“The LORD is the strength of his people;
He is the saving refuge of his anointed.”
So I’m a gentile. Does that mean that I’m outside of these promises?
It sure seems so. I can’t really claim that I am one of God’s anointed, or one of his people – especially when David uses God’s covenantal name. I’m a descendant of Noah, since everyone is, so my ancestors do have some relationship with God but nothing near the same kind of close, chosen relationship that God has with Israel.
What is more, I have not even entered into the covenant of Israel as an adult. I don’t keep kosher or observe the sabbath. How can I pray this prayer (or my church sing it) with anything like a clean conscience when it seems so definitively not for me?
Continue reading Psalm Psnippet 28: Can I be God’s anointed?
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?”
Rhetorical questions are tricky. David knows how he should answer these questions – there is no-one who should cause him to be afraid, since the LORD is on his side. He still needs to spend fourteen verses convincing himself.
Frankly, this mirrors worship, often, for me. I’ll sing “I am a friend of God” when God feels far away. I’ll receive absolution when I still feel mired in sin. I’ll be blessed in a benediction and then go out and face difficulty in the week.
Since this is a psalm, it provides words for worship (both public and private) but it also provides a model of how worship works. It isn’t a problem when we don’t feel like we belong in worship: dislocation is built into the very structure of our plan of worship in the psalms.
Importantly, though, this psalm models David pulling his recalcitrant soul along rather than allowing cynicism to rule. He does write psalms where despair reigns but here we can hear the struggle – ‘this is what God promised, this is what I’ll believe.’
One of the commonplaces you hear about liturgy is that it means ‘the work of the people’ in the original Greek. In this psalm we see some of the private work of worship. David is laboring to bring the public truth, which he knows, into conversation with the private truths of his heart. Importantly, the Psalm ends while he is still struggling:
“Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”
Resolution isn’t guaranteed, in one worship service or in one life. The only thing which guarantees resolution is the resurrection. God lifted up the one he cast off and welcomed the one he forsook. In Christ, we have even more proof of these promises than David could dream of.
“I do not sit with men of falsehood,
nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked“
Psalm 26: 4-5
This baffles me. In Psalm 26, David pleads his innocence and begs God to rescue him rather than sweep him away with the wicked. Part of this plea: David points out he avoids even the company of the wicked and the hypocrite.
As a psalm, we are supposed to pray and sing this.
But we are also supposed to follow the example of Jesus who ate with ‘tax-collectors and sinners’ (Matthew 9:11; and also prayed and sung this).
Continue reading Psalm Psnippet 26: Should we eat with Hypocrites?
“For your Name’s sake, Oh Lord
Pardon my guilt for it is great.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about guilt and pardon recently – especially in a #MeToo context, with lots of guilty men. Pardon is different from forgiveness, which, arguably, must come from the victim.
In this Psalm, pardon means, for David, deliverance from his foes, who “exult over” him and hate him with a “violent hatred.” David sinned: his abuse of Bathsheba is one of the clearest abuses of kingly power in the OT. We can only imagine the consequences of this trauma for her. David’s guilt is great. Bathsheba and Uriah’s family are the people who can forgive but God can pardon: deliver David from his enemies.
Why would God do that? David stakes his claim because of God’s name – God’s reputation is deeply connected with David. The name here is the covenantal name of God which indicates the special bond that God has with Israel. While God teaches David and brings him into the “integrity and uprightness” of verse 21, David can pray for deliverance.
Since David’s hope rested in the Name, how much more can we hope in Jesus Christ who suffered what we deserved even though he didn’t? Through Christ, we are adopted into God’s family: an even closer bond than the Davidic covenant. Difficult questions remain for us as a society and a church: what are appropriate consequences for sin and abuse? Is forgiveness always possible or advisable? But this serves as a reminder that our status before God doesn’t depend on us – it depends on God.
Note: as always for Psnippets, this is intended to be brief with a hard cap at 250 words, and I’m not a real exegete – just some basic thoughts. Would love to chat more if you’ve got thoughts.
The earth is the Lord and the fullness thereof
The world and those who dwell therin
For he has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the rivers
I’ve been reading Robert Alter’s wonderful translation of the Torah – especially spending time with the explanatory notes, which usually get short shrift in my devotions. One thing they remind me is that much of the Old Testament is written as polemic: a major concern was to establish the God of Israel as the only god of all the nations. Monotheism wasn’t assumed, so how do we get there?
David does this in Psalm 24 by claiming God’s authority through creation and redemption.
Creation is clear: the earth is the Lord’s because he founded it.
Redemption is more complicated: the earth is the Lord’s because he founded it upon the seas. Think back to Genesis. Before any creation there was a “deep” and the Spirit of God was “over the face of the waters.” These waters were primordial chaos – a nightmarish, destructive rush of power which God rescues the earth from. The waters return to the earth in the judgement of the Flood. After this, God makes a covenant with Noah that water will never again destroy the earth.
That promise is a covenant which we are all included in: Jew and Gentile. God rescued the whole earth from the waters. God redeemed everyone, in a primordial rescue, from the chaos of non-being.
Likewise, Jesus’ redemption is for the whole earth. That is why he is the Lord of the Earth: he redeemed it from bondage to the chaos of sin as surely as God established the earth upon the rivers.
Note: As always, this is a Psnippet. I am not a real exegete, just playing at being one in a tight 250 words.
How do you talk about something that everyone knows? I’m not likely to give y’all any new insights on this Psalm. People have been interpreting it since, well, Christianity was a thing.
This is the problem with all Biblical interpretation. The text has been here for thousands of years. You’re unlikely to come up with anything new.
Should I give up?
Continue reading Psalm Psnippet 23: Lord is My Shepherd
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord praise him!” (Ps 22:22-23a)
In Psalm 22, David turns to call out to God even as he is forsaken by God and surrounded by people who seek to destroy him. “Trouble is near/and there is none to help” (v 11).
So he calls to God for help. But when rescue comes, David pivots: the good result from his rescue is his praise of God among the people. Rather than simply luxuriating in relief from personal pain, he turns immediately to praising God’s name in public.
Like all the psalms, we can read this as referring, ultimately, to Jesus. After all, he quoted it on the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” This suggests the denouement of the crucifixion – Jesus’ resurrection and ascension – likewise has the goal God’s glory ‘in public.’
The end of this story is God’s praise. That means, when we tell the story of Jesus (as I’ve just bungled in a church-sponsored “2-minute testimony”), that’s where we should end – praising God, not tangled in metaphysical speculation or engaged in our own struggles. Neither of those are bad but neither are they the point. The point is to “proclaim [God’s] righteousness to a people yet unborn” (v 31).