Psalms 86-88   1 comment

Above:  An Old World Map, Showing Jerusalem as the Center of the World

Image in the Public Domain

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POST XXXIII 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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Mitchell J. Dahood, while agreeing with the scholarly consensus that Psalm 86 is an individual lament, emphasizes the point that the author is the King of Israel.  Thus, as Dahood points out, the monarch’s woes have more far-reaching consequences than those of an anonymous subject and a favorable divine answer carries national significance.

Psalm 88 is also a lament.  The author, seriously ill and therefore ostracized, simultaneously blames God for his circumstances and requests divine deliverance.  Can a dead man praise God in Sheol, the psalmist asks.  According to the orthodoxy of the time, no.

Sandwiched between the two laments we read Psalm 87, which predicts that neighboring Gentile kingdoms and empires, from Babylon to Ethiopia, will eventually come to God and recognize Jerusalem as the center of the worship of God.  The Hebrews will remain the Chosen People, of course, but divine mercies extend to the Gentiles.  This is a wonderfully inclusive text.

Psalms 86 and 87 are explicitly national in theme.  Psalm 88, although outwardly individual, might be symbolic of the Babylonian Exile, with Sheol representing exile.  If this is true, reading it with Psalm 87 becomes interesting; enemies will become co-religionists and allies one day, via the power of God.  That is part of the promise of Psalm 87.

As with so many predictions of life after the Babylonian Exile, reality did not live up to high expectations.  The dream did not die, however; people kept deferring it.  The dream has not died.  Visions of lions and lambs lying down together in God’s kingdom on Earth have remained appealing.  Such visions have continued to expose the moral bankruptcy of states, kingdoms, empires, societies, and cultures founded on violence, exploitation, and artificial scarcity.  These visions have also continued to expose prominent figures, including heads of government and of state from antiquity to the present day.  None of them have been able to measure up compared to the standards of the Kingdom of God.  These dreams have never ceased to be relevant and contemporary.

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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One response to “Psalms 86-88

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

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