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A Reflection on a Psalm Integrating Worship and Work

Psalm 9:7-10

The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

I relate to the Psalms in so many ways, but especially because David himself was a soldier. While never in combat, I understand the world of soldiering and I imagine the context of the songs that David composed as he praised God from seasons of oppression. David started out a shepherd, found himself in the courts of a King because of family duty. When Israel was surrounded by enemies, he became a soldier because he alone had the courage to face his nation’s enemies.

I don’t have any stories of single-handedly wining a great battle, no one has every sung about me killing tens of thousands. However, I have learned from Psalm 9:1-10 that we are called and created for worship regardless of occupation. Challenges, troubles and enemies will come, but he is our answer: a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Education has always been central to my vocation, but college wasn’t a guarantee. My dad’s family were Mennonite missionaries, farmers, and carpenters for generations in Lancaster, PA. Instead of going to college, my dad was encouraged to go into missions. He left home to serve the Ojibwe Tribe working as a maintenance hand. His work and mission were intertwined as he worked every day. My Dad didn’t go with a seminary degree, he had carpentry skills and a heart to serve. He lived in harsh conditions and got hypothermia and frostbite as he served with a heart to live and then preach the gospel.

In Psalm 9, David begins with praise. A true worshiper, he approaches the throne of heaven in praise and admiration before making his requests known. We are called first and last to worship, to sing praise to the name of God – God’s work in heaven and on earth, that we get to partner with! We are his marketers, his ambassadors, messengers of his story and works!

I grew up in a home full of worship, worship in its most traditional sense as all my family, but me, was musical. Through a recognition of my own lack of scholarship worthy musical talents and a series of events –I realized I needed to get creative to pay for college. I chose a path that would get me through undergraduate and graduate school with minimal debt. A first in my Dad’s Mennonite family, but following my maternal grandfather’s footsteps, at 17 I enlisted in the US Army. I enlisted in a program that would allow me to train during summers and attend college during the school year. I would go green to gold, NCO to JAG and I would get college paid for.

Psalm 9 states that our enemies come – but David encourages us that God himself, He upholds our cause. David had causes that were justified and troubles that were of his own making. Throughout my journey in the Army, I often felt like an imposter, like David felt in Saul’s armor or playing in his courts. I was not athletic or outdoorsy, but I had learned to work hard and to listen. I found the spaces I could excel in and passed at everything else. Even in the tough times, God was always with me. The military is a tough environment. People come from broken places and compete for significance in the midst of insecurities.

In any space where we get to serve others or take on any kind of leadership, some will love us and some will hate us. When we think of David’s enemies we may think of Goliath or Saul, not David’s son Absalom, trouble of David’s own making. Absalom drove David out of Jerusalem and off his throne.

Sometimes we face oppression that arises out of unjust circumstances but other times we face oppression because we had an opportunity to bring justice, do the right thing, and we didn’t. We face troubles of our own making. However, God is our stronghold, even when the troubles are our own! I have an MBA because the Army paid for it in a time of trouble in my life – trouble of my own making when calling was a luxury and as a solider and a single mom, a paycheck was essential.

Psalm 9 says the Lord sits enthroned forever…. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. We get to choose whether to be like David, to fight for justice (imperfectly) or to become oppressors like Saul – not accepting the path that God has us and others on. My parents set an example of being a refuge for the oppressed. It wasn’t through grand gestures or positions of power. I have learned to be a refuge, to worship God in the marketplace—creating spaces in business education where we can reflect on God’s amazingness. Who knew that becoming a soldier and getting an MBA would put me on a trajectory to lead others to praise God in the marketplace?