Sometimes the psalm summarizes itself for you. Consider the opening lines of today’s psalm: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!” (112:1). The rest of the psalm is basically a litany of blessings for the man who fears the Lord. He receives a well-established family tree, material wealth, a good legacy, victory over his adversaries, and more. But let’s zero in on a verse in the middle of the psalm, characterizing this man of many blessings. The man is merciful–and a creditor.
We’re in Big Psalm Territory now, and today’s forty-eight-verse song concerns God’s goodness to his rebellious children. I’m reminded of one day from my Modernist Literature class in college when we had been discussing religious themes in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. At the end of the class, the professor tangentially noted that the Old Testament often is uncomplimentary toward its “heroes,” reporting their faults and shortcomings rather than building them up as larger-than-life figures of greatness. You’ll find this phenomenon in the narratives of the Torah, but you’ll also find it in this psalm.
I guess we’re making a tradition of this: drafting my blogposts on paper towels in airports. It’s currently 1:10 PM, I missed my earlier flight out of Columbus, and my re-scheduled flight doesn’t leave until 4:40. It would be easy to get frustrated with the long wait and this bump in my travel plans, and honestly, I am a little bit frusty. But I’ve got orange dark chocolate, I’ve got an English translation of an ancient Hebrew song about how God is amazing and you should make music for him even if you are geography (vv.7-8), and in a few hours I will be, as Louis CK puts it, sitting on a chair in the sky. So, God is good and life is not so bad.
In today’s chapter, encouragement for Israel continues. Isaiah’s got some hope to deliver to his countrymen.
In this chapter, as in many other places, Isaiah contrasts God’s stability with man’s insecurity. He prays, “O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their strength every morning, our salvation also in the time of distress” (33:2). And he expects that, in time, God will deliver his people from the uncertainty and threats around them. “He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge” (33:5-6), Isaiah prophesies. There is societal stability in God’s justice and wisdom, his moral and noetic goodness, his omnibenevolence and omniscience; where God is king, he brings peace.
Took me long enough to notice, but there’s a mantra going in yesterday’s and today’s chapters of Isaiah: “In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out” (9:12, 9:17, 9:21, 10:4). The Contemporary Jackson Ferrell Version reads, “Ain’t no party like a God’s wrath party ’cause a God’s wrath party don’t stop.” It’s a prophetic indication that even after the judgment of Aramean and Philistine invasion, even after the judgment of Israel losing its leadership, even after the judgment of self-consuming evil, even after the judgment of devastation and captivity, there’s more.
The issue of the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai isn’t the only place in Exodus that God commands the Hebrews to keep the Sabbath. There are four more injunctions to seventh-day rest throughout the rest of the book. Exodus 34:21 and Exodus 35:2-3 briefly mention the Sabbath, the former noting “even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest,” and the latter adding “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.” The other two passages have a bit more to say about the Sabbath.