Category: Songs of Ascents Series

How good and pleasant it is

How good and pleasant it is

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

As we come near to the end of our series on the Songs of Ascents, I feel for those who are still trapped in abuse, or who are in the early stages of escaping. We have, in the space of a few weeks, travelled from danger to sanctuary. Life is not that simple for victims of any significant trauma, let alone victims of abuse.

Wicked people will not oppress them anymore

Wicked people will not oppress them anymore

When God spoke to David about building a temple, 3000 years ago, he promised to make a place of sanctuary for his people. “Wicked people will not oppress them anymore,” he said.

In that passage, the name God uses is still “Yahweh”, given at the time of the Exodus. The mission hasn’t changed either. He also calls himself “the LORD Almighty”, or, Yahweh/Lord of Hosts. It’s the same name Hannah uses when she cries out to God in the agony of her domestic violence: yet another person crying out against oppression.

Like a weaned child is my soul within me

Like a weaned child is my soul within me

Abuse is complicated in so many ways. It is completely unsurprising that people find it difficult to deal with. It’s not as “simple” as just dealing with one horrific type of behaviour. A typical abuser might have dozens of types of behaviour that stretch across multiple forms of abuse. Some of the most confusing and difficult to respond to are the apparent “positive” behaviours – behaviours that help the abuser hide and deny the abuse.

I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits

I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits

Out of the depths I cry to you, Yahweh.

It is so easy to rush through a psalm without imagining the tone of voice. Even the phrase, “tearful prayers”, might significantly miss the depth of this person’s distress.

Again, out of the many names for God, the writer of Psalm 130 has chosen the name God suggested to Moses – when Moses was struggling to accept the task of bringing hope to a group of people who had been trapped in slavery. Trapped, for generations. These were people who suffered ongoing systemic, physical, financial, reproductive, and emotional abuse. Probably more.

They have greatly oppressed me from my youth

They have greatly oppressed me from my youth

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but have not gained the victory over me”

It is common for abuse victims to have to deal with the impact of abuse every day. Even when they have successfully escaped the direct relationship. There are still memories and triggers: mental and emotional injury. There is a need for ongoing vigilance and the complicated, exhausting world of hypervigilance.

Your children will be like olive shoots

Your children will be like olive shoots

“Blessed are all who fear Yahweh, who walk in his ways”

The Old Testament has a pretty long list of instructions on how to live well. While many are about relating well to God, most are about how to care for each other, and how to create a society where people thrive. It includes many instructions about caring for the poor and vulnerable, preventing homelessness, looking after refugees and immigrants, food security, respect for property, and making restitution.

When people lived by those rules, it meant they treated each other with dignity and respect.  A broad commitment to ethical behaviour meant things went well in their society, and in Psalm 128 that’s particularly reflected in the family.

Children are a heritage from Yahweh

Children are a heritage from Yahweh

“Children are a heritage from Yahweh”

In the middle verse of the middle psalm of the Songs of Ascents, the focus is on children.

Solomon, who likely wrote this psalm, did not appear to have a wonderful father. Few positive or healthy interactions between David and his children are recorded.

Those who go out weeping

Those who go out weeping

Special days of the year are complicated for many people, and Easter Sunday is no different. It might be worth noting that on the first Easter Sunday, God had always known how things would turn out, but Jesus’ friends and followers didn’t. Even that morning, once Jesus had risen, there was a delay between the fact of hope and his disciples’ experience of it.

It’s not that they weren’t interested in hope. Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb while it was still dark that morning, and even when Jesus stood right in front of her it took her time to recognise him. For poor Thomas, who, (we see in the Lazarus story), had been willing to die with him, it was a week before he shifted from despair to reality.

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion

How was life supposed to be for us? Certainly not plagued by abuse. Much of the Old Testament describes what it means to love and respect each other. Not only as individuals: it teaches us how to avoid systemic abuse by making sure the vulnerable are cared for.

God’s clear intention is for us to thrive together in every way. Our physical and emotional wellbeing matter to him. So do our ethics.

If the LORD had not been on our side

If the LORD had not been on our side

One of the beautiful things about Jesus’ choices in the lead up to his death is his constant commitment to have mercy for us. He showed it in his death in a way that echoes through history. But to read his story, told through the eyes of those around him, it becomes obvious that his commitment to giving everything he had to help us was entirely consistent with who he had already shown himself to be.

Jesus did for us what we could never successfully do for ourselves. He loved. He helped. Jesus had his eye on those who needed support, and he gave himself generously to them. Those people loved him. Not everybody did.

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