Thursday, September 20, 2007

Questioning God pt. VII - Psalm

Psalm 79
Psalm 79 is another striking example for the communal complaint and lament that closely resembles Psalm 74. It is a very human plea to Yahweh to act on behalf of a sinful Israel who has been overrun by her enemies. Tate notes that the destruction of Israel is not just a theological crisis, but also a political, social, and economic results.[1] Not one aspect of their life was left untouched. The first five verses describe the horrific scene to Yahweh. All three participants, Yahweh, psalmist/community, and the enemies are intimately bound from the outset so that they cannot be extracted one from another. The nations have decimated and humiliated God’s people, and thus, by covenantal extension, Yahweh himself. On the surface, we again see the overwhelmed cry of a besieged people, but from the perspective of the covenant, despite Israel’s sinfulness, God seems to be implicated in this disaster by allowing it to happen. Israel pleas for God’s anger to be turned from them to their enemies. But they do so that God’s actions on their behalf would bring God’s glory. Such is the intimate connection between the covenanting God and community. Within the plea, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name's sake” (vs. 9) the draws on benefits for both dialogical relationship. By God’s actions, Israel is restored and by doing so, God restores his own name and glory.[2]

We find the psalmist and community immersed within the situation itself and lays it before God that he experience it as well. What is striking is the “guileless simplicity of strongly felt passion, which can be shared with Yahweh. There is no self-deceiving politeness, no attempt to protect Yahweh from how it really is.”[3] The utter humanity that is captured in this psalm is remarkable. This psalm shows us those things such as bitterness, anger, and desire for vengeance that never allowed to be spoken in our liturgies and not like most prayer lives either. But the speaker is honest before God, and yet subject to God’s will. Once again we see the selfish desires raised in exasperation.

[1] Tate, 302.
[2] Brueggemann, Message of the Psalms, 72. Brueggemann calls this a “convergence of interest.”
[3] Ibid., 71.