Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reading our Way through Psalms

Carl and I finished reading Luke this week. Interesting to read the Good Friday-Easter story during Advent.

Then we moved back to the Psalms. Here, too, interesting to read the Psalms so soon after reading the Good Friday passages. We noticed, as we were bound to notice, how much of the language of Luke's Good Friday material came directly from Psalm 22.We talked about whether or not Luke knew that he did this.

I thought that Luke did, that he intentionally used the language of the Psalms. It's like a contemporary poet using Biblical language or alluding to great works of literature--it roots the modern poem to an ancient tradition. Carl wondered whether or not Luke was trying to prove that Jesus was the answer to a prophecy, which I thought was possible too. One explanation doesn't have to cancel out the other.

I asked, "If we weren't so familiar with this language as Good Friday language, would we see this Psalm as being about crucifixion?" We read Psalm 22 again, and realized that it could be about any number of events that makes one say, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws" (Psalm 22, verse 14-15a). In fact, I read that part and hear illness, not persecution.

Of course, there are plenty of parts of this Psalm that are about persecution. It's a perfect Psalm to echo in a crucifixion story, but it also fits with so many of us, who may be feeling personally persecuted by an individual or just buffeted by forces, societal or otherwise, that we cannot control.

And it's interesting how the Psalm moves from lament to praise. The Psalmist moves from feeling persecuted and abandoned by God, to proclaiming that God will grant deliverance. That's a hopeful message in these turbulent days.

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