Song 22 – Abridged

baby foot in hands
Photo credit: <a href="">Pawel Loj</a>

Psalm 22:23-31

Give God credit, you who respect God.
Say how good God is, descendents of Jacob,
And be amazed, descendents of Israel,
Because God didn’t shrug off
The torment of the troubled,
Nor did God hide from me
When I called out to God.

My admiration among the people
Comes straight from you.
I will do as I said,
With people who respect you as witnesses.
The poor will eat and have enough to spare,
People who seek God will praise God.
May all of you live forever!

The whole wide world will remember
And will acknowledge God.
Every race and nation
Will worship God,
Because God has the power
To rule over everything.
Even those who are dead and buried
Will acknowledge God.

The dead will acknowledge God,
And I will live for God.
Those yet to be born will hear about God
And will tell how God rescues
to others yet to come:
“God did it.”

Song 3

soldier contemplating?
Photo credit: <a href="">DVIDSHUB</a>

Psalm 3

[Attributed to David when he was fleeing from his son, Absalom.]

God, my enemies are everywhere!
They’re coming at me from every direction,
Telling me, “Give up, God won’t help you!”
But, God, you are my body armor,
You’re my everything,
Because of you, I can keep my chin up.

I shout to God,
And God shouts back from God’s mountain set apart.
I lie down to sleep,
And because God keeps me alive I wake up again.
I’m not afraid even if I’m surrounded
By 10,000 maniacs.

Rise up, God!
Rescue me, God!
Punch my enemies in the face, God,
Knock the teeth out of those bastards!

God rescues.
May God be generous to God’s own.

They say the Psalms cover the whole range of human emotion, and it’s true. Psalm 3 shows us a picture of the dark side.

While some try to get around the violence of this song by spiritualizing it, the result tends toward Biblical justification of a violent spirituality.

A better way is to look at this song in all it’s ugliness as an example of a faith gone bad. Yes, it’s gone bad under a lot of stress. (Let’s assume that the enemies are real.) Still, the militant response – strap on the body armor and call it God, to persist out of sheer spite and call it God, dehumanize the enemy by labeling them maniacs, call on God to wipe out the people we are at odds with, claim God as one’s own personal mercenary – is a picture of a twisted and damaged human spirituality that has warped the image God into a mirror of itself.

Such a God may sell movies, but it’s the worst kind of idolatry. It’s true in the sense that just about everyone visits this Nietzschean will-to-power place, if only secretly and briefly. Who hasn’t wished that lightning would strike an enemy? Even Nietzsche, though, recognized that when one lives into it, God dies.

Song 25 – Abridged

fork in the road
Photo credit: <a href="">i_yudai</a>

Psalm 25:1-10

I dedicate my life to you, God.
I trust in you, God.
Only don’t let me be embarrassed,
And don’t let my enemies get the best of me.
Don’t let anyone who’s relying on you be ashamed.
Instead let the double-crossers be ashamed.

Reveal your way to me, God,
Show me your map,
Lead me to the truth,
Teach me,
For you are the God who rescues me,
You’re the one I’m waiting for.

Remember your mercy, God,
And your constant love –
They go way back.
Don’t remember my youthful folly
Or my screw-ups.
Instead, remember me, the way you love me,
For goodness sake, God.

God is good and honest.
So God teaches wanderers how to get back,
And leads the humble to do what’s right.
God teaches the humble how to proceed.

All the roads on God’s map
Lead to constant love and loyalty
For everyone who will follow God’s directions
And do what God says.

Song 2

Image credit: <a href="">Mutasim Billah</a>

Psalm 2

Why do nations plot?
Why do people scheme?
Why do kings and presidents
Connive amongst themselves
Against God’s chosen one,
Saying, “Let’s break them,
And do whatever we please”?

God laughs at them.
God scorns them.
Then, enraged, God speaks,
And God will terrify them,
“I will coronate my king.
I will designate the capitol.”

I announce God’s executive order.
God told me, “You are my child,
Today, you are my child.
The nations are yours for the asking,
The whole world is yours.
Break them with an iron bar!
Smash them like so many old jars!”

So, kings and presidents,
You’ve been warned. Take heed!
Your commission is to serve God’s purpose.
The magnitude of that task should make you tremble,
For if you fail, you will suddenly be thrown down,
And God’s wrath will consume you.

You who take refuge in God, rise up!

Most of us are not kings or presidents. We might be tempted to think that this is not about us. If it weren’t for the last line. For an explanation of the rendition (traditionally, something like, “Happy are those who take refuge in God”), see this explanation.

The point is not just to sit and wait for God to take down those in power who abuse their people. The point is to incite an uprising. The “wrath of God” isn’t a lightning bolt out of the blue. The wrath of God is expressed by the people of God, who refuse to remain enslaved, who rise up. The responsibility of kings and presidents is not to perpetuate their power. It’s to administer justice. This is a theme that is confirmed over and over throughout the Torah and the prophets. Rising up in protest against the abuse of rulers, foreign and domestic, religious and secular, is the whole aim of Jesus’ movement.

To take refuge in God is to rise up, wherever and whenever those who’ve been entrusted with justice betray that trust.