All that I relied on is gone
Everybody needs hope, when hope is gone things can look very bleak. In these early days of the coronavirus pandemic when science has not yet come up with a cure or vaccine, it can be hard to hope.
Before we can start to hope in something else we have to stop hoping on what we hoped in before. This is Psalm 121 — a new hope.
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you –
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore.
The Songs of Ascents or Songs of Degrees are calls from the world to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth division of the Psalter and are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.
When hope is gone
Ps 121 hope is in God — mountains, where false gods are worshipped – a lament, bring out the rawness.
The mountains could be seen as a source of stability. The mountains are where you would find fortresses against attack, and also where you’d find the “high places” where gods were worshipped. The answer to the Psalmist’s question is an emphatic no. All trust in what he would have relied on for stability is gone. It is like that now: People are looking for some form of stability in a time of pandemic, and cannot find any in what they usually depend on, work, politicians or circle of friends.
This Psalm is a lament, it starts in a position of rawness, the psalmist complains that he cannot find any help from the places he should find help. There is a rawness here and to empathise with the people who are feeling lost we need to bring out the rawness in what we are feeling. People are complaining about churches being closed. Some have been saying that God will not let this infection touch people who are righteous based on the words of this psalm. They have got it wrong.
Billy Prewitt, author of The Coronavirus in Biblical Prophecy has got it wrong. Pastor Gene Gouge at Liberty Baptist in Hickory, NC, USA has got it wrong is saying that coronavirus “ain’t real. Even Saint Augustine gots it wrong when he said that people being saved by hiding in churches when Alaric the Goth sacked Rome was an unprecedented event as no one had ever been spared in a pagan temple.
Where the Psalm says, “The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life;” has long been interpreted by Jewish and Christian interpreter as meaning that no accident, no distress will have evil power over us, that is, will be able to separate us from God’s purposes in us. The apostle Paul summed it up this way, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38–39. He could have had this psalm in mind when he wrote that, I think he did.
The answer to a lack of hope is trust. Hope is not instant, it needs time to develop but trust is something we can do. We start by trusting in God a little at a time, and as God is faithful not only our faith and hope grow. Trust in the little things. I have leant to trust God over again from scratch following an accident I have had to learn that God is not for just the good times but that he does work out his protection for us in the hard times of life. Even living in pain for 14 years does not stop God from loving me, why should it? At first, my hope was in being fully mobile and pain-free, but that is not hope in God. I have found that hope in God grows through trusting in God even in the most arduous times of life. The hardest times came from Christians, some were well-meaning, but I have been told that because they have prayed for me I should be well, and it is all down to my lack of faith. Like those other Christians who are gaslighting people that they do not have faith for catching coronavirus I have to say, you are wrong. There is no space for victim-blaming in the Christian church. Jesus is never depicted as gaslighting anybody, nor were the Apostles. Be like Jesus, come alongside people and help them as they struggle with their own pain and loss. There is more grieving to come before this illness is beaten. When all hope is gone we can either be the people who crush people or we can become their hope, a mirror of God’s love for the world as shown to us in Jesus.
It’s your choice. Which is it going to be?
The Songs of Ascents
City of God. Peguin Classics pages 6 and 7. Footnotes refer to the clemency of Alexander at Tyre and of Agesilaus.