My thoughts (Keith Phillips):
My favorite Biblical musical has to be Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing performances on Broadway, by the theatre department of the New Albany/Floyd County High School, and here in Indianapolis at the Civic Theater, among other places.
This Psalm immediately reminded me of one of the songs, “Close Every Door to Me.” Joseph has been sold into slavery to some hairy Ishmaelites by his jealous brothers. The Ishmaelites in turn sell Joseph to Potiphar, an official of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph; and when he rejects her advances, she lies and tells her husband that Joseph tried to rape her. Unjustly, Joseph is cast into prison to languish indefinitely. In the musical, Joseph sings:
Close every door to me; hide all the world from me;
Bar all the windows and shut out the light.
Do what you want with me; hate me and laugh at me.
Darken my daytime and torture my night.
If my life was important, I
Would ask, “Will I live or die?”
But I know the answers lie far from this world.
Close every door to me; keep those I love from me.
Children of Israel are never alone.
For I know I shall find my own peace of mind;
For I have been promised a land of my own.
So many psalms are laments, poems of despair and despondency. In these psalms the writer is so far down that the only way to look is up. I am grateful to God that I remember only a handful of such times in my life: a suicide attempt in college, a two-night stay in the Nassau County (NY) Jail for possession and thus missing a Grateful Dead concert, a lengthy period of unemployment and regularly having no idea how to pay the next week’s rent, the full-term stillbirth of our first son, betrayal and divorce, struggling to find a way for our second son who has autism to live happily. These were times when I felt powerless, helpless.
Often in the midst of despair, it is so hard to remember the presence and power of God. Looking back, it’s much easier, after we’ve been through the darkness and come into the light. Then, we realize that the one set of footprints in the sand was those of the Lord, carrying us. So we need the psalms and even our own stories to remind us that when every door has been closed to us, “children of Israel are never alone.”
Thought for the day: “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me” (Psalm 69:13a).
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.