Sunday, August 26, 2018

A New Kind of Stability

When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady.
Ps 75:3

Hebrew words have roots. And prefixes and suffixes are added to those roots to give new or enhanced meaning. So the word the NRSV translates as totters is נְמֹגִים. It is built around a root that includes the letters מ and ג, and might have meant melt—but might also have implied agitation. The question of the root's real meaning is evident in older translations (Geneva & KJV) of Psalm 75:3, which use the word dissolve. But whether the true meaning is totter or dissolve, the implication here is similar to what we saw in the 46th Psalm, where we find the psalmist trusting in God despite earthquakes and tsunamis.

Of Psalm 75, Calvin believed that it predicted the coming of Christ. Specifically, he said, it predicted the destruction of the old creature, who is immediately replaced by the new creation. It is, Calvin wrote,
"as if Christ had said, As soon as I come into the world, the earth with its inhabitants shall melt and be dissolved; but immediately afterward, I will establish it upon firm and solid foundations; for my elect, renewed by my Spirit, shall no longer be like grass or withered flowers, but shall have conferred upon them a new kind of stability that they're unfamiliar with."

I can appreciate Calvin's Christ-centered interpretation even while admitting that I don't think the original psalm intended any such thing. But this "quick replacement" theory nonetheless called to my mind the old tablecloth trick—the one where somebody pulls the tablecloth out from under the dishes on a table without upsetting them. To mix metaphors, to have faith in God is to know that, even if the rug is pulled out from under me, I will still be upheld by the One in whom I've placed my trust. In essence, I need not fear change. The eyes of faith see not disaster, but opportunity; not the end of the road, but a turning of the path. (Ack! Another corny metaphor!)
Jesus, Savior in the storm, when the waters of the deep are broken up, when the landmarks are washed away or drowned, come to me across the water. I now pray in your Name as you taught me...
A New Zealand Prayer Book

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