Saturday, September 7, 2013

The president has given us time - Psalm 22 and Syria

Think again. Yet forty days and Nineveh will be changed ... We have been given a second time to pray for the peoples of Syria. The psalms provide unlimited models for prayer. On the turn of the year, I suggested Psalm 90 and it need not stop there. Just about any psalm will have a suitable verse for Syria today while the nations furiously rage together.

they stare at me ... and for my clothing they cast lots
Imagine for a moment that Syria is the 'me' of Psalm 22.

to the hart of the dawn
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

The hart (deer or doe, male and female) of the inscription is surrounded by bulls, lions, and dogs. In the midst of this, the poet invites God into the circle.

But you, יהוה, you be not distant
My hart, to my help, hurry

Imagine Syria praying, or one person on their behalf? It is God who is invited into the circle of destruction. Hart in its masculine plural form (אֵילִים ayilim) is a cipher for God, (אֱלֹהִים elohim).

The second half of the psalm is uniformly positive.

The afflicted will eat and be satisfied

Imagine ... on behalf of the people of Syria - afflicted by war and famine. Judgment with justice will be heard to the ends of the earth.

All the ends of the earth will remember and will turn to יהוה
All the families of the nations will worship in your presence
for to יהוה is the kingdom and he governs in the nations

This God governs this way (from Psalm 146).
keeping truth forever
doing judgment for the oppressed
giving bread to the hungry
יהוה releasing the prisoners
יהוה giving sight to the blind
יהוה 
uplifting the disturbed
יהוה loving the righteous
יהוה sheltering the guest
orphan and widow he restores
and the way of the wicked he subverts
Surely we should do more than throw the dice yet again. We do not have to exercise human destruction to try to bring about the divine obliteration. What about isolation of the enemy so that it might know shame, so that it might recognize that absolute monarchy is not what life is about, so that like the king of Nineveh, it might call for national repentance...
and I,
will I not show pity to Nineveh
the great city?
for there are in her more than 12 ten-thousands of humans
who cannot tell their right hand from their left
and also many cattle
 120,000 - nearly equal the death toll to date in Syria. We have forgotten both the children and the cattle.