Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Short Course in Christian Theology

Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
—Psalm 32:10 (NRSV)
Many sorrows shall come to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him.
—Psalm 32:10 (Geneva Bible) 
Two ways of life are compared here Psalm 32:10: First the wicked, then the good? No, not the good, simply those who trust God. And two corollary harvests: First torments (sorrows might be a better translation of the Hebrew, and is the word found in the old Geneva Bible), then blessings? No, wrong again. This time it's חֶסֶד*—a word that the NRSV translates as steadfast love, but which used to be translated as mercy. Kindness, goodness, and grace are other possible translations, and it's this last one that catches my (Christian) eye.

Remember that this is a comparison. So what we're comparing are sorrows for those who refuse the good, and mercy and grace for those who trust in God's goodness. There's no notion that those who love God are always good. But their wrongs are forgiven simply because they trust in the One who forgives. Psalm 32:10 is really just a short course in Christian theology.

I make no claims of my own goodness, Lord; I ask only for the grace to trust in yours. Amen.

*חֲסִידָה is a feminine form of חֶסֶד, and is the Hebrew word for stork—a bird which symbolizes goodness and grace. Myths surrounding storks include the belief that they care for their aging parents and the tradition that they are the bringers of babies. When a stork builds a nest on a house, its inhabitants are still to this day believed to be blessed.