Skip to main content

the drama of a psalm



i'm pretty sure God is strong. i mean, i've never really doubted that. i look at the world around me, at the vastness of oceans and the majesty of mountains and the expanse of the sky and all of it strikes me as a song of strength. so it seemed like pretty standard stuff when i recently came across psalm 46 and the poet is talking about how God is our refuge and strength, and we have no reason to be afraid. i find myself reading quickly because "i already know all this." but as i made an intentional effort to slow down and let it sink into my thick skull, i was moved by the drama of it all.

first of all, the notes at the beginning of the psalm ("alamoth, which means "young women") may mean that it was a song set for soprano voices. that's right - don't forget that a psalm is first and foremost a song, meant to be set to music and sung and heard and danced to or prayed to or cried to, or at the very least turned up to 11 on the dial. its music. and then i love the idea that this song was made for the soaring sound of sopranos. so as i'm reading it again i'm hearing a dramatic soundtrack, like the sound of a climactic moment in some summer blockbuster, a white-knuckled apex of action. this is the critical moment, and the music makes sure you don't miss it.

so the sopranos are singing this song, and they start off by singing that God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help us in times of trouble (verse 1), and that we should not fear, even in the midst of earthquakes, or if the mountains should crumble to pieces and topple into the sea, or if the oceans start boiling over and surging at us. and so on. suddenly it occured to me that this song is about the most fearful, God-awful things that they could imagine happening, sung in john williams-style drama with sweeping strings and epic horns. i mean, they never saw the mountains crumble into the sea, but they are singing a song that says even if they did, they wouldn't have to be afraid.

what would this song say in our context? maybe that we don't need to be afraid even if the polar ice caps all melt and new york city looks to become a really big public pool. that we don't need to be scared, even if north korea aims something at us. that we don't have to shake with fear about the stock market or H1N1. you don't need to be afraid.

or what if you interpret it a bit more personally? that you don't need to be afraid, even if that temptation rears its ugly head again, or your spouse gets angry, or the bill collectors call for the third time this week. even if your life feels like a tempest, like a tornado, like an earthquake, like a tsumami, like a hurricane, chaos swirling around you, when not even the strongest things (mountains) seem certain anymore, you don't need to be afraid. why? because God is strong and mighty - a refuge. a safe place. always ready to help when trouble blows in. later in the song, the sopranos sing (twice, actually) that God is here among us! not out there somewhere, but right here - our fortress. don't be afraid, even if the worst happens. God is here. and God is strong.

Comments

Paula said…
Hey Greg~
We just got home from our bible study of the psalms, and go figure, HE speaks louder then your words. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE those God moments. Thank you for HIS translation. Love ya~ Paula

Popular posts from this blog

#thoughtsandprayers

i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are: 
It has been a season of terrible tragedy.  And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers.  It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way.  People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement.  The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer.  We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all.  But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an em…

a divided tree

there is a tree in my back yard.  i'm pretty sure it's an oak tree.  at least that's what i think Shannon told me.  i don't know my oaks from my maples, my elms from my locusts.  to me, it's a tree: a corinthian column bursting up into life and glory.  full of sap and pulp and rings and bugs and cells pulsing with water and always reaching for something.  it is full of rhythm, reach and flourish then fall and die, and repeat. 

this particular tree, though, isn't of one mind. 

half of it's rusted orange leaves have given up their grip and surrendered -gracefully or not - to the pull of gravity and the threat of winter.  the north side of this inauspicious oak is just about bare naked, all sticks and straight lines, a skeleton of itself.  but the side that looks south is stubbornly resisting change.  no longer green, the leaves have compromised their summer vibrancy, but they are clearly not ready to concede death just yet. 

i feel like i can relate to this …

vote. and pray. but do not be afraid (the King is alive).

i'm not sure how many americans right now are feeling optimistic about the government.  i know i'm not.  in fact, while i didn't live through the civil war or anything, i have to think that faith in our elected leaders - indeed the whole system of electing them in the first place - is at one of its lowest points.  i just don't have a great deal of confidence in those individuals who have been elected, or in those who want to be.  i find myself slipping at times into what feels like a swamp of apathy: sinking, to be sure, but not sure that i care enough anymore to do much about it.  i see this attitude all around me: in conversations, on social media, and in popular culture.  perhaps there is no more clear indication of our nation's view of the government than this current election season, when we would teeter on electing liars and thieves, crooks and clowns. 

which is why i was so startled as i sat down to read psalm 72 this morning. as i read the ancient song, i…