Saturday, January 25

Out of the Depths

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
Ps. 130:1-4 

The late great Eugene Peterson, in his little book Praying with the Psalms (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993) said that
there is no trouble so severe that it cuts a person off from God; there is no sin so powerful that it removes a person from the greater power of forgiveness. The witness of the troubled, suffering,

Friday, January 24

The Cords of the Wicked

The Lord is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.
Ps. 129:4 

This verse reminds me of Malachi 3:2 which asks a question and provides and answer:
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller's soap.
God's goodness is such that it consumes by its very existence that which is evil. The cords of the wicked are therefore cut away not so much by, but simply because of God's righteousness. This goodness is constantly at work on behalf of God's people. Not because we ourselves are righteous like God, but because we are characterized by righteousness imputed by Christ (meaning, it is Christ's righteousness that has been

Thursday, January 23

What Happiness Consists Of

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Ps. 128:1-2 

Calvin wouldn't agree with the NRSV's translation of Psalm 128:2. Though it does not actually jibe with the major points of his own theology, he concedes that it should probably read as one thought: When you eat the fruit of the labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it shall go well with you. This, he says,
teaches us that we ought to form a different estimate of what happiness consists [of?] from that formed by the world, which makes a happy life to consist in ease, honors, and great wealth.
And this is a good point. While yesterday's psalm might have served as an admonition to laborers not to be

Wednesday, January 22

Bread of Anxious Toil

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.
Ps. 127:1-2 

It is not his first point or lengthiest commentary on Psalm 127:1, but Calvin rightly identifies works righteousness as one of this verse's meanings:
Now, if our terrestrial condition depends. entirely upon the good pleasure of God, with what wings shall we fly up into heaven? When a house is planned, or a certain manner of life is chosen — yea, even when laws are enacted and justice
administered, all this is nothing else than to creep upon the earth; and yet the Holy Spirit declares, that all our endeavors in this way are fruitless and of no value. So much the less to be

Tuesday, January 21

Bringing in the Sheaves

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
Ps. 126:4-6 
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
fearing neither clouds nor winter's chilling breeze;
by and by the harvest, and the labor ended,

Monday, January 20

When in His Might the Lord Arose

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord
has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Ps. 126:1-3 

Though fortunes might be figurative here, I feel the NRSV's translation of  בְּשׁוּב יְהוָה, אֶת-שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן seems too material. There's no mention of fortunes in the Hebrew, but rather of captivity, and using a figure of speech to translate שִׁיבַת just sugarcoats something I need to read about. The best translation would be:
When the Lord returned Zion from captivity, we became like dreamers.
In idiomatic English, we might say, When God freed us from prison, we had to pinch ourselves to see if we were dreaming. Thus Israel's plight is brought very near to me at this point. I've never been a prisoner—the closest to being a refugee I ever was was after 911 when I was forced to spend nearly a week on a

Sunday, January 19

Like Mount Zion

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore. 
Ps. 125:1-2 

Psalm 125:1 is a bit ironic, considering that the name Mount Zion has historically been applied to three different hills in or near Jerusalem. Thus it appears that it can indeed be moved. But if I look at it differently, I might think about the Christian concept of Zion, which refers not to a geographical feature, but to the invisible church—that is, not the institutional church with all its inconsistencies and shortcomings, but the church chosen by God which we can only hope during our earthly lives that we're a part of. Indeed, this Mount Zion cannot be moved. It has existed before time began and it will never end, and its numbers have never been