Only a Slip of Paper

The one hundred and third psalm is classic in its stately cadences and in its quiet, strong assertions. It is high religion set to music. I suppose that all of us associate a certain passage of Scripture with a certain event, a time when a hitherto dull, dim passage was flooded with light and meaning by an experience which we can never forget. I associate a part of this psalm with a grateful memory which now reaches over a considerable stretch of time. Years ago, a church structure, covering the length of a city block in Brooklyn, was completely destroyed by fire. There came a time when the rebuilding of that structure seemed to be on the edge of failure and despair, for there was no money. On a chill and gloomy November Saturday evening, the pastor walked into the church’s temporary quarters, brooding on what looked like the sad end of a bright, bold dream. Among the envelopes of the day’s mail was one which bore no return address. Idly and disinterestedly he opened the envelope, and a cashier’s check for one thousand dollars, without the giver’s signature, fell to the desk. There was only a slip of paper. Almost stunned and trembling, he picked up the sheet of paper, which bore the opening words of the one hundred and third psalm: “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

That gift was to come annually, until our new structure was cleared of debt. The pastor still does not know the name of the donor, but obviously this grand old psalm had touched that person deeply and lastingly. And well it might, for this psalm, beginning in such august praise, moves into an explanation of its adoration of God. It runs: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He hath not dealt with us after our sins: nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” And then, like a most precious stone among many gems, there are the words “Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him.”

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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