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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Not everything biblical is Christian, Part 18 - the Psalmist's limited perspective

Before Jesus, the Bible's writers did not know how much he changed everything. The gospel of John tells us in his introduction,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
John is letting us know that God's word is his son Jesus, not a collection of Jewish religious writings. They can unknowingly point to Jesus, but now that we know who they are pointing to, we need to re-read those passages with Jesus in mind.

Psalm 119 is a massive ode to God's word. Here is a small chunk of it (notice the verse numbers).

Psalm 119:145-176
145  I call with my whole heart;
answer me, O LORD, that I may keep your statutes.
146  I call to you; oh, that you would save me!
I will keep your decrees.
147  Early in the morning I cry out to you,
for in your word is my trust.
148  My eyes are open in the night watches,
that I may meditate upon your promise.
149  Hear my voice, O LORD, according to your loving-kindness;
according to your judgments, give me life.
150  They draw near who in malice persecute me;
they are very far from your law.
151  You, O LORD, are near at hand,
and all your commandments are true.
152  Long have I known from your decrees
that you have established them for ever......
163  As for lies, I hate and abhor them,
but your law is my love.
The Psalmist, if written in King David's time, may only be referring to Mosaic law. If it's written after the exile, then it may also be referring to the prophetic books. John elevates Jesus above all these prior writings, even above Moses.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Later on Paul writes to the Romans that the law, the thing exalted by the Psalmist only inflamed sinful desires, not erased them or overcame them, Romans 7 and 8. But to go back and re-read the Psalms in light of Jesus is to replace the love of law, to a love of Jesus, the embodiment of love.

One more short example.

Psalm 6:4-6

Relent, Lord, rescue me!

Deliver me because of your faithfulness!

For no one remembers you in the realm of death,
In Sheol who gives you thanks?
I am exhausted as I groan;
The Psalmist does not have a concept of the afterlife. The afterlife is a later religious development punctuated by Jesus' resurrection. This particular psalm of lament is powerful, and spiritually helpful in my own times of despair. But, because of Jesus, I do not share the same theology as the Psalmist. Nor, I believe, did I as a fundamentalist biblicist. So why did I think I had to swallow other parts of the bible without analysis in light of Jesus? Genocide. It's never right. Joshua and Moses and Samuel were wrong. There is never a God permitted occasion to kill men, women and children. That is contradictory to a God who is love, who lived a life like Jesus', who gave his life for his enemies.

We do it all the time. There is nothing wrong with deciding what is true or not in the Bible in comparison with Jesus.

Not everything biblical is Christian.

Series review----------------------
This is part 18 of the series, Not everything Biblical is ChristianPart one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine. Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137. Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus. Part five merely brushes the concept of source criticism.  Part six looks at the Old Testament application in the early church: a brief summary of the book of Acts. Part seven looks at how the church has worked this out regarding slavery. Part eight, showed one example of how an unchristian part of the Bible helps tell the Christian story. Part nine asks who would Jesus hate? Part 10 discusses women as Biblically approved spoils of war. Part 11 discusses divorce. Part 12 discusses the imposition of Bronze Age social constructs onto our diverse and complex modern world. Part 13 discusses women as property in the Biblical world. Part 14 discusses dehumanization of people with Biblical support. Part 15 discusses the evangelical culture that tends to proclaim the terrible day of the Lord is around the next corner. Part 16 shows how the end of the book of Job overrules 90% of the soliloquies in the book. Part 17 discusses a Psalm of confession.

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