“Make the circuit of Zion. Walk round about her; count the number of her towers. Consider well her bulwarks; examine her strongholds; that you may tell those who come after.” –Psalm 48: 11 & 12
These have been strange days navigating the limitations of Coronavirus with racially charged violence, reactionary riots, a Presidential election, and all the resultant shouting in the foaming fray. I’ve certainly been making circuits, but the circles I’ve been running are the ones in my head. Whether it’s fear for my parents well-being or arguments with the TV pundits, my mind seems in a continuous loop of noise. Frankly, I am finding it hard to be hopeful–and this is not a Christian response.
The Psalmist calls us to take a different approach. We are exhorted to take time to remember all that God has done. Initially, this exhortation might look a bit like a “gratitude journal.” Remembering what is good in my life–the deep love of my husband and the life we share, parents and grandparents who prayed (and still pray) for me, opportunities to study under wise leaders, the freedom to worship, the chance to explore God’s good creation–this is a good place to start.
But such thoughts are just the beginning of our journey around Zion’s city. These verses call us to something more–to remember not only God’s work in our individual lives, but also His work in the lives of all those who have gone before us. When I step out to take a wider view of Zion’s bulwarks, I see God’s providential care for my young widowed grandmother and my extended family during years of ministry overseas. My mind then moves out into wider circles remembering the testimonies of those in my church community, of missionaries around the world, of the perseverance of His church all in spite of our human frailty and the Enemy’s hostility. As I make this circuit, ultimately, my sight will to set upon the mighty tower of His saving work on the cross. This is my hope.
This sort of remembering takes me out of my mind’s negative feedback loops into the sweeping vision of salvation history. “There are 550 references to remembering in the Bible. It is by remembering that we start to see how present God is in our lives–at work in all things, all people, all places, and at all times.”* Through all of humanity’s sordid wanderings and the Enemy’s evil intent, God is faithful to His people and His promises. What hope I know when I see beyond myself to this beautiful story of redemption.
LORD GOD KING & SAVIOR–these I claim in my life and of our world. You are Ruler and Redeemer. Your power is far beyond our human capacity to mess things up. You are the one who came to change our perspective away from ourselves and onto your purposes. Your kingdom come; your will be done.
*Pete Greig, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People, p.174
See also: I encountered this talk while working on this piece. Tim Keller on Ps 42 and self-talk: https://youtu.be/RZQQwAActog