Psalm 10

Psalm 10 articulates an ancient human dilemma:

If God is good, then why does evil exist?

If God is powerful, then why doesn’t God do something?

So maybe God is not so good.

OR maybe God is not so powerful.

Theodicy is the name theologians use for this conundrum.

But most of the rest of us just ask: WHY?!?!

I wonder how many people have turned away from faith because of these unanswerable questions. I say “unanswerable” because we won’t find The Definitive Answer this side of heaven but still each of us answers the questions some way or another. Here is how the Psalmist grapples with the question.

Naming the Reality that Can Be Seen

In arrogance, the wicked persecute the poor.

Those greedy for gain renounce the Lord.

Their ways prosper at all times and they think in their heart, “We shall not be moved.”

They lurk that they may seize the poor; they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.

They think in their heart, “God has forgotten; God has hidden his face, he will never see it.” I could easily use these same words to describe my own world in 2019. This is what America looks like to me, how the world turns on its tilted axis. The world is not “straight” and “true” according to my gut assessment of how things “ought” to be.

Questioning  God

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

And so the Psalmist – and I on so many difficult days – challenge God. “Where are you? Why won’t you act, intercede, interrupt this madness? Why don’t you DO SOMETHING!”

Some Christians believe it is sinful to question God. They would say such arguing shows a lack of faith. But I say – along with the Psalmist – that challenging God shows an immense faithfulness. We call upon God to keep promises, to bring light and order into the darkness and chaos. We want God to be God.

This profound faithfulness of asking, seeking, knocking is grounded in our faith that God IS indeed God. That God IS at work in the world. That God IS bringing justice and righteousness and shalom into being. Even if we can’t see it. Even if generations of believers won’t see it fulfilled or completed.

We hold on to hope, confidence, faith that God knows, that God sees, that God keeps promises.

Naming the Reality that Cannot Be Seen

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
    that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
    you have been the helper of the orphan…

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
    you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed…

Here is the Psalmist’s answer to our painful theodicy. God IS good. God IS powerful. God IS just. God IS at work in the world.

Maybe instead of asking: “why doesn’t God do something,” a better question would be: “why don’t WE do something?”

So let us stay busy participating in the divine work of goodness and justice. Wherever we are, with whatever power we are given, in whichever challenges we encounter.

Psalm 104

You are wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent.
You set the beams of your chambers on the waters.
You make the clouds your chariot and ride on the wings of the wind,
You make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken.

How lovely is this!

Psalm 104 celebrates both creation and the Creator. As the Genesis stories affirm, creation is “good,” the gift of a good and merciful Creator. Both Psalm 104 and Genesis 1 picture the Creator as existing outside the cosmos, bringing all things good into being. Like a poet or an artist or a sculptor – not as a part of creation but as its creative source and originator.

And yet, at the same time, both Psalm 104 and Genesis 2 picture the Creator as intimate with all that is created. In the second Genesis story, God molds the human from the humus of the earth, breathes the breath of life into its nostrils then walks with the man and the woman in the cool of the evening. In this Psalm, God rides on the wind, cavorts with Leviathan and feeds all the creatures from a benevolent hand.

Continue reading “Psalm 104”

Psalm 119

The ancient Hebrew tradition says God spoke to Moses in fire and cloud on the mountaintop and wrote “the ten words” with the Divine Finger.

Torah. The Law. The Word of the Lord. The ordinances. The statutes. The precepts.

Psalm 119 celebrates the Law of the LORD.

Happy are those who walk in the law of the LORD. (Psalm 119:1)

The Way.

I run the way of your commandments,
for you enlarge my understanding. (Psalm 119:32)

There is one way that is God’s way that provides “a large space” in which to dwell and the “liberty” to journey to our true humanity.

This Way is “right” and “true” and “good.”

Other ancient traditions have held similar understandings. 600 years before Christ, the philosophy of The Tao developed in China.

This “tao” literally means “way” “path” “road.” There is a way within the cosmos, way of perfect balance; the natural order of things, the foundation of the universe.

The Great Way. Think of Torah, Law, Word within this framework.

Think of faith as trust in this Way and submission to this Law.

We begin with faith.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Hebrew Psalter. The length comes from its form: it is composed as an acrostic based on the Hebrew alphabet.

In the first stanza, each line begins with the letter “aleph.” Each line of the second stanza begins with the letter “bet.” And so on. (Get it? alpha-bet!)

The poets of Israel believed that in all of life – from “A” to “Z” – the Way of God is ordered and trustworthy; that creation is “good;” that light and darkness exist in perfect harmony.

The teachers of Israel taught that the whole of life is founded upon trust in the Law of the Lord. They believed that every challenge of life can be overcome by faithful obedience to God’s Word.; that true life, right life, good life comes not through the mindless obedience to rules, but rather through the grace and mercy of Yahweh who sustains all creation.

Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight. (Psalm 119:77)

We begin with faith in THIS God.


Feature image courtesy of

Psalm 136

Psalm 136 combines praise and thanksgiving. 

O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever…

The refrain of praise repeats again and again: God’s steadfast love endures forever. Praise punctuates Thanksgiving.

There is a difference. Sometimes we praise the Lord for Who God Is. Sometimes we thank the Lord for what God does.

A core quality, a central characteristic of the Divine is Love. The Hebrew “steadfast love” can also read: “mercy or compassion.”

In the defining story of Israel’s birth as a people brought into being through the labor of Eternal Covenant God, there is an odd little tale of Moses meeting the One Who Cannot Be Seen and Is Beyond All Knowing. (Ex 34) Like his encounter at the bush that burned but was not consumed, Moses heard God’s Self-Description. “I Am” was the Name from the burning bush. “Compassion” was the Name from the cloud and fire on the mountaintop.

And God passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”

This is Who God Is.

(Please do not buy into the mistaken notion that the God of the Old Testament was judgment while the God of the New Testament is grace. No! No! A thousand times No!)

Always and forever, God’s steadfast love endures. The psalmist praises God for Who God Is.

And – in tandem – he thanks God for the many great wonders God has done: The Lord made the heavens, stretched out the earth on the waters and created the great lights, one to rule the day and one to rule the night.

The Creator of heaven, earth and all the cosmos. The Lord of all the nations. The poet of history.

Then Israel’s poet thanks God for wonderful works on behalf of Israel.

God brought Israel out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm…

God divided the Red Sea while Israel passed through on dry land. While Pharaoh and his armies, God overthrew in that same sea.

God led Israel through the wilderness, protecting them, feeding them, guiding them. For Israel, God is a God who remembers, rescues and sustains.

God remembered us in our low estate,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

God rescued us from our foes,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

God gives food to all flesh,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Forever and always, God is Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer. This is Who God Is. This is what God does.