Friday, March 22, 2013

The Incarnation and Psalms 111-112

These two closely constructed acrostics have something to say about the relationship of God to the human. By their numbers, you know that these psalms follow the inimitable Psalm 110.  Psalm 110 is enigmatic in the extreme and is used as a puzzle by Jesus (Matthew 22:43-44) for the fractious Pharisees.  It's as enigmatic as John's Before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58).

But let's wrestle with the mystery...

Here is Psalm 110
Of David, a psalm
an oracle of
יהוה to my Lord
Sit at my right hand
till I set your enemies as your footstool
יהוה will send the rod of your strength out of Zion
rule within and among your enemies
your people are willing in the day of your weal
in the honour of holiness from the womb of the dawn
yours is the dew of your childhood
יהוה has sworn and without a sigh
you are a priest forever
by the word of Melchizedek
my Lord is at your right hand
he will wound kings in the day of his anger
he will advocate among the nations
a fullness of bodies
he will wound exceedingly a head on earth
he will imbibe from the torrent in the way
therefore he will lift a head high

Maybe in the days that the psalms were written, the character of 'the Lord' was to be modeled after the character of 'the LORD' (יהוה). Or the character of the individual in charge (my Lord) was to be modeled after the character of the One who gave the authority (the One יהוה to whom a possessive particle cannot be attached). So when the ruler is seated at the right hand of power (Psalm 110), and exercising the priesthood of the Righteous Ruler by the word of the same Melchizedek, the pain experienced in the life of the ruler, the wounding, the imbibing from the torrent in the way, the struggle in obedience in the day of difficulty (weal, strength, force, perhaps even birth), yet not alone, but aided by the willing people, this double wound becomes the reason for the celebration that follows (the child's game of two perfect acrostic poems, Psalms 111-112). For the sacred head that was sore wounded has been lifted up from death. (The link is without ads and is sung by the chapel choir of King's College, Cambridge).

Someone should do a video game on the psalms - lot's of potential here - acts of love, acts of canonical redemption - defining the model avatar, and acts of apocalyptic violence. The winner is the one who participates in the double wound, losing life in conformity with the canonical model, and thus bringing about the apocalypse, making it present and noting the player gets to play again. You would have to ask God how to play, though.  I am neither a gamer nor a game designer.  But my book has lots of information on the players: the poor, the hapless, the valiant, the orphan and widow, the needy, and the afflicted, the wicked (rebellious) and the righteous.

Here are the two perfect acrostics - side by side.
Psalm 111
Psalm 112

Hallelu Yah
I will thank
יהוה with a whole heart,
Before the council of the upright, and assembly.
Hallelu Yah
A happy person fears
יהוה
By his commandments he has much delight

Great are the deeds of יהוה,
Delight of all who search them out.
Grandly valiant in the earth will be his seed
Days of the upright will be blessed

Honour and splendour his work;
Verily his righteousness stands for ever
High value and riches are in his house
Verily his righteousness stands for ever

Zoomed in to memory makes he his wonderful works;
How gracious and compassionate is
יהוה.
Zenith-bearing in the darkness there is light to the upright
He is gracious and compassionate and righteous

To those who fear him he gives prey;
Yea, he remembers forever his covenant.
This is a good person, gracious and lending
Yea, he will rein in his words with judgment

Known to his people is the power of his deeds
Letting them have the heritage of the nations.
Causing him never to be moved
Lasting forever in memory is one who is righteous

Mark the deeds of his hands: truth and judgment;
Near and faithful are all his precepts,
Messages of evil he does not fear
Now his heart is prepared, trusting in
יהוה

Supported for ever, forever,
All done in truth and upright
Supported is his heart, he does not fear
Even when it is that he sees his troubles

Purchase price he has sent to his people;
So he commands his covenant forever;
Quite holy
 and fearful is his name.
Prodigal of love, he gives to the-many needy
Standing for ever is his righteousness
Quite full his horn, exalted in glory

Right at the beginning of wisdom is the fear of יהוה
Surely a good insight for all doing them;
To stand his praise for ever.
e b e l  w i l l  s e e  a n d  w i l l  g r i e v e
o  s h a l l  h i s  t e e t h  g n a s h  a n d  d e c a y
h e  d e s i r e  o f  r e b e l s  w i l l  p e r i s h


Every verse in the Psalm 111 is connected to its last verse by significant word repetition. No verse in Psalm 112 is connected to its last verse. Those words of verse 10 happen only once in the poem. (Measured in Hebrew of course.) Besides this, every verse in Psalm 112 uses a word from Psalm 1, tying this trio of psalms back to the beginning.

The human who fears יהוה (the subject of Psalm 112) takes authority from יהוה (the one who is celebrated in Psalm 111). That human cannot be a rebel. Any rebellious behaviour must be dealt with through the covenant purchase price noted in Psalm 111.  (This makes it possible to follow that human ruler).

Of both that human and יהוה, it is written that the righteousness stands for ever, לָעַד (la`ad) and the character is gracious, compassionate, (citing Exodus 34:6) and the human is said to be a righteous one whose memory is forever, לְעֹולָם (l`olam). It is not a great task to imagine the king of Israel having this target requirement in front of him and failing. Does this pair of Psalms then look forward to the king who will do the job, Prodigal of love, and give his life for the-many needy?

You might notice that Psalm 111 is punctuated. It even surprised me!

Feel free to challenge my apologetics or add your own insights. Could the Psalms provide a way out of the current human predicament - everyone seeking only their own good?