Lectionary II (Yr C)
Luke 14:1, 7-14 (I)
Luke 14:1, 7-14 (II)
Heb. 13:1-8, 15-16
Lk. 13:10-17 (I)
Lk. 13:10-17 (II)
Isaiah 5:1-7 (I)
Isaiah 5:1-7 (II)
Luke 12:49-56 (I)
Luke 12:49-56 (II)
Heb. 12:1-7 (I)
Heb. 12:1-7 (II)
Gen. 15:1-6 (I)
Gen. 15:1-6 (II)
Psalm 50 (I)
Psalm 50 (II)
Lk 12:32-40 (I)
Lk 12:32-40 (II)
Heb. 11:1ff. (I)
Heb. 11:1ff. (II)
Lk. 12:13-21 (I)
Lk. 12:13-21 (II)
Lk. 11:1-13 (I)
Lk. 11:1-13 (II)
Lk. 11:1-13 (III)
Lk. 10:38-42 (I)
Lk. 10:38-42 (II)
Lk. 10:25-37 (I)
Lk. 10:25-37 (II)
II Kings 5:1-14 (I)
II Kings 5:1-14 (II)
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
Galatians 6 (I)
Galatians 6 (II)
II Kings 2:1-14
Ps. 16 (I)
Ps. 16 (II)
Gal. 5:1, 13-25
I Ki. 19:1-15a (I)
I Ki. 19:1-15a (II)
Ps. 42-43 (I)
Ps. 42-43 (II)
Gal. 3:23-29 (I)
Gal. 3:23-29 (II)
I Kings 21 (I)
I Kings 21 (II)
Luke 7:36-50 (I)
Luke 7:36-50 (II)
Gal 2:11-21 (I)
Gal 2:11-21 (II)
I Kings 17:8-24
Trinity (June 3)
Prov. 8:22-31 (I)
Prov. 8:22-31 (II)
Romans 5:1-5 (I)
Romans 5:1-5 (II)
John 16: 5-15
Pentecost (May 27)
Gen. 11:1-9 (I)
Gen. 11:1-9 (II)
Acts 2:1-21 (I)
Acts 2:1-21 (II)
John 14:8-17 (II)
Easter VII (May 20)
Acts 16:16-34 (I)
Acts 16:16-34 (II)
John 17:20-26 (I)
John 17:20-26 (II)
Easter VI (May 13)
Rev. 21:10, 22-22:5
Easter V (May 6)
Acts 11; 13; 14
My Own Acrostic Ps. (based on Ps. 145)
Pentecost + 11--August 12, 2007
Bill Long 8/1/07
Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; No Bull! (First Essay)
Here is the Psalm, in the NRSV:
"A Psalm of Asaph.
1 The mighty one, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 ‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
7 ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt-offerings are continually before me....
22 ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me; to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.’"
I have given this exposition the colorful (I hope!) title of "No Bull" because of the (unintended) humorous translation of v. 9 in the Revised Standard Version and other older Bible translations. Perhaps that is why our reading stops at v. 8 after all. Verse 9 used to say, "I will accept no bull from your house." Now, the NRSV, without comment of course, has "cleaned it up" to say, "I will not accept a bull from your house." I sort of preferred the old translation!
Psalm 50 is a fine illustration of the point I have frequently made about the Psalms--that they are, in fact, "orientation exhortations." That is, their primary purpose is not to tell a story or to declare "Thus says the Lord," or to give instruction in wise dealing in life. Their primary purpose is to deal with a deep human emotion or spiritual need, and to exhort us to (re)orient ourselves to God. In this Psalm the emotion dealt with is thanksgiving or gratitude. We should offer sacrifices to God; but only those which are given with thanksgiving, with a heart directed rightly to God, will be acceptable to God. This theme is reflected throughout the Scriptures, with Paul being one of the best biblical writers on gratitude. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7). We are exhorted to gratitude because our tendency is not to be grateful. We like to whine, complain, and otherwise stress our victimization. But this Psalm won't let us "go there."
One of the arresting things about this Psalm is its literary form. Rather than beginning with a statement of gratitude, or distress, or a declaration of love, or a recital of God's deeds in the past, the author begins with a theophany--a description of God's "coming." This theophany is wrapped in prophetic-type language. There is also the language of lawsuit. It is God the Lord, who shines forth from Zion, who is coming to speak to us. God is coming, and will God be pleased? Or, in the language of the reading from Luke for this week, will we be ready? Three points help us focus on the Psalm's lesson for us: (1) The Coming of God; (2) The Basic Principle of the Passage; and (3) a Warning. Each deserves brief mention.
I. God's Coming
When I began studying this passage, I did a double take, for it seemed to reflect the same world as Elihu's words to Job at the end of Job 37. Listen to those words:
"22 Out of the north comes golden splendour;
around God is awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty—we cannot find him;
he is great in power and justice,
and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
24 Therefore mortals fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit'" (Job 37:22-24).
The same spirit imbues this passage. Three points about the divine coming or theophany are the language of lawsuit, God as light or fire, and natural world as witnesses to God's word. The opening words of the Psalm are reminiscent of the great prophetic "lawsuit" passages, where God is portrayed as initiating a suit with the people. One example will suffice. In Mic. 6, God is about to indict the people for faithlessness. We have:
"1 Hear what the Lord says:
Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth;
for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
and he will contend with Israel."
God can bring a lawsuit (reeb in Hebrew) because of the covenant between God and the people. Disobedience to that covenant by either party allows the non-offending party to bring the other to book. This is what is happening here.
God "shines forth" out of Zion. Many biblical passages stress the "light-like" character of God. My favorite is from Ps. 104.
"You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment" (vv. 1-2).
Sometimes God can be said to dwell in darkness or deep darkness (Ps. 18:11), but more frequently God's dwelling is in light. Note the biblical connection between light and fearlessness:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1-2).
The Psalmist is more precise here about the type of light in mind. It is fire. God is not just some 5000 watt bulb shining from the heavens or coming to the earth. God appears in a fire. Perhaps the author is thinking of God's original theophany to Moses in the fire of the burning bush or in the smoke, clouds and fire of Sinai. He doesn't say. But the fire here is a devouring one. The language is reminiscent of Deut. 4 and 9.
"For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God (4:24)....Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? (4:33)....Know then today that the Lord your God is the one who crosses over before you as a devouring fire..." (9:3).
Finally, when God comes, the divine will call creation to witness of the truth and seriousness of the divine words.
"He calls to the heavens above/ and to the earth, that he may judge his people" (Ps. 50:4).
Calling upon inanimate nature to witness a covenant or a covenant lawsuit is also something that is known in the Bible and in Ancient Near Eastern literature generally. When Joshua sealed the covenant with the people of Israel before his death, he took a large stone, and set it up at the covenanting spot "under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord." Then he said:
"See, this stone shall be a witness against you, if you deal falsely with your God" (24:26f.)
God is coming, and is God serious!
I need one more essay to finish my thoughts.