March 1 (First Sunday in Lent): Psalm 32 and Matthew 4:1-11

January 30, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa

As the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and accompanied him through the formative and deeply challenging encounter with the devil as narrated in Matthew 4, the three “Selah” exhortations in the 11 verses of Psalm 32 provide the needed pause to internalize, reflect upon, and trust in the affirmations that the Lord forgives and the Lord protects.

Jesus and the tempter meet in an inauspicious place at the most inauspicious of circumstances; in a wilderness after 40 days and nights of Jesus fasting, leaving him vulnerable in every respect. Weakness of mental concentration, spiritual fortitude, and physical resilience would be at their lowest. Note, that this story followed the account of Jesus’ baptism at the river Jordan. The baptismal declaration of his belovedness, his belongingness are evidenced in this practical way: God will preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of Jesus in every respect. Jesus does not have to prove his belovedness, his belongingness, notwithstanding the tempter’s continual onslaught of conditions, “If you’re the Son of God. . .” For Jesus, this is not a game of quid pro quo. Jesus is and always will be the beloved Son of God, by origination; we will always be beloved daughters and sons of God by derivation because of Jesus, who encounters us in every moment, from our first breath to our last, “in life and in death, we belong to God” so says the Heidelberg Catechism. Jesus’ citation of Old Testament Scriptures at every arrow thrown his way by the tempter demonstrates the protective power of the Lord and of his Word.

Psalm 32 is a series of “Selah” moments where we can trust that the Lord forgives our transgression, protects us from all those who seek to contradict or contravene God’s love, trusting in the Lord who preserves our hope, which results in us rejoicing and being glad for what God has done. It’s when we pause for the “Selah” times that the Lord encounters us with the reality of who God is, who we are, and what God is doing to impress upon us that we are beloved and belong to the Lord already.