Sunday, July 21

I Am Distracted

Yet my soul keepeth silence unto God; of him cometh my salvation.
Psalm 62:1

I'm using the Geneva Bible today to render what I think is closer to the true meaning of Psalm 62:1. The NRSV begins, "For God alone..." but the Hebrew word translated here as "alone" (or "only") is actually "but" or "nevertheless" or "yet." The Psalmist, like Martha in the kitchen, is distracted by many things. We can almost picture, just before Psalm 62 opens, that she has been rebuked by the Lord, who shows her a better example: 

Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
—Luke 10:41-42

Hence the sudden beginning, as though we're already in the middle of a thought. " [I am distracted by too

Saturday, July 20

As I Journey

Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
Psalm 61:4
Israel came to know God while they were still a pilgrim people. Long before there was a temple of wood and stone, there was a tabernacle—a tent that could be carried from place to place—in which God was said to dwell. Longing for God was expressed, then, as dwelling in God's tent, even while the pilgrim was on the move. The faithful felt as secure and happy there as a baby bird under the shadow of its parents' wings.

Christians, too, are a pilgrim people, and know the tabernacle not as a tent, but as a body—the body of

Friday, July 19

Lead me to the Rock

From the end of the earth I call to you I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Psalm 61:3

Oh! sometimes the shadows are deep,
and rough seems the path to the goal,
and sorrows, sometimes how they sweep
like tempests down over the soul.
O then to the rock let me fly,
to the rock that is higher than I!

Oh! sometimes how long seems the day,
and sometimes how weary my feet!
But toiling in life’s dusty way,

Thursday, July 18

Out of Bowshot

You have made your people suffer hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us reel. You have set up a banner for those who fear you, to rally to it out of bowshot.
Psalm 60:3-4

These two verses are a bit odd, but I think I can make sense of them. In the garden, Jesus prayed that God would "let this cup pass from" him, referring to the agony of the crucifixion. The idea that our difficulties are a lot that has been given to us like a cup of wine, then, is not unheard of, even to those who have never studied Hebrew idioms. But here it is expressed in a psalm which refers to the difficulties God either lets us suffer or

Wednesday, July 17

The Promise of Good

I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
But I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress.
Psalm 59:16

Verses 16 and 17 are a further demonstration of why Psalm 59:9 is incorrectly translated in most modern versions of the psalms. Verse 9 refers to "his strength"—note the ending on the Hebrew word: עֻזּוֹ. While v. 16 has a different ending, indicating "your strength": עֻזֶּךָ, in v. 17, there's yet another ending, rendering it "my strength": עֻזִּי. 

As interesting a diversion as these endings are, I don't really want to talk about that this morning. I just wanted to show how valuable it can be to look at the Bible in its original language. What inspires me this morning is morning itself. The psalter portion appointed for the day I was born* says that "weeping may linger

Tuesday, July 16

Entrust His Strength

O my strength [sic], I will watch for you; for you, O God, are my fortress.
Psalm 59:9

This is a very strange verse. At some point, modern translations seem to have agreed that "strength" must refer to God, and that the pronoun should be the first person singular. But the Geneva Bible (and the KJV after it) thought otherwise. Calvin himself preferred this translation: I will entrust his strength to thee... And, indeed, the Hebrew should not be rendered as modern translations seem to prefer, for it speaks of "his strength" not "my strength."*

The reason, as Calvin sees it, is that the psalmist in Psalm 59 is speaking of threat, and in this case, the threat is from Saul. This interpretation seems clear enough, but there's a problem: Verse 9 is the only place

Monday, July 15

Other Gods

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge people fairly?
No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth.
—Psalm 58:1-2

We no longer hear much about Asherah and Baal, Osiris and Isis, Marduk and Ishtar. There's just not that much of a temptation for modern day believers in the God of Israel to kneel before them. We have other gods, though: greed, power, money, lust, capitalism, militarism. But because we don't acknowledge them as gods, we don't realize that we worship them.

But make no mistake—it is by their hand that war, injustice, and oppression is meted out on earth. The ancients at least called their gods gods. We're incapable of even acknowledging it, because our gods are such an integral part of our lives that they have, in fact, become us. And the inequality and violence that we