for the triumph of God’s justice, is a prayer suitable for us to pray on their behalf.  Such a prayer is a way to identify with them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
   let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
   so that those who love your name may exult in you.