June 25 – July 2

Friday, June 25

Second Samuel 13: David, it seems, was not the ideal father, and this chapter presents us with first evidence that all was not going well on the home front. Incestuous rape and murder are not favorable signs. Indeed, the tragedies in the present chapter put the reader in mind of David’s own actions with respect to Bathsheba and Uriah, a sexual offense followed by a murder.

Ammon himself was the crown prince of the realm, David’s heir apparent, and the devout reader will discern the hand of God in his removal from the scene. A man that would rape his half-sister was no fit heir to the throne. Unlike his father, Ammon did not repent; indeed, he did not even perform the minimum obligations toward Tamar required in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

Arguably worse in the context, however, was the neglect of David himself, who refused to deal with the terrible situation. David became angry, but that was all (verse 21). This failure to deal discipline with his son puts the reader in mind of Eli at Shiloh, who also was indulgent toward his sinning offspring. David’s own moral failures had evidently deprived him of the moral authority to chastise his own children, and this failure eventually led to rebellion and civil war.

Having waited two years in vain for David to deal with the situation (verse 23), the frustrated Absalom, Tamar’s full-brother, decided at last to take charge of the matter himself. He was able to do this because he sensed a vacuum of authority in the realm, a vacuum that he tempt him, we know, even further in the near future. David’s kingdom will soon come unraveled.

Acts 13:4-12: Chapters 13-14 narrate Paul’s first missionary journey during the years 47-48, also mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:11. The apostles depart from the port of Seleucia, which, sitting sixteen miles west, served the city of Antioch. They first visited the homeland of Barnabas, the island of Cyprus, which had a good number of Jewish inhabitants (cf. 1 Maccabees 15:23). The ruins of the ancient city of Salamis, on the east coast of the island, can easily be reached by taxi from the nearby modern city of Famagusta, and, if the visitor is as fortunate as myself, the taxi driver will include a private tour and some local fresh oranges for a reasonable price.

It will be standard practice for the apostle Paul, when he comes to evangelize any new city, to pay his first visit to "the synagogue of the Jews" (13:5,14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:10,17; 18:4,19; 19:8; 28:17,23). (Indeed, this expression, "synagogue of the Jews," is preserved on a small marble plaque that once adorned the synagogue at Corinth; it may be seen today in the small museum in that city.)

Traversing the length of Cyprus, the apostles arrive at Paphos on the island’s southwest coast. Here they make the right impression on the local proconsul, Sergius Paulus, by putting a false prophet in his proper place. Sergius Paulus, of the illustrious Roman family Paula, was well known in his day and is mentioned by name in inscriptions from Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, and Rome. Easily ranking the Centurion Cornelius of Caesarea, Sergius Paulus becomes the most highly placed Roman official to join the Church.

Saturday, June 26

Acts 13:13-31: It should also be noted that we no longer hear about "Barnabas and Saul" but "Paul and his companions." Obviously there has been a dramatic shift in the personal dynamics of the mission.

Paul and Silas, evidently accompanied by others at this time, sail north to the southern shore of what we now call the Turkish peninsula, landing at the port of Attalia and journeying some five miles inland to Perga, capital of Pamphylia. From there they pass on to "Pisidian Antioch," which is actually in Phrygia near the border with Pisidia and served as a governmental center for the south of the province of Galatia. (Will these be the people who will receive the Epistle to the Galatians in about six years?)

From a local inscription we know that many Jews live in Pisidian Antioch at this time, and the two apostles visit their synagogue on the following Sabbath. Answering an invitation to give a "word of exhortation" (logos paraklesis –verse 15; cf. Hebrews 13:22), Paul gives the first of his great sermons to be preserved in the Book of Acts. One will observe that it is a three-point sermon, each point beginning with a renewed form of address (verses 16-25, verses 26-37, verses 38-41).

The synagogue congregation has just been listening to the writings of the prophets (13:15), and now Paul speaks of the fulfillment of their prophecies in the death and Resurrection of Jesus (13:27). This has been a standard theme in Acts, of course (cf. 3:18,21,24; 4:28; 10:43). Luke does not identify which prophets Paul and Barnabas listened to in the synagogue on this day.

Surely it is significant, nonetheless, that Paul introduces Jesus into his "word of exhortation" precisely in connection with the Davidic covenant (verse 22-23), about which we have been reflecting, of late, in our Daily Chapter.

Sunday, June 27

Second Samuel 15: In calling Him “the Son of David,” the early Christians expressed their conviction that Jesus was the fulfillment of everything Israel had been promised in that great historical figure, who was the father of Judah’s messianic line. For this reason Christians studied carefully the life and career of Israel’s second king, so as to miss no aspect of the prophecies associated with him. In fact, we find this detailed preoccupation with David already obvious in the Church’s first sermon (Acts 2:29–36).

Moreover, in interpreting David through the lens of Christ, those Christians were not obliged to start from scratch, because Israel’s prophets had bequeathed them a great deal of material interpretive of David’s life and significance.

One such prophet was Zechariah, who based one of his messianic prophecies on the figure of David as the latter fled from the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15—17). He remembered King David, crossing the Kidron Valley eastwards and ascending the Mount of Olives, rejected by his people. The king left in disgrace, riding on a donkey, the poor animal of the humble peasant. David was the very image of meekness. As he went, he suffered further humiliation from those who took advantage of his plight, but in his heart was no bitterness; he bore all with patience, planning no revenge. Unlike the usurping Absalom who drove “chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him” (2 Samuel 15:1), David rode on the back of a little donkey. The Prophet Zechariah, seeing all of this as a narrative prophetic of the greater David yet to come, exclaimed, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! . . . Behold, your King is coming to you; . . . Lowly and riding on a donkey, / A colt, the foal of a donkey”
(Zechariah 9:9). This oracle the early Christians saw strikingly fulfilled near the end of the earthly life of Jesus (Matthew 21:5).

Furthermore, amidst all King David suffered that day, there was even a foreshadowing of Judas the traitor. The man’s name was Ahithophel, and he was one of David’s trusted counselors. Truly, the resemblances between Judas and Ahithophel are remarkable. Ahithophel, joining the conspiracy against David (2 Samuel 15:12; 16:15, 23), sought to seize him by night (17:1), just east of Jerusalem (15:23), so that all his companions would flee (17:2). Judas, joining the plot against Jesus
(Matthew 26:3–4, 14–16), led the conspirators to seize Him by night
(26:47–48), just east of Jerusalem (26:36), causing His companions to flee (26:56). Whereas Ahithophel hanged himself when his treachery failed (2 Samuel 17:23), Judas hanged himself when his treachery succeeded (Matthew 27:5).

Just as Judas Iscariot, then, is the obvious traitor in the New Testament, Ahithophel is the obvious traitor in the Old. The one betrayed the “type,” the other its fulfillment.

There was a good reason that Ahithophel’s betrayal did not succeed like that of Judas, and the reason’s name was Hushai the Archite. A sagacious man worthy of the office of “king’s companion” (1 Chronicles
27:33), Hushai hoped to join the fleeing David’s paltry force and partake of his flight. From this plan he was dissuaded nonetheless. Meeting the king on the Mount of Olives, near the very site where Judas would later betray Jesus (2 Samuel 15:30–32; Luke 22:39), Hushai was persuaded by David to return to Jerusalem in order to serve as the king’s secret agent in the capital and thereby thwart the evil counsel of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:34–37). Going back to the city, Hushai succeeded completely, both frustrating Ahithophel’s designs (17:5–14) and then disclosing Absalom’s schemes to David (17:15–22). Joab and the army would do the rest.

This union of wisdom and personal loyalty, fused in the perilous setting of Absalom’s rebellious court, renders Hushai one of the truly attractive figures in Holy Scripture. He also well exemplifies the biblical principle that true wisdom is tried by fire and strife. His obedience to David caused Hushai to do a dangerous thing, but he very bravely placed his wisdom at the service of his loyalty, rather than his own safety, and in doing so he became the instrument of God’s intention to frustrate what even the biblical author thought the sounder counsel of David’s betrayer: “For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom” (17:14).

Monday, June 28

Psalms 106 (Greek and Latin 105): This psalm uses historical narrative as the structure of a sustained confession of sins and ongoing motive for repentance. The praise of God in this psalm, then, springs from the consideration of God’s fidelity to His people notwithstanding their own infidelities to Him: “Praise the Lord, for He is gracious, for His mercy endures forever!”

The examples of the people’s continued sin are drawn from the accounts of the Exodus and the Desert Wandering, a period of such egregious unfaithfulness that only a few of that entire generation were finally permitted to enter the Promised Land. The examples are detailed: the constant murmuring against the Lord both in Egypt and in the desert, the rebellion of Dathan and Abiron, the cult of the golden calf, the succumbing to temptation from the Moabites and other moral compromises with the surrounding nations, child-sacrifice to Moloch, and so forth. In all of these things God nonetheless proved His patience and fidelity to the people of His covenant: “Who will tell the mighty deeds of the Lord, or make all His praises heard?”

This poetic narrative, which summarizes much of the Books of Exodus and Numbers, deals with the period of the Desert Wandering as a source of negative moral example: “Don’t let this happen to you.” Such is the approach to that period through much of biblical literature, from Deuteronomy 33 to 1 Corinthians 10.

The value of this perspective is that it tends to discourage a false confidence that may otherwise deceive the believer. Never has there been missing from the experience of faith the sort of temptation that says: “Relax! God has saved you. You are home free. Once saved, always saved. Don’t worry about a thing. Above all, no effort.”

Certain discerning men in the Bible itself recognized this temptation. Thus, the Prophet Jeremiah saw it working insidiously in the hearts and minds of his contemporaries near the end of the seventh century BC. They reasoned among themselves that God, because of His undying promise to David, would never permit the city of Jerusalem, to say nothing of His temple, to fall to their enemies. After all, had not the Lord, speaking through Isaiah a century earlier, promised King Hezekiah that such a thing was unthinkable? And had not the Lord, at that time, destroyed the Assyrian army as it besieged the Holy City? Even so, reasoned Jeremiah’s fellow citizens, there was no call now to fear the armies of Babylon. Thus, fully confident of divine deliverance, they permitted themselves every manner of vice and moral failing. After all, once saved, always saved. Much of the message of Jeremiah was devoted to demolishing that line of thought.

The identical sort of temptation seems likewise to have afflicted the first readers of Hebrews, whose author also took the period of the Desert Wandering as exemplifying their moral dilemma. Repeatedly, then, he cautioned those early Christians of the genuine danger of stark apostasy facing those who placed an unwarranted, quasimagical confidence in their inevitable security. This entire book is devoted to warning believers that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).

The gravity of this temptation, of course, arises from its resting on a solid truth: God is faithful to His promises; He will never abandon those who place their confidence in Him. The danger here is not that of trusting too much in God’s fidelity, but of not guarding too little against man’s infidelity. Just as the Galatians were warned against forsaking the Gospel of pure grace, they were also instructed that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Even the believers at Philippi, though manifesting no discernible disposition to false confidence, were admonished to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

And even as the Ephesians were reminded of being sealed and rendered secure “with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14), they were earnestly exhorted not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed” (4:30).

The history of Israel in the desert of old, a sustained account of such grieving, is the theme of Psalm 106.

Tuesday, June 29

Saints Peter and Paul: Both the East and the West, from the earliest centuries, have celebrated this double feast day of those two apostles, who are linked in a special way by their both being martyred in the city of Rome. Even though there seem to have been Roman Christians right from the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:10), the origins of that local church were always associated with the two great men who there shed their blood for the name of Christ. Writing to the Christians at Rome in the year 107, Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch in Syria, could say to them: "I do not give you commands, as did Peter and Paul." With respect to the ministry and martyrdom of Peter and Paul at Rome, the evidence from the dawn of Christian history is overwhelming, nor was there any dissenting voice on this matter from any source in ancient history.

With respect to Paul, of course, we have the Book of Acts and the Second Epistle to Timothy. With respect to Peter, we are not entirely sure when he did reach Rome, but it must have been in the early 60s. If he were at Rome in the late 50s, it is impossible to understand why he was not mentioned among that long list of Christians who are named in Romans 16.

However, we do know quite a bit about the place, time, and circumstances of Peter’s death. The fourth century historian, Eusebius, cites testimonies from the second and early third centuries to bolster his thesis that the chief of the Apostles was crucified in Rome during Nero’s persecution (mid-60s): Tertullian in North Africa, Gaius of Rome, Dennis of Corinth. From another writer of about 200, Clement of Alexandria, we learn that Peter’s wife was also martyred and that the apostle was a witness to it. The African Tertullian speaks even more boldly of that crucifixion at Rome, “where Peter equals the Lord’s passion,” he treats the information as though it were common knowledge.

Indeed, the early Christians seem to have been so familiar with the circumstances of Peter’s martyrdom that Clement of Rome (writing from that city) and Ignatius of Antioch (writing to that city) had not felt the need to elaborate on the place and circumstances. The story of the Apostle’s crucifixion was so widely reported among the churches that the Gospel of John, probably writt
en at Ephesus, could simply refer to the stretching out of Peter’s hands as “signifying by what death he was to glorify God” (John 21:18f). John did not have to explain the point; everyone knew exactly how Peter had died. That this Johannine passage (“thou shalt stretch forth thy hands . . . signifying by what death he was to glorify God”) did in fact refer to Peter’s crucifixion in Rome was perfectly obvious to Tertullian. Citing that Johannine verse, he wrote: “Then was Peter ‘bound by another,’ when he was fastened to the cross" (Scorpiace 15.3). Moreover, the symbolic extension of the hands as signifying crucifixion is attested to in early Christian and even pagan writings (Pseudo-Barnabas, Justin Martyr Irenaeus, Cyprian of Carthage, Epictetus).

The Christians at Rome, however, have never clung to this special two-fold grace in any jealous or exclusive fashion. Throughout the years they have shared this feast day of the two apostles with all other Christians, and this feast day is observed with equal solemnity throughout the Christian East. Indeed, in recent years it has become customary for Rome and Constantinople to exchange special delegations and greetings on this day, with the intention of maintaining those cordial relationships of charity that may, in God's time and by God's grace, bring the Christians of the East and the West back to full communion one with another.

Wednesday, June 30

Acts 13:42-52: In this scene we discern the context of certain impulses that produced agitation in the early Christian mission. Judaism itself already had an extensive mission in the Greco-Roman world (cf. Matthew 23:15). As synagogues were established in the major cities, serious pagans were impressed by what they saw, because the life of the synagogue stood in stark contrast to the cultural and moral decay of the surrounding world, where despair was common. In the pagan world some of the major cultural institutions, particularly marriage and the family, were in serious trouble. Sex had become increasingly separated from marriage and from child-bearing, and there was some sense that this separation was related to various forms of polytheism.

What the pagans beheld in the local synagogues, however, were communities of great strength and hope, solid marriages and the joys of family life, a strict moral code in which all of life was integrated and filled with purpose, a firm emphasis on simple labor as the basis of economic existence, a rich inherited literature that imaginatively interpreted the life of the community, and the regularly scheduled, disciplined worship of a single, no-nonsense God. All of this proved to be very attractive to those serious pagans who felt distress and discomfort at the popular culture.

Some of these pagans accepted circumcision and the observance of the Law, thus becoming full-fledged Jews; these were known as proselytes (Acts 2:10; 6:5). Other pagans were unwilling to go so far, because such a decision obviously tended to cut them off from their own families and friends.

This second group simply attached themselves to the synagogues as best they could, bringing certain structures of Jewish piety into their lives, such as regular prayer and fasting and the study of the Scriptures; these were known as “fearers of God,” of which we have already seen examples in Cornelius and his friends. Thus, there were two groups of Gentiles who in varying degrees joined themselves to the local synagogues in the larger cities of the Roman Empire. Now both of these groups felt a spontaneous attraction to the Gospel when they heard it proclaimed in the synagogue by Paul and his companions. In the Gospel they saw a form of religion with all the advantages of Judaism, but with none of the social disadvantages, such as circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law.

In the present reading, we observe that these people invite their other Gentile friends to come with them to the synagogue on the following Sabbath (13:44). Now, all of a sudden, the Jews find their own synagogue over-run with all sorts of “undesirables.” They perceive Paul and his companions simply to be “taking over” the synagogue, preaching doctrine that they themselves cannot control, and, from their perspective, things are getting entirely out of hand. The local Jews react with jealousy and animosity (13:45,50). After all, the Jewish religion had survived pure and intact by preserving those very disciplines that Paul and his friends seem to want to overthrow.

The Gospel, then, they experience as chaos. The very “popularity” of the Gospel becomes a reason for the stricter Jew to feel uncomfortable about it. Trouble breaks out. This sequence of events, repeated over and over again in the synagogues of the larger cities, causes the Christian Church to grow among the Gentiles, who are finally obliged to establish their own local congregations apart from the local synagogues (14:1; 16:13; 17:1,10,17; 18:4,6,19; 19:8; 28:28).

Thursday, July 1

Acts 14:1-7: The city of Iconium (the present Konya), located about ninety miles southeast of Pisidian Antioch, was the regional capital of Lycaonia (cf. 14:6; 2 Timothy 3:11).

The pattern of the mission in Pisidian Antioch is repeated in Iconium. Once again the apostles begin to evangelize the city by visiting the local synagogue, and the diverse responses of the various groups is identical to what we saw in the previous chapter.

There is more going on than meets the eye, however. The very active Jesus continues to work His wonders within the body of believers (verse 3); however concealed from the view of the world, Jesus still walks among the candlesticks (Revelation 1:13; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:17-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

As the apostles flee from Iconium (verse 6), the Gospel is spread still farther. Lystra, whither they flee, is about twenty-five miles to the southwest.

Psalm 133 (Greek and Latin 132)” This is arguably among the loveliest of the small compositions in Holy Scripture: “Behold how good and delightful a thing, for brothers to abide as one; like balsam on the head, descending down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, descending to the hem of his robe; like the dew of Hermon, descending on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord decreed blessing, life for evermore.”

This translation preserves a delicate but structurally important feature of both the Hebrew and the canonical Greek texts; namely, the psalm has only one finite verb, and it is found in the final line: “decreed” (eneteilato, tsivvah). The blessing in this psalm is a matter of God’s command and ordinance.

Now the blessing decreed of the Lord is everlasting life, and He decreed it in the holy mountains of Zion. This is Jerusalem, which appears in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation as the home of those brothers who abide as one. This is the ultimate meaning of “good and delightful.” It is eternal life.

The place of the Lord’s decree, “there,” is accented in both the Greek (ekei) and the Hebrew (sham). The blessing of this psalm is not some sort of general benediction poured out at random; it is specific, rather, with respect to place. It is defined and fixed in the institutions of the holy city of Jerusalem, especially in the priesthood, most particularly the high priesthood of Aaron. That is to say, the blessing decreed by the Lord is related to the consecration of that priesthood by which the people of God is defined as a priestly people and holy nation.

The emphasized “there” of the last verse stands in structural parallel and contrast with the earlier sense of “here” conveyed by the “behold” (idou, hinneh), with which the psalm begins. The poem commences, then, with the atmosphere and feeling of presence. Accordingly, there are no verbal sentences; the action in these early verses is entirely conveyed, as in both the Hebrew and Greek, by an infinitive, “to abide,” and t
he threefold repetition of a single participle, “descending.”

Moreover, this steady descent is described so as to suggest the slow flowing down of a consecratory blessing, and the same words for “descending” are used for both the priestly oil and the dew of Hermon in both the Greek (katabainon) and the Hebrew (yored). This sustained blessing is also conveyed by the advancing flow of the ointment, poured out in consecration on the high priest’s head, then oozing down to saturate his priestly beard, before flowing onto the hem of his priestly vestment. The “oil” of the Hebrew (shemen) is enriched and sweetened to “balsam” (myron) in the Greek text.

The high priest’s beard is mentioned twice in connection with this bountiful anointing, portraying the accumulated saturation of the blessing into this supreme symbol of his manhood. (Indeed, Holy Scripture is very strict on the point. The priest may not shave his beard, and the man who can’t grow a beard cannot be a priest.)
Beneath the beard of the high priest there hangs from his neck a pectoral of stones on which are engraved the names of Israel’s twelve tribes. When he comes to appear before the Lord, Aaron thus bears all of Israel upon his breast, directly in the path of the descending ointment of his sacerdotal consecration. The whole people of God is rendered holy in his priesthood. The oneness celebrated in this psalm is the unity of God’s people gathered in worship with their priest.

This pervasive saturation is high and exotic poetry, of course. Indeed, the picture of the heavy dew descending all the way from Mount Hermon, up in Syria, down to Jerusalem in Judah can only be introduced in a poetic context already conditioned by the psalm’s earlier and more plausible images.

The priesthood of Aaron is, moreover, the ministry preparatory to the definitive priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who ever lives to make intercession for us (cf. Heb. 7:25). “For brothers to abide as one” is the blessing given to the Church, described in St. Paul’s epistles as the “body of Christ” and in St. John’s Gospel as the vine with its branches. Our unity is in Christ, and more specifically in that unchangeable priesthood by which He ministers in heaven on our behalf, the one mediator between God and man. There the Lord decreed blessing.

Friday, July 2

Acts 14:8-18: The response of the crowd in their own native tongue indicates what we might not otherwise have known: namely, that the apostles have been preaching through an interpreter. Inasmuch as a great deal “gets lost in translation,” the crowd itself has evidently missed some of the finer points in the apostolic message—the mention of monotheism, for instance! Witnessing the miraculous healing, these enthusiasts promptly identify the apostles with pagan gods.

Their identification of Paul with Hermes, or the Latin “Mercury,” is explained in verse 12, where we learn that Paul does most of the talking. With respect to Barnabas, it is reasonable to think that his identification as Zeus, or the Latin “Jupiter” (“Zeus Pater,” or “Zeus the father”) probably has something to do with certain physical features (great height, large head, broad shoulders, and a majestic beard over a massive chest) and a more solemn presence. (Contrast this with Paul’s physical appearance in 2 Corinthians 10:10) So Paul is Hermes the messenger; Barnabas is the strong, silent Zeus, who commands by his presence.

Historians of literature draw our attention to a parallel story of Zeus and Hermes visiting Phrygia, preserved by Ovid, Metamorphosis 8:611-628).

The very brief sermon of the apostles (verses 15-17) probably represents their typical approach to pagans outside the synagogue; it may serve as the outline to the longer sermon that Paul will give the philosophers in Athens in 17:22-31. The fickle crowd ends the story by stoning Paul, an incident he will later mention in 2 Corinthians 11:25 and 2 Timothy 3:11.

Psalm 143 (Greek and Latin 141): This psalm is a prayer of desolation and loneliness: “With my voice have I cried to the Lord, with my voice have I prayed to the Lord. Before Him will I pour out my prayer; my desolation shall I declare in His presence. Even as my spirit takes its leave of me, You are the knower of my paths. In the way wherein I walk, have they concealed a snare for me. I looked to my right hand and beheld, but no one there acknowledged me. Flight itself fled from me; there was no patron for my soul. I cried to You, O Lord, I said, ‘You are my hope, in the land of the living my inheritance.’ Attend to my entreaty, for I am greatly humbled. Deliver me from my pursuers, for they are mightier than I. From the dungeon free my soul, unto the praising of Your holy name. The righteous shall await me, until You recompense me.”

Following an impulse early found in biblical history, an unknown hand added a note to the title of this psalm, describing it as the prayer (tefilla) offered by David “when he was in the cave.” As, in his younger years, he was being pursued by Saul, David probably concealed himself in several caves, there being no shortage of them in the Judean desert. First Samuel 22 tells of his seeking refuge from Saul in “the cave of Adullam,” and two chapters later there is a dramatic description of David’s concealment from Saul in a cave near Engedi by the Dead Sea. Perhaps these are the scenes that the scribal hand intended. Anyway, it is easy to think of this psalm as inspired by such experiences in the life of David. Or to imagine David praying it later on when he was fleeing from Absalom.

Holy Scripture contains no end of stories in which this would have been an appropriate psalm to pray. One thinks of Jacob fleeing from Esau, walking alone from Beersheba up to Haran at the top of the Fertile Crescent. Such a prayer could have been made just before he laid his head on the stone at Luz: “I cried to You, O Lord, I said, ‘You are my hope, in the land of the living my inheritance.’ Attend to my entreaty, for I am greatly humbled.”

Or the mind may jump forward to his son, Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused and thrown into prison, with no friend in this world. This could be the prayer of Joseph: “I looked to my right hand and beheld, but no one there acknowledged me. Flight itself fled from me; there was no patron for my soul.”

The sentiments of this psalm fit well what we know of the prophetic career of Elijah, living in secrecy in the desert, then making the long trek down to Sinai, pursued by the forces of Jezebel, to meet the Lord at the mouth of the ancient cave: “Even as my spirit takes its leave of me, You are the knower of my paths. In the way wherein I walk, have they concealed a snare for me.”

Surely this psalm graced the lips of Jeremiah, cast into the well, and drawn out of it only to be imprisoned until the fall of Jerusalem: “From the dungeon free my soul, unto the praising of Your holy name. The righteous shall await me, until You recompense me.”

No effort is needed to hear this prayer welling up from the throat of Job, as he sat on his dung heap, bereft of every earthly consolation: “With my voice have I cried to the Lord, with my voice have I prayed to the Lord. Before Him will I pour out my prayer; my desolation shall I declare in His presence.”

When we think of those unjustly accused who may have prayed this psalm, various characters come to mind from the Book of Daniel, such as Susannah, the three youths in the furnace, and the Prophet himself. And if this psalm is a fitting supplication for those in prison, then the Prophet Micaiah and John the Baptist are to be counted among those who may have prayed it. Likewise the Apostles Peter, Paul (“in prisons more frequently”), and John.

But most of all, and adding superabundant dignity to the rest, there is Christ our Lord, the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, abandoned by His closest friends, betrayed by one of them and denied in public by another, but finding His sole refuge in the Father.