Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Psalms 82-85   Leave a comment

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POST XXXII 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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Show us, O LORD, Your faithfulness;

grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Show us, O Yahweh, your kindness,

and give us your prosperity.

–Psalm 85:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

–Psalm 85:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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LORD, show us your love

and grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The act of comparing translations can yield much.  For example, the Hebrew word hesed can mean “faithfulness,” “kindness,” “love,” and “steadfast love.”  Likewise, another Hebrew word can mean “deliverance,” “salvation,” and “prosperity.”  In the context of Psalm 85 it is deliverance from the Babylonian Exile and prosperity that only God can provide.  Related to these matters is the fact that “righteousness” and “justice” are the same in the Bible.  I bring up this point because of Psalm 82, which tells us that God’s justice is universal.

The author of Psalm 83 assumes that enemies of ancient Israel are automatically enemies of God also.  Thus he has no hesitation to ask God to smite them.  Yet, as we read in Psalm 81, God has enemies in ancient Israel also.  Furthermore, a recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is the faithfulness of certain Gentiles, including the prostitute Rahab and her family (Joshua 2 and 6) and the Aramean general Naaman (2 Kings 5), both from national enemies.  In the Book of Jonah, a work of satirical fiction from the post-Babylonian Exilic period, God recognizes the possibility that enemies of ancient Israel will repent and desires that they do so.   Reality is more complicated than the author of Psalm 83, in his understandable grief and anger, perceives it to be.

A faithful response to God includes both gratitude and obedience.  This segue brings me to Psalm 84, my favorite psalm, one which Johannes Brahms set to music gloriously in A German Requiem.  The psalmist writes as a pilgrim to the Temple at Jerusalem.  He approaches the Presence of God humbly and filled with awe.  The author delights to be in the Presence of God, which he understands to exist physically (via the Ark of the Covenant) at the Temple.

If Rahab and her family could become part of Israel, surely divine judgment and mercy crossed national barriers in antiquity.  If the Gentile Ruth could become the grandmother of David, YHWH was never just a national deity.  If the alien Naaman could recognize the power of YHWH, there was an opening to Gentiles at the time of the divided monarchy.

If divine justice is universal, as I affirm, we will do well to cease imagining that God is on our side and strive instead to be on God’s side.  We can succeed, by grace.

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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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

Tagged with , ,

Psalms 75-77   Leave a comment

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POST XXIX 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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Judgment and mercy unite Psalms 75, 76, and 77.  Divine judgment falls upon the wanton and arrogant in Psalm 75.  They have the option of not being arrogant and wanton, but they have chosen to ignore warnings.  God is the warrior who fights for Israel in Psalm 76; his mercy on Israel is judgment on their foes.  That judgment has fallen upon Israel in Psalm 77, in which the author, an exile, asks God for another exodus as he recounts past divine mercies, such as the first exodus.  That psalmist acknowledges human responsibility for the fates of the two kingdoms–Israel and Judah.

To determine moral responsibility can be difficult.  One reason for this reality is the fact of our filters, which he learn, and which might be inaccurate.  How can we recognize the distinction between what is really right and wrong and what we think the difference is?  How can we cut through assumptions that history and science contradict and cease to call diseases sins instead?  Just as we ought not to mistake non-sins for sins, we ought to refrain from committing the opposite error also.

May we succeed via grace, the only way that is possible.

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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Psalms 59-61   Leave a comment

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POST XXII 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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Psalm 60 affirms the idea that angering God leads to abandonment by God.  The text also agrees that such divine action is not permanent.  Psalm 60 has two distinct and related sections; the second answers the first.

Likewise, Psalm 61 has two sections, but they seem to have little to do with each other.  The first part is an individual petition to God.  The author affirms that God has been his refuge and seeks to remain close to God.  The second section is a prayer that God will extend the life of the monarch.

Psalms 60 and 61 mention enemies.  So does Psalm 59, which, unfortunately, includes a request for divine vengeance.  Psalm 59 also features a motif commonplace in the Book of Psalms:  dehumanizing the enemies.  They are not human beings with complexities and inherent dignity, according to the text; no, they are like growling dogs who roam the city in search of food.  The depiction of one’s enemies (often national ones) is familiar to me, a student of history.  I think immediately of propaganda on all sides during World Wars I and II, for example.

Our enemies might be truly perfidious.  Or perhaps the reality of the situation might be nuanced.  Either way, our foes are, like us, human beings.  They and we stand before God, in whom dwell both judgment and mercy, and whose wisdom exceeds ours by far.  Our foes today might become our friends, or at least allies, eventually.  And maybe we, not they, are in the wrong.  God, in infinite wisdom, knows the truth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Psalms 27-29   Leave a comment

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POST X 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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Psalms 27, 28, and 29 are similar yet different; all of them praise God, in different contexts.  The author of Psalm 27 expresses ultimate confidence in God and anticipates living in the divine Presence in the afterlife.  Psalm 28, a royal thanksgiving to God for military victory, contains an unfortunate request for divine destruction of, not mercy toward, one’s enemies.  That Psalmist does not expect his foes to repent, or want them to do so.  Psalm 29 glorifies God in nature.  Also, both Psalms 27 and 29 echo Canaanite sacred texts.  They are not the only Psalms to do so.

Yahweh, as depicted in these texts, is a tribal deity.  That is why the author of Psalm 28 could pray devoutly for the destruction of the foes.  If one thinks of God as universal, however, one realizes that the foes of Psalm 28 are as much subject to divine judgment and mercy as the Hebrews are.  If one understands God as the only, universal deity, albeit without universal human recognition, one has an easier time praying for the repentance of one’s enemies.  Behavior becomes more important than national origin.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOANNA, MARY, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION

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Psalms 1-5   Leave a 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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God is the Ruler Yet   1 comment

Above:   Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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 236

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Daniel 1:1-17

Psalm 9:1-8

Revelation 1:9-18

Luke 17:20-21

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This is my father’s world!

O let me ne’er forget

that though the wrong

seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

–Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901)

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In the reading from the Book of Revelation the imagery used to describe Jesus is similar to that usually reserved for the Roman Emperor.  Thus the Apocalypse of John fits the bill of subversive literature from the beginning.  Revelation 1:9-18 is therefore an appropriate lesson to read on Christ the King Sunday.

British Congregationalist minister Charles Harold (C. H.) Dodd proposed Realized Eschatology. The Kingdom of God, he wrote, has always been present.  It has, however, been more evident at some times than on others.  Dodd must have been thinking about the assigned Gospel reading as he formulated that idea.  Psalm 9 might also have been on his mind.

If Dodd was correct, what about exploitative powers, such as the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (in Daniel) and the Roman Empire (in Revelation), among other oppressive regimes?  The question of, if God exists, why evil does also, has vexed many people over the ages.  But why would the existence of God nullify human free will and prevent abuses of it?

As the Mennonites tell us, we are living in the age of God’s patience.  This indicates a future age of divine impatience, with good news for many and catastrophic news for many others.  Judgment is in the purview of God, not mere mortals.  May we mere mortals understand that reality and embrace it.  May we also trust in God, who, despite appearances, is the ruler yet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/devotion-for-proper-29-ackerman/

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This is post #1700 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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