Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Psalm 36 – Beseeching God for Continued Blessing

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,

your judgments are like the great deep;

you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.”

~Psalm 36:5-6 (NRSV).

There are many kinds of people whom inhabit this earth — to which their personalities, morals and disposing characters there are the colours of the rainbow.

The range of character known about the earth is revealed also in the fullness of God. We can know this by the insurmountable nature of many ethical issues. Is there a limit to the range of views that might be represented? So many wars are fought over such expansive ideals.

Such vast cultural differences provide cause for concern over safety. It’s a challenge to harmony. Psalm 36 represents fear for cognisance of such difference. The threats are noted.

Biblical Lament – Ranging Between Vast Poles

The psalmist, David, vacillates between two poles during these twelve verses, which is a feature typical of his laments.

He begins in the first four verses by highlighting, in God’s Presence, the despicability of the enemy. He finds that:

“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in their hearts;

there is no fear of God before their eyes.”

~Psalm 36:1 (NRSV).

Such analysis of character is healthy because it gives verbal meaning — via the language of prayer — quantifying what the issues of difference are. But it easily enters the realm of complaint, and that’s ominous territory. David has clearly landed there, but his lament is balanced with calls of praise to the Lord (verses 6-9).

Our complaints, too, need to represent this balance — that we’d not shut God out from our cries for justice. Indeed, God’s to be central within our laments; a hard thing remembered in practical terms.

Ultimately a Seeking of Protection

We get the distinct sense as we read many of David’s laments — and Psalm 36 exemplifies this — that there’s a cogent vein of fear driving the language of his prayer.

The final two verses speak most visibly of this concern. David asks the Lord to protect him from the “foot of the arrogant” and the “hand of the wicked” — enunciated, here, is the fear of physical harm and of being bullied out of his rightful home.

These fears speak also of our fears. We get genuinely concerned for things that might be done to us that could bring about injury or ill-health, as well as being dispossessed — whether it be from the land we’ve acquired, a position of status or some other ‘claim’ we have identity with.

Our grandest hope in this life, whilst we have it good, is for continued blessing; for the Lord’s favour to continue to dwell with us.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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