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Psalm 71:1-6

In the face of evil, what is our posture? We feel compelled to watch the news, to read articles on social media to post an opinion or share one we agree with. Outside our camp, community or tribe we see and feel the grasp of evil and we are afraid.

Culture is changing. The Taliban was bad, but the Islamic State is worse.

“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.”

We would like to close our eyes and say, “Deliver us God from those out there.”

But we can’t…

Because an 11-year-old girl was shot in the suburbs yesterday. She was walking to her house after getting off the bus. She was shot in her front yard: in the suburbs: in America. It was not ISIS. It was her neighbor.

“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.”

Sometimes cruel is next-door. Sometimes it is so close to us that we can taste it… a metallic feeling in our mouths, a trapping of our hearts, an empty pit in our stomachs.

We are discontented, indebted, addicted, sick, scared and tired.

We are in the grasp of the unjust.

Then we read Psalm 71. We read because we wonder what it is like to know God for a lifetime. We read because the Psalmist was facing the wicked too. We read because it reminds us that God is our refuge and fortress.

The Psalmist starts out with: “In you, O Lord, I take refuge” If this Psalm was a story, this phrase serves as “In the beginning.”

In the beginning God’s got our back. In the beginning I hide in God’s love. In the beginning I am safe and secure because, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

Only once we have the beginning down, do we move on to deliver, rescue, save, save, rescue.

It all comes down to perspective. How are we looking at the world? How do we respond? What is our posture? There is no shortage of viewpoints out there in dealing with the grasp of the wicked.

There are those who say God is dead or that God can’t save or that we don’t know how anything can change. These are all variations of “We are on our own.” This is a place of desolation.

There are those who say God is in control that all we have to do is have faith, that everything works together for God of those who love God. This viewpoint is tricky. It looks like faith, but it is an imposter. Those who are here close their eyes to their hurting neighbor, they close their heart to the pain of the world and the lie about the state of things. It makes you wonder if eternal optimism just might be a violation of the 9th commandment.

Finally, there are those who can withstand the grasp of the cruel because they start with “In you, O Lord, I take refuge.” They do not deny evil; they pray to be delivered from it. They go on because deliverance doesn’t stop with a prayer. They go on because Psalm 71 shifts.

“Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.”

There is more than one set of hands at play. Injustice grasps with its hands, it seeks our lives, it wants to pull us down to desolation. And then, surprise! Remember! God’s hands took me from my mother’s womb.

The language doesn’t paint the picture of a scared dad, uncertainly catching his newborn baby. This image is a skilled midwife, reaching into the birth canal and pulling your infant body to life.

An invisible tug of war match is at hand. The grasp of the unjust pulling us down to death and the skilled, life-giving hands of the Eternal Midwife. Those who can withstand the grasp of the cruel do so because they know God’s hands are at work too.

They look back and see how they have leaned on this Midwife from birth. They look into the present and confess the just-as-real hands of God at work. They look into the future and see that Life is going to win.

“In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.”

Is not the relationship between shame and salvation the same as that of death and life?

Romans 10:6-11 says, “But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

It comes down to power. No one went to heaven to bring Christ down. He came of God’s own power, implanted in a woman. No one descended into the abyss to raise Christ from the dead, God raised Christ to life; and if God raised Christ, God can raise us. Whoever confesses this with their mouths out loud, saying the words of Psalm 71, and can really believe these words… will be saved.

What is your posture today? It may just be your salvation.