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

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POST I OF LX

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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.

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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

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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

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One response to “Psalms 1-5

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post to the Septuagint Psalter Project | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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