The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Making it through the night

This week’s article is the meditation for today, Jan. 30, from Psalms through the Year: Spiritual Exercises for Every Day by Marshall D. Johnson (Augsburg Fortress, 2007; excerpted with permission). A retired ELCA pastor and biblical scholar living in Minneapolis, Johnson includes all 150 psalms in biblical sequence in his book and places each within the psalmist’s world, often telling how it was used in ancient Israelite worship. He also encourages readers to ponder the connections between the psalmist’s world and our own.

This week’s feature: Making it through the night—Psalm 17:8-15

The writer gives us several hints about what is going on in this psalm. He would be hid “in the shadow of your wings” (verse 8), that is, under the wings of the cherubim in the holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple. (A cherub is a winged sphinx. There were two carved cherubim hovering over and guarding the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies.) He would spend the night there, presenting his plea and his lament before the special dwelling place of the Lord. (Some commentators refer to this practice as “incubation” or night vigil, praying through an entire night at a holy place.)

The enemies are described: They are pitiless, they pursue and surround the victim, and, like a lion, are ready to tear him to pieces.

The appeal is equally striking. “Guard me as the apple of the eye” (that is, the pupil of the eye). The psalmist does not shrink from leveling a lasting curse on his enemies; they are to be destroyed, and also their children (verses 13-14). Although God is characterized as having an abundance of “steadfast love,” the psalmist displays little of such sentiment to those who seek his ruin.

Several psalmists suffered from insomnia, and it is a debilitating experience for many even today. But the one who prays will indeed make it through the night: “When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness” — sensing God’s presence in the temple and assured of God’s deliverance. Making it through the night darkness could be a terrifying prospect in the years before our well-lighted culture. Even now the dark of night can be a source of dread.

Through the terrors of the night be with me, Lord God. Amen.

This week's front page features:

More than a martyr: Through his words, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reveals his many facets. (Illustration at right.)

Our common work: Liturgy is a household word for many Lutherans.

Up to speed on Internet safety: Parents and youth learn how in church workshops.

Standing in God's peace: A walk reminds me of the sureness of love.

Also: Campus ministry celebrates 100 years.

Also: Northeastern Ohio elects Eaton as bishop.

Also: In search of unity.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

This week on our blog:

Cindy Novak writes about two Indiana congregations considering a merger — one whose members are predominantly African American, the other whose members are predominantly white.

Amber Leberman (right) blogs about Lebanon in the news.

Julie Sevig blogs about a cemetery tradition in South Dakota.

Sonia Solomonson gives thanks for farmers.

Check out our blog > > >

Discuss the January issue of The Lutheran:

Whether you've just opened the January issue of The Lutheran or have been thinking about an article you read for a month, please feel free to leave your comments about the issue in our discussion forums.

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Last chance! Tell us about your seminary education:

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Please include your name, current congregation, seminary and professor/or class (if applicable).

Send your response by Feb. 2 to Julie Sevig.

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February issue


Embracing diversity