that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.
I have a special place in my heart for this Psalm, as I once assigned my small group at Caltech (actually, the ‘worship committee’ for the fellowship) to translate it into rhyme, to better experience its poetic nature — a cruel task for intellectual Techers!
The question is both simple and profound: What is God like? Who does God like?
I’ll follow the NIV and assume each couplet is making the same point (rather than triplets, like the KJV verse divisions). This feels like a thesis sentence: “God loves the righteous.” Fair enough, but what does that mean?
Let’s call this communication: we tell the truth, not tales.
Call this comity: neither do nor wish evil upon others.
Hmm. This roughly translates as “despise the despicable, but revere the reverent.” Whereas the first pair was intellectual, and the second relational, this feels more emotional. Alas, I don’t have a cute one-word summary for this, so we’ll just have to move on.
This one’s easy: integrity. Sorry, easy to summarize; really, really hard to do! It is one thing to keep one’s word due to a rational calculation of the value of being perceived as honest. But what about when it is clear that keeping my word is manifestly not in my own self interest — i.e., when it hurts?
That, to me, is when the divine rubber hits the human road. Rationality and enlightened self-interest are all well and good, up to a point. But if there really is nothing greater than humanity to be judged and measured against, why not change our tune when the song becomes difficult?
The answer, obviously, is that there really are absolutes which transcend mere human convenience. Because once you start compromising integrity because it is too painful, you open yourself to all manner of oppression:
I’d call this financial purity. We humans like to draw a sharp distinction between negative morality (actively doing wrong) and positive morality (failing to do what is right). Yes, there is a distinction, but both are ultimately signs of character: once we stop doing what is right because it hurts, it is easy to justify doing wrong because it feels good.
Anyway, these shorts verse make for a very tall order! What’s the payoff?
He that doeth these [things] shall never be moved.
I think this is a fact many observers (on both sides) often overlook: morality is not irrational, but supra-rational. That is, the choice to maintain my integrity, purity, comity, etc. — even when it hurts — is based on a rational calculation about the ultimate nature of God (even if it seems irrational to a human observer, based on mere physical evidence). In fact, that is most of what sanctification is about: learning to make wise decisions based on who God actually is, not what we merely hope (or fear) He is.
Again, easy to summarize; really, really hard to do.
God, I thank you for your promise that the one who builds his house on the solid rock of your truth will never be moved. Father, I know that I too often worship mammon, sacrifice integrity for convenience, envy the wicked, despise my neighbor, and cut with my tongue. Have mercy on me, O God, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ. Set me apart on your holy hill, and take me under your roof as your manservant. Teach me to walk in righteousness, for your name’s sake. Save me from the folly of trusting in myself. I ask all this in and by the name of Jesus, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is in honor of the highly influential Christian music group from Australia.