“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary describes “courage” as the ability to do something that frightens one. Growing up, we heard our elders warn young men who were engaging in strong drinks to be careful lest in so doing it would take away their courage and they wouldn’t be able to “cut the mustard”. On the other hand, there was a very popular drink, Phosferine Wine Tonic, and one commercial had a lady saying that any time she wanted to tell someone what was on her mind, she took a drink of the wine.
Sadly, today, in many areas of our lives and in the political lives of our nation, there is lack in using courage to set the wrong right. Many times as I drive from place to place, although I am poised on the outside, within me there is sadness as I observe the environment – filthy yards and run-down houses; abandoned vehicles; garbage everywhere; idle, strong, healthy, yet hopeless black men with no vision for the future of themselves nor their offspring; beautiful black women with no thought of having been wonderfully and fearlessly created. Where is that Phosferine?
Did not David reflect on the rod and the staff? It does not take courage to use the staff but you really need courage to use the rod. So, in this 31st Psalm, David see-saws between thanksgiving and lament, praise of the goodness of God and a cry for help. There are times in our lives when we are betwixt and between times of trouble and trust in God, and this is when “courage” comes to our rescue and victory is secured.
To do the right thing in face of adversity, political fallout; to choose honesty when we could have been financially firm and solid; to defy protocol and ignore the whip of oaths sworn, takes courage not aided by additives.
It could have been in November of last year that I placed the music of a hymn written by Norman Macleod and put to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan on my piano, and although I played other pieces, I did not remove the sheet music, but played it every now and then, reflecting on the words. Less than a week ago, I began to read five Psalms every day and a chapter of Proverbs, and when I read the last verse of the Psalm of our text – 31 – the connection came with unction to function.
Many of you know the story of Joshua, which opens with God giving instructions to Joshua: “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all the people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
“Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee, I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
“Be strong and of good courage, for unto this people shall thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I swear unto their fathers to give thee.” – Joshua 1:2-6
It takes courage to hold onto the land which God has given to His people. Fear will cause you to lose your land. When God has given you something, it is to keep and to hold from this day forth until death do us part. The modus operandi of satan is to steal, kill and destroy what is yours. Indeed, only courage will help to hold onto the land of the birth of you and your forbears. Help me, Father God.
The name of the tune of the lyrics that I share, written by Norman Macleod, is “Courage, Brother, Do Not Stumble”.
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