In yesterday’s chapter of Luke, we saw–among other things–a resurrection: Jesus raised a widow’s only son from the dead. And today’s chapter contains the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Lamp, a brief yet eventful boat trip, and the encounter with the Gerasene Demoniac, but it concludes with another resurrection. A synagogue official sends for Jesus, hoping he can heal the official’s fatally-ill daughter, but she dies while Jesus is en route. That’s no deterrent to the Son of God, however; he raises the girl from the dead.
Unlike yesterday’s psalm, there’s no cave in Psalm 143. The only real context we’re given is that it’s by David, and therefore about some point in his life. But like yesterday’s psalm, it’s a prayer under pressure for God’s help and mercy. Perhaps it was written from a cave, or about a cave, as David says his enemy has driven him into “dark places” (3). But although it’s a psalm with very little light, it’s not a psalm devoid of hope.
David’s back with today’s psalm, which is about getting in touch with your inner child.
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.
Remember yesterday? How Asaph was troubled by the prosperity of evildoers, and then he came into the sanctuary of God and realized just how short-lived their stay of execution would be? How, in God’s presence, he saw the justice of God’s character, and his eyes were opened to the ultimate fate of the wicked? Well, today that sanctuary has been burned and sacked, and the perpetrators have scorned God and his people. Yesterday, Asaph’s troubles seemed so far away, but now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Going by Brueggemann’s classification scheme, we’ve got a psalm of disorientation on our hands today. The author isn’t identified, but it certainly sounds like David: he’s afflicted and insulted by enemies, threatened by ruthless men, crying out to God for deliverance. It’s a funny thing about disorientation, though. It comes in degrees.
Growing up, my brother and I learned to be polite. I was born in Texas, and until the age of eight, I lived in the Carolinas. While I’m glad that my parents refrained from drilling into me the traditional southern “yes sir, yes ma’am,” they did insist that my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”–none of that “yeah” or “nah.” Whenever someone did something for you, you thanked them. And when you asked for something? You said “please.” To issue a command without the polite qualifier was rude.
You may know Psalm 42 as the psalm with the thirsty deer simile. It’s one of the more well-known psalms, in part because of the popular worship song “As The Deer.” Written in 1981 by Martin Nystrom, the worship song focuses on God as fulfilling one’s most fundamental desires. It’s decidedly a song of orientation. In Psalm 42, David remembers singing psalms of orientation in the house of God–but such experiences are far from him now. Psalm 42 is a psalm of dehydration.
If you’re anything like me, you consider what you say carefully. You ensure that you can trust people before you open up to them; until you drop your guard, every conversation is an experimental trial to see what you can safely share with whom. You gather data and run simulations in your head of possible conversations, testing for optimal outcomes. And you try to make your goal to say the right thing, the thing that is of greatest benefit rather than the thing that makes the most people like you and best hides your faults. But it’s tough. So you don’t speak much. And sometimes you keep it bottled up inside until you feel like you can’t hold it in anymore, and you’ve got to open the floodgates.
Some poetry is very much a product of its time and place. Consider, for example, this psalm, written in the turn-of-the-10th-century BC kingdom of Israel. It’s a communal psalm, meant for the community of God’s people to sing together: “We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners” (5). The people recognize themselves as “we” and speak to a singular “you,” expressing their desire for the “you’s” blessing from God. And the name of the God in which they’ll set up their banners? It’s YHWH, the Creator worshiped by the Hebrew people.