Thursday, April 19, 2012

A taste of praise

Jim Gordon at Living Wittily has posted on the praise of art particularly focusing on Chagall, the subject of a section in the Psalms conference at Oxford 2010. Here is a taste of my big book on the psalms on the praise of dragons and abysses in Psalm 148.

Even the dragon and the abyss are invited to praise.  These words draw in all the potential confusion and fear in the magnificence of creation. The abyss is a treasury (33:7) and a metaphor for the judgment (36:7). Psalm 42:8 identifies abyss as the depth of the call from the human in exile to God. Psalm 71:20 knows hope even in these depths. The water from the rock is like an abyss (78:15) . The earth is clothed with the abyss (104:6). The people are led through it (106:9) and the mariners are terrified of it on the sea (107:26). It is part of God’s delight (135:6). This is the creation that we find ourselves in: the unfathomable, time, gravity, and the inscrutable human heart, animal consciousness and the power of  the natural order. This is the abyss along with its fearsome creatures. The place of the dragon is where we were crushed (44:20), but its heads are broken (74:13), and over it we will trample (91:13). Leviathan fragmented (74:14) is God’s companion in laughter (104:26). Rahab, the defiant (40:5) is remembered in the city of God (87:4) and was pierced through (89:11). She becomes the metaphor for our boldness (90:10 and 138:3). Here we might invoke Christopher Smart again, for the devils themselves are at peace. The psalms weave creation, redemption, and deliverance into poetry reflecting these primal and critical themes from the Torah and the Prophets. See also Rendtorff (2005 p. 418 ff).
Christopher Smart, Rejoice in the Lamb
Rendtorff, Rolf. (2005). The Canonical Hebrew Bible, A Theology of the Old Testament.
Seeing the Psalter, Patterns of Recurrence in the Poetry of the Psalms, available 2Q 2013, currently under detailed review by about 10 people, advance order details forthcoming, contact me if you are interested in becoming an early reviewer.