Meditation on Deuteronomy 26:4-10

 Dt 26:4-10

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God,
‘My father was a wandering Aramean
who went down to Egypt with a small household
and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation
great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,
imposing hard labor upon us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers,
and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence.”
This passage from Deuteronomy has always been a favorite of mine for at least three reasons. First, these verses are about the providential nature of God.  God cares for us. God sees our suffering, abd ultimately God will provide for and save us in times of trouble. Time and again I have seen this in my own life and in the lives of others.  God does not promise us an easy life with no problems or trials, but God does promise to be with us through anything we face.
The providential nature of God is even referred to in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Naval Treaty.  Here Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes comment on flowers.  He writes:
“What a lovely thing a rose is.
He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Naval Treaty
Doyle makes the point that roses, while not necessary for our living, our extras provided by God to show he cares for us. Hand in hand with this observation is another by a preacher who states that everything we have is given to us by the providential hand of God.  Timothy Keller writes:
“If you have money, power, and status today, it is due to the century and place in which you were born, to your talents and capacities and health, none of which you earned. In short, all your resources are in the end the gift of God.” 
― Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just
A second reason for my loving this passage is it’s encouragement for us to give thanks for what God has given us.  If we examine our lives honestly, we will see that everything we have is from the hand of God, as Keller states above.  Therefore, we should from time to time, at the very least, show our gratitude by returning a portion of what God has given back to God.  Saying “Thank You” to God and cultivating an attitude of gratitude is necessary for God’s people so that we don’t develop an attitude that we are responsible for our own successes and well-being.  God is, and that is why thankfulness is a hallmark of all people who recognize that they children of the Eternal One.
The danger of not being thankful is found in the following quote:
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” ― John Henry Jowett
Finally. the third reason I love this passage is it’s acknowledgement that we are “wandering Arameans.”  We are not home yet.  Our home is ultimately with God, and we are, to quote an old folk song, “wayfaring strangers” until we find our home in the divine.  Another old gospel song, written by Jim Reeves, puts it this way:
This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
So there you have it.  Three reasons why this short passage is so meaningful to me.  I hope this reflection will help deepen your own appreciation of these verses as well.

A Paraphrase and Reflection Upon Psalm 34:1-8

Psalm 34:1-8 – My Paraphrase

1 I will bless the Eternal at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will glory in the Eternal; the humble will hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the Eternal with me, and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Eternal, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look unto him and be radiant; and your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor one cried, and the Eternal heard and saved him from every trouble.
7 The angel of the Eternal pitches his tent around those who fear him and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the Eternal is good: blessed are those who seek refuge in him.

My Reflection

To praise God at all times and to trust that God will deliver. It sounds really good, but it can be incredibly hard to practice in life. First of all, most of us hardly do enough praising, especially in our more contentious and complaining moods.  Second, many of us prefer to save ourselves, or to at least have a healthy amount of the responsibility for the saving.

The Psalm does, however, have one of my favorite verses in it: “Taste and see that the Lord (or the Eternal) is good.” I often say this when distributing the elements for communion, and when someone complains that the hunks of bread that I give out are too big, I tell them what my old professor of United Methodist History used to tell us at Drew. Ken Rowe would look at us and ask, “How can you taste and see if the Lord is good by eating a crumb of bread or drinking a thimble full of grape juice.”

One final note: Psalm 34 is an acrostic Psalm. In Hebrew, the first verse begins with a word starting with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), the second verse begins with the second letter (beth), and so forth through the alphabet (though there are no verses for waw and two verses for pe).

The Thoughts of Others

“If half the breath thus vainly spent” in finding fault with our fellow-Christians were spent in prayer and praise, how much happier, how much richer, we should be spiritually! “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – C. H. Spurgeon

Using the Tongue Well – a sermon by Dr. Marshall C. St. John at Wayside Presbyterian Church, Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

A Reflection on Psalm 90

Psalm 90 – My Paraphrase

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth or you had formed the world and its habitation,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn mortals back to dust, saying,
“Return to dust, O children of humanity.”
4 A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just past,
or as a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep them away;
they are like sleep at the break of day –
they are like grass that springs up:
6 In the morning it sprouts and flourishes,
but by dusk it is dried up and cut down.
7 We are consumed by your anger and we tremble at your wrath.
8 You have set our sins before you, our secrets in the light of your face.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a sigh.

10 The span of our years is seventy, or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are wearisome and sorrowful,
for they quickly pass, and we fade away.
11 Who knows the strength of your anger,
or the exceeding dread of your wrath?
12 So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Turn back, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants.
14 Fill us in the morning with your mercy,
so that we may shout aloud for joy and rejoice all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have experienced sorrow.
16 Let your work be seen by your servants,
and your splendor to their children.
17 May the delight of the Lord our God rest on us;
and establish for us the work of our hands –
yes, establish the work of our hands.


We are told that this is a psalm of Moses. In this beautiful poem Moses speaks not only of the brevity of human life, but also of the awesome might of God. One of the main points of this psalm is the relative impotence of humankind in the face of God’s power and strength. We are dependent upon God for our lives, and need to recognize our own mortality. In fact, nothing we do will last, unless God establishes it for us.

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