Monday, November 16, 2009

Ps 111

111:10. There's a difference between a "grunt," which is a not-so-great name for a worker at the bottom of the chain somewhere, doing "grunt work," and the highly trained specialist doing the work only a few can. Thinking about this Psalm is a chance to take a breather and use it to talk about that kind of thing.

Number one, it's "only" a Psalm: but the Psalms do the grunt work for most people who read the Bible, the grunt work of showing just how people express their own garden variety feelings -- fears, hopes, etc., to God.

The first thing to notice is that this Psalm is part of the Bible (and the One Year Bible schedule we're following in the blog) too, part of the older part of the Bible, before all the controversies of Christian doctrine within and outside of Protestantism even existed. Therefore, guess what -- work can get done that's not specialist work, that doesn't have anything to do with this New Testament verse and what it means, versus what somebody else reading it thinks it means, which is exhausting, however necessary. If the New Testament is like livin' in New York, a Psalm like this reminds you of a national park out west.

"splendor and majesty is His work" (111:3). That sure does sound like a national park out west, or somewhere.

"He has made His wonders a memorial" (111:4). None of this dwelling on the fact that the stars don't care that you exist. The makers of the memorial, not the memorial itself, are the ones who want something remembered. If the stars are actually a creation, then there are possibilities that a creator cares you exist enough to notice some memorials. It depends on how good -- in both senses -- the possible creator is. And how good the memorials are. In nature, there are some very memorable parts.

So Psalm 111 comes from a time in which there was no New Testament, very few if any copies of sacred writings which hardly anybody knew about. What is around for this writer to talk about? Well, this writer is one who writes that there's a compassionate God who makes a covenant that He will remember forever. As we get older, the claim to remember for things for a long time seems impressive. To remember something forever -- that's a pretty staggering claim.

Especially if it includes some kind of gifting for me. That seems to have inspired the writer to start writing, back there in verse 1. We can be somewhat self-centered, wanting to write things down, but not actually getting it done, until it maybe includes us somehow ...

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