In God Alone-Rev. Boone Clayton
In God alone my soul finds rest,
for my deliverance comes from God,
who alone is my rock, my salvation,
I will never be shaken.
Only in God—my deliverance, my glory—
my refuge is God.
Trust in God always, my people;
pour out your hearts before God our refuge.
Humankind is but a breath,
mortals are just an illusion.
Put them on the scales and the balance
is thrown off:
they weigh less than a breath.
Do not trust in extortion,
or put false hopes in stolen goods;
do not set your heart on riches
even when they increase.
For God has said only one thing,
Twice have I heard it:
that power belongs to God:
Steadfast love is yours, ADONAI –
you repay all people according
to their deeds.
We heard in the first Bible study on the Psalms, when Deborah did an introduction to the entire psalter, that they can be grouped into general categories. There are examples of each category sprinkled throughout the collection, but without any apparent intentionality to how they are ordered. Some are very long and some are short, but you look at the whole of the psalms see all of the different types in there. I would encourage anyone who wants a better foothold to the landscape of this book to go and listen to Deborah’s first Bible study lesson, which can be found on the website.
So we have all different types of psalms: celebration, instruction, remembrance, vengeance, confession, lament (communal and individual), and psalms of praise. Before us today in Psalm 62 is a psalm of trust. Before we go further on this psalm of trust, let’s take a quick detour.
Fundamentally, psalms are poetry. And while the Psalms have incredible meaning for us in English, as I would imagine they would in any language, they were written in Hebrew and sung and chanted in Hebrew and filled the air of synagogues and fields and homes in Hebrew long before they were translated into Greek or English or any other language. So, I thought it would be special to hear today’s psalm in the original Hebrew. I know we won’t understand any of it, but it is my hope that it will put us one step closer to being in sync with the fullness of what the psalms provide.
<Audio of Psalm 62 in Hebrew, https://www.mechon-mamre.org/mp3/t2662.mp3>
[If you want to listen to the entire psalter chanted in Hebrew, this video does it very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cXVCxxwPAo. It is relaxing and almost meditative.]
As a psalm of trust, Psalm 62 offers an important opportunity for us to explore what it means to trust God and how trust looks in daily living. I see this exploration as leading in two distinct directions.
The first is what competes for our trust. The competitors, for the psalmist here today, are humans – or more accurately, human power – and God. We see in that in verse 10 where we find the words: “do not set your heart on riches, even when they increase.” Riches, of course, can take form in so many things: beyond bank accounts and stock portfolios, riches can be the material things around us, the stores of food we keep in our homes, and especially the homes themselves. Riches, we have to be reminded periodically, are anything that allow us to think that we can trust in ourselves and our own abilities and that therefore keep us separated from God in any number of ways.
The psalmist’s choice is clear, right? Trust in God at all times. But the alternative seems so much more concrete and compelling: Trust your own resources; trust your own buying power; trust whatever you can get your hands on. It’s the same dilemma we have when we hear Jesus’ words not to store up treasures for ourselves here on earth, where moth and rust and inflation, and recessions can eat away at what we have dutifully stored up like worker ants. The practical realities of our modern daily lives butt heads with what often seems like the aspirational ways of living and trusting that God calls us to in scripture. (But hey, a little aspiration never hurt anybody.)
If we are to trust in God at all times, we should explore what it means to trust. Trust is an essential part of life. An environment of trust is necessary in order for mental, emotional, and spiritual development to occur. When we encounter mistrust, we often withdraw into ourselves; trusting allows us to venture outside of ourselves – literally and figuratively – so that we can engage with the physical and spiritual world around us. The theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote at length about the quality of trust we experience in life: “Fish need water in which to swim, birds need air in which to fly, and we human beings need trust in order to develop our humanity. Trust,” he said, “is the basic element in which human life exists.” He goes on to say that “trust is always a mutual affair, and this is true of trust in God too: We trust in God because God trusts in us.” God’s love for humans generates trust.
When we consider what it means to trust God and how that trust looks in daily living, the other direction in which I’m led today is in reflecting on the beginning of our very lives here on earth. [The following bullet points are an outline for the story I told at this point. For the full remarks, see the video at www.facebook.com/denbighpres/videos. The sermon begins at 31:40; this section begins at 42:20.]
- tell the story of preparing to become new parents in 2014
- we display great trust throughout life in so many others, but perhaps the greatest trust we have in our lives for another person is the trust that the newborn baby has on those taking care of it
- I’ll never forget the disbelief that we would be released with this child to take it home and do our best to keep it alive and clean and safe and healthy
- the absolute, all-in trust that this baby has in you as a parent…it’s unreal
- perhaps that relationship is the beginning of our understanding of what it means to trust in God.
- as we grow up, there is a change in how the trust manifests, but the original state of the parent-child relationship is perhaps how we ought to root our approach to trusting in God: whole, complete, unfiltered, undiluted
- what better comparison can we draw from our own experiences when we, as children of God of all ages, seek to understand and trust that God is holding the lives of each of us in his hands; he holds us from birth to death, and however many days we have in between
As we grow up, the relationship of trust between us and our parents changes appropriately. We learn to venture away from the places where we feel safest and explore the world around us in good and healthy ways. Connecting this development to our relationship to God, Moltmann wrote that “in biblical faith, trust in God does not mean the comfortable protection and safekeeping of our mother’s womb. It means the risky freedom of the wide spaces and ever-new coming of God.”
When we grow spiritually and graduate to solid spiritual food and enjoy the risky freedom that God encourages, we learn more and more about what trust in God can be. Sometimes, it’s good and joyful; sometimes it’s hard and painful. But it is always a journey we embark on with God, a journey of mutual trust in which we are held by those heavenly hands all along the way.