Archive for August 10, 2017

Psalms 53-55   4 comments

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POST XX 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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The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 53:2a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In Psalm 53, nearly identical to Psalm 14, the standard English-language translation of the opening is that the fool thinks that there is no God.  The wording varies slightly, but it is usually quite similar.  The translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures cuts to the chase.  The word “benighted,” according to the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), is quite strong, for Amnon, who raped his half-sister Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:13, was a benighted man.  A benighted man denies the ability of God to punish sins and hear prayers, so he lives as if God does not care.  He will learn that God does indeed care deeply.

The authors of Psalms 54 and 55 understood that God cared; they asked God to vindicate them.  Interestingly, the author of Psalm 54, oppressed by strangers, anticipated divine vindication yet did not thank Him in advance.  (Did I detect a transactional aspect to that relationship?)  The author of the longer Psalm 55, betrayed by a friend, asked God to bring

those murderous, treacherous men

down to the slimy, slippery, muddy, and filthy pit of Sheol then noted that he trusted in God.

“You have heard that they were told, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But what I tell you is this:  Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so you can be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on the good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked.  If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Even the tax-collectors do as much as that.  If you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that?  Even the heathen do as much.  There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”

–Matthew 5:43-48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

By that standard and by the power of God, whom we ought to glorify anyway, may we be extraordinary.  Regardless of how much we fall short of that high standard, may we continue to strive for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Posted August 10, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 2 Samuel, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Psalm 54, Psalm 55

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Psalms 50-52   1 comment

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POST XIX 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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In Exodus 3, when God speaks to Moses via the Burning Bush, which the fire does not consume, Moses asks God for His name.  God provides a non-name–a description, really.  God says, in Hebrew,

Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,

which has more than one meaning.  The germane note in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) reads:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  “I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

In the culture of Moses the meaning was plain; since many people believed that to know someone’s name was to have power over him or her, not knowing God’s name told them that they had no power over God.

The theme of ultimate divine authority and power exists in Psalm 50:

Were I hungry, I would not tell you, mine being the world and all it holds.

–Verse 12, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

I, like so many Protestants, grew up learning false notions about Judaism in general and late Second Temple Judaism in particular.  I learned that Judaism was a legalistic religion, one concerned with rules, not grace.  This was an old stereotype, one which I have heard from adults in my Sunday School class recently.

Stereotypes are, by definition, overly broad and therefore inaccurate.  Yes, some expressions of Judaism are legalistic; so are certain strains of Christianity.  In Judaism, in its proper form, obedience to God is a faithful response to God.  This principle also exists in Christianity.  As Jesus says in John 14:15,

If you love me, keep my commandments….

The Revised English Bible (1989)

God is the strength of the righteous, who confess their sins and trust in divine mercy.  They also attempt to treat their fellow human beings respectfully, according to the background ethics of the Law of Moses.  Culturally specific examples of timeless principles come and go; principles remain.

Reading the Book of Psalms according to the 30-day, 60-segment plan in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) helps me to recognize certain similarities and differences in adjacent texts.  By reading Psalms 50 and 51 together, for example, I notice the similarity of the need for confession of sins and their repentance–literally, turning around.   The difference is the emphasis in each text.  In Psalm 50 the call from God is for collective confession and repentance, but the confession of sin in Psalm 51 is individual.

May we who seek to follow God remember that sin, punishment, confession, and repentance come in two varieties:  collective and individual.  If we must overcome any cultural barriers to this understanding, may we do so, by grace, the only way we can succeed in that purpose.  Too often we (especially those with a Protestant upbringing) focus on individual sins to the minimization or exclusion of collective responsibility before God.  That imbalance is itself sinful.  It is also more difficult to recognize, confront, and correct.  That reality does not let us off the hook, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Psalms 47-49   1 comment

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane after His Death, from Citizen Kane (1941)

A Screen Capture by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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POST XVIII 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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God is in control.  Do we affirm this?  We (collectively and individually) ought to trust in God.  Do we (collectively and individually) give more than lip service to this principle?  Related to these points is another one.  Since wealth and pleasure are temporary, we should not trust in them–make idols of them.  Is this not a counter-cultural message in many, if not most, societies?  Greed and hedonism are, after all, powerful temptations.

Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich,

when his household goods increase;

for when he dies he can take none of it along;

his goods cannot follow him down.

–Psalm 49:17-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That passage reminds me of another one:

Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, but store up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust will destroy, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Shall we be honest with and about ourselves?  Each of us clings to something that is temporary as if it were permanent.  It might be tangible or intangible, but it is transitory.  It is also an idol.  The treasures, even if only psychological in nature, we lay up in this life distract us from acknowledging our complete dependence on God, in whom scripture tells us we should trust.

May we, by grace, cease this idolatry.  There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth, which one can use for positive purposes.  The issues are how one relates to it and how one utilizes it.  Does one make an idol of it?  If so, one has a spiritual problem.  For many of us, though, the idolatrous attachments might be to family heirlooms or to other possessions of little value to anyone else.  Our stuff (for lack of a more accurate word) weighs us down and distracts us from focusing on where our attention should be.  May we, by grace, abandon this idolatry and place our sentimental stuff in proper perspective.

The History Channel series Life After People, although not religious and spiritual by design, is germane to this post.  The series imagines the fate of the physical remains of human civilizations after the disappearance of the human race from the planet.  Eventually, one learns, almost evidence of humans will cease to exist.  The Pyramids of Giza and our plastic refuse (especially that great mass of it in the oceans) will last the longest.  Most of that which we imagine to be permanent will return to nature, as it should.  We are, in the long term, insignificant.  While we are here, however, we can accomplish much good and glorify God.  May we strive to do so.  May we, by grace, succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Posted August 10, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 6, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalms I: 1-76

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Psalms 44-46   1 comment

Above:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D. C., September 2011

Photographer = Carol Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-18674

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POST XVII 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.

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

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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A recurring theme throughout the Hebrew Bible is that military victory comes not merely through tactics, weaponry, and alliances, but via God.  National strength entails much, including caring effectively for the vulnerable members of society and not exploiting people, themes present in Psalm 45.  If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps that is because one knows the books of the Hebrew prophets and/or has been paying attention to the Book of Psalms.  Scholarly sources suggest a variety of answers regarding the dating of Psalm 44.  Either the dating is impossible to ascertain or the text comes from the exilic period or from the Hasmonean era.  Regardless, Psalm 44 functions well in a variety of settings and periods, after a downturn in national fortunes has occurred.

Psalm 46 works nicely as a counterpart to Psalm 44.  Psalm 46 is a text soldiers recited before going into battle.  That detail is especially interesting, given the politics of the text.  The end of Psalm 46, in many traditional renderings, reads something like:

“Be still, then, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

However, as J. Clinton McCann, Jr., writing in Volume IV (1996) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, argues, this is a bad translation because:

Contemporary readers almost inevitably hear it as a call to meditation or relaxation, when it should be heard in the light of v.9 as something like “Stop!” or “Throw down your weapons! ”  In other words, “Depend on God instead of yourselves.”

–Page 866

Mitchell J. Dahood, while maintaining that bad translation, anticipates McCann’s interpretation of the meaning of the verse.  Father Dahood’s note on that verse refers to prophetic cautions against ill-advised military alliances, as in Isaiah 30:15, and mentions that God is the master of history.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) makes these points plain in the translation of the verse:

Desist!  Realize that I am God!

I dominate the nations;

I dominate the earth.

–Verse 11

God can end all war.  The wish that God will end all military conflict and establish a kingdom of peace and justice on the planet is a natural desire for a soldier, is it not?  Yes, warmongers exist;  most seem to be civilians.  None of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines I have known have not been warmongers.  After all, military personnel pay the highest costs of warfare.

The mandate for a country and its leaders to trust in God comes bound with the command to care effectively for the vulnerable members of society and to resist militarism.  This is a lesson the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., understood well, given his anti-Vietnam War speech of April 4, 1967:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

The textual context for that statement is a call for the transformation of the United States of America from

a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-centered” society

–a call for a moral revolution–

a revolution of values

–a positive revolution, one that recognizes that

War is not the answer

and that neither are hatred and fear to the question of how to defeat Communism.

Enemies and political causes come and go.  Timeless principles, however, remain.  What can be more timeless a principle than trusting in God?  Certainly King’s call for a moral revolution of values remains relevant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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