Just a reminder that scholars suggest this psalm technically continues the previous. The Septuagint Old Testament, favored by New Testament authors, has it as one.
It’s sad how much is lost in translation here. David willingly throws himself on the mercy of the divine court. If it is David who needs correction, let God cleanse him of sin. Otherwise, let divine wrath fall on those who persecute him. Perhaps we could translate the second line as “contend for my contention,” as the Hebrew words are that closely related. His contention is against some unnamed Gentile nation, though it may be merely a figure of speech, as is the next line about deliverance from those who are deceitful. It’s not so much the people as the violation of God’s revelation that bothers him.
The point here is that God is pictured as the sovereign ruler with authority to act, and a presumption that nothing about this is a mystery to Him. David has committed his life to conforming to God’s character within Creation. Thus, God is his refuge in all sorrows and at any cost to David. It’s standard courtly protocol to ask why God might push him aside, not as impertinent as it sounds to us. It’s not even really a question of “how long?” Rather, he urges God to take action as soon as possible. In David’s soul, such action would be itself a revelation of truth. This is how David has lived all his life, seeking to understand with his heart what matters to God in all circumstances. If anything will bring David back into God’s Presence, that is it, the one thing God Himself revealed.
And what a celebration it will be! David promises to appear before God with his best offerings – songs of praise and worship. Again, he tells his soul to pull it back together. Don’t get caught in the lies of depression, because God does things in His own sense of timing. That day will come when God decides, when He wants it to happen.
Don’t ask me how I got this way, but it’s been following me around for longer than a week.
That’s in spite of some weird behavior from WordPress. I was unable to login for a while, then got the newer version despite specifically setting to keep the classic view. And I got to the posting page almost by accident while trying to logout. I was planning to come back later and try again, but I’ll get this now while I’m here.
Someone gave me a fine older 14″ laptop that runs Linux quite well, so you can guess what I use as my daily machine right now. I had almost forgotten that some sites seem to act strangely when you use Linux.
I got my hands on a copy of Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear — engaging reading. He bends over backwards to give Hubbard the benefit of the doubt, but I can see why the Scientology crowd is hostile to the book and now the movie taken from it. I hate movies, but if someone else watches it, I’ll consider posting your review of it here. As long time readers know, I have no vendetta with anyone else’s religion, but the background stories of human experience are always interesting. I used to read tons of Science Fiction, but I don’t recall any of Hubbard’s stuff, just those who associated with him at times (Heinlein, de Camp, Bradbury, etc.).
On the other hand, I’m awfully religious about not taking organized religion seriously. Yeah, you try to make sense of that. At any rate, the net result is that I take faith seriously, but your choice of symbols and organization for working out your faith are of little consequence for me. I’m generally neutral until I come under attack or some other kind of abuse. So my ever popular rant about LifeChurch.tv (still getting a high volume of traffic after these years) is simply my response to abuse I suffered at the hands of some bigshots there. Mostly I reported my impressions and experience and defended the honesty of that report. So far as I can tell, my negative opinion has had no effect on the organization. I’m okay with that.
You can probably guess where this is going. I’m at peace because there are no dragons to slay except inside my own soul and I can’t find any right now. I won’t say they aren’t there, just not bothering me in any noticeable way. I’m not too worked up about my left leg still hurting; I’m old and torn muscle symptoms are slow to fade. I’m trying to walk the tight-rope of avoiding overwork but not letting it all stiffen up from inactivity. Mostly I’m beating the muscles — they call it “massaging” — whenever they hurt. It runs from the hip, most of the thigh, and most of the calf, down to the ankle. I suppose it’s a fair workout for my hands and arms, too. But I’m at peace even with the pain and slow healing.
I’m also at peace with the powerful sense I’ll need to stock up on inner peace before I get busy when things in this world come apart even more than they have already. Get some rest while you can, Brothers and Sisters, because we are in for a rough ride. Keep your eyes on the opportunities to exploit things for God’s glory.
It’s going to sound like Solomon is beating the same drums over and over. However, it is our cultural insensitivity that keeps us from recognizing that this is a different song. There is a subtle shift in emphasis that is not easily noticed in English translations.
Most of us have experienced a betrayal of trust. Few of us have ever experienced living in a community built on such a high degree of trust as required by the Covenant of Moses. It’s not as if biblical morality doesn’t recognize a cynical distrust of human nature, but that God designed us to operate in a high trust environment. We are fallen, and a critical element in redemption is learning to value trust.
So the first first section (verses 1-5) of this chapter is actually about a blind business investment. It was anathema to invest in a partnership in which you were not personally involved. A fundamental concept of biblical morality is that you cannot take a profit where you did not invest your own time and effort. Thus, the warning is not simply about co-signing a loan, but an impersonal investment in some business where you cannot watch how your money is used. Did it become blood money, cursed by God? Unless you know for sure, you might as well invest in wanton evil. Solomon says it’s worth it to surrender your pride and beg your way out of such a deal, once you realize the nature of things.
The next few verses continue on a related theme, suggesting that indirect investment is sheer laziness. You could read it like a sarcastic song, mocking the indolence of someone who expects to profit without doing any work. From there it’s just a short step in the next few verses to the sort of immorality that seeks idle entertainment to fill empty days for an empty soul. This is the same sort of person who sees no problem with entertaining themselves at the expense of others. That is, they don’t hesitate at sinfully mocking righteousness or simply making fun of misfortune. It’s heartless and destroys a community where trust is necessary to survive.
Solomon offers a short list of things God hates in our fallen human natures. First is the sort of arrogance that reflexively views others as dirt. Second is not just deception, but senseless lying over trifles, rather as a habit of mind without bothering to actually calculate whether it matters. Third is the casual disrespect of life — notice this is innocent blood, not a just execution of murderous criminals. Fourth is something that translates poorly across the cultural chasm. Keep in mind that Hebrew presumes a sensory heart that guides the mind. Thus, this is the case of reversing that proper order by enslaving the heart to plotting vanity or senseless immorality. Fifth is the related idea of finding perversion so entertaining that it takes priority over other activities. Sixth is someone who will invest significant effort in maintaining a falsehood for any number of selfish motives. Seventh is someone who delights in stirring up destructive drama between people who are close to each other. We’ve all met someone who simply cannot tolerate the unconscious guilt of seeing people who actually care about each other, so they destroy anything peaceful because they find soap opera conflicts more entertaining, more “genuine.”
Thus, we have a neat little list of predatory immorality that destroys a community. It’s a good reminder of the ultimate good in God’s moral laws — social stability is a primary meaning of shalom. In this context, Solomon goes off on adultery again. It’s not just destructive to your own life, but it destroys shalom by betraying that essential community trust. It makes you the enemy of God, the covenant community and Creation itself.
Sometimes wisdom is the result of many painful lessons over a long life. Notice that Solomon doesn’t demand that his readers obey simple edicts, but offers his own experience. We happen to know that Solomon did have long experience with women — way too many of them. Given his huge harem, there is no reason to suspect Solomon ever chased an adulteress, but there’s no doubt he saw enough of it. His warning here includes the full range of his experience and observations together. Keep in mind this is also partly parable about idolatry, and just about any other moral folly that beckons.
Surely Solomon knew that legitimate wives could be trouble enough; no need to complicate things exponentially by borrowing someone else’s wife. If she’s willing to fool around, there is simply no way any good thing can come of it. You might as well sell yourself as a bond slave. By the time adultery is finished with you, there will be nothing left but pain. You’ll be old and have nothing to show for all the work an adulteress will make you do for her. What good does it do to berate yourself when it’s too late?
Solomon offers the image of slaking sexual thirst from your own well. He tweaks it just a bit by warning that it would be too easy to pour out all your drinking water into the public sewers. Consider that this is a somewhat drier land where water resources were so precious whole nations fought and were slaughtered for just a few wells. Treat your own wife as a precious fountain, a rare treat in that land. Stolen water cannot be as sweet.
Don’t be a fool; God is watching. He’s standing right there, reading your mind while you contemplate sin. If you are under a covenant with Him, you can be sure He will enforce it. It’s much easier to repent from things you only imagined you might do, than to clean up the mess from actually doing.