The people of Israel became impatient on their journey with Moses. They spoke out angrily against Moses and against God. The Lord then sent serpents who bit the people and many of the people died. The people asked Moses to pray to the Lord so that the serpents would be taken away. Moses prayed for the people. The Lord told Moses to make a serpent, set it on a pole and that all the people who were bitten should look at the serpent on the pole and then they would live. Moses made a bronze serpent, put it on a pole and everyone who was bitten looked at the bronze serpent and lived. (Numbers 21.4-9) In this reading the people experienced God's mercy and His forgiveness.
In Psalm 102, A plea for help
Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me on the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily on the day when I call. (102.1-2)
For I eat ashes like bread, and mingle tears with my drink,
because of your indignation and anger; for you have lifted me up
and thrown me aside. (102.9-10)
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to favour it; the appointed time has come. (102.13)
For the Lord will build you up Zion; he will appear in his glory.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer. (102.16-17)
Maybe we recognize ourselves in one or both of these readings. We search for God in our trials but He does not appear present to us. Prayers are prayed, but answers to our problems do not come; events and circumstances do not improve. Perhaps we find ourselves grumbling and bitter or inconsolable and overwhelmed. We may become angry with God.
When the troubles of the world weigh heavily on our hearts and minds, we need to remind ourselves that God has not abandoned us. He is a constant presence and has great love for us. We know that God loves us as he gave us His only Son, Jesus.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3.16)
Our saving, merciful God, wandering in our deserts of injustice and lack of love, we cry out with fear or are stunned into silence, some into doubt or despair.
Give us enough trusting faith to look up to him who took our evil and doubts upon himself, suffered for them on a cross, and rose from them, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our Lord.
Grant us, we pray, O Lord, perseverance in obeying your will, that in our days the people dedicated to your service may grow in both merit and number.
Oh God, who choose to show mercy, not anger, to those who hope in you, grant that your faithful may weep, as they should, for the evil they have done, and so merit the grace of your consolation. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.