I have not had much time to blog my readings lately. Today I completed the Psalms and today’s post covers Psalms 46-150. “Day 45” also mark my half way point in my “90 (or whatever) day challenge”. Exciting.
As I’ve been reading through the bible I have come to pick up on something important. It is easy – oh so terribly easy – to read through the Old Testament completely detached from the worldviews of those who wrote, lived, sang, worshipped, labored and mated in that world. It is easy to read the scriptures and come across the word “land” or “curses” or “Zion” or any number of other myriad of words and simply think that the text is talking about “land” or “curses” or Zion”, and that is assuming we stop to think about these terms at all. My suspicion is that most of us do not.
But these terms would mean something so much more to the original audience and those who carried on that tradition. These terms would resonate on a much deeper, richer, theologically penetrating level ingrained in the worldviews of ancient Israelites or Judeans. Whenever phrases like “blessings” or “Sinai” or “righteousness” or “deliverance” are employed the passages are always talking about something a lot more then we here now, some two to three thousand years removed, think with our oh so Christianized western and gentile worldviews.
For a Jewish person to hear these terms it would immediately recall to their being other deeper words like “election” and “covenant” and “redemption”. These terms meant something more then what the surface to us would indicate. Israel believed they were living in the very story in which God promised to Abraham that through his descendents God would bless the world. They believed that it was God’s faithfulness to his covenant to Abraham that God delivered Israel out of Egypt, destroying Egypt and burying their past behind them. That God brought them to the mountain of God – Sinai/Zion – where God presented to Israel his Covenant Charter by which those who where obedient to the covenant would remain in the land and those who disobeyed would be sent out of the land and into exile. To remain in the land was to remain in the blessing because it was to remain in the presence of God. To be sent into exile was to be sent into the cursing.
So these terms – blessing, cursing, land, exile, covenant, faithfulness, Egypt, redemption, righteousness, et cetera – are not to be read lightly.
Israel cherished every thought of her election which entailed all of these terms. And in the Psalms – throughout the entire body of the Psalter – we find these terms employed over and over again in very intentional ways. In this way the theology of ancient Israelites continued to be taught to their children as the story they believed which constituted their very own context – that they were a continuing part of that same story.
Read as a clear case in point Psalms such as Psalm 78 or Psalm 80 and 81 where that very story up to the writing of those Psalms is retold and sung over and over again through the ages. Or consider terms found throughout the Psalms, including “righteous acts of the Lord” – the Lords righteous acts means – as in the case with Deborah – God’s faithfulness to his promise to Abraham (Psalm 67:6-7). Or in Psalm 89:3-4 ff. where a strong connection is made between the Lords’ “covenant with my chosen one” and his “righteousness and justice… love and faithfulness” a few verses later (vs. 14). All of the Psalms – indeed the entirety of the Old Testament – is laced with this kind of theology which we here in our all too theologically settled worlds continue to miss. God’s victory, God’s deliverance (Psalm 144:10-11) is always connected to God’s faithful to his covenant to Abraham, Moses, David and his future heir – the Messiah.
The Psalmist cried:
“In your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief” [Psalm 143: 1]
You’ve down it before, now do it again. It was the way the covenant people prayed. God continue to be faithful to your covenant! Continue to be righteous! Deliverance, redemption, justification, blessing, presence, victory! Oh Lord give us victory!
Oh how I pray we would catch hold of this great theological tradition and not flatten out the Gospel story – which is precisely the story I have been talking about in this post – into some two dimensional piece about “my forgiven sins so I can go to heaven”.