Reading Psalm 146 today, I thought of you, my friends who know what it is to move back and forth between countries, continents and cultures; who experience a life-style of goodbyes. I think of you, the expert at home decorating with whatever is on hand and accomplishing a sense of place inside of two weeks; you who search out local ingredients and invent tasty, once-in-a-lifetime meals that can’t be duplicated in the next location. I think of you, my missionary friend, my military child, who is ever conscious of the truth that we really are pilgrims here, always living in transit.
“The Lord watches over the sojourners.” Sojourner is defined as a person who is living in a place temporarily. What really grabbed my attention in this Psalm is the fact that the sojourner is mentioned right in there with the special attention the Lord pays to the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind [and I think we can say the disabled in general], the depressed in spirit, the widow and the orphan. Take another look at this list and we see those who are left behind in the mainstream of social life. They live in the margins, outside of the daily rhythm of public and domestic life. Does that seem like your life? If living is riding a pony on the merry-go-round, these people are the ones sitting on the bench watching, powerless to jump on. We who spend decades of our lives moving from one temporary place to the next are like those who lope alongside the wheel but don’t ever seem to achieve the stride necessary to leap up onto it. And it certainly isn’t going to stop for us. God knows us, my friend. He knows the trials and temptations unique to our sojourner status. He has not forgotten that we are, after all, dust. Our dust is composed of change, uncertainty and temporal transience, never quite fitting in, a part of our heart always someplace where we aren’t. There are trials and temptations that are peculiar to such dust. We are prone to particular sins and weaknesses. Our Father knows this. He knows our dust. And He has a particular promise for us. He will watch over us.
God our Father watches over the sojourner. To watch is to observe attentively over a period of time. He watches without blinking. He doesn’t watch like a casual observer; waiting to see what will happen, or for his entertainment. He is a Watcher who goes before, removing obstacles we don’t even notice. He guards our back from innumerable spiritual attacks which he knows we aren’t ready to face today. He watches for the pit carved out by the enemy to swallow up our restless soul. He watches as our guard, to protect us from misunderstandings or irreparable cultural faux pas . He watches; he sees what you, and I, don’t because we can never completely understand the culture where we are or the assignment we have. There are too many unknowns in our lives; too many blind spots. He knows the unknowns, sees what we never will and Watches out for us, you and I. He watches with intent – the intent to comfort and preserve our souls.
My friends, if our God works justice for the oppressed, frees prisoners, opens blind eyes, lifts up those who are bowed down, relieves the orphan and the widow, you can be sure that He watches you, a sojourner. And you can be confident that His watching is exactly what you need. Trust yourself to his vision and view of things. Rest your soul today, because God is your Watcher and Preserver.