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.

Finding Perspective

There's a special sort of grounding that happens in me when I get out in nature. When I am hiking up a trail, admiring a flower, soaking in wondrous sunshine, dipping my feet in the ocean, or gazing at the stars, I feel like one small part of a story much bigger than me. I sense the connection of the pieces of the ecosystem, and it brings a calming force to my hurried soul. 

In short, I find perspective.

perspective comes when we see our significance and insignificance at the same time.

In nature, both the significance at each tiny piece of a system and the insignificance of our small selves in the midst of grandeur become simultaneously clear. 

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"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" - Psalm 111:10

We often think of the word fear as synonymous with the word terror. Which makes verses like this feel prickly when we come across them in the Scriptures. Sure, God is powerful, but are we really supposed to be terrified of the Lord? Doesn't that contradict the passages about God's love and mercy and grace?

In Hebrew, the mowra' means fear and terror, but that is not the word used in Psalm 111:10. The word used here is yirah, which besides fear, can be translated as awe. 

Some scholars have made an interesting connection between yirah and ra'ah. Though they don't look very similar in their english characters, in Hebrew characters they are almost identical, with the first having the apostrophe like symbol for the y sound at the beginning of it. The largest and most obvious of the characters are the same. 

Ra'ah means to see or perceive. 

Before asking what it means to fear the Lord, perhaps we should ask what we see. When we look at this world, what do we see? When we look at the Scriptures, what do we see? 

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"Great are the works of the Lord;
    they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
    and his righteousness endures forever." - Psalm 111:2-3

"Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?" - Job 38:4-7

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. - Psalm 139:13-14

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" - Matthew 6:26-27

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Perhaps fear of the Lord is what happens when we look around and see things as they actually are: the wonder of an amazing creation and the Creator who crafted it, the smallness of my own problems in perspective, and yet the promise that the great God of this world cares about even me.


This post is part of my Psalms Journey series. 

#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.