(Reposted from the Kiln blog due to brevity; original post.)
This octet offers us Hope in the Darkness. The Hebrew culture viewed time altogether differently than Westerners do today. The psalmist is fully aware that a part of the Curse of the Fall was locking our human awareness into a time-space constraint that blinds us to God’s perspective on things. So for the Hebrew folks, a part of redemption is learning that the key to understanding the passage of time was in the image of ripeness: Things in Creation come when they are ripe. It’s a struggle to learn that, and it’s a lesson the bears repeating often. Western thinking never bothers struggling toward redemption, but assumes that time-space constraints are universal and builds a culture based on measuring time in precise increments, as if reality ran along some ineluctable track. Meanwhile, we treat as genius someone able to think in the long term, and as saintly those who can joyfully wait on the hand of God. Hebrew people thought of this as the norm.
So the first couplet begins with the psalmist lamenting his moral weakness, and how quickly his fleshly awareness obsesses over how slow some things move. His words are more dramatic than most English translations indicate for his state of mind: “Lord, I’m dying here waiting for Your rescue!” Yet the state of his heart is not so frantic as the mind, for his faith remains fixed on the promise of justice in God’s Word. Still, his mind does not learn easily, for his brain searches with desperation for some clue, some lever or trick he can use to move God at his own convenience. We are all in good company.
Like a skin bladder for liquids, the psalmist complains he’s been too close to the fire for too long and now he feels brittle and leaky. But that’s just the fleshly part of him; his heart knows that the promises of God endure beyond his life. Indeed, his mortality is never far from his consciousness, so will he die before God judges those who hound him?
Everywhere he turns there are pitfalls. Yet these traps presume a reality different from what God says. He subtly hints that his commitment to God’s justice has kept his eyes open to these temptations seeking to take advantage of character flaws. No, despite their relentless persecution, God’s promises are faithful and he knows his cry for help is does not fall on deaf ears.
While he very nearly fell into at least one trap that would have destroyed his life, his convictions would not let him forsake God’s revelation. As he considers this, his faith rises again to ask for God to restore his sense of peace by letting him see clearly divine mercy for what it is. In the end, he knows this will give him the sense of confidence to promote what God has said.