“If I had cherished …”

The Psalms captured our particular attention this morning, although all the chapters we read were full of drama – arising from, or anticipating – the actions of the Almighty. In Exodus we read of the night of the Passover with the angel of the Lord destroying all the firstborn in Egypt. An incredible outcry followed – how comparable will that be with the chaos at the return of Christ?

The time will come, records Isaiah, when “the LORD is enraged against all the nations … he has devoted them to destruction … for the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (34:2,8). Zion (Jerusalem) attracts more and more political interest – but the leaders of the nations are blind to “the cause of Zion.”

Today we start reading the Gospel of Mark – and reflected on the impact John the Baptist obviously had when “all the country and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him confessing their sins” (verse 5). We struggle to imagine the impact of John. It seems only half the story is told, since John did no miracles – what power must have been in his preaching! He laid the foundation for Jesus to build upon, his work was to “Prepare the way of the Lord” (verse 3), says Mark, quoting Malachi 3:1.

Psalm 66 contains a challenge to sinners; it could be that John used this Psalm in his preaching. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul … high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (verses 16-19).

How fitting it would be if these words were part of John’s witness and appeal and challenge to those ordinary people who came to him in the wilderness by the Jordan – paving the way for the preaching of Jesus.

Finally, Psalm 67 is a prayer that God’s “way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let all the peoples praise you O God …” (verses 2,3) leading to a time when “the nations … sing for joy for you judge the peoples with equity [justice] and guide the nations upon earth” (verse 4). This short but most meaningful Psalm concludes, “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him”. We can add, ‘when Christ rules’.

Those who really have God’s word in their hearts and feed on it daily will be known and owned by their Lord in that day – for he will know that they have not cherished iniquity in their hearts.