Today’s passage: Psalm 46
Today’s chocolate: Endangered Species dark chocolate with cacao nibs
Here’s another psalm of orientation, according to Walter Brueggemann’s classification scheme, about God protecting his people. And here’s the thing about psalms of orientation: they always strike me as the choir preaching to itself. For the person sincerely singing them, life is good, pain is negligible, and on a long enough time frame all evildoers will be brought to justice. How does the choir sound to the person in the Cry Hole? It’s gonna sound like Job’s friends telling him, “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed?” (Job 4:7).
Maybe it’s not meant for the person in the Cry Hole; maybe it’s a song for an oriented congregation to sing to itself. But it seems to me that psalms of orientation, whatever they might have going for them, always come from a place of orientation. Let’s look specifically at the opening of this psalm:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. (1-3)
The congregation asserts that God will aid them in time of trouble. And I want to scream, “Congregation, how do you know?” All said, as the congregation sings these words, they’re expressing faith.
I’m all for merited faith–trust that has a basis, a foundation. God has to communicate his trustworthiness to me before I’ll trust him, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect this. Or, at the very least, the predicted outcome of acting in trust and discovering that my trust was not merited has to be better than refusing to trust. If not trusting is the worst-case scenario, then I’ll trust. But the congregation’s faith reminds me of a familiar verse from Hebrews: “And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Simply put, they expect God to be there for them. Even in this hypothetical scenario of complete tectonic upheaval wherein the mountains fall into the sea, complete geological inversion, the congregation is fearless because of their confidence in God. Which, unless they are either speaking in metaphors or have experienced God’s provision during a catastrophic actual-mountain-destroying earthquake-tsunami, sounds to me like utter lunacy.
I mean, this psalm was written by the sons of Korah. And they write, “[God] makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire” (9). He breaks the bow? Just yesterday, sons of Korah, you were singing about how he puts arrows in the heart of the king’s enemies. This God we’re trusting in: is he a God of peace and protection or not? And why does he kill people who threaten to destroy his peace when he could just disarm them?
So, let’s do a question of the day. I’m trying to do a question of the day each day now. How do you react to psalms of orientation? Do you find it hard to trust God in unfamiliar situations?