Archive for the ‘Psalm 53’ Tag

Psalms 53-55   Leave a comment

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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 54, Psalm 55, Psalms I: 1-76

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Psalms 12-14   Leave a comment

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POST IV 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 TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), the fool of Psalms 14 and 53 tells himself that God does not care, not that, according to most English-language translations,

God does not care.

The real issue is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism.  God is real and active, the author of Psalm 14 affirms.  God cares, the Psalmist argues.  God must care, for caring is part of the divine character, as the Bible depicts God.  YHWH, according to the Torah, cares deeply–even jealously–and experiences mood swings.  The YHWH of the Torah is a passionate character.

This I know from reading and thinking.  So what do I make of the sense, recurring frequently in the Book of Psalms, that God is distant at times?  I know the feeling of divine distance as well as that of proximity.  I do not pretend to possess answers I lack, so I will not afflict you, O reader, with easy and false answers to difficult questions.  I can tell you, O reader, at least one truth, however:  I have felt the closest to God during my darkest hours.  Perhaps the reason for this is that a light on at all times shines brightest in the darkness.  Or maybe it is true that God drew nearer to me when I needed more grace.

As for the other questions–the ones I cannot and therefore will not answer–I ask them of God, of whose character caring is a crucial component.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

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Posted July 31, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 13, Psalm 14, Psalms I: 1-76

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Compassion and the Sabbath   1 comment

Above:   Christ Healing, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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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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Numbers 12:1-15

Psalm 53

Acts 12:6-19

Luke 14:2-6

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The standard English-language translation of the opening line of Psalms 14 and 53 is that a fool thinks that there is no God.   However, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) has the benighted man thinking that God does not care.   This gets to the point of practical atheism, not the modern, widespread reality of theoretical atheism, rare in the ancient Middle East.  Indeed, God cares jealously in the Bible.  God objects strenuously whenever someone challenges Moses.  God also sends an angel to break St. Simon Peter out of prison.

The portion from Luke 14 exists within a larger narrative context–the eschatological banquet, symbolic of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is at a banquet at the home of a leading Pharisee on the Sabbath.   In the reading assigned for today our Lord and Savior heals a man afflicted with dropsy, or severe retention of fluid.  The fact that he does this on the Sabbath becomes controversial immediately.  Jesus rebuts that even they rescue a child or an ox from a well on the Sabbath.  They cannot argue against him.

Father Raymond E. Brown, in his magisterial Introduction to the New Testament (1997), wrote the following:

Actually at Qumran there was a prohibition of pulling a newborn animal our of a pit on the Sabbath (CD 11:13-14).

–Page 248

Every day is a proper day to act out of compassion, according to Jesus, although not the community at Qumran.

In the great eschatological banquet the blind, the lame, the poor, and the crippled are welcome–even preferred guests.   One ought to invite them because it is the right thing to do.  One should commit good deeds out of compassion and piety, not the desire for reciprocal treatment.  Grace is not transactional.

The temptation to relate to God in transactional terms is a powerful one.  It is, among other things, a form of works-based righteousness, a major theological error.  Keeping the Covenant, at its best, is a matter of faithful response to God.  (“If you love me, keep my commandments.”–John 14:15)  However useful having a list of instructions can be, that list can easily become for one a checklist to manipulate, until one violates major tenets while honoring minor facets.  In the Jewish tradition one finds longstanding recognition of a summary of the Law of Moses:  Love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.

So healing a man on the Sabbath should not be controversial, should it?  (John 7:22-24)

But what about Sabbath laws?  There is a death penalty for working on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36), except when there is not (Leviticus 12:3).  If the eighth day of a boy’s life falls on the Sabbath, the circumcision of the child must, according to the Law of Moses, occur on the Sabbath.  But do not dare to collect sticks on the Sabbath!   Removing part of a male on the Sabbath is permissible, so why not making someone whole?

Every day is a good day to act compassionately, according to Jesus.  God cares about the needs of people each day.  So should we.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/devotion-for-proper-9-ackerman/

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In the Same Boat   1 comment

Men in Boat

Above:  Men in Boat (1860), by Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-20362

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 45:1-9

Psalm 100

Acts 9:32-35

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Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

–Psalm 100:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Acknowledging that the LORD is God entails, among other things, living accordingly.  Psalm 14:1a and 53:2a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) tell us that

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

The standard English-language translation from the Hebrew text is close to the rendering in The Revised English Bible (1989):

The impious fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

The difference in translation is mostly in the second half of that passage.  The issue in Psalms 14 and 53 is practical atheism, not the denial of the existence of God.  Belief in God, in the Biblical sense, is trust in God, not mere affirmation of divine existence.  Thus the benighted man/impious fool operates under the mistaken idea that God does not care.  Actually, God cares deeply, especially about how we mortals treat each other.

Land was a patrimony and therefore a matter of great importance in Biblical times.  A member of one generation held it in trust for heirs.  Yet monarchs evicted legitimate landowners and seized land some times.  This is the matter in Ezekiel 45:8b-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

My princes shall no more defraud My people, but shall leave the rest of the land to the several tribes of the House of Israel.

Thus says the Lord GOD:  Enough, princes of Israel!  Make an end of lawlessness and rapine, and do what is right and just!  Put an end to your evictions of My people–declares the Lord GOD.

References to such evictions occur in 1 Kings 21:1-16; Isaiah 5:8; and Micah 2:2.

The timeless message here is that nobody has any right to improve his or her financial position by victimizing others, especially the powerless and the less powerful.  Climbing the ladder of success by kicking others off it is immoral.

St. Simon Peter’s healing of Aeneas, a man bedridden with paralysis for eight years, built up Aeneas, restoring him to health and community.

Whatever we do to each other is what we do to ourselves.  If we keep others”in their place,” seemingly to improve our circumstances, we really hurt ourselves, for we doom ourselves to monitor others instead of pursuing proper opportunities.  May we build each other up in the name of Jesus Christ, enabling each other to become the people we can become in God, for the glory of God and the benefit of the whole.  To use a cliché, we are all in the same boat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God Cares, Part III   1 comment

Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication

Above:  Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:1-7

Psalm 53

Luke 9:10-17

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The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

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

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The theme of God caring has been present in the previous two posts.  That motif recurs here also.

This time we read of God caring about practical needs.  Food is among the most basic necessities of life.  A human body, deprived of food for too long, dies of starvation.  The extravagance of God in the feeding of the five thousand men (plus uncounted women and children) in Luke 9 and the oil refills in 2 Kings 4 point to divine mercy.  The widow had an abundant supply of oil to sell for funds to pay her debts and therefore save her children from slavery.  The rest of the oil was for cooking purposes at her home.  The crowd in Luke 9 ate well and left enough food to fill twelve baskets.

Questions of historicity interest me, but I conclude that, in these cases, pursuing them would lead me away from the main points of these accounts.  I am writing a devotion, not a dry academic text.  The Benedictine practice of lectio divino is reading scripture for formation, not information.  One of my spiritual mentors in the 1990s taught me to ask one question when reading a portion of scripture.

What is really going on here?

has been my guiding query germane to the Bible since then.  My answer to it in these cases is that there are always leftovers with divine extravagance.

God cares so much as to provide more than enough for everybody to have enough.  Only human sin, often in institutionalized forms, creates scarcity.  Apart from such sin those who have little will still have enough.  The purpose of this abundance is not that he who dies with the most toys wins, but that all people be able to fulfill their needs, both temporal and spiritual.  Divine extravagance, therefore, comes in both forms.

A complicating factor is the frequent inability or unwillingness to distinguish between needs and wants.  May each of us know the difference, accept the extravagance of God gratefully, apply it properly, and help others as we are able and is best for them.  As we have needs may we receive.  As we can and should donate, may we do so.  All of us depend upon God and each other.  Furthermore, all of us are responsible to and for each other.  May we take care of each other, glorify God, and exploit and oppress no person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God Cares, Part II   1 comment

Ozark Family

Above:  A Destitute Family in the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas, 1935

Photographer = Ben Shahn (1898-1969)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-006071-M2

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 23:26-41 (Monday)

Leviticus 25:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 53 (Both Days)

Revelation 19:1-8 (Monday)

Revelation 19:9-10 (Tuesday)

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The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

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

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The New Revised Standard Version (1989) offers a more traditional rendering of that verse:

Fools say in their hearts,

“There is no God.”

–Psalm 53:1a

Singular versus plural in the realm of nouns is not the issue that really concerns me.  I do not live in fear or distrust of masculine words, but I do guard the distinction between the singular and the plural in the realm of pronouns zealously.  My tenacity regarding language aside, I focus on my main point:  the translators of TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) rendered Psalm 53 and its basis, Psalm 14, correctly.  Every scholarly commentary I have consulted regarding Psalms 14 and 53 agrees that the issue is practical atheism, not the denial of the existence of God.  Atheism was rare in the ancient Middle East, but living as if God did not care was rampant among Hebrews.

God cares.  For God to exist God must care.  God cares for us and the rest of the created order.  God cares about justice.  The Sabbath laws and codes for the year of the jubilee in Leviticus reveal that God cares about people so much as to give them time off from work.  One needs to rest and play as well as to work in order to lead a balanced life.  Unfortunately, the annals of Christian history are full of instances of people labeling proper recreation as something sinful.  I note that targets for this mislabeling have included chess and other games, which medical experts know to be helpful for keeping one’s mind sharp and which educators consider useful in building mental acumen.  Even drinking tea, an excellent source of antioxidants, has been the target of condemnations for indulging one’s appetites.  Some people need to relax in their attitudes and lay legalism aside.

More to the point, time off is a mark of freedom, for a slave in Egypt had no day off from work.  Freedom from oppression, the context for Revelation 19, is not an invitation to impose new forms of oppression–legalism, needless guilt trips, et cetera.  God frees people to live in the liberty of mutual responsibility in community.  Each of us is accountable others, who are, in turn, responsible to each of us.  And everybody depends entirely upon and is accountable to God.  In this model there is no room for oppression or exploitation.  God frees us to lead lives of active compassion, empathy, and sympathy.  And God cares if we pursue that path.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 30, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Leviticus, Psalm 14, Psalms I: 1-76, Revelation of John 19

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