who pilgrims trust

The LORD Surrounds His People
Psalm 125, A Song of Ascents.

[1] Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
[2] As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
[3] For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
[4] Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
[5] But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel! (ESV)

A Christian organization in Nepal goes into the mountains, finds disabled people, brings them to Kathmandu for treatment, and, after providing them rehabilitation and training, sometimes returns them to the villages they came from.

What is Christian about that is that the people in their villages likely had not thought about doing so. Karma is deeply embedded in the Hindu culture; the reason they were disabled was some failure in a previous life. This is also the reason the caste system, although illegal, is still clearly evident. Your station in life is what you deserve.

Trekking in the backcountry you can see it more than in the city, a resignation about ones life and ones place, a stoic acceptance of all life brings. Westerners sometimes say “you get what you deserve,” but we don’t really believe it. Our Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us we will get more than we deserve, even when we deserve nothing at all.

Sometimes we want it to be true, of course, that other people will get what they deserve. The pilgrim here, in Psalm 125, prays “do good to those who are good (vs. 4),” and “lead them [those who turn aside] away with evildoers (vs. 5) !” We unquestionably believe there are rewards and punishments, and sometimes we pray that the timing and degree of them will match our expectations.

But thankfully we don’t always get what we ask for. (Any respectful request carries the understanding that it may not be granted.) That’s okay, because God’s judgment is as patient and unmoving as the mountains themselves, “like Mount Zion which can not be moved, but abides forever (vs. 1).” And this stable, patient steadfast loving kindness is the reason we can trust Him.

There is no cosmic machinery grinding away, ensuring we all get justice. There is a personal God who “surrounds his people (vs. 2),” as the mountains surround His Holy city. And this just God is full of mercy, on the lame and the blind. And on you.

Yes, he is protecting His people and keeping them from sin (vs. 3). But more than that we believe He will do good. “You are good and do good,“ the Psalmist says in 119:68. God’s goodness is at the core of our faith.

This goodness motivates the organization that returns broken people to their villages, restored in both body and spirit. When we visited their facility in Kathmandu, the director, Bikash Adhikari, told us there are churches in the mountains today because of disabled people who returned to their homes with hope and joy, doing what these pilgrims were doing in ancient Israel: trusting in the Lord. Their transformation was a powerful witness to their villages of the goodness of our God.

We may ask for His intervention, but in the end we trust His will.  That, finally, is the source of our peace (vs. 5):

Peace be upon Israel. Because the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever more.

Sundar Dhoka: Reaching the Broken and Lost in Nepal // Samaritan’s Purse Documentary from Colin Cabalka on Vimeo.

——

This is the sixth in a series of devotions for trekkers, based on the Psalms of Ascent.  Look for a new one each Monday.  The series begins here:  Psalm 120.

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