Like Butter Over Too Much Bread
The words come from Bilbo Baggins like molasses on a cold winter day, slow, heavy, reluctant. Gandalf the Gray inquires as to his well-being and Bilbo describes a “thinness, like butter over too much bread.” I have to confess, more often these days as I encounter the anxiety and fear so many live with and seem by their obsessions to relish, I find myself feeling much the same way, as if grace and mercy and understanding and patience are in much too short supply given the magnitude of the need.
Do you ever feel that way, like the demands of relationships outweighs the resources banked in your soul? When I start to notice my heart encroaching the boundaries of barrenness, I’ve learned to run to God’s word. Today I fled to Psalm 107.
The Psalm has forty-three verses divided into eight stanzas in the English Standard Version. The first stanza is a call to worship, inviting and instructing those whom God has redeemed to give thanks to the LORD because he is good and extends everlasting, consistent love and faithfulness to us.
The next six stanzas each have a similar format. They each contain a condition followed by a confession followed by a correction followed by a counsel. Here is the third stanza:
Psalm 107:10-16 (ESV)
10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. 13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. 15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.
You can see that their condition is darkness, the shadow of death on account of rejecting the word and counsel of God. Millions, if not billions, of people live in this condition today. They feel defeated with none to help them.
Their cry to the LORD is their confession of need, the wholehearted expression of their inability to save themselves by their own hand and their hope and trust in God’s mercy, wisdom, and strength. It is also their grasp of God’s goodness, for only those willing to trust God’s goodness would dare fearlessly cry out to him for help. We tend to entrust ourselves only to those we suppose good enough of character to actually help us. We generally do not willingly give ourselves to those we believe or know will hurt us or ignore us.
The confession of the needy soul is followed by the correction of the merciful and mighty Most High God. He delivers from death. He rescues from the shadows. He bursts the bonds of iron that force us into subservience to fear. God is so good. The correction of condition here is marked by mercy not ire. Love is present. Chastisement is absent. There may yet come a word of discipline but not in this moment. In this moment there is freedom and grace and new life.
And then there is the word of counsel: Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love.
I see a plan in Psalm 107, a plan for grace. Call out to God in faith, await His merciful response, then fill the air with thanksgiving for His steadfast love. I think, Christian, when we follow this simple relational plan with God, we will find ample butter for all the bread in our lives.