Wednesday of Epiphany 5 – Psalm 138

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
   before the gods I sing your praise;
2I bow down toward your holy temple
   and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
   for you have exalted above all things
   your name and your word.
3On the day I called, you answered me;
   my strength of soul you increased.

 4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
   for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
   for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
   but the haughty he knows from afar.

 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
   and your right hand delivers me.
8The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
   Do not forsake the work of your hands.

This last week I walked the St. Perpetua trail on the Oregon Coast. I was reminded of St. Perpetua and her servant Felicitas as I did so. The trail is steep, Perpetua had a vision of climbing a steep ladder to heaven while a great dragon tried to prevent her. I must be a little out of shape for my mind to have wandered to such thoughts. The trail really wasn’t that bad.

Perpetua died in the persecutions which broke out against Christianity in the first years of the third century A.D. We think she died in 202. We have an account of her martyrdom and those of her companions. She was imprisoned. Her father begged her recant her faith. She refused and finally she was sentenced to die in the arena. First, she faced wild beasts, but when they did not kill her a soldier was called upon to end her life. He was young and nervous. The account says she encouraged him and even guided him in how to do this. If you want to read more, you can here: 

The psalmist says in verse 2 that God exalts above all things his name and word. Later, in verse 8 he says that the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Did you notice, this was not my purpose for me? I am sure that Perpetua and her fellow martyrs did not have martyrdom high on their bucket list of things they wanted to do.

You can read the story of Perpetua today. Many people have and in the ancient world, many people did. In fact, her martyrdom account became a bestseller. She was a heroine to many young people as Roman persecutions continued for much of the next century. God used her death for His name and His Word’s spread. God accomplished His purpose for her. What of all the talk in the psalm about God giving strength and deliverance, answering the prayer of the psalmist? But hasn’t he done just that. Perpetua lives, eternally, with a martyr’s crown which shines brighter than the stars. Has not God done everything that the psalmist says? Yes, and more. We have to adjust our time frame and our expectations accordingly, but God is faithful, eventuallyThis is a dangerous psalm to pray. God fulfills His purposes and exalts His name and His Word.

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