I noticed I had a lot to say on this reading. I think it’s because today’s reading included an introduction to the Psalms.
Genesis 16: Story of Sarai offering Hagar to Abraham since Sarai is barren. After Hagar gets pregnant, Sarai throws her out and Abraham lets Sarai do it because he says Hagar is her slave. Hagar is visited by an Angel, who she thinks is God. She calls him El-roi? Note indicates this means either God of seeing or God who sees. After reading the notes I was reminded that there was a time when women gave their slaves to their husbands and took the kid as their own.
Genesis 17: God approaches Abraham again and establishes another covenant. This chapter is where his name is changed from Abram to Abraham. Sarai becomes Sarah. And God promises Abraham that Sarah will indeed give him a son. God tells him “You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.” This sounds like a precursor to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Genesis 18: God stops to eat with Abraham on his way to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a peculiar reading for me. God seems angry with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham negotiates with God in attempt to spare Sodom. While Abraham is respectful towards God, this negotiation sees to elevate Abraham’s status. At least it does to me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it makes Abraham God’s equal, but it definitely makes it seem like he is pretty powerful.
Intro to Psalms:
First thing that jumped out to me was the authorship discussion. I had heard that many of the psalms were written by King David. The text even talks about this. But then I see this: “Although many are attributed to King David, and some to other individuals, scholars agree that few if any were actually written by them. Rather, their authors, like those of many of the books of the Hebrew Bible, are anonymous” (p. 773). This goes back to an earlier comment I made (I think). If scholars agree that few of the psalms were written by King David, then why is he still presented as the author to so many people? Would it make the psalms less important or less significant if King David hadn’t written them? I am curious if King David as the author is still a common thought. Need to look this up.
Some other statements from the introduction stood out to me:
- “The psalms’ power lies not only in being sacred scripture but in reflecting human feelings before God and expressing them directly, concretely, and skillfully” (p. 774).
- “Despite the psalms’ splendor and humanity, people often find it difficult to pray them, for many of the psalms seem violent and vindictive. We must remember, however, that the chief issue for biblical worshipers is God’s power to save.” (p. 775)
- “The war imagery is, however, secondary to the main point: God is a just ruler and judge, who upholds the faithful and righteous and puts down the wicked and rebellious.” (p. 775)
- “So-called vindictive psalms are especially difficult for those who simplistically view Christianity as uniformly gentle and concerned primarily with the individual soul. Yet these psalms are not interested in punishment for its own sake but in redressing a wrong in the present. The psalmists think concretely rather than abstractly: they view evil as embodied in unjust people and pray for their elimination, including their potential for living on in their children.” (p. 775)
Each of the above statements really emphasize the power behind the psalms. They seem to emphasize that if one is a believer, then the psalms’ messages can be instructive and powerful. I never looked at them that way. Honestly, I never really thought much about the psalms. I viewed them more as simple statements. But after reading this introduction, I feel that I’ll have more respect for them and strive to better understand the messages.
Psalm 1: This psalm is all about the individual. Pretty much the message I take is if one stays on the right path, all will be well. If one doesn’t, things will go badly. The text makes it sound so easy, but I don’t think it is easy at all. There are so many temptations in the world. I guess it’s important to remind yourself of this message so when you do stray, you should strive to get back on the right path. Again, easier said than done.
Psalm 2: This one seems to be about countries or civilizations. Actually, it seems aimed at the rulers, talking about the importance of rulers to “Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Ps 2.11-12). I wonder if the leaders in the world who claim to be christian are familiar with this psalm.
Psalm 3: Reading this psalm made me wonder if God works like this. This psalm is about David recognizing that God protects him from his enemies. He recognizes at the end that judgment is reserved for God. Just looking at this from a human perspective makes me think this isn’t practical. Perhaps what this psalm is arguing is that God protects from eternal pain and suffering?
Psalm 4: I immediately thought of the importance of patience when reading this psalm. Admittedly, I am not a very patient person. Just recently my lack of patience led to very poor judgment that could have proven to have been a bad situation. It woke me up. It is something that I struggle with every day. But I freely admit this. I think what’s challenging is that we live in a world where so many people DON’T admit this. As I read this psalm I thought about the rush to share information in our society. Many times that information is false. Yet it’s perceived as weakness when the information is either changed or retracted. How do you fight against that every day? It seems that we are at a point where it’s difficult to tell fact from fiction anymore.
Psalm 5: I have similar thoughts from reading this psalm as I did psalm 4. Again, the text refers to the danger of lying. Yet, we see lying every day at all levels of society. As I just mentioned, it’s challenging to know what’s right and what’s wrong anymore. I know from my understanding of research that this is partly because of who shares the information. We hide away in our silos and only listen to things that confirm what we already know or we only listen to people we trust. Our society is afraid to be challenged. That’s troubling to me.