Day 163: Psalms 49-54; A Prophetic Oracle

Today’s reading covers psalm 50 which is considered to be a “prophetic oracle” psalm.  In this Psalm, the writer speaks the words of the Lord towards the people.  This is the main thrust of prophecy, the delivery of the Word of God to a people at a certain time regarding a certain message.  Many Christians tend to lump prophecy into the books of the prophets and often think of it in terms of the visions of Daniel or the revelation of John in the New Testament.  Along with these thoughts come the plethora of weird and crazy imagery that comes with this particular genre of Biblical reading.  These writings are both marvelous and confusing, leaving us guessing as to what their true meanings are and how we are supposed to interpret them.  To be honest though, most of the things that come to mind when we talk about prophecy actually fall into their own category of Biblical literature called “apocalyptic literature.”

Still, it seems that the word and idea of prophecy has been co-opted into a much greater (not necessarily better) meaning by the contemporary culture and the culture of years past as well.  What do you think about when you hear the word prophecy?  Some people think of Nostradamus or the Mayan calendar.  Perhaps the first thing that jumps to you mind is the ‘prophecy’ of Harold Camping about the end of the world.  Maybe something along the lines of the “Left Behind” book series comes to mind as well.  While these are all different interpretations of ‘prophecy,’ whether gleaned from the pages of Scripture or ‘received’ by the Spirit, we need to make sure that we know what prophecy really is, what it is doing in the Bible, and how exactly we should interpret prophecy in the words of the Bible and also what we should do with the ‘prophecies’ that we hear about in the world today.

The first important point about prophecy is that the prophecy found in the Bible was directed first and foremost, primarily at a target audience from that day and age.  There are some that would say that there are secret messages contained within Biblical prophecy that needs to be unlocked, a notion that is in itself non-biblical.  The prophets were people called and sent by God, empowered to give a message to a particular group of people , centering around a Word from the Lord that needed to be delivered to the people.  Thinking that the prophet would stand up before a crowd and deliver a message that would have made no sense to the audience to whom he/she is speaking.  No, the words of prophecy would have been understood by the people of Israel.

While it is true that we believe that the Word of the Lord is living and active, and we believe that the Lord speaks to us through His word, we need to make sure that we are hearing what God wants us to hear rather than what we want us to hear.  What is more important than that is that we need to always be looking for the truth, the hope, and the trust that lies in each of the prophetic writings.  Even though these prophecies were written to an audience of another time and culture doesn’t mean that God is not able to speak through the Word of scripture none the less.  Ultimately, as we read and interpret the prophetic writings, we need to be making sure that it is God who is being raised up and glorified in all things and that we are not looking first to ourselves and using Scriptural texts to honor ourselves and life up our own motives.

PSALM 49 is a Psalm of Wisdom written by the Korahites. As the wisdom psalms always have, there is a very particular didactic quality to this Psalm as well.

PSALM 50 is a prophetic Oracle that was written by Asaph.  This is also a psalm of praise that is didactic in nature as well, something that is natural for prophetic writing.

PSALM 51 is a penitential psalm of lament that is written by David.  It was written after the prophet Nathan came to David after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, a narrative recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12.

PSALM 52 is a psalm of lament that is also didactic in nature.  This psalm is written by David and was written after the high priest Ahimelech had been executed by Saul for helping David, a narrative recorded in 2 Samuel 22.

PSALM 53 is also a psalm of lament that is didactic in nature.  It too was written as a lament of David and is basically a repeat of psalm 14 but includes the phrase, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'”

PSALM 54 is a psalm of lament that is also an imprecatory psalm that was written by David.  This psalm was written while David was hiding from Saul.



Day 120: 1 Chronicles 17-20; David's Many Victories

King David Stained Glass Photo Credit: www.creationrevolution.com

King David Stained Glass
Photo Credit: www.creationrevolution.com

Today’s reading may seem a bit familiar to you as you read through it.  If you recognized that, its because most of these battles and victories were talked about in the book of 2 Samuel.  If you didn’t remember these stories, its ok!  We talked about them on March 30, and many of them are pieced together from different parts of 2 Samuel and come as additions to parts of other stories.  Interestingly though, the writer of the Chronicles chose not to talk about a couple of narratives that we read through in 2 Samuel about the less desirable moments of David’s reign.  Remember David and Bathsheba?  David’s son Absalom (who was not even included in the list of his sons a couple chapters ago)?  Yes, indeed there are a great many things that are left out in this account of David’s reign.

Why is that?  Would this imply that the Bible is lying through omission?  By No Means!

We believe that the Bible is Truth, the inspired Word of God written down by human hands.  We also believe that the Bible is authoritative for our lives and that it communicates truth to us, all the Truth that we need to know God and to see His ways.  And I do not believe that this is challenged here at all.

One of the points of stating this is to point out that the Bible was indeed written by human hands.  The pages did not simply fall out of the sky into the laps of some wise Hebrews that knew what to do with them, these writers were Inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to write the things that they wrote.  Yet even in this inspiration there is context… and what is the context here?  Exile… or rather, the return from Exile.  The writer, presumably Ezra, is recording the history of the Kingdom of Judah for the people that have just returned from Exile.  They are looking back, specifically through the lens of the line of Davidic Kings.

King David Photo Credit: http://www.bible-topten.com/David.htm

King David
Photo Credit: www.bible-topten.com

And again, they have just returned from Exile.  What does this mean?  It means they have seen what happens when you don’t follow in the ways of the Lord.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the main thrust of the story of David and Bathsheba and the resulting story of David’s son Absalom.  They are text book examples of what happens when one turns away from God.  But the people of Israel knew that.  They were just returning from 70 or so years of being punished for not following God.  What they are getting here is the history of how things used to be and how they could be again if they did follow God’s ways and follow His Laws.  The story of David and Bathsheba would have been very well known to them, as would the story of David and Absalom.  Yet the writer is making some Theological moves here as well, pointing the people, and us, to the blessings of God that are found in covenant fidelity.  He isn’t saying that bad things don’t happen, or won’t happen, or we should just not think about them… but what He is pointing to, once again, is finding out who they are as a people by linking them to the past which brings them closer, in their view, to God.  This is seen most clearly today in chapter 17 of today’s reading as God makes an everlasting covenant with David that establishes him as having the throne of Israel forever.

Interestingly, we as Christians also relate ourselves and who we are to the past, linking ourselves to Jesus.  We are who we are because of Christ, who is who He is in part due to this covenant… which is what it is because of the previous covenants… which bring us back to Abraham, Noah, Adam… and God.