We think that looking at things from every angle helps us see more clearly, but I wonder sometimes if it actually puts our focus in the wrong place.
I’m not sure if this has always been the case, or if it is one of the effects of modern technology. Our access to information can be a curse as much as it can be a blessing. We watch and discuss and listen and post and read and tweet, taking the pieces of life apart to discuss them, not realizing that we might not know how to put them back together.
We do this with the Bible. And it pulls apart our faith.
Yes, we should come to the Scriptures as educated pursuers of its truth. We need to realize that how we read things will be shaped and misshaped by our own experiences. We should remember that the words are thousands of years old, from a culture vastly different from our own. We ought to do some work to understand how different translations approached the original text, and maybe even do some language study.
But also? We should remember that the same Holy Spirit that was with the authors of the Books as they wrote their words is within us as we read them. We need to sometimes leave the questions on the table and let our heart be captured by the wonder of an unfathomable God. We ought to worship our God alongside the worshipers of long ago, without worrying about whether the words are translated precisely for our modern day.
So yes, Psalm 47 is a Psalm written by and for Israel. It is praising God for giving them victory over their enemies and a safe city in which to dwell. We could dissect whether it is appropriate for believers today to use its words. We could question and argue about how to translate its words, like “maskil.” (Does it mean “psalm of praise” or “skillful psalm”?) We could get into long theological debates about what it means for God to be king over the earth, and how that joins together with the existence of human free will.
Or, we could just sing it.
We could sing Psalm 47’s words of praise to God without dissecting them to pieces. We could join with those who have sung words throughout the ages that praise God for His strength and might. We could clap our hands in joy that this God is the One who Reigns is the One who Loves is the One Who Died is the One Who Rose Again is the One Who is with us in all things is the One who Forever Will Be God.
Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.
- Psalm 47:1-2, 5-9
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.