Maybe originality is not as important as I thought

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I've been writing to the Psalms for several years now. To be honest, doing this series has lost some of its original excitement. The main reason, I think, is because it's hard to say something that doesn't feel like something I've said before. 

I blame this problem on the Psalms themselves. They just start to become so repetitive after awhile.

God is good, faithful, and trustworthy... The world is confusing with people who do evil seemingly being blessed... Our troubles have piled up too high, and the supposedly good, faithful, and trustworthy God seems buried underneath it all... But I will praise the Lord anyway with all my heart and soul. 

Psalms become predictable. The lines get repeated and the poetry doesn't end up feeling all that original. How do I put my own spin on a psalm that's saying the same thing ten other psalms have said?

Maybe I don't have to. Maybe that's not the point. 

Psalms seem less concerned with originality and more concerned with the connection between it all. Our human experiences often have more commonalities than we think. We are not alone in our doubts or praises of a mysterious God. 

The Psalmists take the time to put thoughts to paper, joining the chorus that has been sung through the ages with the unique verses of their own perspective. Each psalm is unique, but few are all that original. 

I wonder how it could free us if we stopped putting the expectation on ourselves to always be the best or the only. We are uniquely us, and yet we are part of a collective of people that are a lot like us. Our experiences of God are our own, and yet they echo with the truth, love, and questions that have existed since the beginning of all things. 

I don't think Psalm 112 says much that is new. And I think that's what makes me like it. 

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This post on Psalm 112 is part of my Psalms Journey series. I have been a bit sporadic with that series, but I am not giving up. 

#PsalmsJourney is a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it on my Psalms Journey page. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.

What Jesus' Authority says about God's Character

Okay, friends. This post is going to get a little heady with theology. But please stick with me. Sometimes the Psalms push us in that direction, and when they do, I think it's worth taking up the challenge. One of the things I love about the Bible is the way it encourages us to dig under the surface.

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What Jesus' authority says about God's character

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." -Psalms ‭110‬:‭1‬

This first verse of Psalm 110 is quoted several times in the New Testament. It is given as evidence of a Messiah with the authority of God, because the Lord (Yahweh) is talking to an individual who is Lord (Adonai) over David, the author of the Psalm. (See Matthew 22:44 and Acts 2:34)

But to me, there is another question embedded in the verse besides Jesus' identity: Jesus' character.

If Jesus had the authority to make His enemies a footstool under His feet, what did He choose to do with that power? 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus regularly ate and spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, people some might have thought to be enemies of a Holy God. Even as Christ attacked groups like the Pharisees, it is always about what they are doing (abusing their power and misleading the people), not about who they were. Even while hanging on the cross, Jesus famously asked His Father to forgive those who had put Him there, for they did not know what they were doing.

Over and over again, we see that Jesus' response to hate was love and His reaction to persecution was forgiveness. 

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Too often, presentations of "the Gospel" message have set up a scenario of a strict and holy Father, whose anger and judgment against humanity needs to be appeased. It is His loving son that offers to sacrifice Himself so that we might be spared. 

Though there may be some bits of truth in that, it cannot be a fair representation of God's character. One place we see that is in the many Old Testament stories of a God who gives unmerited favor, love, and forgiveness just as He does in the New.

Another place we see that is in Christ Himself. The Bible tells us "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" and "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3). 

If Christ is the image of God, that means anything we can say about Christ's character must also be true of God's character.  

Which means God cannot be a distant and judgmental presence, but an intimate and forgiving Lover of every soul on earth. Including enemies.

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I wonder if part of the problem is that God and humans define enemies differently. We often think about enemies as people, boxing those around us into categories of those who are for us and those who are against us, and positioning ourselves accordingly.

Perhaps God thinks about enemies not as people themselves, but as the diseases that have infected us. The abuse, hurts, misunderstandings, difficult histories, and pride that have negatively affected the way we treat our fellow humans.

Perhaps it is those diseases that have become a footstool for Christ, for in His love, that is what He was able to squash.  For God has always been, and will always be, in the process of redeeming us.

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“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")”  - Martin Luther King, Jr


This post is part of my Psalms Journey series. I have been a bit sporadic with that series in the last weeks and months, but I am trying to get back on track. After all, I have made it to Psalm 110! This is no time to give up :)

#PsalmsJourney is a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it on my Psalms Journey page. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.

Deliver Me

out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me. - Psalm 109:21

“My God, whom I praise,

Do not remain silent,

Sovereign Lord,

Help me for your name’s sake;

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy,

And my heart is wounded within me.” – Psalm 109:1, 21-22

 

When fear constructs a wall across my path,

When it feels like the only way through

Is to run into something that will crumble my body to the ground,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When the wounds of unresolved hurt drip bitterness into my heart,

When my blood has been infected to

Boil in the presence of certain people,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When anger blindfolds me,

When I can no longer see goodness in who people are

Or what they are doing in your world,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When jealousy smolders around me,

When its heat turns to a fire that burns my feet,

And pushes me to run towards the wrong pool for relief,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When stress and busyness fill my arms

With a load beyond my abilities to carry,

When I feel like I will collapse under the weight of it all,

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

 

When loneliness is my only companion,

When my moans seem to echo in the silence,

Do not remain distant, oh God.

Out of the goodness of Your Love, deliver me.

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Psalm 109, like many psalms, has some ugly language. Angry that I can not remember saying out loud about another person, like hoping his children become wandering beggars.

Yet even here, there is beauty.

For the psalmists seem to have an unrestrained relationship with their God. One that gives them freedom to vent about anything, and trust that it will be okay. That God will not abandon them, but save them. Either from their enemies, or from themselves, and the bitterness that has built up in their hearts.

I am still learning to pray with that kind of confidence.

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This post is part of #PsalmsJourney, a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it here. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.