Psalm 33 Rational Exuberance

Standard
Questions: Do we have any right to be happy? Is God really trustworthy? Is joy attainable? Even mandatory?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father.
And manifest the Son in this world — and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 33:1-22

Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous:

The thing about doing the Psalms in a linear fashion is that I’m never quite sure what I’ll be getting. Anguish? Repentance? Questioning? Fear? It is a bit like living in Quantum Leap — always different, yet usually traumatic!

Still, sometimes we get lucky, and today is one of those times. With no time to sing the blues, the Psalmist just cuts loose a rockin’ song of joy.

[for] praise is comely for the upright.

An odd phrase, but a fascinating point. There is nothing more uplifting that seeing good people happy about healthy things. (just as few things are more sickening as wicked people delighting in evil!). Clearly, “happiness” here is not a mere emotional high, but a realistic reaction to living righteously before a Holy God. Sing it!

Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery [and] an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

And why do we praise Him?

For the word of the LORD [is] right; and all his works [are done] in truth.

And why is all He does right and true?

He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

How full?

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.

So?

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe
of him.

This is actually a pretty important point. American religiosity tends towards what I call “2+1” Deism. There is the God of Science, which rules powerfully but callously over cold, hard mathematical and scientific truths; then there is the God of Love, who inspires human relationship but is impotent to protect us from the ravages of the world.

Today’s Psalmist knows nothing of such distinctions, but instead celebrates One God who rules all:

For he spake, and it was [done]; he commanded, and it stood fast. The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

Amen! If that is in fact the true nature of divinity (ultimate reality), then it is obvious why:

Blessed [is] the nation whose God [is] the LORD; [and] the people [whom] he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

What is not obvious, though, is why he chose anyone to be so blessed; much less the Israelites! We don’t really get a “why” here, though we perhaps get a glimpse of “how”:

The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.

And what does He think of those works?

There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse [is] a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver [any] by his great strength.

Ouch. As a resident of the world’s only superpower, that’s a humbling thought. If power is no surety, then what is?

Behold, the eye of the LORD [is] upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Now, that is a fascinating juxtaposition: Fear + Hope. I strongly suspect that this is an essential tension — and the only way to split the difference between rational depression and irrational enthusiasm. We need both to approach God with humble expectation, and wait on Him (and His timing):

Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he [is] our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in
him, because we have trusted in his holy name

And what do we bring as we seek his favor?

Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee

Hope. That’s it. No sacrifice, no protestations of righteousness, not even plaintive needs.

Just the simple faith that God rewards those who seek Him. And a willingness to wait.

So little — yet so difficult!

Prayer

God, I don’t want to waste your time or mine whining about how pathetic I am. You are God! That so rocks!! It blows my mind that the ultimate principle of the
universe, the source of all physics, math, psychology — the highest-level
system — loves me! And not just me, but loves all the best things that I love: righteousness, truth, justice. And as if that wasn’t enough, you don’t just love them in isolation, seated on your distant throne. You bend down and reach out, searching through the peoples for men and women — or children — who desire to draw near to you. And you let them! As dirty and messed-up as we are, you invite us to crawl into your lap and receive your forgiveness. And dwell with you forever.

Wow!

About the Title:

Today’s title is in honor of Greenspan‘s famous comment during the Dot-Com boom.

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