Creating a healthy community requires the practice of boundaries and safe behaviour. If you have been following along in this series and can recall Psalm 120, this pilgrimage was a journey away from a place of danger. The psalmist wrote:
I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war,1
Although the Songs of Ascents had other meanings and purposes, the evil behaviour they describe is abuse. In the same way, the slavery the Hebrews experienced in Egypt was abuse.
On this pilgrimage away from abuse, the pilgrims’ goal has been to reach a place of sanctuary. That sanctuary is not just a physical or spiritual destination. It’s practical. Throughout these psalms have been constant references to the ethical nature of sanctuary: it requires boundaries and safe behaviour.
There is no alternative.
Sanctuary is not safe if there are no boundaries
I am conscious again that so many people might well believe safety is impossible to find, or, at least, that is will be impossible for them to find. Or that it is an incredibly long way off. Trusted allies can make a profound difference between despair and hope. We can do that by being safe people, by having empathy, by offering “helpful help”, and by educating ourselves.
Meanwhile, in this song of jubilant celebration – such a relief and joy to at last be in the safe place – there is no glib assumption that everything is now wonderful. The boundaries echo through the song. It is the servants of Yahweh that are invited to praise here. That is, those who seek to imitate his character, his goodness. Some of those servants are noted for working hard here. It’s not just a party. The maintenance of safe places takes ongoing work.
Yet we close with this prayer: may the author of all that is good bless you from those safe places.
Praise Yahweh, all you servants of Yahweh
who minister by night in the house of Yahweh.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise Yahweh.
May Yahweh bless you from Zion,
he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.2
As a closing comment on this series, the Bible is a rich resource on the topic of abuse. The psalms alone are a gold mine. Even though our understandings of “abuse” and “domestic violence” are quite new, and still evolving, the Bible is full of examples of abusive behaviours, and God’s stance against this evil is clear.
We have a great deal of work ahead of us in creating more hope and safe spaces. We would value your support.
Meanwhile, more devotions and articles are underway. I hope they are a blessing to you.
Steve WadeSanctuary requires boundaries and safe behaviour. There is no alternative. Sanctuary is not safe if there are no boundaries. Click To Tweet