procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Friday, July 06, 2007

i'm back, with Asaph

1/ apologies for the lack of blogging in the last week (sorry mum and mark)
i've been quite busy, and then i took a week off in the blue mountains. i'm sure byron will oblige with a couple of points for anyone able to guess the lookout point for this photo!
2/ still reading through the Psalms, i've arrived at the offerings of a chap called Asaph. he starts off book three, with psalms 73-83, as well as 50, and possibly that recorded in 1 Chronicles 16, after the Ark of the covenant was brought back to Jerusalem.
he also got the great job of banging the cymbals on the way (along with Heman!), to warn people not to grab it like Uzzah did.

the thing that interested me especially was the progression from 73-83.
please do read on if this interests you!

  • 73 starts of saying he's worried by the prosperity of the wicked, but realises that his strength is in the Lord,
    v25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

  • 74 therefore returns to the honour, not of his own self, but of God,
    v21-22 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
    let the poor and needy praise your name.
    Arise, O God, defend your cause;
    remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!

  • 75 is "according to Do Not Destroy"; Israel looks in pretty bad shape, and their enemies may well be closing in, it seems a desperate reminder that they are God's chosen people, and their enemies are not,
    v8-9 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
    and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs.
    But I will declare it forever;
    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

  • 76 is a reminder of God's worthiness, of the unworthiness of all others, and after effusive praises,
    v11-12 Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them;
    let all around him bring gifts
    to him who is to be feared,
    who cuts off the spirit of princes,
    who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

  • 77 is a time when things have, it seems, hit rock-bottom,
    v2-3 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
    When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

  • 78 then recounts the entire history of God's covenantal relationship with his people, remembering his fidelity despite his people's continual provocation,
    v5-8 He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
    which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
    that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
    and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
    and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
    and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
    a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.

  • 79, now that God's character has been firmly established, is the plea to him, to redeem them, like in Ps74,
    v9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
    deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name's sake!

  • 80, similarly, pleads for redemption,
    v7-8 Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
    You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.

  • 81, and it seems it's not working. The problem isn't with God, the problem lies in his people,
    v13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!

  • 82 (a favourite with JW's!) compares the God of Israel to the other (false) gods, and illuminates the way those who follow other gods end up treating others (assuming the English punctuation is accurate),
    v2-3 How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

  • 83 wraps up this big eleven with a final plea for God to take action, to no longer be silent,
    v17-18 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
    let them perish in disgrace,
    that they may know that you alone,
    whose name is the Lord,
    are the Most High over all the earth.

    i've been trying to think through Asaph's role as David's Psalmist, thinking how it may've worked, what he would be instructing his Psalmist, "quick, the Philistines are coming! write a Psalm we can sing to God reminding him of the covenant."
    "well that obviously didn't work. how about one telling him that it's not about us, but him!"

    i don't know if that's quite how it would have worked, how much artistic license the King's Psalmist would have, how much direction etc.

    but it is interesting seeing the progression, from 73's, "help us God, you're really good," to the incredulity at God's inactivity in 74, then remembering who he really is in 75-76; a big, all-in plea in 77, and then a reminder to God of his covenantal promises (c/f Exodus 2:23-25?) in 78.
    the final five seem quite despondent, although they do seem to recognise the root problem - namely their own sin.

    i guess in some ways it goes to show that even over a lifetime of relating to the God of the Universe, there are always going to be the same elements of sin, of asking, "where is God now?" and of singing his praises.

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    Blogger byron said...

    I hereby loan you ten points to confer on the winner of this competition (that is, the first person to say that it is from Govett's Leap).

    Please return them when you're finished with them.

    7:11 pm  
    Blogger psychodougie said...

    oh, just take them then.
    i dunno, you try and be a little creative...

    2:29 pm  

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