August 14, 2020

It Was God or Nobody

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me.
✜ Ps 71:1-2a

Psalm 70 ended with a very impatient prayer: "Don't delay." And about the opening verse of Psalm 71, Calvin says that the one "whose mind is in a state of constant fluctuation, and whose hope is divided by being turned in different directions, in each of which he is looking for deliverance, or who, under the influence of fear, disputes with himself, or who obstinately refuses the Divine assistance, or who frets and gives way to restless impatience, is unworthy of being succored by God." 
But wasn't "restless impatience" the whole point of Psalm 70:5?
I suppose the answer is Yes and No. Impatience, yes. But the impatience was single-minded. It was focused on God alone. If the prayer were not

August 13, 2020

Hurry Up

But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!
Ps 70:5

There are lots of hymns that use the phrase, "Do not delay." But in every case, the words are directed at people coming to God. For example:

Let ev’ry heart leap forth and rejoice;
and let us freely make him our choice;
do not delay, but come. 
 ❧ G. Root
Oh, sinner, come, do not delay,
but come to God, no longer stay. 
W. Mahone
If you from the Savior have wandered away,
return to him quickly, O do not delay. 
E. Barnes

Here in Psalm 70, however, these same words are directed at God. This is a double surprise: Usually we're told not to delay in going to God, and just as often we're told to wait for God. So why is this situation different?

What I note here is called register. We speak in different registers to different people, depending on our relationship with them. The way I speak to a small child differs from how I speak to an adult. The way I speak to someone I went to school with differs from the way I might speak to the Queen of England (if I ever actually spoke to her). I speak in a different register depending on where I stand on the social ladder compared to where the person I'm speaking to stands. I might tell my sister or an old friend to hurry

August 12, 2020

Aha!

Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame. 
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
Ps 70:3-4
✙ 
In Hebrew, Aha! is הֶאָח  (pronounced hey-ach, the second part rhyming with Johann Sebastian Bach), and every time it's used in the Bible, it's directed outwardly as an expression of derision.
✙ 
In English, of course, we might also use it as a way to verbally point at someone. Aha! Now I've caught you—you are as bad as people say you are! And this is pretty much what's going on at the opening of Psalm 70. The psalmist is being persecuted and held in derision. Everything they do is used as evidence of the fact that their cause (which here is equated with God's cause) is wrong.

But we have a different kind of Aha! in English, and I think that's what we see implied in verse 4. This type of Aha! is directed inwardly, and is usually a very good thing. It's an expression of realization—maybe even an epiphany: Aha! I never knew that before! I've just connected two dots, and this finally makes sense! And since seekers have an epiphany in Psalm 70:4, I think it's

August 11, 2020

Speaking with God's Voice

I will praise the Name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. 
This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
♒︎ Ps 69:30-33
♒︎ 
It's very common among those who claim to take the Bible literally to believe that the Bible speaks with one voice. But the best argument against such literalism is that same Bible, for there are times when it debates itself. In some places in the Bible (e.g. Ezra 10), outsiders are thought of as an impurity, and blessing is promised to Israel if foreign spouses and children are sent away. In others (e.g. Isaiah 56), foreigners are specifically included among God's people. Another example of a debate being carried out within the pages of the Bible is adherence to God's law. I'm not talking about a debate going on between the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, but within the Hebrew scriptures themselves. In the Pentateuch (the first five books), ritual

August 10, 2020

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barrenn desert but you shall not die of thirs. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. —Joshua 1:9 

This particular performance of this particular song is the very definition of what it means to be people of faith: Love of God and neighbor, trust despite danger, and unity despite forced separation—these are just a few of the concepts that Christians universally understand. It's definitely worth a listen (and look)...