Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people;
from those who are deceitful and unjust
O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.
Psalm 43:1,3 (NRSVCE)
Have you ever had something that just keeps recurring in your life, and you know that there is something significant in it even if you’re not sure what it is? Simply because you begin to see it every where you turn?
A number of years ago, our local gathering of Jesus followers was introduced to what our leader called The Chain Reaction of Praise. It is a very simple concept and it goes like this:
- Praise God in every circumstance (yep, even the bad ones), which
- Activates my faith to…
- Pray powerful prayers, which
- Overcomes the enemy, and prepares me to
- Live and reign with Christ.
Ever since we spent five weeks unpacking it among our local gathering, and once Wendy and started actually applying it, it just keeps showing up over and over and over again. In fact, now every time an unexpected difficult, tragic, or painful circumstance occurs along our life journey, Wendy and I begin the conversation with, “So, we have a Chain Reaction of Praise moment here…”
Until the last few years, I never realized how self-centered my reaction to circumstances tended to be. When things don’t go my way, when tragedy struck, or when I felt victimized I usually looked within for the resources I need, the answers to the situation, and the power to handle it. “Rugged individualism” kicked in and told me to grit my teeth, step up to the challenge, and take control of my circumstances. I wanted to act, to lash out, to jump in, and to do something to address the person who wronged me or the need I felt to turn circumstance to my favor.
Once Wendy and I began to respond first by praising God in the midst of our painful reality, declaring our trust in God’s faithfulness and sovereignty over our lives and offering ourselves, our circumstances, our emotions, and our right to be right and/or react to God in prayer, we began to notice a spiritual shift in ourselves and our lives. We began to see the circumstances themselves differently. We were less apt to quickly react out of our human ego and emotions. In some cases, we haven’t responded at all to circumstances other than to offer it up to God and choose to trust and wait on God to make things right, even if that never happens the way we desire.
Today’s chapter, Psalm 43, is a little Hebrew ditty and it’s no wonder that those who compiled and ordered the psalms put it right after Psalm 42. It’s almost as if it’s the same song only shorter. Like Psalm 42, the lyrics are a lament in the midst of difficult circumstance that have the psalmist’s soul downcast and discouraged by the oppression of enemies who have the upper hand.
And what is sitting right there lurking in the lyrics but the Chain Reaction of Praise. The psalm itself is a powerful prayer. The songwriter establishes the circumstances in the first two verses. The central verse (the verse that is “center” of a Hebrew psalm typically communicates the songwriter’s central theme) then asks God to lead the writer to God’s “holy hill.” What’s that? The holy hill of the Hebrews was Zion where the temple was and where you went to worship, to surrender, to sacrifice, and to offer praise. The praises then flow out of the third verse into the fourth verse, and the psalm ends with the songwriter agreeing to keep praising, trusting, and entrusting God the circumstances plaguing them.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself (like everyone else), contemplating the troubling circumstances and terrible events that seem to be globally pressing in on every side. I am praying for the wisdom not to react out of ego and emotion, but to respond through the Chain Reaction of Praise.