Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
let your eyes see the right.
If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They track me down; now they surround me;
they set their eyes to cast me to the ground.
They are like a lion eager to tear,
like a young lion lurking in ambush.
Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them!
By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
from mortals—by your hand, O Lord—
from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them;
may their children have more than enough;
may they leave something over to their little ones.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness. Psalm 17
One of the things we love to do in the fall is to go out to the orchard and pick apples. We have done this all of our marriage and our daughters love to go even now. There is something wonderful out in the orchard, an air of ripe sweetness and the crisp fall nip in the air. Reaching up, sometimes climbing, we pick the apples one by one, rejecting all but the best. There are no apple orchards here, no where to pick and we are feeling a little bereft. We bought apples from the store and made our traditional apple butter but we are still missing the whole experience.
The Psalmist is feeling the isolation and frustration of his life. The sting of being treated as an enemy, as well as criticized and gossiped about, makes him ache for the safety of home. He cries out to God for tenderness and protection. He spills his heart out as he sings and prays, trusting that God can hear his distress and help him out of this harsh place. He feels betrayed, hurt and under attack and knows that God will hear him. For us, we have this ancient and still powerful words to remind us that God is near. God is in the midst of our pain and suffering, and is with us in our darkest moments. And not only that but God sees us as precious - the apple of the eye - and worthy at all times of protection, guidance and care. May we take comfort in the shadow of the Creator's wings.
Today I ask God for that tender protection and comfort when feeling so far from home. May we all cry out to God with words and song, ancient and modern, trusting that God hears all. May we understand ourselves to be loved and tenderly guided at all times. And may we be God's agents of protection and safety for the most vulnerable today.