Archive for July 2017

Psalm 18   1 comment

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

POST VI OF LX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One tradition attributes Psalm 18 to King David, in the context of his victories over Philistines.  Davidic authorship is less than certain, given the ancient and widely accepted ancient custom of writing something then giving credit to a famous dead person.  What is certain, however, is that Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 are similar in content.

The author, writing as David, thanks God for the victories.  The line

Yahweh rewarded me because I was just

(Mitchell J. Dahood translation)

recurs.  The description of King David as just confounds me, even within the Psalm.  (Never mind the shabby treatment of Michal and the subsequent murder of Uriah the Hittite.)  This text reads like Davidic Dynastic propaganda to me.

The author’s descriptions of official violence disturb me.  The boasts of having pulverized, exterminated, and trampled his enemies as if they were dust, for example, are troubling.  I understand that violence is, under certain circumstances, a legitimate and necessary (for national defense) activity of a state or kingdom, but I think of it as a sad necessity, not a reason to boast.

Nevertheless, the author’s recognition of dependence upon God in triumph is refreshing.  It is easy to admit one’s dependence on God during difficult times, but perhaps less so when one is “on top.”  The urge to sing one’s own praises to the exclusion to those of God can be a powerful temptation.

May we glorify God during good times, bad times, and the times in between.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Psalms 15-17   1 comment

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

POST V OF LX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 15 is consistent with the Law of Moses, which teaches that we human beings depend on God, are responsible to God and each other, rely on each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The text describes ethical and moral obligations in practical terms.  That is useful, for a simple statement of a timeless principle without the offering of even one culturally specific example can prove to be confusing.

The faithful can come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of them are converts, as in the case of the author of Psalm 16.  Some of the faithful have to endure false accusations.  Consider, O reader, the author of Psalm 17, accused of idolatry.  The text does not indicate how long he has been walking with God.  We can say for certain that his accusers are among those who cast slurs on their neighbors.

Often, out of an excess of caution, motivated by the best of intentions–to refrain from judging, lest God judge us according to the standards by which we judge others–many of us in the human race choose not to state the unpleasant and the obvious.  Malicious people exist.  They do not strive to live according to the Golden Rule.  They also occupy all strata of societies.  They range from school bullies to certain government and corporate officials.  Many might even imagine themselves to be pious.  A host of them certainly put on airs of piety.

The real test, of course, is that one will know a tree by its fruit.  So, O reader, what kind of tree are you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted July 31, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 15, Psalm 16, Psalm 17

Tagged with , ,

Psalms 12-14   4 comments

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

POST IV OF LX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), the fool of Psalms 14 and 53 tells himself that God does not care, not that, according to most English-language translations,

God does not care.

The real issue is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism.  God is real and active, the author of Psalm 14 affirms.  God cares, the Psalmist argues.  God must care, for caring is part of the divine character, as the Bible depicts God.  YHWH, according to the Torah, cares deeply–even jealously–and experiences mood swings.  The YHWH of the Torah is a passionate character.

This I know from reading and thinking.  So what do I make of the sense, recurring frequently in the Book of Psalms, that God is distant at times?  I know the feeling of divine distance as well as that of proximity.  I do not pretend to possess answers I lack, so I will not afflict you, O reader, with easy and false answers to difficult questions.  I can tell you, O reader, at least one truth, however:  I have felt the closest to God during my darkest hours.  Perhaps the reason for this is that a light on at all times shines brightest in the darkness.  Or maybe it is true that God drew nearer to me when I needed more grace.

As for the other questions–the ones I cannot and therefore will not answer–I ask them of God, of whose character caring is a crucial component.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted July 31, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 13, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Psalms I: 1-76

Tagged with

Psalms 9-11   1 comment

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

POST III OF LX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalms 9, 10, and 11, taken together, cover a wide range of emotional and spiritual territory.  Psalm 9, a lament, contains conditional thanksgiving; the Psalmist makes gratitude to God contingent upon God fighting his enemies.  The author of Psalm 10 wonders why the arrogant oppressors have free rein and God stands distant from human troubles.  There is no thanksgiving, conditional or otherwise.  In Psalm 11 the Psalmist trusts in God unconditionally.

Unquestioning faith in God is not my style.  Yes, I trust in God most of the time.  During those times I still harbor doubts and questions.  I identify with the authors of Psalms 9, 10, and 11 at different times of my life.  I, as an intellectually honest monotheist, lack the luxury of dualism, whereby I thank one deity for all the good and blame another figure for all the evil.  God is, to borrow an expression, in the dock.  This is the theological problem of God and evil, with which great thinkers and lesser philosophers have struggled for thousands of years.

I am not so vain as to classify myself as a great thinker; St. Thomas Aquinas I am not.  I do  pass along one germane conclusion, however:  We human beings live in the territory bounded by divine grace and providence on one frontier and our free will on the other.  In this context we have many excellent and difficult questions for God.  May we dare to ask them faithfully and honestly–sometimes even angrily.  Do we imagine that, if we do, we are keeping any secrets from God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted July 31, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalms I: 1-76

Tagged with , , ,

Psalms 6-8   1 comment

Above:  Psalm 7

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

POST II OF LX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This post covers two laments and a prayer extolling divine glory.

Psalms of lament interest me.  A Psalmist, who is in a dire situation–illness in Psalm 6 and betrayal in Psalm 7–cries out to God, perhaps more out of desperation than confidence.  After all, if God is as attentive as certain words in Psalms of lament might seem to indicate, why is the faithful Psalmist in such a pickle?  One might detect a degree of sarcasm in some of the praises of God in Psalms of lament.  That would be consistent with what many Jewish Biblical scholars have indicated.  In Judaism, after all, people get to argue with God.

That is one reason I like Judaism so much.  God, as Judaism understands God, is “big” enough to listen to my kvetching and to respond mercifully.  This is good news indeed, I understand, for I argue with and complain to God frequently.  Where else can I go?

One of the most basic contexts in which to read and interpret scripture is other scripture.  Reading Psalms 6 and 7 together, one detects their common setting–grievance.  Then one reads Psalm 8, in which we are, according to the Hebrew text yet not many English-language translations, only slightly lower than the gods (not the angels).  Yet we remain insignificant compared to God, of whom we properly stand in awe, and who is merciful to the faithful.  One should be humble–literally, down to earth–before God.

If our relationship to God is complicated, we should at least rejoice in the fact of the existence of a relationship.  May it be a positive one.

+++++

On a different topic, I applaud the late Father Mitchell J. Dahood for the vividness of his translation of the Book of Psalms.  Consider, for example, O reader, Psalm 6:10 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979):

All my enemies shall be confronted and quake with fear;

they shall all turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Then read Dahood’s rendering of that verse:

Let all my foes be humbled and greatly shaken,

let them return, be humbled in Perdition.

That is more expressive, is it not?

I recommend acquiring Dahood’s three volumes (from The Anchor Bible series) on the Book of Psalms and studying their contents.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY AND MARTHA OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Posted July 29, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 6, Psalm 8, Psalms I: 1-76

Tagged with , ,

Psalms 1-5   1 comment

Above:  Oasis, the Sahara, Between 1910 and 1915

Image Publisher = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-10739

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

POST I OF LX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Perhaps no word in the English language is more loaded than “God,” distinct from “god.”  My understanding of “God,” O reader, is certainly not exactly what yours is.  I know an Episcopal priest who has a good way of dealing with people who tell him they do not believe in God.  Father asks that person to describe God, in whom he or she does believe.  Inevitably Father does not believe in that God either.  He is, however, definitely a theist and a Christian.

So much for the word “God.”  What about the word “believe”?

To believe in, in full theological meaning, is to trust in.  As I have explained in person to the one person who has asked me to my face whether I believe in God, my answer depends on the meaning of the question.  If one is asking if I affirm the existence of God, my answer is “Yes, always.”  If, however, one wants to know if I trust in God, the answer is “Yes, most of the time.”  I would be less than honest if I were to indicate otherwise.

So, since trust in God is the real issue, how do we understand God, in whom we are supposed to trust?  Am I supposed to trust that God is the sort of figure who will, in the words of Psalm 3, strike my enemies across the face and break the teeth of the wicked?  Should I even desire that result?  If I do, that fact reflects negatively upon me.  Yes, I affirm that judgment and mercy coexist in the character of God, and that, when oppressors insist upon continuing to oppress and refrain from repenting, the deliverance of the victims is inherently bad news for their oppressors.  Yet I understand that my spiritual character ought to direct me to pray for the repentance, not the destruction, of oppressors.  Therefore I affirm that the recognition that, in the words of Psalm 5, evil cannot exist within God, is inconsistent with the portrayal of God as one who responds affirmatively to prayers for revenge.

Part of the difficulty of pondering the balance of divine judgment and mercy is not minimizing one of the two.  God is God; we are not.  Even the most powerful potentate (per Psalm 2) is insignificant compared to God.  God is neither a warm fuzzy nor a bastard.  We should avoid both extremes scrupulously.

Psalm 1 is, as the late Father Mitchell J. Dahood points out in his analysis of the text, the summary of the Book of Psalms.  The wicked might prosper and be powerful and influential in the meantime, but they will eventually perish; they will reap what they sow and be victims of themselves.  On the other hand, those who avoid the council and counsel (both words are accurate translations from the Hebrew text) of the wicked and refuse to join the company of the scoffers of God are still in the desert, albeit adjacent to sources of water.  They still depend upon God for everything and recognize that reality.  Life might not be easy or prosperous for them, but they have and will have eternal life–life in God, life of enjoying and glorifying God forever.  That is enough.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FLORA MACDONALD, CANADIAN STATESWOMAN AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF NANCY BYRD TURNER, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++