Sunday, October 19, 2008

Choices, Motives, Character

I was excited as a child to hear that Psalms are poems. I thought of Shel Silverstein, and was fascinated that the Bible might have something like that. It wasn’t until years later that I began to appreciate the patterns of ideas – rather than of sound – which characterize Hebrew poetry. I do still admire and enjoy the poetry of Shel Silverstein, but it can not hold a candle to the Psalms!

I love the imagery of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
Night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
Their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
Which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
Like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
And makes its circuit to the other;
Nothing is hidden from its heat…

The chapter goes on to rejoice in God revealing his character through the order he appoints for us individually and socially. Far from being overbearing or angry commands, guidance from God brings light and joy. Then, about God’s direction…

By them is your servant warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
May they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
Innocent of great transgression.

Pastor Fred talked some about this today – willful sin compared to simple human failings. He spoke of “sins of intent” as wrong choices made with unholy motives, compared to wrong choices made with holy motives, which are mistakes. In Psalm 19, David acknowledges both. I am thankful for a God who sees when there is a good heart even behind wrong choices, and who forgives and purifies a wrong heart when we ask him.

(Lectionary passages here.)

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