Back Scratching

Getting to the airport from where I live is no easy thing. I was spoiled by living 20 minutes away from one of the world’s largest airports for the 20 years we lived near Atlanta. Now an airport run takes up to two hours one way and involves a fair bit of traffic, state interchanges, bridges, poorly lit country roads, and a lot of aggravation.

I recently arranged for a friend to ride home with my pilot husband to spare her husband a four-hour round trip to get her. I know the inconvenience that would have been for him and was happy to help. These are friends who are gracious and hospitable. I know for sure they would do the same thing for me. In a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship, it is easy to give and receive, knowing that the good will that is extended will come back in some form when you need the favor.

God calls us into reciprocal relationships in order to strengthen our ties in our community. We need to know we can count on folks when we get into a jam. I never considered that we have a reciprocal relationship with God, however. God is so far above us; I can’t imagine how we can ever “repay the favor” in any meaningful way. God has provided everything we need in life, including his only son, who guarantees our eternal life. How can we possibly respond?

But today’s psalm offers an idea. This is a psalm of David, who begins by outlining the many, many things he has received from the Lord:

Psalm 40 (Common English Bible)

I put all my hope in the Lord.
    He leaned down to me;
    he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
    they will trust the Lord.
Those who put their trust in the Lord,
    who pay no attention to the proud
    or to those who follow lies,
    are truly happy!

David gets it. He knows that God has listened to him in times of great trouble, and credits God for pulling him out of “the pit of death” and restoring his life. God has blessed David with the ability to sing new praise songs for what God has done. He continues listing all of God’s goodness to him:

You, Lord my God!
    You’ve done so many things—
    your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
        no one can compare with you!
    If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
        they would be too numerous to count!
You don’t relish sacrifices or offerings;
    you don’t require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings—
    but you have given me ears!
So I said, “Here I come!
    I’m inscribed in the written scroll.

Now comes an idea of how to repay God for his goodness. First, we are encouraged to seek God’s will and learn as much about God as we can:

    I want to do your will, my God.
    Your Instruction is deep within me.”

David continues this thought with a specific way that all of us can repay God for his kindness: we can testify. We can share the good news with everyone we meet. We can go all out in witnessing to our faith.

It begs the question: when was the last time you shared your faith with someone? Have you been inviting people church? Have you borne witness to an answered prayer to your neighbor? Have you offered to pray with a hurting friend? Do you say grace in a restaurant?

I’ve told the good news of your righteousness
    in the great assembly.
    I didn’t hold anything back—
        as you well know, Lord!
10 I didn’t keep your righteousness only to myself.
    I declared your faithfulness and your salvation.
I didn’t hide your loyal love and trustworthiness
    from the great assembly.

Read that last part again, and let it inspire you.

Having demonstrated how he has reciprocated God’s attention, David now boldly shifts to the “scratch my back” part of the psalm:

1So now you, Lord—
    don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.
Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me,
12     because countless evils surround me.
My wrongdoings have caught up with me—
    I can’t see a thing!
There’s more of them than hairs on my head—
    my courage leaves me.
13 Favor me, Lord, and deliver me!
    Lord, come quickly and help me!
14 Let those who seek my life, who want me dead,
    be disgraced and put to shame.
Let those who want to do me harm
    be thoroughly frustrated and humiliated.
15 Let those who say to me, “Yes! Oh, yes!”
    be destroyed by their shame.

I love how David doesn’t hold anything back. Even in his demanding tone, he is letting God know that the reason he asks for favor and deliverance is because he believes in God with all his heart. He knows God will answer him! Do you ask for what you need with such confidence?

16 But let all who seek you
    celebrate and rejoice in you.
Let those who love your salvation always say,
    “The Lord is great!”
17 But me? I’m weak and needy.
    Let my Lord think of me.
You are my help and my rescuer.
    My God, don’t wait any longer!

I want to encourage you to do a few things today. First, ask boldly for what you need. God will surely lean down with all his might to hear your prayer. And second, find someone in your circle today who needs to hear about God. Give a word of testimony, offer a casserole and a prayer, post a Christian meme on your Facebook page … let people know where you stand in your relationship with God. Find some way to let everyone know that “The Lord is Great!”

Because he is great, indeed.

Wave Watching by Michelle Robertson

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