A Heritage of the Nations
Preparing for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Two Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 66:1-12
Old Testament: Jeremiah 27:1-22
Epistle: 2 Timothy 2:1-7
Psalter: Psalm 111
Old Testament: Numbers 4:34—5:4
Epistle: 2 Timothy 2:1-7
God of power and justice, like Jeremiah you weep over those who wander from you, turn aside to other gods, and enter into chaos and destruction. By your tears and through your mercy, teach us your ways and write them on our hearts so that we may follow faithfully the path you show us. Amen.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy (Psalm 111:6-7).
by Joan Stott
The psalms are a wonderful prayer resource, with the authors brave enough to sing their praise, their complaints and their fears; using language and words in their songs and prayers that often we would never dare to use; as they told God where they were coming from – with an honesty that was remarkable. According to the author’s situation, they judged their particular experience always as being within their covenant relationship with YHWH; so Psalm 111 celebrates God’s gracious generosity in the light of that ever-present personal and shared relationship. “God established and eternal covenant, and sends redemption, redemption to earth. Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation…Full of honour and majesty are the works of the LORD, whose righteousness endures forever…”1
The psalmist then sang of the particulars of the LORD’s gracious generosity and care for those covenant people, demonstrating YHWH’s compassionate commitment to them: “…The LORD is gracious and merciful. The LORD provides food for the faithful and is ever mindful of his covenant. The LORD has shown his people the power of his works by giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of the LORD’s hands are faithful and just; the precepts of the LORD are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness…”1 What does it mean: “…giving them the heritage of the nations…”? According to Psalm 111, this refers to the annexation of the “promised land” from the previous owners, which God gifted to them as their permanent home. Just as the people of Israel claimed as their new heritage the history and culture of the Canaanite people; unfortunately at times in their sinfulness, they also annexed their religious beliefs by worshipping many of the local Canaanite gods; so many of them disobeyed God’s specific commandments to worship only the only One and True God.
The psalmist sang of God’s plan to bring liberation to oppressed people, especially to people who were claimed as God’s own people – whom God had rescued from amongst the dregs and rabble of the earth’s disparate peoples; slowly moulding them into a cohesive nation that was committed to a covenant relationship with God – even though they frequently forgot that relationship – and suffered as a result of their isolation and rejection of God. “…The LORD sent redemption to his people and has established his covenant forever. Holy and wondrous is God’s name..!”1 Professor Walter Brueggemann writes that verse 4 of the psalm reminds us that “…The name, reputation, or memory of YHWH crafted in those wondrous deeds is of one who is ‘gracious and merciful’…. ‘Merciful’ comes from the term suggesting the womb love of the mother who has given birth to the children of Israel…”2 That understanding of ‘merciful’ gives the word ‘mercy’ a whole new meaning and context; and another example of God’s love.
1 From “Together in Song” #68 “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD” Tr from USA United Methodist Liturgical Psalter (1989) alt Used with Permission, ONE LICENSE, License #A-604543
2 Text by Professor Walter Brueggemann & William H Bellinger Junior from “Psalms” - Psalm 111, page 483 © 2014 Cambridge University Press
PRAYER: Redeeming Sustainer, visit your people and pour out your strength and courage upon us, that we may hurry to make you welcome not only in our concern for others, but by serving them generously and faithfully in your name. Amen.
More from the Timeless Psalm can be found, here.