I’m not sure why, but the kids and I keep reading the Psalms.
I know, it sounds like a really great idea. But in the words of a friend who attempted the same and ultimately was punished by God for it with a PhD in Old Testament, “There’s some really strange stuff in there.”
Ok, so maybe “strange” isn’t the word for the dissonance I’m experiencing. But what I’m finding in the first dozen or so Psalms is that the core of Israel’s religious worship consists of an expectation that for the God of all the earth to what is right, Israel’s enemies must be sent running before her swords.
This, of course, is not everything. And perhaps it’s too much to call military victory the core. It closely resides next to the idea that the unjust will not escape the sight, or vengeance, of God.
As I read these poems, I am constantly moving among several thoughts in my mind. One is that the expectation of military victory as the means of YHWH’s engagement with the world is so deeply rooted that (a) I have constantly refreshed sympathy for the disappointed disciples of Jesus; and (b) I consciously wrestle out Christologically revisionist interpretations of the psalms in order to mesh them with a transformed understanding of the victory God has won, and is winning, through His King on behalf of the people of the earth.
The other is that the expectation that injustice will not succeed is weird. It seems off. It seems overly optimistic. It seems just plain wrong.
And here is where I get caught.
I suspect that for the singers of these songs, the tangible reality of injustice was much more acutely felt on a day-to-day basis than it has ever been in my own life. I bet that for them, there were particular faces of injustice to put to these general hopes.
And these songs were sung in faith.
The songs of deliverance are not, for the most part, triumphant proclamations of how God has socked it to the bad guys, but songs of invocation–celebrations beforehand of the just and powerful God that would not believe that evil will be allowed the last word here on earth, as it is not allowed it in heaven above.
The more that the songs strike me as wrong, as wishful, as overly optimistic, the more I am reminded that I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
I need to be reminded that the God of all the earth will not allow the unjust to escape his due recompense, that God will not turn a blind eye to the cheat and the swindler–that God will not allow the cry of the righteous to go unheeded.
And we have the resurrection to prove it.