On Judgement in the Psalms

January 7 – Psalm 7

Today’s Psalm is an example of the sort of Psalm we’ll see over and over again: a Psalm that cries out for justice.  Over and over again, we’ll read the psalmist say: “God, vindicate me, and punish my persecutors.”

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The desire to be avenged on one’s enemies can sometimes strike Christian readers as inappropriate.  I find C.S. Lewis to be extremely helpful on the issue of judgment in the Psalms (as he is always helpful):

“The ancient Jews, like ourselves, think of God’s judgement in terms of an earthly court of justice.  The difference is that the Christian pictures the case to be tried as a criminal case with himself in the dock; the Jew pictures it as a civil case with himself as the plaintiff.  The one hopes for acquittal, or rather for pardon; the other hopes for a resounding triumph with heavy damages.  Hence he prays ‘judge my quarrel’, or ‘avenge my cause’ (Psalm 35:23)….

“Behind this lies an age-old and almost world-wide experience which we have been spared.  In most places and times it has been very difficult for the ‘small man’ to get his case heard.  The judge (and, doubtless, one or two of his underlings) has to be bribed.  If you can’t afford to ‘oil his palm’ your case will never reach court.  Our judges do not receive bribes.  (We probably take this blessing too much for granted; it will not remain with us automatically).  We need not therefore be surprised if the Psalms, and the Prophets, are full of the longing for judgement, and regard the announcement that ‘judgement’ is coming as good news.  Hundreds and thousands of people who have been stripped of all they possess and who have the right entirely on their side will at last be heard.  Of course they are not afraid of judgement.  They know their case is unanswerable—if only it could be heard.  When God comes to judge, at last it will.”

–from Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis (pp. 10-11)

 

–AF

Jan. 7 – Genesis 16:1-18:19

 

Genesis 1-11 is about how the world became such a mess.  Genesis 12 begins the story (which is still unfolding) of what God is doing to fix the mess.  God’s plan is laughable: he will save the world through one man’s family.  That man is Abram (later called Abraham).

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There is a problem, however: “Abraham and Sarah [his wife] were old, advanced in years, and “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.”  In Genesis 15, we read how God made a covenant with Abram and promised Abram as many children as there are stars in the sky, and that through that family would God bless the whole world.  So the fact that Abraham and Sarah still do not have children is a major problem.

In Genesis 15, Sarah takes matters into her own hands and decides to have Abraham father a child through her servant.  He does, and unsurprisingly the servants pregnancy causes problems in the family.  Whenever we decide to use our means to achieve God’s ends, it always goes badly for us.

16:6, One of the original sins of men is passivity.  That was Adam’s sin at the Fall–“It was the woman YOU gave me, Lord”–and that’s Abram’s sin here (along with the obvious sin of lust.”  He agrees to do what he knows is wrong by sleeping with the maid, and then he refuses to speak up for her.  I think this verse is heartbreaking.

16:11-14, Circumcision is like a gang tattoo: it’s meant to signify your allegiance.  Think of the significance, then, that baby boys are circumcised before they know what it signifies.  What this means is that God’s covenant comes to us first, before we deserve it or earn it.  It is a covenant of grace.

16:18-19, Abraham wants God to make the covenant with his son Ishmael, the first-born.  But, as we’ll see over and over again with the patriarchs, God subverts primogeniture and chooses the younger son.  God has a way of subverting human expectations.

17:17 – Abraham thinks God’s plan is ridiculous.  And he’s right.  But, God works in ridiculous ways.

18:1-8 – Note the picture of ancient Near Eastern hospitality: Abraham drops what he’s doing to care for his guests.

18:1 – It’s a very mysterious guest that Abraham entertains, but though we know it is a divine guest, Abraham does not.  (The event is referenced in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”)

–AF

January 7 – Daily Notes – Amanda

Genesis 16:1-18:19:

  • 2 – Note that God did not tell Abram to make a child with Hagar. Abram listens to Sarai, his wife, about how to fulfill God’s plan instead of trusting God to take care of it.
  • 11 – Like we find our Jewish and Christian roots in Isaac, Abraham’s son, Muslims find their roots in Ishmael.
  • 5 – There are many cases of biblical characters’ names being changed when something significant happens to them. Names defined identity in this culture so a name change was a big deal.
  • 1-14 – God defines the terms of his covenant with Abraham. He promises to make Abraham’s offspring countless. In return, he asks that all males in Abraham’s family be circumcised as an outward sign of their commitment.
  • 14 – Each of us should memorize the first half of this verse.

Matthew 6:1-24:

  • 1 – Our good deeds should not be for show.
  • 9-13 – The Lord’s Prayer. This is a perfect example of how to pray: adoration, asking for what we need, asking for forgiveness, and asking for God to lead us towards holiness.
  • 19-21 – What we treasure is where we place our value. It is not wrong to have things, but we should hold God and his will high above anything we could possess.
  • 24 – It seems so easy to split our loyalty, but we are not truly loving God if we are loving something else equally.

Psalm 7:1-17:

  • 3-9 – Clearly David is confident that he is on God’s side and obeying God’s will in the situation he’s referring to. He even asks God to judge him according to his own righteousness, which I don’t feel like any of us would be willing to do.

Proverbs 2:1-5:

  • We often make attempts to seek God through a variety of means, but what if we sought him like silver and hidden treasure? How much more would we find him if we sought him with that kind of fervor.