“For he is our God”

What does it mean to declare in the midst of worship that “he is our God and we are his people”?

Those who prayed the psalms in the Temple and in their private prayers in ancient Israel and those who pray the psalms as members of the Jewish faith today are declaring that they are part of the covenant people of God.

They (and we) are recalling in these words the story which begins with the call of Abram in Genesis 12 and the promise of a people who will be a blessing to the earth.  They (and we) are recalling especially the accounts of the Exodus and Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea and the giving of the law at Sinai. These were the events which created the people of God, Israel, the nation of the earth in a special relationship with God, redeemed from slavery, entrusted with the law and with a particular calling to witness to God’s way’s on the earth.

For the Christian, the words have a still wider and deeper meaning.  As I say these words as a Christian, I am recalling the life and ministry and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is because of Jesus’s  sacrifice that I am able through faith and baptism to become part of the people of God. It is because of God’s grace in Christ that I and other Christians can be joined to God’s covenant community.

Paul writes profound words about the wonder of belonging to God’s people in Ephesians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (2.19-20).

In similar ways, 1 Peter invites us to remember who we are and the privilege of belonging to the people of God:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2.9).

Ponder today the story of the people of God from the story of Abram, through the Exodus and the long history of Israel, God’s amazing grace in Jesus, and the story of the church down the long ages, to the local church you are part of, to your baptism, to your faith.  Give thanks and rediscover joy.  We belong.  We are part of something bigger than ourselves.

This is what it means to say: “For he is our God and we are his people”.

This post is one of a series of daily reflections on Psalm 95 in January, at the start of the Diocese of Sheffield Centenary Year

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