Like everyone else, I have been reflecting on the atrocities of the pandemic and wondering when it will all end. Recently the UK hit the grim milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths. Neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have failed to curb the spread of the virus – something that is not in our interests. Despite this, the world’s bickering has continued to haunt us. From conspiracy theories to unnecessary cross-border spats, we are truly in the midst of crisis that extends to the moral sphere.
In times like these I normally turn to the Psalms for solace. Psalms 5:1-8 struck me as particularly relatable this week. It begins with David longing for an audience with the LORD and turning to the simple – yet powerful – act of prayer:
1Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.
2Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
I have bolded the last few words of verse 2 because I realised that in my desire for a clear path out of this crisis, I have often focused on the crisis, and not on God. David prayed to God, and accordingly, it is important to note that as we pray, God should be the centre of our prayers. All else revolves around him.
Verses 4:6 serves as a poignant reminder of our place relative to God:
4You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.
5The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
6You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
It is comforting that this pure, holy God is the God we turn to. However, it is, likewise, worrying how men – ourselves included – are sinful. As I pray, I have, oftentimes, realised that the crisis is not just in the world; it is in me. I am sure you, too, have realised through your daily encounters with God that growing closer to God makes you more aware of your own sin.
Yet, this is not the end of road. Verses 7-8 strengthens my confidence of salvation in the LORD. It reads:
7But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
8Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me.
Here there is a reflection of both our need to ground ourselves in the mercy of God. I have highlighted the word “reverence” in italics because it seems that the NIV’s translation is not quite on the mark – the Hebrew is בְּיִרְאָתֶֽךָ׃ (ba-yir-a-te-ka) which, literally translated, means “in fear of you” (rather than mere honour and respect). Thus, there is a nice interplay of emotions in verse 7: we should be assured of the LORD’s mercy, but we need to approach him with fear, because this mercy should never be taken for granted, and we must always be cognizant of the fact that we are sinful subjects approaching a holy God. On an optimistic note, the LORD will make straight our way; because we are morally bent out of shape, it is the LORD, the all-righteous, who will set us back on the right path.
And so, my rather convoluted analysis boils down to this:
We are in a difficult time, filled with crises, but as we reflect on the state of the world, it is equally important to reflect upon ourselves. As we approach the LORD with our prayers, it is important to focus on him, not the world. Ultimately, the path back to normalcy begins with the path back to moral normalcy – a path that the LORD, in his righteousness, will help us to get back on if we approach him with fear and reverence.