“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come.Amen.
I like this Psalm. As mentioned before, I am always discomfited when David starts asking for God’s help on the basis of his righteousness. Here — as someone full of transgression myself — I feel right at home!
Of course, this raises the question: how does one become so blessed? Well, David starts with the inverse answer:
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
That is, keeping silent is what prevented him from being blessed. The solution?
Two heavy verses (particularly given the “Selah”). Let me take their advice and pause for a minute…
I’m back. The easiest way for me to understand these verses is in the context of what I call the Theory of Love’s Dominion (ToLD). In this view, the fundamental attribute of God is not “merely” Love or Justice, but something I call “Love’s Dominion”. What that means is that Justice is not some distinct principle but rather the way “Love’s Dominion” expresses itself when we transgress outside the boundaries of God’s will, just like Mercy is what we experience when we re-submit ourselves inside.
I also think it is interesting that his experience of Justice is mediated by his emotional state, but Mercy came from an act of the will. Too often we moderns think of both as abstract intellectual concepts, which is a pale shadow of the truth. And diminishes the wonder of forgiveness:
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
And why must we pray to God?
Yow, a third Selah! Maybe I should look beyond the familiar poetry and ponder what it means to be “surrounded by songs of escape.”
Hmm. To be honest, I have no idea. At one level it sounds like a magic spell, but that isn’t quite right. If anything, it seems more an emotional thing, like a Mother’s lullaby comforting him in distress; but David’s talking about a real deliverance. Is God reminding him of past provision, or encouraging him to look forward to future victory celebrations?
I dunno. I suspect there’s more going on here than I can conceptualize. And maybe that’s OK. In fact, maybe that’s the point!
That said, God doesn’t neglect the intellect, but rather seeks to cultivate understanding:
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, [or] as the mule, [which] have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
It is a sobering thought, to realize that we are often (usually?) as foolish and willful as mules and wild horses. Yet, it is encouraging that God wants us to transcend that, to share His heart and mind with us, that we may actually learn to be like Him. That is, He wants us to participate in His Dominion of Love, not as slaves or cattle, but as both partakers and distributors of His Sovereign Grace.
For in the end, that is what true blessedness is all about:
In particular, the key is not merely having notional beliefs about God, but a volitional and relational trust in (or perhaps experience of) God. In submitting to Him, we find forgiveness of sin, deliverance from evil, and joy everlasting:
I am reminded of how Chesterton said “joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” And I suspect the ultimate source of that joy is simply the experience of being truly, securely, and incurably loved.
God, forgive me my petty rationalizations and intellectual distancing of myself (and my sin) from you. Father, I long to draw near to you, to be encompassed about by your delivering songs, to shout with the joy of my salvation. Too often have I hidden my sin, to the ruin of my bones. Father free me to drink deeply of the well of your forgiveness, and to receive your gentle instruction, that I may share with you the holy task of saving those who are lost. I ask all this in Jesus name, Amen.