Welcome back to All The Paul, here on the Paul Channel, your place for the most up-to-date Paul coverage. (From the couch, someone remarks, “This 24/7 Paul Cycle has really gotten out of hand.”) Today we’re taking a second look at the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, because we’re all about making that progress.
David’s back with what the NASB calls “An Evening Prayer for Sanctification and Protection.” He asks God to protect him from dangers both inside and out: his malicious adversaries and his own propensity for evil in word and deed. And I don’t know how qualified I am to make this call, but it strikes me as one of the most humble psalms I’ve read yet.
Psalm 136 picks up Psalm 118’s repetition of the phrase “His lovingkindness is everlasting” in its opening verses and takes it to its logical conclusion: repeating it throughout the whole song. The result is a call-and-response worship song that is sure to get the whole ancient Hebrew congregation bouncing. It inspired the song “Forever,” written by Chris Tomlin and performed by Michael W. Smith on his 2001 album Worship. “Forever” repeats the line “His love endures forever” throughout the verses, but while it focuses on God’s faithfulness, power, and compassion for humankind in general, Psalm 136 is specifically a song from Israel’s history about Israel’s history.
David’s back with today’s psalm, which is about getting in touch with your inner child.
If the central topic of Isaiah 1 was the rebellious sons of Israel, chapter 2 focuses on their pride and its consequences. But before that, it takes a moment to ask what a future with actual humility would look like.
I remember a time in college when a friend volunteered to open the Christian Fellowship meeting with a prayer. The first words out of his mouth? “Our Mother, who art in Heaven.” It was like he’d dropped a bomb into the circle; even with my eyes closed, I could feel something shift in the room. After he finished praying, another member of the group quickly threw out a few conciliatory words about how God’s name “El Shaddai” referred to the Hebrew term for “breast,” but I remember thinking that God was masculine, not feminine, and that my friend’s invocation had been misled at best, possibly even out of line. I congratulated us on being such a charitable group to not require perfect theology from our “baby Christians.” Big pat on the back for us, right?