Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Place of Refuge

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? And I suppose the answer is Yes and No. Impatience, yes. But the impatience was single-minded. It was focused on God alone, and if the prayer were not answered as immediately, the psalmist's mind would not flit off to some other possible source of help. It was God or nobody.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Take On Me

This song was big in the mid-80's when I was still in grad school. I think its official music video was probably one of the cleverest of all time. For obvious reasons, the group, A-ha, reminds me of yesterday's portion of the psalter. In reading about A-ha yesterday morning, I discovered they were Norwegian. I never knew that before.

Do Not Delay

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 register. We speak in different registers to different people, depending on our relationship with them. The way I speak to a child differs from how I speak to an adult. The way I speak to a friend I've known since I was a child 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 up. But I would never speak that way to another country's ambassador to Washington.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Longer Dan Fogelberg. This song was a hit when I was a sophomore in college. I'd forgotten that he died of cancer over a decade ago. Today would've been his 67th birthday.

An Aha! Moment

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

From Sour Grapes to Green Eggs and Ham

The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.
Jer. 31:29
I do not like them, Sam-I-am, I do not like green eggs and ham.
Dr. Seuss

I am particularly thankful this morning to live in a free country. I am free to live anywhere I want. I am free to say anything I want. I am free to do anything I want.

For example, I could, with no government interference, sell my house in southeast Huntsville and buy an historic home in Twickenham. I am free, if I want to, to preach this sermon in Albanian. And I am free at any moment to stop what I’m doing and solve a problem using calculus.

But I have to admit that my freedom to do all those things is somewhat tempered by the facts at hand. I can’t afford an historic home in Twickenham, I cannot speak a word of Albanian, and I don’t actually know what calculus even is.