Saul held the cloaks of the men as they stoned Stephen to death (at the end of Acts 7) and “dragging off men and women” to jail (8:3). A few verses later, Luke writes: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. (Acts 9:1 NET) Saul headed to Damascus to capture Jews who followed Jesus.
Jesus stopped Saul on the road to Damascus with a bright light, blindness and Jesus’ question to Saul “why are you doing violence to [persecuting] me?”.
May we see in this a reflection of Jesus’ (the King) words as recorded in Matthew 25:40: “whatever you did for [to] one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for [to] me”? Saul had been working hard trying to keep Jews faithful to God. Somehow, Paul believed beatings, torture and imprisonment could persuade observant Jews to stop being Jesus-followers.
Jesus got Saul’s attention and through Ananias gave Saul more help. Jesus implied command: Stop doing violence to those who are following me or who might follow me. After three days of blindness, Ananias came to Saul at the Lord’s command. Saul’s transformation was completed with the command:
to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel.[16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16 NET)
“The role of Ananias was crucial—it was the role of a messenger who practiced the love of enemies.”* From events portrayed in Acts, it is clear that Saul’s conversion was to a life of nonviolent mission work for Jesus (although the word conversion not used here). According to Philippians 3, Saul had been faithful to the Law. In 1 Tim. 1:13-15, Paul confesses that his violence was sinful.
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant[a] man. But I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and our Lord’s grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus.[b]15 This saying[c] is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them![d] He would not cause suffering, but instead be willing to suffer in the work of spreading the gospel. Not far into his first missionary Saul, now Paul arrived at Lystra. Paul and Barnabus were first welcomed as gods, but Jews from cities previously visited stirred up opposition to Paul and Barnabas. Paul was stoned and left for dead outside the city. “20 But after the disciples had surrounded him, he got up and went back into the city.” (Acts 14:20)
One may conclude that giving up violence went hand-in hand with the receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). At least for Saul, receiving the Holy Spirit and giving up violence were part of the same experience.
Saul/Paul’s change from a violent to a nonviolent “missionary” is also seen in his use of scripture. In Romans 15 he quotes from Psalms 18, as Flood** notes.
“Instead of salvation meaning God “delivering” the ancient Israelites from the hands of their enemies through military victory . . .; Paul now understands salvation to mean the restoration of all people in Christ, including those same “enemy” Gentiles.”
Paul omits the violent parts of Psalms 18: 41-49. Romans 12 and 13 show us further evidence of Paul’s rejection of violence. He uses Deut. 32:35 to bring up the subject of vengeance. The Deuteronomy passage approves of vengeance, but Paul commands us to let vengeance to God. We are to “overcome evil with good”.[Flood] The state is frequently the source of violence (and vengeance). In Romans 13 Paul only requires the Christian to submit to higher authorities (not necessarily obey). He goes on to write that nothing is due the authorities (or anyone) except for the debt of love. Then in verse ten he concludes: “Love does no harm to a neighbor..” (NIV)
Saul/Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road. He left the way of violence and instead, chose the Jesus way of love.
*From an unpublished paper by John Stoner, “Peter and Paul, Delusional Hope and Irrational Fear”
February 11, 2020
The idea that Saul’s “conversion” was primarily one from violence to nonviolence was suggested to me by John Stoner, Legacy Peace Advocate, See Anabaptist World, September 23, 2022.
**The Way of Peace and Grace: How Paul Wrestled with Violent Passages in the Hebrew Bible. Derek Flood Sojourners 41.1 (Jan, 2012) page 2
Getting there from college with few funds was a challenge. So, several times between 1958 and 1964 I hitchhiked between Messiah College (just outside Harrisburg, Pa) and our home near Morrison, Illinois.
Maybe one reason I choose to hitchhike was one experience with a shared ride. My friend had a VW bug and four of us needed a ride to Illinois and Iowa. Two were a couple. For part of the trip I shared the back seat with the couple. Being a proper Brethren in Christ, the fellow would not put his arm on the back of the seat (someone might think that this engaged couple was engaging in a public display of affection!). I didn’t mention to my friend that the seat would feel less crowded if he put his arm on the back of the seat. I certainly thought it.
After exams one semester, a friend drove me several miles to a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I soon got a ride from a young man who later admitted that he was on a three-day pass from his army base near Baltimore, but was not to go far (not sure of the distance) from the base. He badly wanted to see his girlfriend in Toledo, approximately 470 miles away. Soon, he wanted me to drive. I was reluctant to drive. Due to studying for exams, I had not gotten much sleep the last several days. So, he drove off and I dozed off. Then, as I dozed, I sensed he was drifting off the road. After a few of these drifts, I was fully awake and ready to drive. Not long after I started to drive, I was sleepy and pulled into a rest area. He was upset and told me to drive on or he would drive. So, I drove. After some time. he was sound asleep so I could pull over and sleep. Of course, he was angry and, thankfully wide awake after a sound sleep!
At the rest area just before the Toledo exit, I was looking for a ride further west and a woman offered me a meal. I wanted to get home that day (Saturday) so, I declined. I gave up asking people for a ride and walked to the entrance ramp (too close to the “No Hitchhiking” sign) and indeed was arrested. The local judge took my word that all I had in my pocket was $20. He cut the fine in half to $10 with the promise that if I was arrested again I would spend time in jail. So, I started to walk from a few miles inside the Ohio line toward Illinois!
Not long after I started a pickup stopped and offered me a ride to Fort Wayne. Well, it was further west. He offered an important bit of information. There had been a jail break at the Michigan Penitentiary not too many miles north of Fort Wayne. So, I may have trouble finding rides. In Fort Wayne I walked what seemed like a long way north and finally got a ride to Kendallville. That evening was graduation evening in Kendallville. The newly-graduated and friends were driving around, making noise and harassing a very tired traveler. Several times cars stopped, I thought, to give me a ride, then took off again. I finally got the “joke”. Streets were getting deserted, so I walked to a nearby gas station and asked for a place to sleep. Someone there said I could sleep in the back. The owner was driving a truck to Chicago the next morning and would give me a ride. I guess I slept on the cases of oil in the cold gas station bay. That experience made riding in the heated truck feel good as we headed to Chicago early the next morning. The driver was good enough to drop me on the southwest side of Chicago making my next connection easier.
That connection came in the form of a father headed down-state Illinois to get his daughter from college that afternoon
He was driving a new Buick Le Sabre and was proud of it and its speed. I tried not to let my white-knuckles show as we shot around the very few corners of the usually very straight Illinois stretch the Lincoln Highway. He did stop about twenty miles from my turn- off so I could call home for a ride the last ten miles.
That gave my father time to get to the turn-off from Route 30 between milking and church to pick me up. I get home to enjoy Sunday dinner with my family (doubt if I went to church that morning).
Another time I got a ride almost the whole way home. Getting there was not restful. The driver, I realized later, was nearly drunk. When I felt the wheels occasionally dropping off the pavement I was eager to drive. He wouldn’t let me stop when he started getting sick. Occasionally he would stick his head out the window to relieve himself. Eventually he said he was feeling better and took over driving. When I left him, I saw that he had coated the side of the car with something white.)
After graduation from Messiah College (now University) in 1964, I signed up with Mennonite Voluntary Service for a summer term in Atlanta, Georgia. Rides quickly took me to Frederick, MD, Washington, DC, and then near dusk to Culpepper, VA. Rides disappeared with the daylight. So, I headed for the Greyhound depot and asked the ticket seller how much I would need to pay for a bus trip to dawn. The agent said that Knoxville looked promising. Near daylight the bus dropped me at the edge of the city for my next free ride to Chattanooga, TN. The big car that picked me up there made quick work of the distance to Atlanta. My ride deposited me at a phone booth in front of a restaurant. Later I learned that this was the restaurant of racist and future governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox. I called Mennonite House where I would be staying and they told me to take a cab. When I got in the cab, the driver (white) said, “you don’t want to go there. They got raided for blacks and whites living together”. (Implying that immorality was involved.)
That may have been the last time I hitchhiked. Not long after that I got my first professional job and soon a car. Only once did I feel in danger (other than with the Le Sabre guy and the nearly drunk guy).The threat came on a ride to Harrisburg from Messiah College for a weekend. I felt there was a sexual suggestion, but nothing came of it. So, I am thankful for God’s protection in my travels. I have since given rides to others, not often. Times have changed.
Just out of college, I had debts. The teaching job I had accepted at Belleville Mennonite School (BMS) paid a basic salary. So, when I was told school bus driving could be completed before classes began, I signed up. Backing the bus between two other buses using mirrors was the job test. I grew up on a farm, so I had some practice backing with tractor and wagon (no mirrors, though). That experience helped me to pass the bus backing test.
The first route was up the valley on Front Mount Road. “Up” meaning south toward the height of land which was drained to the north by Kishacoquillas Creek. Actually, the last mile was down-south, because the road entered the Sadler Creek/Huntingdon County watershed.(see photo below) I am a bit vague about the exact route, but I remember most of it. It covered about eighteen to twenty miles. Part of the trip, Junior/Senior girls would sit behind me giving a commentary about which farms were the homes of eligible young women. One of them was Julia Hartzler who returned to BMS to teach the next year. One memorable morning brought a warning of freezing rain. I hadn’t seen any sign of ice on the first two thirds of the route. Then I came up a rise toward a stop for students. There was ice there. The rise and since I had already begun to slow meant I only slid a bit before stopping. I drove slowly the rest of the way to school, but the bus still did some moving from side to side on some turns. That shifting brought some vocalizations from the riders, but we arrived safely at the school.
We passed Jericho Road, Desperado Lane, Bunker Hill Road, Sweetwater Road, Schoolhouse Lane, Limehill Lane, Zook Road, Sharpsburg Road, Back Mountain Road, Diesel Drive, Beantree Lane and Middle Road among others.
The next year, I took the lower route down (north) toward Milroy and Route 322. The mileage was about 25 miles. This took us through Barrville, Woodland, and nearly to Milroy and Reedsville. The winding Woodland Road along a drop-off to a creek took us to Route 655, the backbone of Kish Valley. After stopping at Route 655, we started up the hill toward the Route 322 underpass. We had not gone far when I pulled the steering wheel off of the steering rod! Since the bus was going slowly up the hill, I stopped and set the brake. (Later I remembered the curving road along Woodland Creek we had taken and was thankful the steering wheel hadn’t come off there.) Someone came along and alerted the bus owner (this was long before cell phones). I wondered later if I could have fitted the steering wheel back down over the steering rod and gotten off the highway at the parking lot at the top of the hill.
The route down the Valley travelled or passed Maple Grove Road, Rosebud Lane, Frog Hollow Lane, Plum Bottom Lane, Old 3 Cent Lane, Fruit Tree Lane, Coffee Run, Dryhouse Road, Applehouse Road and others.
Driving on Madison, Wisconsin’s Streets
Julia Hartzler did agree to marry me a year after I moved to another job. (Even after I had taken the faulty advice of the high school girls and dated some of the other women they recommended.) After two years of marriage we decided to move to Madison, Wisconsin so I could get some additional education. Getting additional education meant additional cost.
Busing provided a little extra income for the years 1969 through 1972. Driving there required arriving at the bus barn at 6:45 am. When I had 8 am classes often barely made them on time. One morning as I ran up the hill to the classroom, I realized some uniformed and armed men were moving up the steps at the same time. When the feared challenge did not come, I proceeded to class. I soon learned that someone had bombed a nearby building and a student had died in the explosion. Vietnam War protests led to National Guard occupation of campus.
My first regular run, I drove a full-size bus of elementary age children. Each semester we reversed the route. We did this so that the children who had to ride for more than an hour half the year only had ten or fifteen the other half. One mother was angry with the change and called the office. The supervisor told me she accused me of cussing out her daughter. The supervisor said she laughed and told the mother she lied, because she knew [David] would not swear. The mother admitted that when the child got home early, child care would need to be provided. She preferred to have the child ride the bus for another forty-five minutes to an hour! One of the small busses (which is what I most often drove) carried physically handicapped. We didn’t have hydraulic lifts. Since I was making a special evening run, there was no one I could call on to help me move a large woman up the ramp. With effort beyond what I thought I was capable of, I got her into the bus.
Several times I drove charter buses. One was to Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright home in southwestern Wisconsin near Spring Green about 40 miles from Madison. I didn’t have a ticket to the house, but was able to walk around the building and grounds. A bus trip across town to Camp Randall Stadium was a short one. I was able to walk in the service entrance and to see a brief bit of action. Not that much could be seen from a corner of the field. The curve of the center football field impressed me.
During the last semester there, I was “on call”. If all the drivers arrived as scheduled, I did not drive. The management provided coffee and donuts or sweet rolls. The supervisor or other drivers were usually there to play cribbage. So, on occasion, I drank coffee, had a pastry, and played cribbage for an hour then left for class. Once I had to drive the biggest bus, a seventy-seven-passenger bus with high school students. I was a bit fearful, but the trip was quick and trouble-free. One of the most frustrating trips was a station wagon trip (this was before cell phones, vans and GPS). The first several students I picked up didn’t say anything. After most of the students were on board, I realized I didn’t know where their school was. The supervisor usually gave me a slip with directions, but in the rush I didn’t get one. Other times when on new routes I could rely on the students to help me find the school, since directions from my supervisor were often limited. Then I realized the students couldn’t hear or speak. When I got over my panic, I understood I could follow the students’ hand-signs directing me to the school.
The views of Madison, Wisconsin’s lakes and flat, often snowy streets contrasted significantly with the hilly, wooded hills of Kish Valley. My memories are of helpful people and the beautiful colors and textures of nature at both locations.
(Note: Some of the photos are taken in recent years.)
Many psalms feature a cry for justice by the psalmist. Some of them come from David’s or other individual’s experiences. Part of the context for this is the upheaval of society during the seventh and sixth centuries in Israel and Judah.* But, even in the cries for rescue from oppression, the psalmists praise God (and kings) for God’s acts of deliverance, the concern for the poor and marginalized. God is praised for being a just judge and for making wars cease. The wicked are condemned for oppressing people, especially God’s chosen people.
In an earlier writing**, I reported my observation that a very few of the current praise and worship songs and hymns praised God for God’s championing of the outcast, widow and oppressed. Isaac Watt’s “I’ll praise my maker” led me to Psalm 146 as a prime example of a psalm that praised God for his rescue of the poor and needy. So, I wondered what other psalms included themes of this nature. Psalm 146 gives three verses to this theme, plus one to condemning the wicked for their failure in this regard. In addition, I found that there are many more psalms that reflect these themes.
I dealt in a previous blog*** with psalms that were more general in treatment of the conflict between the just and the unjust or the powerful and the weak. Many of these are “communal” in that they deal with groups of people, rather than an individual.
In additional to these psalms there are other psalms that highlight the seeming lack of justice in the world or the suffering of the psalmist In these psalms words like “justice” “vindicate”, “oppressed”, “needy” “deliver” and “rescue” occur. They are often one-word references. Sometimes more than one of these words are used in the psalm. Sometimes praise is associated with the key word. Many of these psalms are personal, rather than communal.
Some psalms use the word “justice”, but do not develop the topic.B Most of these psalms include praise God for bringing and upholding justice.. Many of the psalms mentioning “justice” are psalms of praise like Psalm 33, not laments like Psalm 143.
1You godly ones, shout for joy because of the Lord! It is appropriate for the morally upright to offer him praise.
4 For the Lord’s decrees[d] are just,[e] and everything he does is fair.[f] 5 He promotes[g] equity and justice; the Lord’s faithfulness extends throughout the earth. 33:1,4-5
O Lord, for the sake of your reputation, revive me Because of your justice, rescue me from trouble. 143:11 (No word of praise or thanks here, but there is a recitation of the ways God has helped in the past.)
There are additional psalms that use vindicate or a form of it to characterize God’s action for those in need.B
A good example is Psalm 13 which is personal and 36 which is more communal.
4 Then[j] my enemy will say, “I have defeated him.” Then[k] my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I[l] trust in your faithfulness. May I rejoice because of your deliverance.[m] 6 I will sing praises[n] to the Lord when he vindicates me. 13:4-5
7 How precious[n] is your loyal love, O God! The human race finds shelter under your wings.[o] 8 They are filled with food from your house, and you allow them to drink from the river of your delicacies. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.[p] 10 Extend[q] your loyal love to your faithful followers,[r] and vindicate[s] the morally upright. 36:7-10 (Here again is a psalm which affirms the attributes of God which have or will bring relief to those who seek God, but there is no word of praise.)
Examples of psalms that feature “oppressed” include 22 which is mostly a personal psalm, while 14 is more communal.
24 For he did not despise or detest the suffering of the oppressed. He did not ignore him;[be] when he cried out to him, he responded.[bf] 25 You are the reason I offer praise[bg] in the great assembly; I will fulfill my promises before the Lord’s loyal followers.[bh] 26 Let the oppressed eat and be filled.[bi] Let those who seek his help praise the Lord. May you[bj] live forever! 27 Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the Lord and turn to him. Let all the nations[bl] worship you. 22:24-27
6 You want to humiliate the oppressed,[q] even though[r] the Lord is their[s] shelter. 7 I wish the deliverance of Israel would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the well-being of his people,[u] may Jacob rejoice,[v] may Israel be happy!(14:6-7)
Needy is usually personal personal psalms and often occurs with other of the above terms.D :
5”Because of the violence done to the oppressed,[o] because of the painful cries[p] of the needy, I will spring into action,”[q] says the Lord. “I will provide the safety they so desperately desire.”[r] 6 The Lord’s words are absolutely reliable.[s] They are as untainted as silver purified in a furnace on the ground, where it is thoroughly refined.[t] 12:5-6 (The attributes of God are recited, but specific words of praise do not occur.)
To the psalms above could be added “deliver” (or some form of the word) of which there are 170 occurrences. These psalms often reflect the oppression of the just by the unjust, but many report or request God’s intervention in the affairs of Israel. A number of them are personal. Deliver or a form of the word is the one most frequently used in the psalms.E
4 You are my[r] king, O God. Decree[s] Jacob’s[t]deliverance. 5 By your power[u] we will drive back[v] our enemies; by your strength[w] we will trample down[x] our foes. 6 For I do not trust in my bow, and I do not prevail by my sword. 7 For you deliver[z] us from our enemies; you humiliate[aa] those who hate us.
8 In God we boast all day long, and we will continually give thanks to your name. 44:4-8 (Another psalm that does not use the word “praise” or “thanks”, but lists many ways God has acted on their behalf in the past.)
4 Sing to God! Sing praises to his name. Exalt the one who rides on the clouds.[h] For the Lord is his name.[i] Rejoice before him. 5 He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.
19 The Lord deserves praise.[aw] Day after day[ax] he carries our burden, the God who delivers us. 68:4-5 ,19
The word “rescue” is used 59 times. Most of the times the context is a personal lament.F
43 You rescue me from a hostile army.[dv] You make me a leader of nations; people over whom I had no authority are now my subjects.[dx] 44 When they hear of my exploits, they submit to me. Foreigners are powerless[dz] before me. 45 Foreigners lose their courage;[ea] they shake with fear[eb] as they leave their strongholds. 46 The Lord is alive!
49 So I will give you thanks before the nations,[ep] O Lord. I will sing praises to you. 18:43-46, 49
3 Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless.[h] Vindicate the oppressed and suffering. 4 Rescue the poor and needy. Deliver them from the power[i] of the wicked. 81:3-4
(The words “praise” or “thanks” do not appear in this psalm, but the psalmist notes the good things God does for those who need rescue.)
In considering the conflict between the just and unjust, the Psalmist sometimes calls on the care of God, using words like “protect” or “shield”.G
But may all who take shelter[aj] in you be happy.[ak] May they continually[al] shout for joy.[am] Shelter them[an] so that those who are loyal to you[ao] may rejoice.[ap] 12 Certainly[aq] you reward[ar] the godly,[as] Lord. Like a shield you protect[at] them[au] in your good favor.5:11-12
(Is “shout for joy” the same as praise?)
41 Yet he protected[bd] the needy from oppression, and cared for his families like a flock of sheep. 42 When the godly see this, they rejoice, and every sinner[be] shuts his mouth. 43 Whoever is wise, let him take note of these things. Let them consider the Lord’s acts of loyal love. 107:41-43
Infrequently used are “save” (saved, saves, 10), and “redeem” (2). I will not explore the uses of these.
There are occasional psalms that describe the righteous man who contrasts with the wicked who oppresses the poor. For example, Psalm 112 (it has the introduction “Praise the Lord”, but no further word of praise).
In the darkness a light[h] shines for the godly, for each one who is merciful, compassionate, and just.[i] 5 It goes well for the one[j] who generously lends money, and conducts his business honestly.[k] 6 For he will never be shaken; others will always remember one who is just
There are other ways the psalmist(s) writes of how God helps. Sometimes he uses graphic language to demand that God shower the enemy with arrows, hail, floods and various misfortunes. The psalmist thanks God for giving him military skills and strategic positions to defeat his enemies. In some cases, the psalmist reports God giving attention to the oppressed and providing security and safety to victims of violence.
Many of these psalms praise God for deliverance from Egypt and from other distressing situations (see especially Ps. 107 and 136). Has God rescued only Israel as his special people (and David, specifically)? How do we justify applying these verses have little relevance to later circumstances? First, what justification can we give to applying these verses to his “new” people, the followers of Jesus? Second then, may they be applied to helping and advocating for the needy and oppressed who could become his people?
I started with the question: Are there worship songs or hymns that parallel psalms like 146 in praising God for caring for the poor, the widow and the orphan? My hymn model is Isaac Watt’s “I’ll Praise My Maker” (#166, Hymnal, a Worship Book. Mennonite Publishing House, 1992) -especially the second and third verses.
I selected the hymns listed below from Voices Together (MennoMedia, 2020) using the “Scriptural Allusions and References Index” (p1131-1132). There were many titles listed for nearly all the psalms. I have included several here that do not fit my model to acknowledge that there are titles that include interest in the marginalized. Hymn 11, “Mountain of God” is an example of those close to the model. There are more like numbers 273, 393 and 791 that are motivational.
The hymns that come close to my model are 420 “God of the Bible” and 428 “Praise with joy the World’s Creator”. Jesus as God is the focus of #420.
11: Mountain of God
Not praise exactly, but acknowledgement that it is God’s presence and power that “melts swords” and “frees prisoners”.
75: Savior of the nations, come
Only very vague connection.
217: Hark! The glad sound
This hymn appears to spiritualize the work of God for the poor: “with the treasures of his grace to enrich the humble poor.” While this may be true, it ignores the point of the psalm 146. This is also true with Psalm 72 with is about a king’s duty to care for the poor, the widow and orphan.
273: Arise, your light is come!
Takes the praises of Psalm 146 and turns them into entreaties for Christians heed the “Spirit’s call”.
393: Build your kingdom here
Prayer seeking God’s empowerment to accomplish deeds which the psalmist thanks God for in Psalm 146. But the lyrics apparently only see “captive” and “poor” as spiritual, not physical conditions.
414: Jesus shall reign
Announces conditions in the kingdom “prisoners leap to loose their chains . . .”
420: God of the Bible
Called “Confessing faith” hymn. Praising/acknowledging Jesus as motivator of our work for justice.
428: Praise with joy the World’s Creator
First and second verses clearly echoes Psalm 146’s praise of God for God’s care of marginalized.
506: The day you gave us
very general praise.
791:Let justice flow down
10, 82, 102
A prayer for justice to come to the marginalized and for our efforts to work for that justice
I had hoped to find some contemporary worship songs in this category. The loss of “I’ll praise my Maker” means one fewer in this area. While hymn # 428 comes close to “I’ll praise my Maker”, none of the others clearly praise God for God’s care of the poor, the widow and the orphan. Should an Anabaptist worship book include those? Why are they not here or not available?
Contemporary worship songs and hymns praise God for many things. Very few praise God for God’s championing of the outcast, the widow or the oppressed. I discussed my observations in an earlier writing*. One hymn that praises God for God’s care for the marginalized is Isaac Watts’ “I’ll praise my maker”. This hymn led me to Psalm 146 which is a prime example of a psalm that praised God for his rescue of the poor and needy. Psalm 146 gives three verses to this theme, plus one to condemning the wicked for their failure in this regard. So, I wondered what other psalms included themes like this.
Many psalms feature a cry for justice from those in need or a call for the psalmist’s rescue. Some of them come from David’s or other individual’s experiences. Part of the context for this is the upheaval of society during the seventh and sixth centuries in Israel and Judah.** But, even in the cries for rescue from oppression or other difficult situations, the psalmists praise God for God’s acts of deliverance and for the concern for the poor and marginalized. God is praised for being a just judge and for making wars cease. The wicked are condemned for oppressing people, especially God’s chosen people. In Psalm 72, the King is praised for these things.
There are number of psalms that I believe have a similar focus. They portray the situation of the oppressed, but include an element of praise as well. Below are excerpted a number of verses from these psalms with some comments on them to provide context. (Scriptures are from the New English Translation. I have not deleted the footnote references or included the references.)
1I will thank the Lord with all my heart! I will tell about all your amazing deeds.[c] 2 I will be happy and rejoice in you. I will sing praises to you, O Most High.[d]
8He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity. 9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
16 The Lord revealed himself; he accomplished justice.
18 God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
(The reassurance that God won’t neglect the poor and needy in in the context of a call for judgement on wicked nations. These nations have raised themselves to god-like status.)
4Sing to God! Sing praises to his name. Exalt the one who rides on the clouds.[h] For the Lord is his name.[i] Rejoice before him.
5 He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.[j] God rules from his holy dwelling place.[k] 6 God settles in their own homes those who have been deserted; he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity.
10b You sustain the oppressed with your good blessings, O God. 11 The Lord speaks; many, many women spread the good news.[y] 12 Kings leading armies run away—they run away![z] The lovely lady of the house divides up the loot. (A bit different tack here: those who are usually of lower status–women–are blessed with the good news which has the effect of driving kings and their armies away.)
33 For the Lord listens to the needy; he does not despise his captive people.[bh] 34 Let the heavens and the earth praise him, along with the seas and everything that swims in them.
(After thirty some verses of lament, the psalmist begins praising God for his history of rescuing his people and caring for them and generally for the poor and needy. Then the psalmist calls for universal praise for God’s greatness.)
3 The mountains will bring news of peace to the people, and the hills will announce justice.[h] 4 He will defend[i] the oppressed among the people; he will deliver[j] the children[k] of the poor and crush the oppressor.
12 For he will rescue the needy[ac] when they cry out for help, and the oppressed[ad] who have no defender. 13 He will take pity[ae] on the poor and needy; the lives of the needy he will save. 14 From harm and violence he will defend them;[af] he will value their lives.
18 The Lord God, the God of Israel, deserves praise. He alone accomplishes amazing things.[bb] 19 His glorious name deserves praiseforevermore.
(The psalm with more attention to our topic than most, in it, the king cares for the marginalized, secures justice and works for peace. The attributes of God in many of the psalms are those of the king in this psalm.)
2 He says,[f] “How long will you make unjust legal decisions and show favoritism to the wicked?[g] (Selah) 3 Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless.[h] Vindicate the oppressed and suffering. 4 Rescue the poor and needy. Deliver them from the power[i] of the wicked.
(Yahweh may be addressing the lesser gods. God is affirming what is essential to God-likeness: doing justice. No element of praise here.)
3 O Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked celebrate?[c] 4 They spew out threats[d] and speak defiantly; all the evildoers boast.[e] 5 O Lord, they crush your people; they oppress the nation that belongs to you.[f] 6 They kill the widow and the resident foreigner, and they murder the fatherless.[g]
14Certainly[p] the Lord does not forsake his people; he does not abandon the nation that belongs to him.[q] 15 For justice will prevail,[r] and all the morally upright[s] will be vindicated.[t]
Cruel rulers[z] are not your allies, those who make oppressive laws, 21 They conspire against[ab] the blameless,[ac] and condemn to death the innocent.[ad] 22 But the Lord will protect me,[ae] and my God will shelter me.
(This psalm begins with a call for God to punish the evil nations. There follows a list of the things evil nations/rulers do to their people. Note that “allies” who treat people like this are also condemned. This is a psalm that the word “praise” or synonyms do not occur, but attributes of God are given to let us know God greatness.)
113 7 He raises the poor from the dirt, and lifts up the needy from the garbage pile,[f] 8 that he might seat him with princes, with the princes of his people. 9 He makes the barren woman of the family[g] a happy mother of children.[h] Praise the Lord.
(A general psalm of praise that includes God’s concern for the poor, needy and the barren woman.)
11 A slanderer[t] will not endure on[u] the earth; calamity will hunt down a violent man and strike him down.[v] 12 I know[w] that the Lord defends the cause of the oppressed and vindicates the poor.[x] 13 Certainly the godly will give thanks to your name; the morally upright will live in your presence.
(A lament and cry to God for help. The ways the evil one(s) have acted are detailed. Verse twelve seems to say that the way the universe is constructed, evil persons will experience justice without God’s direct intervention. There is also affirmation for God’s attention to those in need.)
1Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. 2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist.
5 How blessed is the one whose helper is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who remains forever faithful,[d] 7 vindicates the oppressed,[e] and gives food to the hungry. The Lord releases the imprisoned. 8 The Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord lifts up all who are bent over.[f] The Lord loves the godly. 9 The Lord protects the resident foreigner. He lifts up the fatherless and the widow,[g] but he opposes the wicked.[h] 10 The Lord rules forever, your God, O Zion, throughout the generations to come.[i] Praise the Lord!
The following three categories help to make sense of the Psalms above and similar Psalms:
Psalms of general praise of God that include praise for his care of oppressed and needy or praises him for bringing peace and security:
Psalms that condemn the wicked and their oppression of the psalmist or other people:
7 (Psalmist prays for God to show that he is NOT one of the wicked.) 10 (and a contrast shown to God), 37 (condemns the wicked, but also praises God for rescue), 82 (directed at other “gods”), 94, 102 (a lament, only slightly on the wicked), 107 (with a diatribe against an accuser in the center), 109, 120 (although the psalmist includes a declaration for peace), 123, 124 (mostly natural forces?), 139 (call for God to destroy the violent),
Psalms that recite the events of the Exodus:
81, 105, 106, 135 (maybe general praise, too)
Repeatedly God gives attention to the oppressed and provides security and safety to victims of violence. In nearly every psalm with this theme, words of praise occur, but sometimes there is just reference to what God’s great acts in the past or to attributes of God that will be expressed in God acting to rescue his people or others in difficulty. I began this essay with the question about the frequency of psalms praising God for God’s championing of the outcast, widow and oppressed. I identified fifty-one psalms that it seemed to me feature this theme. Nine of those are excerpted above with comments. My view is that these form a good basis for our worship music. The theme of care for the widow, orphan and marginalized is an important one for Anabaptists. I would like to find more worship songs and hymns that follow the pattern of these psalms.
[Note: In the course of this study, I found additional psalms that gave attention to the need humans have for God’s intervention in their affairs. These psalms highlight the seeming lack of justice in the world. The words “justice” “vindicate”, “oppressed”, “needy” “deliver” and “rescue” are often one-word references. Sometimes more than one of these words are used in the psalm. Again, praise is usually associated with the key word(s). Many of these psalms are personal, rather than communal. I will treat these in another essay.]
The recent item by Russell Moore January 5, 2022 Christianity Today
argues that the January 6, 2021 riot signals the existence of a Post-Christian Church. I question whether post-Christian is accurate. Would extreme Christian be more accurate?
He writes: “One cannot carry Good News to people you might, if things get bad enough, have to beat up or kill. One cannot bring about good by doing evil. One cannot “stand for truth” by employing lies.”
How far back does one need to go to find missionary efforts that disprove this statement? To native Americans? other missionary efforts? To wars with religious elements like the Hundred Years War? the Crusades?
“And that means we must choose between the way of the gallows and the way of the Cross.”
When has American policy toward dissidents, non-whites or through capital punishment or through the defense budget shown the “way of the cross”? Have “real” evangelicals objected to these policies on a regular basis?
Christian have long insisted on preserving their beliefs (and usually their way of life) by force. Many of the participants in the January 6 attack believed they were doing what Christians have been doing for nearly two thousand years: Protecting their beliefs and way of life by gaining control of the political processes. Using violence when necessary.
Elizabeth’s words may have confirmed the angel’s message to Mary or at least given Mary assurance that what she heard was really going to happen. The effect was profound. Mary’s song was the first “Christmas carol.” The angel’s words and song to the shepherds were of good news and joy. A Savior was bringing peace. The angels praised God for what he was doing. How do the songs we sing at Christmas time reflect the themes of Mary’s song and the angel’s song?
The beginning of Mary’s song features words of praise. Many of our Christmas songs include praise, some are primarily praise for the gift of Christ’s birth or calls to come to worship the new savior: “Angels from the realms of glory,” “O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant!” ”What child is this, who, laid to rest,” and “Joy to the world.”
Many of the hymns and songs reprise some aspect of the events of the birth of Christ. “Silent Night,” “O, little town of Bethlehem,” “Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,” and “While shepherds watched their flocks by night” are examples of this.
There are only a few Christmas songs that reflect Mary’s hope for the rising and falling of the poor and powerful, the hungry and rich. Some of these take the next step and connect the birth of Christ with the actions Jesus set out in his first sermon (Luke 4) See the lyrics below Mary’s song. There may be a few that balance praise and concern for poor and oppressed. (If you know of others with this focus, please let me know.) [There are some additional titles like “The Three Kings” about the “wise men.”]
Should our Christmas songs be more like Mary’s?
46 And Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 and my spirit has begun to rejoicein God my Savior, 48 because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant. For from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name; 50 from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him. 51 He has demonstrated powerwith his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, 55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendantsforever.” (Luke 1:46-5 NET)
Christmas carols with social justice attention
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas day ….
And in despair I bow’d my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong, and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace; Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease, Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we; Let all within us praise his Holy name!
(Has the author offered a spiritualization of Psalm 146?)
“Now the heavens start to whisper” (VT 237)
Christ, eternal sun of justice, Christ, the rose of wisdom’s seed, Come to bless with fire and fragrance Hours of yearning, hurt, and need. In the lonely, in the stranger, In the outcast hid from view: Child who comes to grace the manger, Teach our hearts to welcome you.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name. Hebrews 13:15(NET)
The phrase “sacrifice of praise” still puzzled me after our preacher spoke about it in a sermon and then my Sunday School class discussed it. What meaning of sacrifice found in Hebrews 13:15? How does that go with praise? In most sacrifices the essential act was the killing of animal (followed by burning of the meat or grain and/or a fellowship meal). Does one focus on a metaphoric meaning of “killing”? (The root of the Greek word translated “sacrifice” means “killing”.)1 Do we need to kill something in ourselves to be able to praise? A number of writers have noted that sacrifice seems to be something painful, but praise a joyful thing. Looking at the background of the passage gave me a better understanding of the phrase. I would like to share that with you.
Origins of the phrase
The burning the meat on the alter was a way of giving the animal to God. The fragrance of the roasting/burning meat was the way God receives the offering. The English word “sacrifice” derives etymologically from a Latin term that means “make sacred.”2 So, to sacrifice an animal means to make it sacred or giving it to God. I prefer to use the word “gift” in place of sacrifice to avoid the problems associated with the imagery of an animal being killed and burnt on a slab of stone. The word used by the Septuagint for sacrifice can mean “gift”.3 See note below for more about the gift concept. (In atonement sacrifices, blood from the killed animal was sprinkled on the altar, dabbed on the confessing person or unclean person to prepare them for God’s presence and forgiveness.)
The thank-offering (called the Todah) was different from the required atonement and periodic sacrifices. Offering it was prompted by the feelings of a person in a right relationship with God. God had rescued that person or blessed them in some way and the follower of God wanted to publicly praise God. (See the Psalms below.) In the thanksgiving sacrifice, there was first, a brief service at the alter with the priest passing the piece of lamb over the alter and burning certain parts on the altar. At some point, the High Priest was given a piece of the liver and the breast of the lamb and the officiating priest was given the right leg. Finally, the chief worshiper hosted a fellowship meal with the rest of the meat and used some of the loaves of grain prescribed.
One writer wondered how one person could consume a hundred-pound lamb in the required two days (what remained on the third day must be destroyed).4 A local farmer familiar with butchering lambs, said that the meat from a one-hundred-pound lamb would be closer to forty to fifty pounds—and there would still be bones, like in the lamb chops. He was familiar with Middle Eastern eating practices and noted that there wouldn’t be any lamb chops on the table. The meat was usually present in small pieces in a sauce or stew or kabobs. Given this, the lamb would serve many of the worshipper’s family and friends. Along with the lamb would be five loaves of several kinds of bread. (“He must present one [loaf] of each kind of grain offering” Lev.7:14 NIV). We are not told how many grains were available so cannot determined how many loaves were brought to the feast. The author cited above guessed five grains. From my research, I concluded that most likely only two types were generally used, barley and emmer/wheat. These are sometimes translated as “cakes” since they were unleavened and fried.
Expressions of thanks in the Bible
The Psalms notes positively the practice of celebrating this sacrifice.
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Psalm 50:14 (NLT)
Whoever presents a thankoffering honors me. To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.” Psalm 50:23
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you. I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. Psalm 54:6
I am obligated to fulfill the vows I made to you, O God; I will give you the thankofferings you deserve, Psalm 56:12
Let them present thankofferings, and loudly proclaim what he has done. Psalm 107:22
I will present a thankoffering to you, and call on the name of the Lord. Psalm 116:17 (All above from NET)
I especially like the translation of Psalm 50:14. The psalmist hears God saying he doesn’t need bulls and rams. Proclaiming our thanksgiving is the gift (sacrifice) to God. In Psalm 50:23, there is a pairing of thank offering and obeying God’s commands. Vows are mentioned in Psalm 116:18 the verse after the one mentioning thank offering. Only Psalm 107:22 and its context does not refer to vows or obeying God’s commands. There is no clarification of what keeping the “vows” entails. Likely, the Psalmist meant he would carry out his promise to perform the sacrifice of praise.6 But the linking of the verbal and the next step, the action to honor God is clear.
Deeds added to words
The mentions of “vows”(good deeds to follow the thanksgiving gifts to God) in the Psalms passages connects these passages to the one we are considering in Hebrews. Hebrews 13:15. The next verse, Hebrews 13:16:
And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Hebrews 13:16 (NET)
Does that mean that along with the gift (sacrifice) of praise, we should be giving God the gift (sacrifice) of doing good and sharing what we have? In the Hebrew offering, the lamb and loaves are shared with others in a fellowship meal. Here is the next step after we offer the “fruit of our lips” (rather than of the fruit of the field or pasture). We “do good”. We “share with others.” And, when we do these things we are offering a gift of thanksgiving to God.
I found three songs using the phrase “sacrifice of praise”. None of them used verse sixteen (maybe Moen’s and Murphy’s last lines hinted at it.). Reminded me of my experience growing up. I had memorized Ephesians 2:8-9. When I got to college I was struck with verse ten. Someone said, Brethren in Christ quote eight and nine, Mennonites quote verse ten!
We Bring The Sacrifice Of Praise
The Maranatha! Singer
We bring the sacrifice of praise Into the house of the Lord. We bring the sacrifice of praise Into the house of the Lord.
And we offer up to You The sacrifices of thanksgiving; And we offer up to You The sacrifices of joy
How can I say thanks For everything You’ve done And how can I give praise Lord You’ve given me so much You gave it all You paid the price Now I want to give You my life
As a sacrifice of praise O lift it up to You Lord I give my heart away O I give it all to you Lord make my life an offering Let me worship You in everything I do A sacrifice of praise I give to You
In sunshine and in rain In sorrow and in pain Lord I will give You praise And choose to bless Your name You gave it all And You paid the price Now I want to give You my life
As a sacrifice of praise O lift it up to You Lord I give my heart away O I give it all to you Lord make my life an offering Let me worship You in everything I do A sacrifice of praise I give to You
Lord I want to lift You up (X3)
As a sacrifice of praise O lift it up to You Lord I give my heart away O I give it all to you Lord make my life an offering Let me worship You in everything I do A sacrifice of praise I give to You (X3)
I wish I had some real folks in the house tonight who say I don’t always feel like lifting my hands. I wanna teach you a real simple song tonight. My brother Elder Eugene Brown is going to sing it for us. It simply says.
We offer, the sacrifice of praise . Come on, Lord we lift our lives. Lord we lift our lives just to honor you, to honor you. Though at times we feel like throwing in the towel, but we won’t give in for the hour is near. When we search, when we search for those. When we search for those, in spirit and in truth, we’ll worship You. We will, we guarantee you, we offer. We offer, the sacrifice of praise . We offer, come on, make God an offer He can’t refuse. All over this sanctuary, we offer, we offer, the sacrifice of praise. Come on, we are the living sacrifice tonight. Lord we life our lives, just to honor you, to honor you. Though at times we feel like throwing in the towel, but we won’t give in for the hour is near.
When You search for those, and will be found by You. In spirit and in truth, we’ll worship You. We offer, we offer, we love You, we praise You, we magnify Your name. We offer, the sacrifice of praise. Hallelujah . Halle means celebrate. Hallelujah . Jah means God. Come on celebrate him. Hallelujah . Does anyone here have something to celebrate for? He’s been good. Hallelujah . You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise. We Celebrate, the sacrifice of praise. You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise. You called us out of darkness, into this marvelous light to show forth Your praise tonight. You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise. You’re so worthy, worthy is the name that was slain before the foundation of the world, the angels cry Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.
And Lord we draw, and is, and is, to come. You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise. We give you the glory, we give you the honor . We offer, the Sacrifice of praise, of praise. We love you so much. We magnify Your name Jesus. Come on unrehearsed, unprovoked, spontaneously come on. Without any outside stimulus. We offer. We offer. We won’t forsake our responsibility. We offer. We offer. Not a lamb but ourselves, we offer. We offer.
1Why is praising God a sacrifice? The word “sacrifice” (Greek, “thusia”) comes from the root thuo, a verb meaning “to kill or slaughter for a purpose.” Praise often requires that we “kill” our pride, fear, or sloth—anything that threatens to diminish or interfere with our worship of the Lord.
The thank offering (Hebrew: תֹּודָה, pronounced Todah) or sacrifice of thanksgiving (Hebrew zevakh hatodah זֶבַח הַתֹּודָה ) was an optional offering under the Law of Moses. This is also termed the “thanksgiving offering.”
If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.— Lev 7:12 KJV
The practice of making vows or solemn promises to God deliberately and freely to perform some good work was ancient among the Israelites. Ordinarily a vow consisted in a promise to offer a sacrifice, if God would give some assistance in a difficulty; hence, the Hebrew word neder means both vow and votive offering. No directive in the Mosaic Law obliged man to make vows or votive offerings;
——- ——- ————-
Note: Questions about place of sacrifice in Hebrew Bible and New Testament:
The prophets tell us:
For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice; I delight in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (NET)
Micah 6:6b: Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
. . . Verse 8: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
The answered implied to the questions in verse 6 if “No, don’t do that, do this (verse 8)
Isaiah 1:12-30 parallels the Micah passage.
(See also, I Samuel 15:22, Psalm 51:16, 17, Proverbs 21:3, Jeremiah 7:22-23, Psalm 40:6-8, and others.) These verses reflect a growing awareness reflected in Jesus words:
Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt. 9:13 (ESV)
And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. Matt. 12:7 (ESV)
Mercy and obedience were what God wanted. Many commentators argue against the literal meaning of the words of the prophets and Jesus (many who otherwise insist they interpret scripture literally). Jesus avoidance of the temple and ritual regulations argues for his rejection of the sacrificial system. But, many insist that the prophets and Jesus meant show mercy, be obedient, but keep doing the sacrifices. Jesus himself does not speak clearly about this metaphor of his death. Those insisting that Jesus wants mercy and plus sacrifice link this to penal substitutionary views of Jesus death.
I wonder if God’s first choice for his people was the sacrificial system. Certainly, there are commands in the Torah for this system. There commands also are for war and genocide. The God we know in Jesus did not command those acts. What reasons can be given for applying the same principles to the sacrificial system? We do not see Jesus participating in temple worship. (An exception was sending the man healed of leprosy to be checked by a priest.) The temple appearances mentioned in the gospels show him teaching and preaching. He regularly condemned the spirituality of the priests. He addressed the abuses of the merchants in the temple with the “cleansing of the temple”. At his death the veil of the temple was torn, (Matthew 27:51). He referred to himself as the “temple”. Paul writes that we, the church, are the temple of the holy spirit. (I Cor 6:19:20). So, was the sacrificial system a detour to giving ourselves to God by living as Jesus lived? Then it was used as a metaphor for dedicated living for God?
U. S. Route 66 has nearly 800 books as its central subject, Lincoln Highway (Route 30) has 290 books, The Great Silk Road of Asia has over 1400 —in English–by their travelers, photographers and chroniclers. Pennsylvania SR 655 may not be ready for full book treatment. But, SR 655 deserves some attention. Recently I have accomplished what few (if any) have accomplished: driven the entire length of SR 655 in one day. * Even my spouse, Julia, born and raised several hundred feet from that thoroughfare had not completed this journey. Her family has an 1814 deed positioning a corner of the family farm at a “large rock” at the edge of “The Great Road”. (The farm at the upper edge of Allensville is now the Peachey farm.) Julia is one of the natives of Big Valley that knew that 655 has its northern end at Reedsville at North Main Street and Old 322, but this was the first time she had seen the (current) southern end. Here is part 2 of the chronicle of our journey. When the Eisenhower Interstate System was established in the mid-fifties, states were required to change two digit state route numbers to three digits. So, SR 76 became SR 655. [Thanks to Nelson Roth and Sanford King for this information.]
Mile 57.7: SR 655 turns north toward Big Valley. The original 655 ended/began here until 1964. Mill Creek to Maryland was added at that time.
Just beyond this intersection are two churches: Mill Creek United Methodist and Mill Creek Baptist
At the edge of Mill Creek, Flush Run Creek crosses 655 and enters Mill Creek.
Mile 58.2: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the Valley.
59.3: Next is Fousetown. (Fousetown Bible Church is shown on the map, but I could not locate it.)
A little further is Sand Plant Road. At Sand Plant Road one can pull off and sometimes see the huge trucks taking sand to the Mapleton plant for processing.
Mile 60.1: Now, the traveler goes up Cramer Hill and enters Kishacoquillas Valley. From Cramer Hill to 322 at Reedsville SR 655 extends about 22 miles through Big Valley. This is the “tight end” of the Valley. The Kish Valley is narrow here in contrast with the wideness of Kish Valley at Reedsville.
Mile 60.2: Airydale.Here is a house which was formerly a school and a sign for Brown Farms. That’s all there is to Airydale! But, Airydale warrants a road sign with mileage sign further down the valley along the Back-Mountain Rd. at Waynesburg Rd. The road past Brown Farm was closed sometime in the past 30 years. [Sign just visible near center of photo).
Mile 66.6: Most of Kish Valley is in Mifflin County, but the first mile 6.5 miles (the height of land is a hill just north Sharpsburg Road) is in Huntingdon County. Sadler Creek drains the Valley beginning northeast of Sharpsburg Road and flowing southwest to Mill Creek.
Mile 67.4: Allensville Lutheran. The church is next to the corner of the former Hartzler, now Joseph Peachey farm, where my spouse, Julia Hartzler Alleman grew up.
Mile 67.5: Allensville, Pa, Post Office 173 W. Main.
A bit further down the road is Mary Lee’s Fabric Store (formerly Rehoboth Christian Fellowship, before that Kennedy’s Store and Allensville General Store), then comes Allensville Community Church (formerly Presbyterian) 126 E. Main Street on the other side of the street.
Allensville Restaurant, officially Country Village Restaurant, is known for its buffet and Sunday chicken and waffles. (Closed in 2020)
There are many Amish, Mennonite and other farms along this route to Belleville.
Mile 73.2: Locust Grove Mennonite is located just before one gets to the town. A sign at the edge of the parking lot directs one to the Belleville Mennonite School several miles to the east. This is where I met my spouse, Julia in 19 years ago.
The next town is Belleville, Pa considered the center of the Mennonite-Amish community. Someone has claimed that there are twelve varieties of Amish and Mennonites in the Valley. Yellow top carriages, white top carriages, black carriages and black buggies (buggies have no tops) can be seen on SR 655.
Mile 76.6 is St. John’s Lutheran Church
Mile 79.4: West Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church.
At the bottom of the hill at the corner of Walnut Street is the Mennonite Heritage Center.
Mile 74.8: Abe’s Café (now closed) and opposite it is S. Penn Street which provides access to the Belleville Livestock Market, Flea Market, Produce Market and Auction Barn on Wednesdays.
Baked goods are available with excellent moonpies and whoopee pies. My favorites are the Purple Martin apple moon pies (half-moon pies).
Mile 75.6: Ye Olde Dog House has milkshakes, cones and sandwiches. Since my spouse’s birth name is Hartzler, I must note that they also have “Hartzler Shakes” at $5.75 (AKA, the “Big Dog).
Mile 75.7: Ritchies’ Original Italian Pizza Restaurant has good Stromboli and other meals. I would give it a higher rating if it was not closed the week our family is usually in the Valley.
Mile 81.7 Hard to see the end of the Metzler Forest Products’ property is the sign below. Behind the houses on the right is Mountain View Mennonite Chapel, Reedsville.
Mile 87.1: SR 655 passes under US Route 322.
Mile 87.3: North Main Street, Reedsville, the northern end of State Route 655. Old US 322 can be seen at the end of SR 655.
After nearly eighty-eight miles the weary traveler has finally reached the climax of the journey. Other travelers would note wonders I have not mentioned or missed. Another trip will possibly bring some these to my attention. No rainbow gold, wise seer or striking vista rewards the traveler for persisting to the end of the road. But the variety of churches, fields, gardens, houses and flowers, makes the journey a good one.
Names of SR 655
Great Cove Road + US 522
Pleasant Ridge Road
Main Street (Saltillo)
Hares Valley Road
William Penn Highway/US 22
Valley Pike or Big Valley Pike
Main Street (Allensville)
Main Street (Belleville)
*If you have accomplished this feat, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add your name to the honor roll of SR 655 END to END in a Day Travelers.