Intro if you haven’t read it.
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
The words of Jesus, when he was pursued by Israel, his son.
His foes are many. They encompass him like bulls of bashan. They are all around him. From the religious elites who do not want to be challenged by his word to the Roman ruler who cannot be bothered with social justice to the stranger in his midst who sold him for 30 pieces of silver. We all have gone astray. Do not speak your word, do not call us to justice, do not make us choose you over our god mammon. We hear you coming and we hide. You cry for us, “where are you?” For you have continually held your hands out to a wayward people, your hands being held out by being stretched on a tree.
We rise against you. Who shall ascend the mount of the LORD? We shall and in the process we will crucify the LORD himself. While we rise against you, you rise above it. While our passions rise and angers flare, your love is constant. We say, “there is no salvation for him in God.” We hope not because that would mean salvation for us and salvation always makes a claim. Salvation delivers by exposing and triumphing over the unjust powers. Go say to Pharaoh. Let Babylon know. Tell it to America. But in the process salvation exposes us. “Who told you that you were naked?” Our sin is our nakedness and you expose it all, and we recoil from the light.
But for him, the LORD is a shield. The LORD is his glory. The LORD is the lifter of his head. He cries and the LORD answers. He answers from his holy hill. He answers in his reign. He answers because of who he is.
Yet he lays down and sleeps. This is the explanation of the LORD’s faithful: Jesus’ death. The LORD is his shield, so it is by their good grace and love that he dies. The LORD is his glory, so it is because of their faithfulness that he dies. The LORD is the lifter of his head, so his head is lifted in bearing his crown, the crown of thorns. So he lays down and sleeps because he dies. He really dies. He takes his last breaths and he is laid in a tomb. Awake o Sleeper, and shine upon us.
And he really awoke again. He was really raised from the dead. The grave could hold him no more. The laments over death and hell become provocations because he now holds the keys. He descended and so he triumphed. He died and so he lives, and so he gives life. The LORD raised him up.
Therefore he is not afraid of the multitudes. He is not afraid of the devil or death or hell. He is not afraid of any of it, for he has conquered. Our shouts of “crucify” do not scare him but he lovingly embraces them. His arms are stretched out to embrace those who have been alienated. We tried to exclude him and he embraces us. He takes in the sins of the world and transforms them. He is not afraid, so we can cry to him.
From crucifixion to death to resurrection. From hoping there is no salvation for him to him being our salvation. All of our schemes are rebuffed. All of our plans are part of his. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And love did that. The embodiment of love, Jesus Christ. And so we cry out, “arise!” He has risen. “O LORD!” He is God in the flesh. “Save me!” He has died to bring the new creation. “O my God!” Finally we understand.
For God strikes our enemies on the cheek. That is, God takes our beatings. “Tell us who is beating you, if you are a prophet.” Our enemy in our eyes has always been God and he responds to our beatings with “here’s the other one.” He takes and transforms our violence. He bears and redeems our sins. Salvation belongs to him and his blessing is upon his covenant people for we are called to take up our cross and follow him.