Monday, February 01, 2010

Ps 25:16ff. for Jan 31

This portion of Ps 25 may answer typical questions both believers and unbelievers ask.

We are devoting a number of posts corresponding to the relative amount of reading given in the One Year Bible to Psalms and Proverbs within the Old Testament, which is about 25%, just as we do with the New Testament within the Bible.

The unbeliever may well ask, when we pray, why do we expect anything at all? The believer may well ask, when we pray, how can we ask "let integrity and uprightness preserve me" if we have already admitted the lack thereof, three verses before (25:21; 25:18)?

These are typically "Western" approaches to God -- that is, trying to figure out "the permanent structure" of a relationship between ourselves and God, like an Aristotelian taxonomy or cosmology. How is the East different? It's dynamic!

The East is interested in describing "the present" more than in describing permanent structures. That's how Peter can in one narrative be told that God has revealed something to him from heaven, and six verses later can be called "Satan" and told to get away (Mt 16:17; 16:23). It is the same here in this Psalm. When in yesterday's reading David asked for pardon, the very next verse after he had described God's path as "to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies" (25:10-11), he was not being inconsistent. He was not offering his request for pardon in lieu of otherwise keeping the covenant, nor was he offering a mathematical claim that he was statistically keeping the covenant 51% of the time or more. David was speaking of what characterized the present moment.

That's why David can do in 25:18 what people have a hard time doing in the West: in one breath, asking for both deliverance and forgiveness -- not a quid pro quo, but both! We need both, constantly. Let Aristotle contemplate the order of it, and keep switching the order of his circles!

The unbeliever's question is not on the order of what basis to make requests, but what expectation of results can there be. Here, I don't mean to use the word 'unbeliever' pejoratively. Let's say someone, anyone really, may have that question, just as those in love may sometimes question the love. But what is it that becoming a believer entails, without which no one is a believer, but this? a connection with God in some way. We can leave it general, like that, sufficient to make this point. The unbeliever "rightly" has no confidence in asking for something from something there is no connection with. You cannot connect to nothing to expect something.

But then we immediately see that the question of the unbeliever is answered, by showing the connection to be a dynamic relationship to one's Creator (whose image we are made in; thus, He is not a machine or a process.) An automatic answer can be expected from machines and processes, but not from God, just as in other interpersonal relationships. Sometimes we get one kind of answer, and sometimes another. It is not chance, or invention, any more than a communication in marriage is based on chance.

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