Wait for the Lord; He hears the afflicted and draws him out of the pit, putting a new song in his mouth (Psalm 40:2, 3, 4, 18). Following Jesus means the challenge of a life of contradiction: attaining joy that is borne of pain and peace that comes through division (Luke 12:49-53).
Lord, come to my aid
Full of thanksgiving for his past deliverance, the psalmist begs God for further help. He has waited for the Lord before, standing patiently until God came to his assistance after hearing his cry. God is pictured stooping and reaching down in
rder to draw him up and rescue him from the pit, recalling a scene from Jeremiah (38:6) who was thrown down by his enemies into a cistern deep in the mud. Here, the pit and the miry swamp both connote death or whatever diminishes life, like sickness or misfortune. The psalmist experienced being rescued by the Lord from the pit of destruction and from the mud of the swamp; instead of falling further into the pit and sinking deeper into the mud, the Lord placed him on a secure rock that gave him safe footing.
This rescue is celebrated with a new song of praise and gratitude to the Lord. But the song also serves as a testimony to others for the loving kindness of the Lord for the afflicted and for the divine power manifested in his favor. In awe, those who hear of it cannot but also trust in the Lord. The psalmist himself, knowing that he is poor and afflicted and has nobody else to turn to but the Lord, believes that the Lord thinks of him and does not forget him. Convinced that God’s past favors guarantee God’s help for the present and even for the future, he now speaks to God directly proclaiming his faith that the Lord is his help and deliverer, and calling on Him not to delay and to come to his aid.
Burning with zeal
IN the gospel, Jesus understands His coming as like a dramatic prophetic visitation: to cast fore on the Earth, meaning to bring severe judgment, just like the prophet Elijah did (2 Kings 1:10-14). He is burning with zeal to see the fire already blazing and purifying the Earth; He is eagerly waiting to be baptized with the baptism of suffering and death, through which His mission will be accomplished. As He is ready to embrace it, He is also in anguish because he dreads it.
The keynote that applies the words of Jesus to all who want to follow Him is the issue of division. As a man of peace, Jesus proclaims a message that is plainly divisive. His teachings cut to the core of prevailing religious thoughts and customs; its demands on people challenge them to the bottom of their being, insisting that commitment to His gospel must take precedence over any other loyalty. Thus, the graphic division even in the family, as fidelity to Him can tear apart those naturally bonded together. Those who are able to live up to His teaching will be ostracized by those who do not or cannot or will not. The animosity and antagonism brought on by His teaching would in fact result in His own death.
Alálaong bagá, Jesus’ passion and death were the baptism He was burning with zeal to see accomplished, because it would be the fire to purify the Earth. It is the blazing flame that will separate those who accept Him from those who do not, those who keep the course from those who give up the faith and buckle down before the radical demands of discipleship. The cost of discipleship makes us realize that, by ourselves, we cannot manage it. We need assistance. And the Lord it is, who thinks of us and comes to our aid, stooping down to draw us out of the pit we often find ourselves in.
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