Thoughts on Psalm 10, Day 18, Lent 2013

This morning, I read the first third of the book of Psalms. That's fifty altogether for three days in the Lenten reading plan I'm following. I was intimidated by the number, but many of them are brief. I'm terrible at appreciating poetry, so even when I read them slow, such as one per sitting, I still end up rushing through it. So I don't think I missed much more by reading so many this morning than when I read only one or two in a morning. The Psalms of full of uncensored passion. The Psalmists are just mad, they are furious. They aren't just sad, they are suicidal. They aren't just happy, they are ecstatic. They don't just want to give someone the stink-eye, they want to tear their house down and break both of their arms. They don't just worship God, they adore him with love as unhindered as adolescent love. At times it's awkward, embarrassing, inspiring, and confounding. It's been called the hymnbook of the church. I'm sure it's also the hymnbook of the Jews as well. I think my Christian upbringing suffered from it's lack of regular Psalm reading. I do appreciate the multitude of Psalms every day in the Daily Office.

Of the first fifty, Psalm 10 stood out to me. It exemplifies the Psalm genre pretty well. I think Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, helps us hear the raw emotions better.

It starts with an accusatory questioning of God. It's funny how the Psalmists can be so familiar with God and so terrified of him. The poet's complaints are not unfamiliar to our complaints today, right here and now in the United States. The poor are getting screwed over by the rich and powerful. It sounds no different from editorials I've been reading since the banking collapse. It's no different from the complaints of William Jennings Bryan against the American Trusts at the turn of the 20th century. Why does wealth harden a conscience so easily? When will God swoop in and fix it? When will God start cracking some skulls and return hope to the down and out?

I like this prayer. As a follower of Jesus, like him, I don't endorse violence against oppressors, but I approve of it metaphorically.

Psalm 10

10 1-2 God, are you avoiding me?
    Where are you when I need you?
Full of hot air, the wicked
    are hot on the trail of the poor.
Trip them up, tangle them up
    in their fine-tuned plots.
3-4 The wicked are windbags,
    the swindlers have foul breath.
The wicked snub God,
    their noses stuck high in the air.
Their graffiti are scrawled on the walls:
    “Catch us if you can!” “God is dead.”
5-6 They care nothing for what you think;
    if you get in their way, they blow you off.
They live (they think) a charmed life:
    “We can’t go wrong. This is our lucky year!”
7-8 They carry a mouthful of hexes,
    their tongues spit venom like adders.
They hide behind ordinary people,
    then pounce on their victims.
9 They mark the luckless,
    then wait like a hunter in a blind;
When the poor wretch wanders too close,
    they stab him in the back.
10-11 The hapless fool is kicked to the ground,
    the unlucky victim is brutally axed.
He thinks God has dumped him,
    he’s sure that God is indifferent to his plight.
12-13 Time to get up, God—get moving.
    The luckless think they’re Godforsaken.
They wonder why the wicked scorn God
    and get away with it,
Why the wicked are so cocksure
    they’ll never come up for audit.
14 But you know all about it—
    the contempt, the abuse.
I dare to believe that the luckless
    will get lucky someday in you.
You won’t let them down:
    orphans won’t be orphans forever.
15-16 Break the wicked right arms,
    break all the evil left arms.
Search and destroy
    every sign of crime.
God’s grace and order wins;
    godlessness loses.
17-18 The victim’s faint pulse picks up;
    the hearts of the hopeless pump red blood
    as you put your ear to their lips.
Orphans get parents,
    the homeless get homes.
The reign of terror is over,
    the rule of the gang lords is ended.

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