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Standing today at the waters of Meribah

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Standing today at the waters of Meribah

Psalm 94 is the Invitatory Psalm – the first psalm of the Daily Office – and is therefore prayed every day by countless priests, religious and laity.  What’s more, it’s coming soon (on Sunday), to a Mass near you, so let’s see why it is given such a prominent position…

 

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;

hail the rock who saves us.

Let us come before him, giving thanks,

with songs let us hail the Lord.

 

The invitation is there in that first word – ‘Come’.  Imagine you’re a half-asleep monk or nun, singing this at 5am.  You’ve done the first bit, you’re there… but perhaps only physically.  You’re invited to ring out your joy to the Lord who saves you and that requires more effort.  Thankfully, the psalmist helps us on our way:

Come in; let us bow and bend low;

let us kneel before the God who made us

for he is our God and we

the people who belong to his pasture,

the flock that is led by his hand.

 

The awesome simplicity of those words bowls me over every time, despite the early hour.  We are invited to adore God because He made us and we belong to Him.  We can’t resist.

By now we’re awake.  We’ve remembered who made us and why and that’s just as well, because here is our mission for today:

O that today you would listen to his voice!

“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,

as on that day at Massah in the desert

when your fathers put me to the test;

when they tried me, though they saw my work.”

 

It was in the desert of Zin that the Israelites grumbled to Moses and Aaron, comparing their present conditions unfavourably with those they’d left behind in Egypt.  It was there, at the waters of Meribah, that Moses struck the rock with his staff and produced water for the Israelites.   The relief all round is temporary however, for the end of the psalm records the Lord vowing that those grumblers would never reach the promised land (cf Ex 17:1-7 and Num 20:1-13).

Considering the context, then, it is plain to see that the word ‘today‘ is crucial in our praying of this psalm – ‘O that today you would listen to his voice!’ Every day, we stand as though at the waters of Meribah and are invited to renew our relationship with the Lord*.   However the Lord will only invite us and will never force us.  We always have a free choice, just as the Israelites did.

So let us respond every day, not with the hardened hearts of our fathers in the desert, but with hearts that are ready to listen to His voice, to do His will and to ‘ring out our joy to the Lord’.

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*We heard this from the letter to the Hebrews a week or two ago.  After quoting this psalm, the writer urges the brothers to ‘exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin‘ (Heb 3:13).

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