Psalm 78   Leave a comment

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POST XXX 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 theme of Psalm 78, the second longest entry in the Psalter, is the importance of obeying divine law.  The author, citing examples from the exodus to David, writes of divine fidelity, human disobedience, and divine judgment and mercy.  Human actions have consequences, the psalmist reminds us.

A point worth emphasizing is that this disobedience is collective.  Psalm 78 beings:

Give ear, my people, to my teaching,

turn your ear to what I say.

–Verse 1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Then it includes verses such as:

But they went on sinning against Him,

defying the Most High on the parched land.

–Verse 17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Amid repeated collective disobedience God exhibited both judgment and mercy, we read:

They had not yet wearied of what they craved,

the food was still in their mouths

when God’s anger flared up at them.

He slew their sturdiest,

struck down the youth of Israel.

–Verses 30-31, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Despite the inconstancy of the people, divine mercy offset much judgment, we read:

But He, being merciful, forgave iniquity and would not destroy;

He restrained His wrath time and again

and did not give full vent to His fury;

for He remembered that they were but flesh,

a passing breath that does not return.

–Verses 38-39, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I emphasize the collective nature of human sins against God and of the experiences of divine judgment and mercy, for (A) the text does and (B) if one is culturally conditioned to think in individualistic terms, one might overlook or minimize that aspect of the text.  I also note that the individual is part of the collective, given that the collective consists of individuals.  Thus all of us are partially responsible for the condition of our communities, cultures, societies, et cetera.  We are, according to the Law of Moses, interdependent and responsible to and for each other.

I also emphasize the balance between divine judgment and mercy.  This is a point that people from a variety of perspectives miss.  Psalm 78 does a fine job of holding the two in balance.  One should notice that the text ends on a note of mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Posted August 14, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 78

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