Psalm 22: Spiritual Warfare – Part I
Today’s and tomorrow’s Noontimes are adapted from a reflection written on Armistice Day, November 11, 2008.
On the day we celebrate the end of war, we might pause to think a bit about the spiritual warfare in which we are all daily engaged.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
While still on the cross, Christ appealed to the father with this prayer that generations of his people have used while addressing God in times of stress. In the NAB the psalm bears the title Prayer of an Innocent Person. Jesus, the unblemished lamb, dies in innocence, in the act of bringing healing to peoples crying for relief. But Christ knew, as Paul tells us in Ephesians, Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Paul describes the armor of God we must wear as we enter into the warfare each day: the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Our feet must be shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6)
Many bulls surround me; fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Bashan – a land east of the Jordan noted for the size of its animals – provides fierce opposition to the life of a Christian. Again, Paul reminds us in his letter to Titus how to be consistent with sound doctrine, namely, that . . . [we] be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love and endurance, reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train [others]. (Titus 2) Paul also calls women to a role subordinate to men which was appropriate for the day – and which we now recognize as outmoded in its effect. The point here is that combat as we witness need not be fierce. It need only be faithful, prayer-filled, and consistent with the Gospel.
Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you.
As the words on the prophet Micah remind us: You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) There is no mystery in this. The requirement is simple. Spiritual warfare is this: Train self in order to invite wisdom; exercise compassion with justice in order to invite goodness. All the rest follows naturally. The outcome of good over evil is predictable . . . even if the time of final resolution is not.
Tomorrow, war and miracles.