November 17, 2019

The glory of God’s people?

The Damned. Signorelli

You have heard it said…but I have said to you…

• Jesus

• • •

It was one of those small epiphanies that sometimes come in church. It happened to me last Sunday.

The congregation was reading Psalm 149 responsively. I love this final group of psalms in the Book of Psalms, sometimes called, “The Hallelujah Psalms,” for their repeated calls to give praise to Yahweh the King. But something hit me funny this time.

The end of Psalm 149 goes like this:

6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters
    and their nobles with chains of iron,
to execute on them the judgment decreed.

And then, this phrase:

This is glory for all his faithful ones.

What?

What is “glory” for God’s people?

According to Psalm 149, it is rendering judgment and punishment on enemy nations with the sword.

Surely that’s not right.

Surely the glorious triumphant prospect that lies before the saints of God does not consist in seeing their enemies slaughtered and conquered.

Didn’t Jesus change this? Didn’t he say that we had once heard (in scripture) that we were to hate our enemies (and thus imagine this kind of triumph)? Didn’t Jesus go on to say that this was not his approach? Did he not instruct us to love our enemies instead? Didn’t he speak directly against passages like this and say that they do not represent God’s true way of dealing with enemies?

Is not the glory of God’s people to love their enemies rather than to conquer and kill? Is not the glory of God’s people to lay down their lives so that even their enemies might live?

We live in a day when the Psalm 149 crowd seems to be drowning out the message of the Sermon on the Mount. For them, Christian glory lies in making the enemy squirm, in exercising power over the enemy, in triumphing with might, in winning by conquest.

I have a Savior who begs to differ.

Even though it comes from a passage in the Bible read in church on Sunday morning.

Comments

  1. It feels like some historical Christians haven’t got the message, but rather have thought that judgement will be one of the greatest entertainments of the hereafter.

    “At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.” – Tertullian

    “The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.” – Jonathan Edwards

    • This has been a problem in Christianity since very early on, as you point out. In cases where Christians did not or do not have hegemony over the political state, the triumph is deferred to vanquishing of foes beyond the grave. In later cases where the state has been controlled by Christians, the conquest of enemies by a Christian-controlled state, which is said to rightly wield “the sword , is interpreted to be an act of love for them. In both cases hatred and revenge fantasies and action are thinly, or thickly, veiled with a pretense of love expressed through violence. This tendency in Christianity is why Nietzsche called it a religion of ressentiment.

    • Good examples, Mike D. They point out that there will always be Christians who are “judgment uber alles” types. But for anyone (like Edwards) to suggest that God gets some sort of “jolliness” out of His unbelieving children suffering in Hell… well, that’s just warped thinking.

      I will again reiterate my mantra: every believing Christian should read a gospel account at least once a year to see how Jesus did things and what was important to him. If he is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews), then we better darn well be familiar with Jesus’ character and nature. Full-on compassion, puts his power in his pocket, sacrifices himself for his unbelieving brothers and sisters. And he did it for the joy set before him, not for the “joy of seeing loved ones wallowing in Hell.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It feels like some historical Christians haven’t got the message, but rather have thought that judgement will be one of the greatest entertainments of the hereafter.

      It’s called “The Abominable Fancy” and your Tertullian and Jonathan Edwards quotes show that it’s been around for a LONG time.

      • Christiane says

        what I’m still trying to sort out is HOW ‘pre-destined’ people KNOW that they are one of the ‘pre-destined’?

        the smugness of ‘the saved’, the ‘glory’ of the Pharisee . . . ????

        I never did get it.

        As far as the East from the West is the mindset of the man in the temple who prayed:

        “have mercy on me, a sinner”

        and yet HE was the one God favored

        and so many Christian people don’t get this revelation . . .

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          what I’m still trying to sort out is HOW ‘pre-destined’ people KNOW that they are one of the ‘pre-destined’?

          Even the More-Calvinist-than-Calvin types don’t, because of Calvin’s idea of “Evanescent Grace”, i.e. God Sends False Assurance of Election to the Reprobate(TM). You don’t know if it’s real or God trolling you along until J-Day.

          So they are desperate to PROVE to themselves that they are (and You’re NOT). So they grasp for PROOF. Once this was “Material Blessings”, AKA Getting Rich. Now (with the Calvinista crowd) it’s Perfectly-Parsed, Utterly-Correct, Truly REFORMED Theology.

          No matter what it is, the Game of One-Upmanship kicks in immediately, i.e. “MORE ELECT THAN THOU! SEE? SEE? SEE?”.

          (This also has a secular counterpart, More Activist/Woke Than Thou one-upmanship.)

          the smugness of ‘the saved’, the ‘glory’ of the Pharisee . . . ????

          You find that ALL across the spectrum, from Hypercalvinists to Calvary Chapelites to Jack Chick fanboys. It’s grade school arrested development:
          I’M GOD’s FAVORITE! YOU”RE NOT! HAW! HAW! HAW!”

  2. “Didn’t Jesus change this? Didn’t he say that we had once heard (in scripture) that we were to hate our enemies (and thus imagine this kind of triumph)? Didn’t Jesus go on to say that this was not his approach? Did he not instruct us to love our enemies instead? Didn’t he speak directly against passages like this and say that they do not represent God’s true way of dealing with enemies?”

    Yep. “You have heard it said… But *I* say unto you…”

    So, do we let Jesus interpret the psalm… Or will we let the psalm interpret Jesus?

    • That “But I” is important. It indicates that Jesus is clearly saying that he is departing not just from certain Old Testament texts, but also from the way other Old Testament texts, like the ones that commend love of enemies, had been interpreted up to his time. He is replacing the older interpretations with his own.

      • Not only did he replace older interpretations with his own, but he also upped the ante on them! Not only is adultery “adultery,” but so is merely LOOKING at a woman with lust.

        To me, then, Jesus’ whole purpose was to demonstrate (and teach), “Hey, you can NOT do this on your own. That’s why I’m here.”

        Maybe the same goes in cases of judgment: “Hey, as much as you want to see justice brought against those who deserve it, it ain’t gonna happen of your own accord. No, instead I want you to love ’em, because that’s my primary purpose. Leave that judgement stuff up to me.”

        And after all, that judgment things is great as long as it’s others being punished, but once that judge looks at me… GULP.

        • “And after all, that judgment things is great as long as it’s others being punished, but once that judge looks at me… GULP.”

          And Jesus had LOTS of parables about what a horrifically BAD idea it is to claim forgiveness for oneself and then turn around and clobber others for their sins.

        • “The God who’s revealed in the Gospel is just too laid back on the subject of evil to qualify for membership in the God Union. He is not a scorekeeper. He does not insist on his pound of flesh. He does not go after sinners with a stick. Instead, he forgives. And on the cross – in the death of Jesus – his final word on the subject of all our sins and all our guilt is simply to shut up about it forever.”

          — Robert Farrar Capon, The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It

  3. senecagriggs says

    God STILL hates sin. He hasn’t changed His opinion by all accounts. We, as human, hate it that HE hates sin since we are sinful.

    • Point missed.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Are you stocking up on popcorn to watch the Damned Burning in Eternal Hell?

      You’re going to need a LOT of popcorn, as it needs to last “forever and ever”.

    • ” He hasn’t changed His opinion by all accounts.”

      He has by the Bible’s account.

      OT Law – “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”
      Jesus – “If you are struck on your left cheek, offer your right as well.”

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      If God hates sin so much, why are you so convinced that God prefers to punish sinners whilst leaving them sinful rather than save them by curing them of their sin? In the former case the sin he hates so much persists for all eternity, in the latter it is gone for ever.
      What you really seem to be saying is that it is sinners, not sin, that God hates, which is completely contrary to everything the Bible says on the subject.
      I for one, being sinful, am glad God hates my sin, because I hate it too and long for God to take it away.

  4. I wrote a song yesterday called Without a Shield. A sample:
    “Died nailed to a beam atop a barren hill,
    Vile inglorious scene, strange mysterious will,
    Waves and waves of time and space
    Erode the scales that hide the face
    Of Christ…..without a shield

    It occurred as the song was forming that it is utterly antithetical to the March of the wooden soldiers mentality of this era. I don’t suppose it will top the charts.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I don’t suppose it will top the charts.

      Invest instead in Jon McNaughton paintings (replacing Thomas Kincade) and Mega-Reverend Jeffress’ new hymn “Make America Great Again”.

    • It might not top the charts, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Bravo!

    • March of the Wooden Soldiers – as in Laurel and Hardy?

    • Christiane says

      your writing has a strange beauty, ChrisS

      • Thank you Christiane. This song has a somber quality in the lyric and in the melody. It’s touching me at times as though I’m not the one who’s writing it. Frankly, I’m not sure I am. Thanks again.

        • Christiane says

          that’s the creative force, ChrisS . . . . I have a cousin who lives in Northampton MA who is an artist, and a good one, and when I last visited her home she showed me a recent work of hers that was magnificent, and I remember saying to her, I bet you were totally drained after you painted this . . . and she said, ‘how did you know’ . . .

          creativity is like letting something pass through you that is coming into existence and you are a part of the process and when you KNOW this, you become aware of the ‘gift’, and it is very humbling, and little bit scary

          talk to others who are accomplished artists in different fields . . . . you will hear of some similar experiences

          • Funny you say that. I stopped periodically and found myself taking some deep breaths like I was a bit overwhelmed. I know a bit of what your talking about. This song will be on my second album which will be a gospel album. I’m thinking of calling it Gospel(ish). That’s a story in itself. Always a pleasure talking to you Christiane.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I remember saying to her, I bet you were totally drained after you painted this . . . and she said, ‘how did you know’ . . .

            Because (and I’m a compulsive creative) you put a little bit of yourself into everything you create. Whether it’s time, energy, effort, or some intangible.

            In his classic Handbook of Science Fiction Writing, author L.Sprague DeCamp spoke of fictionalizing this in a fantasy magic system he’d like to write — “Enstarrment”. That when an object is enchanted or a spell is cast, the enchanter/caster has to empower it with magical/spiritual energy from his own being.

            In D&D terms (which I would really have liked to use myself, but never did), enchanting magical items burns Experience Points, so it reduces your “level” every time you do it (resulting in having to adventure to regain those lost XP).

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    We live in a day when the Psalm 149 crowd seems to be drowning out the message of the Sermon on the Mount. For them, Christian glory lies in making the enemy squirm, in exercising power over the enemy, in triumphing with might, in winning by conquest.

    Which ties in to the Persecution Porn and Conspriacy mindset you find in Culture War Christians; how they always seemed to be crying “PERSECUTION!!!!!!” by the Vast Conspiracy..

    The three axioms of a Grievance Culture, i.e. a Culture whose only reason for existence has become Revenge:
    1) “Once we were Lords of All Creation, and Everything was PERFECT!”
    2) “Then THEY came and took it all away!”
    3) PAYBACK TIME!!!!!

    Now they see a chance to finally get on top (Thank You Donald Trump) and invoke Axiom 3 —
    Throw your weight around. HARD.

  6. If we are to “Glory” in the judgment of others, if God delights in the suffering of His children, if He is anything like the character displayed by Tertullian and Edwards in their statements, well… I choose to believe He is NOT like that. Otherwise…

    ———————————

    The Things That Make Me Cry
    (R. Rosenkranz, 2003)

    I bounce along in the lifeboat
    Tossed by the ocean’s waves
    Alone, afraid;
    Will I be rescued?

    I cry for my selfish self
    Weeping for all that I’ve left behind
    For my misfortune, my wealth
    My shortcomings, my weaknesses
    Regrets of love not spoken, of deeds not done
    Forgetting that with this lifeboat
    I have already been saved.

    I should rejoice, not mourn
    But then I remember a thing I once heard
    That what makes a person cry says a lot about that person.

    I glance back at the ship
    It’s going down fast
    All the people on it
    Some who knew the ship was going down
    Got lost trying to find the lifeboat;
    Others who went to save personal treasures
    that will not save them from their watery grave;
    Others didn’t believe the ship was sinking
    Continuing to eat and drink and desire;
    Whatever the reason, so many lost souls
    Who never made it to the lifeboat.

    I begin to cry.

    • It is his will that everyone be saved and none be lost. Leaves no room to rejoice over the demise of anyone.

      • How shall God not bring to pass that which we are expressly told he wills?

        I came to the belief, because of reading N.T. Wright alongside Scripture, that the actual final outcome God will bring to pass is that of **every** knee bowing to him, and **every** tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord – that our ideas of “hell” as perpetual torture are all wrong, because of the Jewish background of Christianity, the course of history and philosophy in the West, and mostly because of God’s character as revealed progressively in the OT and fully and finally in Christ. This happened while I was still a Protestant Evangelical trying to remain a Protestant — several years before I swam the Bosporus. One of the main reasons I went East is that it has the only theological and dogmatic ground, as a whole Church, on which to stand in order to hold the hope of universal reconciliation, at which I had already arrived. (Interestingly, Wright is not there….)

        It’s not “olly olly ochsen free” (pace Mule) – there will be a reckoning, and we will suffer internally because our love has been so small. But that suffering will have an end – it is only of an age (aionion), not perpetual (aidios). Some of the Greek fathers thought it would be, or seem, instantaneous as we see Christ in all his splendor and he makes whole and complete our knowledge of ourselves and of him and the meaning of what he has done.

        I’m not used to thinking of “the last judgment” in terms of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel wall anymore. God has something much larger and deeper planned, and indeed there is no room to rejoice over the demise of anyone.

        Dana

        • Good post, Dana. Very helpful to me and my “ponderings.” Thanks!

        • Perhaps the, in Evangelical circles, virulently discredited idea of Purgatory is in fact an elegant and ancient intuition of the reckoning that comes to most in some way or another. Carl Jung describes a vision in which he is transported into some afterlife space where he meets some of the people dwelling there. Curiously, and this is often a gauge of the legitimacy of a vision, it doesn’t follow the expected script at all. Instead of being regaled with all the wisdom of those who have gone on before, he is met with pleadings from those who apparently did not grow to full spiritual stature while in the body. They beg him for any enlightenment that he can shed. They want to know what he has brought with him as though the completion of the body is dependent on the continuing suffering and growth of those on earth who then bring that with them.

        • ….there is no room to rejoice over the demise of anyone.

          I heard plenty of Americans, and many Christians among them, whooping up the demise of al-Baghdadi. There were a good many who all but said it was not only unpatriotic but unChristian not to rejoice at his death. They seemed to think God’s glory was in it.

        • “There is no point at which the Shepherd who followed the lost sheep will ever stop following all of the damned. He will always seek the lost. He will always raise the dead. Even if the elder brother refused forever to go in and kiss his other brother, the Father would still be there pleading with him. Christ never gives up on anybody. Christ is not the enemy of the damned. He is the finder of the damned.”

          — Robert Farrar Capon

        • Clay Crouch says

          Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

          When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

          But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always excel in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

        • David Cornwell says

          Amen; a day late! The East beckons more and more, but I’m so old.

          • David, it’s never too late. Fr Stephen’s parents were received into the Church when they were in their 80s. The East has a love for Mary the Mother of God that is really not fully understood until you’re “in”, and we kiss icons; these things may put you off, but go visit an Orthodox church and see what happens 🙂

            Try either St Mary’s in Goshen http://www.stmarysorthodox.org
            or St Nicholas in Ft Wayne https://www.stnicholasonline.org

            The Bishop of the diocese that St Nicholas is part of, Bp Alexander Golitzin, is an expert in Syriac Christian writings – and a very good pastor (with a lot on his plate administratively right now); I have a deep respect for him. I don’t know anything about St Mary’s, but the two jurisdictions represented by these churches are generally the most welcoming toward non-ethnic visitors.

            Dana

  7. Burro (Mule) says

    Seeing that the Glory of God is the Cross, and always has been, perhaps we shouldn’t be so excited to share in that glory.

    I remain convinced there is no straight line between the omnibenevolence of God as seen in Christ, and an empty Hell. There will be no cosmic “awley-awley-in-come-free” Nothing is automatic, and there remains the apostle’s admonishment to ‘fill up the sufferings of Christ’, a verse which has always made this comfortable sinner shiver.

  8. “What is “glory” for God’s people?”

    Seconding Mule that the Glory of God is the Cross.

    “According to Psalm 149, it is rendering judgment and punishment on enemy nations with the sword.
    Surely that’s not right.”

    On the Eastern side of things, this interpretive principle has held: If something in Scripture looks on the surface as if it is not in keeping with God’s character (He is good and loves mankind!), then the surface interpretation is NOT how we are to interpret it; it is not the “takeaway” for that passage. We have to look for something else that is in keeping with Scripture as read through the lenses of the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

    If God’s glory is the Cross, then what was done on it? In the East, it is 1) the deeply humble, trust-filled means by which Christ as God entered death in order to disarm it, and 2) it is the destruction, in Christ as Man (the ultimate Adama) of everything that drives us toward death (sin). Therefore, what is reflected from that in our own life is our willingness to put to death in ourselves anything that keeps us from communion with God: “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5.24) and our willingness to not be put off by the humility and trust of God that is involved. Everywhere in the OT that depicts punishing of enemy nations is to be read, according to the greatest and most God-centered minds of the Eastern fathers (of which Tertullian was NOT), as we ourselves taking up spiritual arms against the “passions and desires” in our OWN hearts, not against anyone else. We’re to put to death those things that can blossom into fullness as sin: In the sense of the Greek, “passions” are not things about which we are enthusiastic, and “desires” don’t have to do with simply wanting. They both have to do with basically good things that can become addictive in our lives feeding our sense of self-preservation on our own terms, driving us away from love and toward death.

    Lastly, not to forget the Jewish framework of thought in the Gospels and Epistles, “judgment” means setting everything right. That is not going to be a comfortable thing for most people, but the outcome of that isn’t hellfire and brimstone – it is the fullness of the new creation.

    Dana

    • I guess I’m too much of a Westerner to buy the spiritualized interpretation of these passages as the answer. I can see that as application, but not as the point of the text. It makes more sense to me to understand that the scriptures we have record a process of progress in understanding the nature and character of God. I read these passages in the light of Christ, not to reinterpret them, but to understand that, before Jesus, who is the fullness of the revelation of God, people only had bits and pieces of the puzzle. Therefore I reject the idea that the glory of God’s people is the destruction of their enemies because Jesus tells me it is not so. That’s what we heard before, he said, but then he told us something different. This is why I cannot accept the fundagelical doctrine of inerrancy, which ends up giving equal weight to all scriptures. The Hallelujah Psalms are correct insofar as they identify God as King and worthy of praise. They are incomplete in that they cannot as yet grasp that his throne is a cross.

      • –> “They are incomplete in that they cannot as yet grasp that his throne is a cross.”

        Yep. Seems to me I recall reading about a couple of guys arguing about who would be sitting on his right and who would be sitting on his left, and those two guys being told, “You know not what you ask,” or something to that effect.

        • I love the way Dorothy Sayers played with this in her radio plays. She has John say to Jesus at Gethsemene, “James and I asked to sit at your right and left hand. But we were found unworthy, and now our place is given to these two criminals.”

      • The interpretive grid of the Fathers is Christ. It’s also yours… therefore, you’re standing on the same ground 🙂

        The text was important – and the interpretation of the text was even more important. Text vs “application” of the text wasn’t how they approached it, nor was it, primarily, a progression of revelation. They didn’t quibble with what the text said; what they were after was the Meaning God wants us to take from it, read through the lenses of Who Christ is and our experiential knowledge of Him. Sometimes the surface meaning was the most important take-away – but when it came to the character of God and his plan for the world, the most important level of meaning is that seen through the Christ-lenses.

        We’re basically saying the same thing, Mike. You’re right that Westerners have a hard time with the multi-level sense of meaning the ancient Christians employed – including Paul, who often didn’t quote Scripture (LXX) exactly as it was written in order to make the point he was making!

        Dana

        • Yes. And to be clear, I am ok with spiritualized or imaginative readings of scripture, as long as we and those we are teaching understand that this is what we’re doing. I don’t hold, as some suggest, that these are necessarily “deeper” or more profound insights into the text.

      • “This is why I cannot accept the fundagelical doctrine of inerrancy, which ends up giving equal weight to all scriptures.”

        This is the key to the whole problem. If what God said (or what He is credited with saying) at Sinai is of equal weight and equal truth to what Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount, you’re stuck in a contradiction. Much better to say that, where contradictions in the texts arise, Jesus’ interpretation vetoes anybody elses’.

    • Dana,

      I can’t help feeling you should have a blog. Your insights are so helpful, & your writing beautiful.

      But then you already know I’m a fan.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      It’s hard to weigh into this because ‘Purgatory’ is a dead issue for we Easterners.

      At one time a wise man told me ‘no one who is still capable of love will be finally lost’, but that got twisted around in my mind as ‘no one who is capable of being loved will be finally lost’. Love will not rest until full communion is completely restored.

      I cannot shake the impression that the salvation of the ones I love who showed no visible signs of repentance during their lifetimes is going to cost me something, if not now, then in the afterlife. There is no sense in which I can possibly suffer for my OWN sins, but union with Christ may just mean that I will have to suffer for SOMEONE ELSE’s sin.

      And if it is hard to gain someone you love, how much more difficult will it be to gain those I despise and loathe? Yet might not I be required to shoulder that as well?

      I know there isn’t a shred of evidence in the Bible that this is so. But I cannot worship a bug-eyed furious God that we have to be saved from.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Nor, really, is it possible to worship a God who jazz-hands what the human trafficker does to his 11 year old victims.

        Just sayin’

      • Mule and Dana,

        Purgatory is a dead issue for Easterners, but purgation is not. An eastern priest once talked to me about the toll booths which fits into the whole purgation/illumination/union thing. Maybe we can talk about that.

        • “Toll booths” are rather a later idea, as I understand it. I think the idea is sort of a “dumbing down” of something more solid theologically, and even though put forward by some relatively more educated monks in the past, it’s more of a folk religion-type of explanation, not at the forefront of the thought of real scholars and a lot of holy people. I haven’t run across the notion in my patristic readings. It’s one of those topics in EO on which there is no dogma, but everyone has an opinion 🙂

          D.

      • This is truth, Mule. Thank you. And no need to worry about that other kind of god, either.

        Hope you and your family are well.

        D.

  9. Thanks, CM, for another excellent post. I need constant reminders that my “enemies” aren’t, really.

  10. I’ve always interpreted this Psalm to be referring to end times judgment, where all the nations and people who do not belong to Jesus are indeed judged and bound. To be with Jesus at this time and judging the nations would seem to me to be glory indeed for God’s people

    • I’ll refer to Dana’s excellent comment above – “(In) the Jewish framework of thought in the Gospels and Epistles, “judgment” means setting everything right. That is not going to be a comfortable thing for most people, but the outcome of that isn’t hellfire and brimstone – it is the fullness of the new creation.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        For too many Christians “Judgment” does not mean “a binding decision”.
        It doesn’t even mean “bringing justice”.
        It means “Somebody (else) Gets It In The Neck! WHOOPEE!”

  11. Iain Lovejoy says

    I’ve had a look at this, and the translation as given “corrects” the written Hebrew, which is a bit obscure, to what the translator thinks it ought to say. The second half of verse 7 if read as written may instead mean something like “to the punishment of being non-nations”. If this is correct this psalm has a really specific context – the destruction of Israel and the carrying away of a large part of its population into exile. The psalm starts with a celebration of the salvation of Israel up until verse 5, and is in this section talking of the nations which turned Israel into a “non-nation” being themselves turned into “non-nation” in their turn, which, crucially, is the means by which Israel itself is saved and restored to nationhood. The psalm is (at least by the time of Jesus) celebrating an event – the overthrow of Babylon – that has already happened, and it is not the conquest of an enemy but liberation from them which is being celebrated.

    • Iain, thank you. However, this is just one instance of many, many in the Psalms (perhaps milder than some of the others) where rejoicing over the demise of the enemy is celebrated, even to the point of blessing those who dash their little ones upon the stones.

      • the celebration is the final victory of good over evil,
        not rejoicing at the suffering of those that evil wounded and left crippled and broken

        • That’s a spiritualized interpretation, but for the Psalmist and his contemporaries it was about killing the human enemy’s babies.

          • no, actually it was not,

            there is a kind of writing that describes ‘how’ evil is torn out root and branch, this is called ‘The Ban’, and it explained to people long ago how ‘evil’ will finally be ended but it does this graphically

            unfortunately, our modern-day ‘inerrantists’ take this kind of writing and interpret it ‘literally’ rather than as it was meant to be understood;
            and, in doing so, these ‘inerrantists’ have created a god of wrath for themselves who is not the God revealed to us by Christ the Lord

            look up, this:
            Herem or cherem (Hebrew: ???, ??rem)

            • I’m familiar with herem. The war of total destruction, involving the idea that what would otherwise be the spoils of war going to the human victors are instead dedicated by destruction to God. It is not just inerrantists that interpret such passages this way, but the mainstream of secular scholarship as well, Christiane. The allegorical interpretation you take was introduced by the church at a much later date.

              • I’m with Robert on this one, Christiane, though as I said before, I can and have benefited from allegorical interpretations. Jesus clearly said, “You have heard it said to hate your enemy.” He is pointing to scriptures like these and affirming that that is exactly what they taught. He then overturns them, giving the fuller revelation of God’s character and plan for his people.

                • It’s not that the allegorical interpretation that was developed later is wrong, it’s just that it was not part of the original intention of the author(s) nor the original understandings of his contemporary audience. We as Christians find our interpretative grid and lens in Jesus Christ, and so our interpretation and understanding of the text is changed by that way of reading it; but it is an unwarranted anachronism, and bad scholarship, to retroject our way of reading to the origin and setting of the text.

            • I agree the god of wrath is not the God revealed to us by Jesus Christ. But many passages in the Old Testament do believe he is that god; those passages are simply wrong.

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        We are told that all the OT points to Jesus. Jesus himself looked at even these passages and saw them pointing to him, pointing to the love of God. Allegorical treatment of them is found, as I understand it, in Jewish exegesis too (Paul was Jewish and writing in the Jewish tradition).
        I think here, though, the historicity not allegory is the point, as it is, I think, with Psalm 137. Psalm 137 is sandwiched, I think deliberately, between two Psalms about the deliverance of God. Verses 1 to 3 are in the past tense, and imagine the Babylonians asking the exiles to sing a song of Zion. Verses 4 onwards are then in the present tense, and are the song the exiles are imagined singing. Whether or not the original was written in exile to be sung in earnest, in the Bible it is now the terrible song the captives once sung in exile, but sing no more, because they are delivered. It is not a current call for revenge.
        With Psalm 149, if I am right, God is acting to save Israel and they are about to see a liberation like the one that they had in Babylon, when the nationless exiles were freed and their captives became themselves nationless exiles.
        If it’s true, though, that all the Bible is about Jesus, then we are not supposed to read these as straightforward songs at all. In Jesus’s time, since these songs were written, Israel had gone through another cycle of redemption and captivity. They had freed themselves of Persian rule and regained their independence under the Hasmonean kings, then lost it again to the Romans. God keeps delivering them, they keep getting revenged on their enemies, and then the next lot of enemies take them down again. These Psalms are a reminder of this cycle and should prompt us to ask why it is endlessly repeated, to do something different. Jesus’s call is to break the cycle by not revenging oneself on one’s enemies but to convert one’s enemies so that all are brought to God.

        • I think it is also important, though, to remember that Jesus was speaking to real people in his day who hated their enemies (ie Rome) and based their hatred on the teaching of their scriptures and tradition. And again, he categorically affirms that this is what those scriptures taught. Indeed, One of the clearest ways the old testament scriptures point to Jesus is by giving us a provisional and often inaccurate view of God and his ways which only the Messiah could correct and fulfill.