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)
Easter VI--Psalm 97
Bill Long 5/8/07
Psalm 97; The Lord is .....HOT!
Here is the Psalm for the morning, in the NRSV:
"The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
7 All worshippers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
8 Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgements, O God.
9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!"
This Psalm takes us to another world. It doesn't deny the existence of the world in which we live--the world of pain, death, half-truths, inconclusive days and nights, disappointments in family, finances, health and career--but simply wants to lift our vision to a higher plane. The Psalm soars above our small lives and pains. The Psalm will also rise above the history of the people of God. No mention is made of the redemptive acts of God on behalf of the people, in Exodus, law-giving, giving of the Land or kingship. It is as if we have taken off on a jet and risen to a height of 40,000 feet above the earth. We look down and see signs of tranquility and majesty. We know that within the interstices of the mountains and plains, and in each building in our great cities, disappointments abound. But that is not the focus of the Psalm.
Rather, the interest of the Psalmist is in singing the awe-inspiring power and might of God. Only those who have labored in the "pits," who "vainly struggle," as the hymn says, can truly appreciate the refreshing words of this Psalm. Four times in twelve verses, more than any other twelve-verse segment of the Psalms, we are told to rejoice in God or realize our joy in God (vv. 1,8,11,12). So, let's leave our temporal struggles behind for a few minutes and learn to rise, with the Psalmist, to the heights of this Psalm. When we do so, we learn to affirm two basic principles of life--the glory of God and the centrality of ethical living-- and these principles, once reaffirmed, enable us to re-engage in the life of the world.
II. The Lord Is...HOT! (vv. 1-6)
The language portraying God in the first half of the Psalm is "hot" language. That is, the Psalmist reaches deep into the literary inheritance of the people and brings up images from the theophany, or words used to describe God's "appearance" or "manifestation." But how to you characterize God? Well, in the history of theology there are two major ways to answer that question: you portray God "positively," by enumerating God's attributes (this is "cataphatic theology"), or you present God "negatively," by saying that God is just "beyond" all things (called "apophatic" theology). As we study the Psalm, we see that the Psalmist does neither, but he seeks a third way to describe God. What is that third way? The way of antinomy or paradox. The central paradox in these verses is that of darkness and light. One the one hand we have:
"Clouds and thick darkness are all around him" (v. 2),
but then, within a few verses, we have:
"Fire goes before him," and "His lightnings light up the world" (vv. 3,4).
This "contradiction," of clouds and thick darkness and light recalls the self-revelation of God at Sinai:
"you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds" (Deut. 4:11).
Again, we have:
These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more" (Deut. 5:22).
While the author of Deuteronomy explains the "compatibility" of the light and darkness in the first passage--flame shoots up from the mountain, while the clouds above are dark--he isn't so interested in explaining this in the second passage. And, as we see in the text for the morning, the Psalmist doesn't worry about such niceties.
The theme of darkness and light is supplemented by reference to heat. The mountains "melt like wax" before the Lord (v. 5). The theme of God's presence melting the everlasting mountains also appears elsewhere in the OT. Notice, for example, how Micah describes the coming of God:
"For lo, the Lord is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth,
Then the mountains will melt under him
and the valleys will burst open,
like wax near the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place" (Mic. 1:3-4).
Let yourself be lifted to the heights of this vision of God.
III. The Lord Love...the UPRIGHT (vv. 7-12)
It would have been enough had the Psalmist just sung the glories of God in darkness and light, in fire-breathing and in mountain-melting language. But he does more. In the second half of the Psalm he describes two kinds of people--those who make the idols (v. 7) and those who hate evil (v.10). Both of those activities take a lot of effort, but the Psalmist is more concerned with the latter group. The former are just put to shame; no more need be said about them.
But what about the upright or those who hate evil? Whenever I hear the word "upright" I shudder because I know that, with the Apostle Paul, nothing good dwells in me. Yet, the Psalmst won't let us get off the hook that easily. Verse 10 can be translated two ways (the NRSV rendering requires a slight emendation of the Masoretic text, but is one favored by most scholars because it produces a parallelism for the entire verse): "The Lord loves those who hate evil" or "You who love the Lord, hate evil." It comes down to pretty much the same thing--the importance of "hating" evil. The rest of the Psalm gives these "haters of evil" other names: "faithful" (10); "righteous" (11, 12); "upright in heart" (11).
The phrase "upright in heart" is a favorite of the Psalms. What might it mean? Well, from Ps. 36:10 we have the following:
"O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,/ and your salvation to the upright of heart."
Psalm 11:2 has:
"for look, the wicked bend the bow,/ and have fited their arrow to the string,/ to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart."
The Psalm ends with a declaration of God's righteousness (v. 7) and then says:
"he loves righeous deeds;/ the upright shall behold his face" (v. 7).
From these passages we can infer that being "upright of heart" in the Psalms has a twofold dimension: (1) that of knowing God and (2) that of doing righteous deeds. We may struggle with both, but they are a great goal to set before us. Live "on the level" and seek to know the God who reveals self in the fire and the darkness. May this Psalm be a tonic for you as you feel the demands of life catching up with you. Take a step back and drink deeply from the majesty of God.