Thursday, August 30, 2018

Footprints


Thy way, O God, is in the Sanctuary: who is so great a God, as our God! ⚜︎
Thy way is in the sea, and thy paths in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
⚜︎ Ps 77:13, 19
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Today's meditation is a bit of a departure, in that I'm dealing with two non-consecutive verses: vv 13 & 19 of Psalm 77. I'm using the Geneva Bible, because modern translations all seem to agree on a grammatically impossible interpretation of the Hebrew בקדש—the ב at the beginning being the preposition in, which makes קדש its object. It might make sense to say, "Your way, O God, is in holiness," but a literal translation places God's ways in a place, and that place is the sanctuary. If it is to be interpreted beyond its literal meaning, then instead of in the sanctuary, I might say, "Your way is in heaven." It is similar, I think, to the opening of the prayer our Lord taught us: "Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowèd be thy Name..." And the two prayers serve a similar purpose—that of raising my mind above my current condition, and of reminding me (through the use of first person plural pronouns) that my faith is not mine alone, but is the faith of an entire community of people, the faith of all God's children:  
  • Our Father, who art in heaven
  • Your way, O God, is in heaven: who is so great as our God?
I can't help but compare the above verse to one that comes near the end. Whereas v. 13 declares that God's way is in heaven, v. 19 places God's way in the sea, where God's footsteps cannot be seen. Think of the exodus from Egypt, when God led Israel through the Red Sea—God's people's footprints could be seen in the sand before the sea closed in on the Egyptian soldiers, but God's could not.
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I need to compare this, too, to the popular poem Footprints in which the poet talks about looking on a beach and seeing two sets of footprints—hers and God's—except during the most trying times, when there was only one set. It turns out that then, only God's prints were visible, because God was carrying the poet through her troubles. This gets an emotional reaction, but it's not really what's being talked about in the second half of the 77th Psalm. The Unseen God supports us through our difficulties not by carrying us and absolving us of dealing with our own problems, but by God's Presence. I am still completely human and completely responsible for my life, but whether I make good or bad decisions, God remains with me through the troubled waters, God's footprints ever unseen but God's Presence ever felt.
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I pray to you in your sanctuary, O God. Yet I know that the heavens cannot contain you, and that you are as present to me as you are toe the angels. Thank you for your support, and when I do not sense you, remind me that your strength is not dependent on my feelings. This I pray in Christ's Name who taught me to pray...

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