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A Forgiving God – Psalm 25:11, 12

forgivenessForgiveness — the pardon of sins — is a central issue in Christianity. Jesus has made it so — and has taught us to pray: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Yet, it is also such a difficult issue. When there is a deep wound, the pain is still there, and the anger still arises. In times like this, we wonder: do the words mean anything? When time and time again, you have to pray “Lord, give me the grace to forgive my enemy” you have to wonder if there is ever hope for you. There have been many times, when I have wondered this about myself.

And, I know I’m not alone in having this problem. Those people who have done things that have caused wounds — especially those who have done it quite deliberately and knowingly — are hard to forgive. There are people I know who have been treated unfairly and unjustly. There are people I know who have been abused. And, the problem with forgiveness is that it seems to say that all that was okay. To let go of the anger and the outrage seems to give in to injustice — to give permission for their abuser to do it again to someone else. (more…)

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The Individual and the Community – Psalm 25

I’m still continuing my introduction to Psalm 25. I have commented here and here about the themes I see in Psalm 25, but I haven’t said a word so far about the structure of the Psalm. This hardly seems right. It is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. But, I wanted to give you an idea why I find this Psalm so interesting.

Hebrew AlphabetWell, the structure is interesting too. This is one of those alphabetic psalms. The first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the next verse with the next letter, and so forth. (Other such psalms are 9, 10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145.) The last verse is outside this structure. So, verses 1-21 are alphabetic in structure. Verse 22 is like a postscript comment. Commentators are quick to assert that verse 22 comes from a different author, though (of course) that need not be true.

It’s always good to know about this alphabetic structure. Then, we do not expect too much from the Psalm — the constraints of the alphabetic structure limit freedom of expression. Craigie writes (p. 217):

but, inevitably the acrostic pattern imposes certain limitations on the poet, and as a consequence there is not a clearly developed internal sequence of thought within the psalm. The verses alternate between prayers or petitions and expressions of the psalmist’s confidence in God.

But, there is one very interesting feature: verse 22 stands outside the alphabetic structure. (more…)

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On Having Enemies – Psalm 57:3

יִשְׁלַח מִשָּׁמַיִם וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנִי חֵרֵף שֹׁאֲפִי סֶלָה יִשְׁלַח אֱלֹהִים חַסְדּוֹ וַאֲמִתּוֹ
“He will send from heaven and save me, he will put to shame those who trample on me. Selah. God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.” (NRSV.)

Hebrew_bible_4Recently I posted some thoughts about the first phrase in this Psalm: “[God] will send from heaven and save me….”

The next phrase (“he will put to shame those who trample on me”) points up one of my long-standing problems with the Psalms.

When I first began to read the Psalms, as a young man, I was put off by the recurrent theme of “enemies.” Praying to God in the midst of confusion and need I could understand. Praying to God in times of distress and suffering I could understand. But, the frequent and recurrent theme of persecution by enemies was something with which I could not connect.

Or, maybe I just didn’t want to connect with it. (more…)

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