Explore the Bible: The Protector

• The Explore the Bible lesson for Aug. 20 focuses on Psalm 141:1-10.

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• The Explore the Bible lesson for Aug. 20 focuses on Psalm 141:1-10.

When my two sisters and I were very young, Mom and Dad took us roller-skating one day. I only have one memory of that day, when my dad took the fall for my little sister.

She was small enough that Dad thought he could let her ride piggyback as he skated the rink. She climbed on his back, and away they went. They only made it halfway around the rink when Dad lost his balance. I still can see him trying to regain his balance, with both feet going in different directions on the skates, before it was too late. 

Dad only had two choices. He could have jettisoned my sister and let her fend for herself as they went down. The only other choice was to hold her tight and make certain she stayed on his back to cushion the blow when he went down. That’s exactly what he did. He took the fall for them both, as my little sister hung on for dear life. That was her only hope, leaning on my father as he took the hit. And she did.

Learning to lean

So many times, we’ve heard we should lean on Jesus for comfort, for strength to face temptation and for courage to face all of life’s challenges. The only problem is that, since we can’t see or touch Jesus, we’re left to wonder how to actually go about doing that.

The psalmist gives us some wonderful clues in this magnificent prayer about how to lean on God. First, he asks for God’s presence. “I call upon you, O Lord, come quickly to me” (v. 1).  Second, he confesses his need of God’s help in order not to be overcome by his frail humanity (vv. 3-4).

To admit our need of anyone’s help can be one of the greatest challenges we face in life. Most people resist the idea of being dependent on anyone else—even on God. We have all had to confess our sins. It sometimes takes a great deal to get to that confession where we admit our faults and our need of God’s forgiveness, not to mention our need of God to help us as we face temptations anew every day.

In the New Testament book of James, we are given a wonderful promise: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you (James 1:5). So often, we find ourselves at the crossroads of two lonely ways in the wilderness, not knowing which way to turn. It’s in those moments we can ask God for guidance and trust that God will never abandon those God has promised to save.

Things may not go the way we planned or hoped. Yet, looking back, it’s amazing to see the guiding hand of God on our lives. We may even find ourselves grateful our lives didn’t turn out the way we had planned but instead the way God intended. When we are lost or overwhelmed or weak in the face of temptation, we can cry out to God and trust that, in one way or another, the answer will come.

The third thing the psalmist does is ask God to bring people into his life who help him be accountable to God (vv. 5-7). Sometimes, the only way we can lean on God is to lean on the shoulders of those God has given us to share this journey. It may be through the voice of others that we finally hear the voice of God. It is impossible to be all that God calls us to be apart from a community of people who encourage our faith.

Fall on the One who took the fall

Chris Rice sings “Untitled Hymn” in which he encourages the listener with these words:  “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die, O raise your head, for love is passing by.  Come to Jesus.  Come to Jesus.  Come to Jesus and live. And like a newborn baby, don’t be afraid to crawl. And remember when we walk, sometimes we fall. Fall on Jesus. Fall on Jesus. Fall on Jesus and live.”

Our Lord Jesus has taken the fall for us. Now, even through the words of the Old Testament he pleads with us to fall on him. When we’re lost, confused, tempted and failing, Jesus invites us to let him take the hit for us. 

There is never a time or place or situation, even when we have failed, especially when we have failed, Jesus wants to call out to him. The Gospels are replete with stories of the neediest people calling out to Jesus. 

Once, Jesus was on his way to Jericho when he passed by a blind man on the road. The Scripture reports as the blind man “heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Luke 18:36-38). Jesus is always passing by within earshot of our cries for help.

If my very human father had too much love in his heart for his daughter to let her fall on her own, how much more can we count on Jesus, to answer that simple prayer of totally dependent faith? “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Glen Schmucker is a hospice chaplain in Fort Worth.

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