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Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’

The faint heart is often insomniac. What is it about the 3:00 a.m. hour, so full of worries, fears, and untimely wakefulness? As though on schedule, eyes open and the faint heart races. Life’s shadows loom taller and more menacing than usual. Improbable fears seem perfectly plausible. Things that will shrink into proportion in the light of day take the shape of lethal threats and impassable walls. The sixty-first psalm relieves us of at least one of our disabling fears: that we cannot pray because our heart is faint.

From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. (Psalms 61:2–3 NRSV)

We fearful and trembling insomniacs are shepherded into a place where it is safe at least to cry out to the Lord for peace, for safety, for calm. YHWH does not sneer and turn away because our condition is insufficiently dignified. At least the praying poet who has left his pen’s work to us in this psalm hopes that this is so, while others of this anthology of prayers reassure us that his hope will be met with reality, his prayer with a listening ear. YHWH makes himself available precisely to the faint of heart. Strength may come with the daylight, but it is not necessary here, not now, not at this frightening 3:00 hour. We are weak, but we are heard.

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After detailing the radical bent-ness of the wicked, the writer of the thirty-sixth psalm finds himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of YHWH. The LORD’s loving justice is everywhere.

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. (Psalm 36:5–6 ESV)

The Hebrew Bible does not traffic in the notions of omnipresence or ubiquity to which thoughtful readers of the Bible would eventually lay their hand. It’s natural dialect is more concrete, more this-worldly. Yet, in spite of what might seem to our habits of thinking a limitation, the Hebrew poet knows how to say exactly what he wants to say. (more…)

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The thirty-second psalm is all but drunk with sweet release.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1–2 ESV)

Like most durable truths, this one has been hard won. Whatever the shattering failure of the writer, it led to writhing that seemed a sickness unto death:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:3–5 ESV)

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We loathe the moment when our conversation partner looks distractedly over our shoulder. Or fidgets with his keys. Or gives the appearance of listening, but with her eyes empty as clouds, her thoughts elsewhere.

We long for eye contact. We were made for face-to-face. (more…)

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Convinced of his integrity, the writer of Psalm 26 pleads for vindication with a confidence that tender souls might find disturbing.

We must understand that the writer has done precisely what the ‘wisdom psalms’ instruct the novice in life to do if he wants to become both just and wise. The psalmist can speak transparently about his trajectory in life because he has followed the game plan. It is not that he has beat out his neighbors in some cheap contest of personal rectitude. Rather, YHWH’s plan for the development of a human life has proved reliable. Except, so far, for the part about vindication. (more…)

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What was I thinking …?

We ask ourself the impossible question when our idiocy has come under the irrefutable light of day.

I was a fool. I was deluded. Distracted. Or drunk. Or stupid.

It is every believer’s nightmare, to have been wrong about everything. Regardless of the ideology that has claimed heart,  mind, or wallet—faithfully secular or conventionally religious—the wolf at the door is to have been simply wrong. Because faith goes to the root of things, to be proven wrong about our core conviction is to have been wrong about everything else as well. (more…)

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Out of sight, out of mind.

So do we forget people we ought always to remember. So do we lose contact. ‘We aren’t really in touch’, people say, the absence of communication speaking volumes.

That’s the thing about distance. It’s not so much the matter of being across the river or the next town over or a time zone away. It’s that there’s no seeing. No hearing.

‘I can’t be reached’, we say. Terrible things might happen and the one who could have done something—just by being far away—finds out when it’s already too late. (more…)

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