Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psalms 14 / 53 – Partners in God’s Fury Hinting at Grace

“God looks down from heaven on humankind

to see if there are any who are wise,

who seek after God.”

~Psalm 53:2 (NRSV).

It’s a logical enough question: Who is wise? The psalmist answers... those “who seek after God.”

These almost identical psalms are for the backslider in all of us; yes, we’ve all been there, even if it’s only been for a day or three. But, equally, these psalms call home the eternal heartache of the Lord that no matter what truth is thrust before some eyes and hearts they won’t turn, no, never!

Yet, still again, “there is no one who does good.” (Verse 1c) “... no, not one.” (Verse 3c)

Two Parties Transgressed

Such psalms put us in two places; the position of the Lord as he looks down on crooked creation, and the scolded lowly righteous person who’s at the receiving end of persecution. Neither has a satisfactory conclusion. Either way it’s the Lord that’s transgressed—any sin hurts God.

As we meditate in this location for a moment there’s the rising stench of wickedness that begins to waft into and through our unprotected nostrils. It brings the urge to dry reach, so stark is the sin... and not from any form of self-righteousness; it’s that God’s hurt, or that an innocent person is upset. It’s the indignation experienced when injustice sweeps with its filthy birch broom through situations scattering the mud of contempt all over the place.

Oh, For the Grace of God

There is a reminder via these cherished sonnets of truth. No matter how we rework the math, sin is sin and we cannot escape the fact that we will transgress both God and the innocent person.

Guilty as charged! (If we’re honest.)

But the Avenger of both the righteous and the wicked is the Lord. These psalms speak about the consequences for both—“refuge” for the righteous (14:6b) and “scattered bones” for the ungodly (53:5b).

The good news, of course, has come into this world.

Jesus’ most eternal of magnanimous acts—the obedience to climb the hell of the cross, to be beautifully nailed to it for our sin—has saved us. He did away with wickedness in one sick throe.

“O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!

When God restores the fortunes of his people,

Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.”

~Psalms 14:7 and 53:6 (NRSV).

We know that we’re entering Zion, yes, even now. Though the physical journey is incomplete we’re on the right track if we call Jesus “Lord,” and we’re wise by seeking after God.

We will rejoice and we will be glad!

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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