Psalm 91:1-2; 9-16
Assurance of God’s Protection
1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, 10 no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. 15 When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. 16 With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
This text sounds familiar if you have ever heard the beautiful hymn “On Eagle’s Wings.” That will be tomorrow’s offering.
The reason this text is used for this coming Sunday is that the Satan tempts Jesus with these words. Satan reminds Jesus that the words of the psalm say that… “God will command his angels to save you if you happen to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple. Just jump!” (my paraphrasing here).
Yes, even Satan can quote scripture.
But Jesus doesn’t fall for that. Jesus says that scripture also states that you shall not put God to the test.
We put our trust and hope in God. This time of Lent (which begins tomorrow!) is a time to remember and focus on our faith journey. It is a time to return to God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Satan was tempting Jesus to show off with an amazing scene of God’s almighty power saving him as he jumped off the Temple pinnacle. Sure, there are times when we see Jesus in all his glory, like this past Sunday when we heard the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop, along with Moses and Elijah. I can’t blame Peter for wanting to stay on the mountaintop. But Jesus didn’t come just for mountaintop experiences. Jesus also came to meet us in the quiet stillness, and even in the darkest of valleys. Lent is a time to walk through the valley.
There are times we celebrate the glory on the mountaintop. There are times we travel through the dark valleys of sadness and sorrow. There are times the shouts of “alleluia” burst forth. There are times when there is nothing but the whisper of “Lord, have mercy.” Lord, we would love to stay on the mountain. Like Simon Peter, we believe it’s a good place to be.
And yet, as Lent begins, we willingly head to the valley. We come down from the mountaintop, and journey with Jesus, through the valley to another hilltop, called Calvary. We begin the journey of Lent. We feel the burden of our sin, our selfishness, our pain, and the great cost Jesus paid to rid us of this burden. We focus on the cross, where Jesus suffered and died for you and me. Because of this, Lent is not the time or season for Alleluia.
So for this season of Lent, we say Farewell to Alleluia. We bid farewell to Alleluia until we will gather on that glorious Easter morning, and the song of Alleluia will be sung again. That will be the time. The empty tomb will be the place. But today, at THIS time and THIS place, we say farewell to Alleluia. Farewell, we will sing your praises again!
Let us pray: Almighty God, forgive us for the times we want miracles and signs of your glory for our sake. Because of your willingness to take up the cross for our sins, we give you thanks. We begin our journey to the cross with you again. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen