Selected Sunday Scriptures- #77

A regular practice of mine is to read/pray a Psalm aloud before going to bed each night. In hindsight,  I realize that I often don’t really think on what I am saying. In that sense, it really isn’t much of a prayer. This realization on my part partly arose when I recently read/prayed the 136 Psalm:

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;

to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
to him who spread out the earth upon the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;

10 to him who smote the first-born of Egypt,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in sunder,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
17 to him who smote great kings,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
18 and slew famous kings,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever.

26 O give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures for ever.

(Psalm 136)

Reading it again, I was struck by the apparent contradiction of God’s smiting someone and then that line being followed by a reference to his love (or mercy, depending on translation- this uses the RSV). I have some thoughts on this Psalm, but I am curious what others have to say. So I invite my readers to offer their thoughts, or those of theologians who’ve spoken on the subject.

Finally, to conclude this short post, I have this passage from the Prophet Micah:

Then the remnant of Jacob shall be
    in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the Lord,
    like showers upon the grass,
which tarry not for men
    nor wait for the sons of men.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,
    in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
    like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
which, when it goes through, treads down
    and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,
    and all your enemies shall be cut off.

10 And in that day, says the Lord,
    I will cut off your horses from among you
    and will destroy your chariots;
11 and I will cut off the cities of your land
    and throw down all your strongholds;
12 and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
    and you shall have no more soothsayers;
13 and I will cut off your images
    and your pillars from among you,
and you shall bow down no more
    to the work of your hands;
14 and I will root out your Ashe′rim from among you
    and destroy your cities.
15 And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance
    upon the nations that did not obey.

(Micah 5:7-15)

This particular passage refers to Israel’s remnant, and is after the famous prophesy that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. Reading through it, I realized that it was filled with metaphors for the work of the early apostles. Indeed, several parts of the Acts of the Apostles seem to fulfill this prophecy, unless I am much mistaken. It is unfortunate that the Israelites got this all wrong. Their focus on war and conquest as a physical, material thing blinded them to the spiritual warfare that they were being tasked to fulfill. The sad part is that they should have known better. After all, God told them many times that it was He who was their spear; He would gave them victory. All they needed was faith. This should have clued them in that He didn’t need them to use violence to achieve what He already did. At least, that is how I see it. Perhaps others have a different take.

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5 Comments

Filed under Selected Sunday Scriptures

5 responses to “Selected Sunday Scriptures- #77

  1. mdavid

    A regular practice of mine is to read/pray a Psalm aloud before going to bed each night.

    Just a thought: ever tried praying the evening Office? Mostly Scripture, and the whole Church prays it together. It’s good to do as a family as well.

    All they needed was faith. This should have clued them in that He didn’t need them to use violence to achieve what He already did.

    I have a different take on it. In Romans 8, Paul says: …we are children of God…and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. IOW, the Kingdom Jesus offers requires suffering for spiritual growth. This is not a kingdom that many people (Israel or modern Westerners!) are willing to accept. Hence, the creation of all sorts of heresy (OSAS or cafeteria RC or MTD). Many are called, few are chosen, and Jesus heads out each generation to the byways and slums since most reject the invitation to the wedding feast. A feast that requires suffering and spiritual growth, not easy victory.

  2. @ mdavid

    I will look into that.

    IOW, the Kingdom Jesus offers requires suffering for spiritual growth. This is not a kingdom that many people (Israel or modern Westerners!) are willing to accept.

    True. But the law and the prophets hinted at the necessity of suffering. Isaiah didn’t even hint- he was quite explicit.

  3. I was struck by the apparent contradiction of God’s smiting someone and then that line being followed by a reference to his love (or mercy, depending on translation- this uses the RSV). I have some thoughts on this Psalm, but I am curious what others have to say. So I invite my readers to offer their thoughts, or those of theologians who’ve spoken on the subject.

    When I pray the psalms, I consider the “enemies” listed there, as historical (in some cases) as they are, to represent the demons we face when we are tempted, when we try to do the good, when we try to pray and so on. God is merciful, and smites them in his mercy, if we call on Him to do this.

    Praying the psalms is an excellent praxis. I’d recommend in particular the psalter that was translated from the Sept (LXX) by Donald Sheehan, an academic poet who basically was called into the Orthodox Church in the 1980s (his conversion story is basically a miracle). He passed away in 2010, but his widow has published his psalm translations in a very prayable volume here: http://www.amazon.com/Psalms-David-Translated-Septuagint-Greek/dp/1620325101/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433735166&sr=8-1&keywords=sheehan+psalms

  4. When I pray the psalms, I consider the “enemies” listed there, as historical (in some cases) as they are, to represent the demons we face when we are tempted, when we try to do the good, when we try to pray and so on.

    I believe that is what some of the early Church Fathers taught.

    In addition, each of those enemies listed was a source of temptation and evil. All sought to draw the Israelites away from God, one way or another. That, of course, is not a good thing, to put it mildly. So God saving the Israelites from them, through forceful destruction, was an act of mercy to the Israelites. As for the enemies- they brought it upon themselves for their wickedness.

  5. Novaseeker

    Indeed. I think as you say that the perspective of mercy is from the perspective of the righteous (here Israel) — merciful to be delivered by God from temptation, as we pray daily. As for the enemies and the tempters, they get wrath — but the perspective of the psalm is of course of the righteous.

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