June 30, 2020

To Sing and to Praise

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
—Psalm 51:14-15

As I near the end of Psalm 51, things start to look up. But not before a particularly difficult petition from the psalmist. I read "deliver me from bloodshed" in my translation, while others call it blood-guiltiness. The Hebrew word means from bloods, so I suppose it's open to interpretation. And here I am tempted to admit to the guilt of being part of a culture that is armed to the teeth, and where violence is commonplace.

But maybe I've jumped the gun. The bloods the Hebrew is referring to is probably not the cause but the effect. The psalmist might not be praying here for deliverance from committing the crime, but from the punishment for it. And if I take the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seriously, I am given even more reason to pray this psalm.
"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire." [Matt 5:21-22]
Instead despair, maybe this psalm gives me hope that the violent systems I'm bound up in are not the sum of who I am. The One who created me did not intend me to do harm, but to sing and to praise. C.S. Lewis was of the opinion that "we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation." May I be consumed not with greed or lust for vengeance, but with the desire to make known that which is beyond all such concerns. And may the praise that consumes me be not only the means by which I live, but the end of my life—pun intended.

You, O God, take my sin seriously. Help me to take it seriously, too. Show me where I have done wrong in thought, word, and deed. Forgive me and renew me, so that when you open my mouth to declare your praise, I can do so with integrity. May the worship of my Creator and Redeemer consume me in this life and be the goal of the life to come; in the Name of the One who taught me to pray: Our Father...

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