Psalm 70:1 (from the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer)
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me.
In the beginning, God wrote a love letter to mankind.
Maybe you’re thinking, “What? What love letter? Is he talking about the Song of Solomon?”
No, I’m not. In fact, that love letter is not a “what”, but a “who”. You know Him. His name is Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God’s love letter, and has been so since the very beginning of creation. The book of Revelation, which speaks of the end of the world, refers to Jesus as He was at the beginning: “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
From the beginning God has loved you. He has done everything He can to make that clear to you (short of clamping your head between his hands like a child, forcing you to gaze into His eyes as He speaks). He told you He loved you long, long ago:
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
He didn’t just create you; He didn’t just “wind you up” and let you wander off like a mechanical toy. He created you in love, He created you to love you, and He created you with the goal that you would love Him. He created every human being with the goal that they would love Him as He loves them. So what happened?
They were deceived.
This was not just a one-time event: human beings are still being deceived.
We live in dangerous times. Not because of Covid; not because of strife, chaos, and rebellion in the world; not because the freedoms given us by God are being stripped away … but because of deception.
Jesus said it would be like this:
Now as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:3-4).
Jesus’ first advice is, “Don’t let anyone deceive you.” He then goes on to speak of hardships that are merely “the beginning of sorrows”; in fact, He says, “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
We haven’t seen anyone arise in the world and do great signs and wonders, yet it is clear that so much of the world is already deceived. How do we keep from being deceived ourselves? How do we inoculate ourselves against this deadly virus of deception?
The vaccine for deception is devotion: devotion to Jesus!
Remember that little verse from Psalm 70 that we started with? In a slightly different translation it is used as the invitatory to the Psalm reading at the office of Evening Prayer: “O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us.” Why is that?
These two little sentences cover every situation we have ever gone through, every trial we will ever face. Listen to John Cassian, a Christian monk and theologian who lived 360-432 A.D., describe the impact of this verse:
“For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack. It contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis, the humility of a devout confession, the watchfulness of concern and of constant fear, a consciousness of one’s own frailty, the assurance of being heard, and confidence in a protection that is always present and at hand.… It contains a burning love and charity, an awareness of traps and a fear of enemies.”
“This verse is an unassailable wall, an impenetrable breastplate and a very strong shield for all those who labor under the attack of demons. It does not permit those troubled by boredom and anxiety of mind or those depressed by sadness … to despair of a saving remedy, showing that He whom it invokes [i.e., God] is always looking on our struggles and is not detached from His suppliants. It warns those of us who are enjoying spiritual successes and are glad of heart, that we must never be exalted or puffed up because of our good fortune, which it testifies cannot be maintained without the protection of God, for it begs Him to come to our aid not only at all times but also quickly.”
To put it briefly: this verse is a cry for help in every crisis, a confession that we cannot be faithful through our own strength, a sign that we are always watchful and wary of stumbling, a confidence that we know He will hear us, and a proclamation that He will protect us. It is a shield of faith against the enemy’s attacks; a promise of rescue from boredom, anxiety, and depression; a witness that our God is always watching over us to save; and a reminder that no matter how good our present fortune may get, it is only by God’s grace that it continues.
Are you devoted to the Lord? Do you cry out to Him in good times and bad … or only when life isn’t going your way? Are you as concerned about stumbling while you’re running quickly as you are about getting healed when you fall and get injured?
Jesus – God’s love letter to you – has told you what is really going on in these dangerous times in which we live, and has given you the key so that you can “endure to the end and be saved”(Matthew 24:13). To avoid infection by the deadly Deception virus you need the DEVOTION vaccine: that permanent dependence on Jesus which continuously flows through your connection to His vine. It’s critical, and not just for you.
Jesus is God’s love letter to every human on the planet, but there are so many people in this world unwilling to read His letter. They’re the people who brush by you each day, people you live and work with, people who live in your neighborhood. How can they recognize Deception if they will not read God’s letter of love? “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
You may not be called to be a preacher – that’s okay. You may not be called as an evangelist or even a teacher … but every single one of us is called to be a witness: to testify simply and lovingly to what we have seen and know. Paul explains, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
You are a letter from God, written to those around you. What does that letter say to them? How well are you transmitting God’s heart? Does your letter demonstrate love … or indifference? Does it speak forgiveness … or judgment? Does it exalt Jesus … or you?
If you don’t like the answers to these questions that pop into your mind, don’t give up – cry out! You need more vaccine! “O God, make speed to save me! O Lord, make haste to help me!” And He will, because He says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior”.
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson