Psalms 50-52   Leave a 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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