Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Psalm 30

Psalm 30 (NET) reads:
A psalm--a song used at the dedication of the temple; by David.

I will praise you, O LORD, for you lifted me up,
and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God,
I cried out to you and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you pulled me up from Sheol;
you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

4 Sing to the LORD, you faithful followers of his;
give thanks to his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment,
and his good favor restores one's life.
One may experience sorrow during the night,
but joy arrives in the morning.

6 In my self-confidence I said,
"I will never be upended."

7 O LORD, in your good favor you made me secure.
Then you rejected me and I was terrified.

8 To you, O LORD, I cried out;
I begged the sovereign Master for mercy:

9 "What profit is there in taking my life,
in my descending into the Pit?
Can the dust of the grave praise you?
Can it declare your loyalty?

10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me!
O LORD, deliver me!"

11 Then you turned my lament into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;
O LORD my God, I will always give thanks to you.

The most chilling line of this psalm is the second half of verse 7. It starts, "O LORD, in your good favor you made me secure," but then adds, "Then you rejected me and I was terrified." That theology is alien to me and I wish it wasn't.

It's not that I wish I would be rejected by God. Obviously, I don't. But it's only the person who has abandoned all confidence in himself and who truly looks to God for protection who can be "terrified" when he senses rejection.

I don't know if I have written about "the fear of God" on this blog before, but it's something that I think is lacking from a lot of our theology. We tend to gravitate toward verses like 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love." (NET) In doing so, we ignore all the OT passages about the "fear of God" (we prefer to talk instead about how the word "fear" should be translated "respect" or "reverence").

One of my former professors, Gunny Hartman, used to say, "I don't know about you, but I serve a God who smokes people for picking up sticks on the wrong day." That God seems strangely foreign to me, and I don't know that's a good thing. I think there was a healthy amount of fear involved in the ancients' understanding of God. YHWH could be a great and terrible God, and if you got on His bad side, bad things happened to you. I think genuine worship flows out of this fear (note verses 1 and 12). It's tough to worship a God that you don't fear.

Now obviously I am just pointing out one side of God. C.S. Lewis' depiction of God of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia is probably the best illustration of the need to balance fear with friendship. We can trust God. He's not a tyrant. But neither is He Mr. Rogers.

"Father, forgive us for taking You too lightly. Forgive us for being too comfortable. We confess that You are great and that it is a 'terrible' thing to be abandoned by You. We praise You for Your continuing acts of faithfulness and deliverance. Amen."

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