August 5, 2019

August 5, 2019

August 5, 2019
Psalm 60
by Laura Young
Laity of Concord UMC
Tennessee Valley District

Psalm 60     
1 O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
    you have been angry; now restore us!
2 You have caused the land to quake; you have torn it open;
    repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering.
3 You have made your people suffer hard things;
    you have given us wine to drink that made us reel.
4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
    to rally to it out of bowshot.
5 Give victory with your right hand, and answer us,
    so that those whom you love may be rescued.

While reading this psalm, making connections to current events in our world, our nation, even our denomination, seems appealing. Then I am reminded of my season of teen angst, when I would turn to the Psalms for perspective and comfort. “Not any of those happy, praise ones,” I would think. After flipping around, reading psalms verses here and there, I would soon change to thinking, “Okay, maybe my life isn’t really as bad as all this!” Nonetheless, sometimes the imagery of these laments does fit the difficult situations life brings, and we can know that God hears us when we cry out. Like the psalmist, we can have faith that we will find God present with us and at work in the midst of any disaster.

In Psalm 60, the NRSV imagery of verse 4 is quite compelling. “You have set up a banner for those who fear you, to rally to it out of bowshot.” One can picture the troops running to the flag, at a place of safety, where they can regroup. What is this banner? In Exodus, after Aaron and Hur hold up the hands of a tiring Moses during battle, “Moses built an altar and called it, The LORD is my banner” (Exodus 16:15). Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus also comes to mind. Immediately before that famous John 3:16 verse, Jesus says, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (See Numbers 21 if unfamiliar with this Moses story.) The banner to rally to is the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

An unexpected event during a recent visit to London was getting to see part of the pageantry of the annual Trooping the Color. The Queen went past in a horse-drawn carriage. We saw other members of the royal family. (They look just like they do on TV—only further away!) Troops in iconic red coats and tall black bearskin hats rode by on horseback; one group was a mounted band, playing musical instruments as they rode. Our guide said this ceremony has very practical origins. The “colors” are the regimental flags, and their principle role was to provide a rallying point, in case troops became disoriented and scattered on the battlefield. So that soldiers would know what their colors looked like, the flags were displayed regularly. Officers marched among the ranks of troops, with the colors held high—Trooping the Color. While a 1749 British military book specifies that “the colors be always trooped” at the beginning and end of each day’s march, similar practices go back even further, to the armies of the Roman Empire.

Psalm 60 might be used to make a claim that rallying to a familiar banner when the enemy attacks precedes even the Romans, but how can we apply this imagery to our lives today? In The Songs of Jesus, Timothy Keller says that “to pray is to unfurl the ultimate royal colors.” Yes, we need to “lift high the cross,” to be sure those in our sphere of influence know to rally around Jesus—not just during times of challenge, but every day, so that when battles come, all instinctively know where to turn. This rallying is not done by simply saluting the idea of a savior. We are called to nurture a real, intimate relationship through prayer with the One who answers us, loves us, and rescues us.

Let’s not just consider improving our prayer life. Let’s “unfurl the ultimate royal colors.” Let’s rally to that banner, set up out of bowshot, for nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Prayer:  Jesus, be my Banner to rally to. Amen