‘The heritage of those who fear Your name’

In our daily trek through the Psalms, Ed and I just finished Psalm 27. It’s only 14 verses long but it’s particularly potent with trust in God, and a resultant hope through desperate times. A psalm of David, it begins: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” It asserts confidently, “In the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling, he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (v.5). Because of that, musician David promises, “I will sing and make music to the LORD” (v.6). Yet some doubt creeps in, and so he prays, “Do not hide your face from me. . . . Do not reject me or forsake me” (v.9). In the end, David is confident the LORD will continue to be good to him as long as he lives. He concludes by urging others – us!: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

A dramatic musical version by Mary Frances Allitsen (1897) had already been going through my mind before reading Psalm 27. We had received word that a 90-year-old uncle of mine had died. He was a fine amateur singer and this was his “signature song.” He sang it frequently, in public and at home. Now and then, years ago, I would accompany him on the piano.

I began recalling that, and a host of other memories of my huge extended family, after we heard of my Uncle Case’s death. Being “fourscore and ten” and failing, his death wasn’t a surprise. But it was especially poignant for me because he and my Aunt Rosemary had opened their home to me after my own parents had died.

‘To him be the glory!’
What most came to mind in my march through family memories was not so much events or scenarios but musings on my family’s deep faith heritage. I thought of the faithfulness of my parents’ and uncles’ generation, my grandparents and great-grandparents generations, and the ones preceding them, beginning years ago in the Netherlands. With immense gratitude, Psalm 61:5 (also attributed to David) came to mind: “You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

Whether you have a long family history rooted in Reformed Christianity or whether you’re a new convert or somewhere in between, all of us who confess Christ as LORD can say that with Psalm 61. And we can with joy (see Psalm 119: 111). Through God’s immense grace we share in the covenant he first made with Abraham and fulfilled with our Savior’s blood. It is virtually beyond human comprehension that we are called as part of the vast Body of Christ from all peoples, nations and languages who will join the saints and angels already around God’s throne who are ceaselessly acknowledging his holy glory (Rev. 4); and that then we will one day “be raised incorruptible” to reign with him forever on the new earth.

In the meantime, through even the most excruciating troubles, we can and must “be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD,” remembering that he loves us and is our light and salvation. That wait can seem awfully long and difficult at times. It was such even for that bastion of faithful strength the Apostle Paul. He suffered a continued lack of healing, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and was finally martyred for his Lord. Yet he could exclaim this doxology (Eph. 3:20-21) – as have Christ-believers after him have through the centuries, and as we can with them: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  

  • Marian Van Til is a former CC editor who lived in Canada from 1975-2000. She now freelances for journals and writes books. Marian is also a classical musician and the music director at a Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Ed Cassidy, live in Youngstown, NY.

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