Wednesday of Pentecost 3 – Psalm 16

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Yesterday we read the story of Elijah. He was having something of a crisis in that cave where God found him. He thought he had been a failure. A member of a prior parish I served observed for me that Elijah sounds like a classic case of burnout. She even said that God’s remedy for Elisha comports well with the sort of remedy a mental health professional would seek for a client who was suffering from burnout: Go on a trip (go to Damascus), get some help (anoint Elisha to replace you), and take a step back and see the truth of your successes (7,000 who have not knelt to Baal.) 

But this psalm might also be a remedy for Elijah in his crisis. It might have helped him in his despair, or at least it seems the opposite of what Elijah was feeling. The psalmist notes that all his good comes from God. God cares about the lives of his saints, but the wicked will multiply their sorrows. It is verse 9 and 10, however, that might make this psalm very specifically for Elijah. His soul will not be abandoned to Sheol, and his holy one will not see corruption. Of course, Elijah did not die. You can read about that in II Kings 2. There, Elijah is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind accompanied by fiery chariots and horses. Elijah really did not see decay. He shows up again at the mount of Transfiguration centuries later. To this day the Jewish people will set a place for him at Passover just in case he shows up. But Elijah is just Elijah. He came to that mountain of Transfiguration because he came to speak with another whose body did not see decay and whose soul was not abandoned to Sheol, Elijah’s Lord Jesus. Because of that Jesus who is greater than Elijah we too get to pray this prayer. Jesus’ suffering and death is our suffering and death, we have been baptized into it. Likewise, we have been baptized into Jesus’ resurrection. Not with fiery horses and chariots or a whirlwind, but with a trumpet and the mighty voice of God we too shall rise.

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