Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Beauty of the Lord

My postmodern protestant crisis has, officially, blossomed into a full-scale crisis of faith tonight. Seems that my classes at Geneva have this power to them...

However, I am comforted (without even knowing all the answers) by Psalms 89, 90, and 73. 89, especially, holds near and dear to my now.

89 is strange in that the writer starts off saying "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known your faithfulness to all generations." The words 'faithfulness' (God's keeping to his covenant promises) and 'mercy' (God's grace, and in a way, his acting out of the promises in day-to-day life) are key words throughout the psalm. The interesting part is that the psalm is not, overall, a happy one. The ending benediction "Blessed be the Lord forevermore. Amen." was most likely added by the final compiler of the book (each of the five psalm 'books' ends with a similar benediction). Other than that, though, the psalm is almost tragic. It recounts God's faithfulness and mercy to David and then, in what is reminiscent of the Exile, it turns to questioning God's faithfulness because the promises are being thrown down and trampled on. How could God let this happen? Where is God? And (most famously) how long, o Lord? With that sentiment the psalm ends, unresolved.

That is about how I feel right now. I always talk about the presence of God and have yet to receive all the answers I desire. In Psalm 90, written by Moses, his summary is my cry "Return, o Lord! How long? And have compassion on your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with your mercy that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days you have afflicted us, the years we have seen evil. Let your work appear to your servants and your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands." There really is no other way to describe it. I long for the presence, the real, tangible presence of my God. The clear cut understanding of his works, both in the original creation and in what he is doing know. His presence, though, is elusive.

Psalm 73 completes my thoughts. Here the psalmist, Asaph, looks at the injustice of the world and questions God's faithfulness. However, this psalm ends on a positive note. It is in entering the sanctuary of God that he finally understands his own stupidity and ignorance (I also realize how applicable that part is to me!).

The beauty of the Lord, in a lot of ways, he allows us to be human. He allows us to doubt, to question, to ponder, and even to disbelieve. For "you hold me by my right hand". Even though my faith and its implications seem so tortured and bewildering right now, God is there. He may be hidden from me, from the world, but he allows me to cry "Return, o Lord! How long?" I still wonder, though, the things that I have been wondering...where is the Spirit? Where is the presence of God? Who can mediate it here on earth (the authority question, in a sense)?

My own sense of myself and the Church is that of Jerusalem after it has been sacked by Babylon: I am living the book of Lamentations right now. Is God really setting things to rights by Jesus as Paul argued throughout his writings? Why haven't things changed then? Is the promise of his coming so far off still?

My last comfort is Psalm 42-43. It has my two favorite passages in it.

"Why are you so cast down, o my soul? Why so disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God."

"The Lord will command his lovingkindness (Hebrew is hesed, meaning love and mercy--a beautiful word) in the daytime and in the night his son shall be with me--a prayer to the God of my life."

Even when knowledge fails and faith falters, hope is there. But greater than hope is love, that even when my heart is discouraged, the love of God through Jesus keeps me going in hope.

God, forgive my unbelief and lead me to the knowledge of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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