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and Human Feelings
Some Stirrings in Mind and Heart from the
Triptych Psalm 75-77
In the last Chapter, we saw the world reeling as it mocked God and the antidote from this same Lord; but in this Chapter we see the thing from the primacy of His word as our painting, our first impact. There is here something of the Messiah, of the power of God and of the feelings of man, and their blending in artistic configurations and colour make for a delightful impact of refreshing charm and strength. One of the most beautiful things about the word of God is this, that it never waffles in ineffectual philosophy, never wavers in variable commitment or commission, never 'allows for' untruth, in order to do this or that, and wanders not at all, being incisive, decisive, but at times poetical and measured at that, lest there be any boil over of merely superficial contrivings.
It says it, and you know. It can say it softly, to show the divine concern, loudly to show the danger or with brio, to share the delight.
In this triptych we see a considerable coverage of theme and it illustrates that consistent modality, that in variability of theme there is none in content. God is always the same, in this a little like the vast oceanic splendour with which He has adorned this earth. What then ? at times it is content, quiet and vast, splendid in composition, massive in scale, showing as it were it peaceable majesty. Again, it shimmers, the light moving in complexes of iridescences, shivers of illumination, quiet splendours of sheer shining. It mounts, it rises, it smashes what is in the say, it evokes fear and concern, it lashes, it is not content until the storm is done. It is like the anger of the Lord at what slights His reality and would be content to play with Him, as if a kitten, to be formed and forged at our will and not to be what He is and will be, at His own.
Again, it merges with the skies, but not often, as if to show its empathy and willingness to be sharing its grandeur; but then it is apparent once more, so that the touching of His majesty, to expose the figure, were by all means a work of grace, but not to be taken for granted, as if our race were to become in any way correlative.
It charms and cheers, it has colour compositions to share and unsettlements, as if the wind blowing, it has choppy remarks to make, as when a teacher grows concerned at a student, and would bring out some problem into the open, until the wind may drop when at length it is resolved.
It can have rain, as when the Lord sends out His Spirit (Isaiah 32:15), promoting revival in the now sullen, now sophisticatedly proud, now distraught heart of man. Vast atmospheric touching may be seen, as spreads of grey, now strong, now wispy, make remarks nearer to the horizon, on the multiplicity of His dealings, and the abundance of His grace.
So in these Psalms we see much scope in a little, because the Lord is grand, and even a glance can be pregnant with life and depth. Ask Peter! He knows (Luke 22:61). There is about the Lord, as seen through His expression, His word, such a scope of splendour, no idle majesty, such a torrent of truth that there is simply nothing like Him, and nothing to compare with His word. This is one of the ingredients of truth both divine and sublime: it stands alone. It is of the greatest delight that in the Lord, not only is truth in singular splendour, but it shares with delighted, unlimited empathy with His love, mercy, profundities of passion, inordinate grandeur and majesty, pity and creativity, these not a summation but an exposition of the One who He is.
First we see the judgment that dismisses the earth (verses 75:1-5). Then comes the sight of the discrimination which is not discriminatory (75:6-8), followed by the eternity which endures in His praise (75:9-10), and the destiny of the dissident who move their unconquering clatter to a land of no goodness, self-excluded, deluded and dismissed.
God speaks in His own domain:
as to the earth, He says, "I hold up its pillars."*1
We too speak of a pillar of society, meaning one who makes its stability to be
more secure. But to BE the one who HOLDS UP the pillars of the earth, that is
what makes it stable and secure, giving it a composition in the universe which
endures and retains meaning as for its original creation, to be the One indeed
who is "upholding all things by the word of His power,"
as Hebrews 1:3 reveals, this is the always startling reality. Indeed, He also
thus set up its configuration with the power required, which spills over into
God can speak to those whom He has created in His image, capable that is, of fellowship with Him, just as if it were one's neighbour, so great is the affinity for intimacy and the correspondence for correlation. Yet it is He who is infinite while we be but finite. This is both charming and almost alarming; for if He is so humble in beholding the things that are on the earth, with what care we should reply and respond and correspond, lest we presume! But who is this who speaks ? It is the craftsman and son of Proverbs 8 (both renderings are used), of Colossians 1:15, of John 1:1-14. It is HE who set it up. It is He who here speaks with a voice so intimate and close to man, another of His constructions! (cf. John 1:12). He is exhibited most clearly and fully in such Psalms as 72 in number before this one, and 110 after it, where that same colossal and power and nearness, that human feeling with divine content draws near.
God pursues the theme that there is to be a judgment. In the light of this, He makes simple admonition. To the boastful, He says, Do not be boastful. To the wicked, His counsel is this: Don't be arrogant in asserting your right and might, and don't open your mouth in front of a stiff neck.
He proceeds to declare that the ups and downs of life, in terms of promotion, these are in His hand, and as we saw in Daniel, He may elect to leave a kingdom's rule in the hands of a base person. Liberty is not lost because God rules; for His rule is to promote it and persons to use it, and to find its ends, if not from His word then in His world. He does not hurry; but in time, the wind blows the chaff away, and in the end, what may seem to have had a long tenure is found out, when He comes to judge. There is a cup in His hand (as in Jeremiah 25) and its dregs the wicked will drain when the time of judicial assessment falls due.
Contrary to such a culpability without cancellation, the Psalmist who knows the mercy of the Lord, in fine spirit declares this, "But I will declare forever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob." When you speak the truth ijn the sight of God, you cannot be stricken. They could remove your tongue but not your truth, which continues like irrepressible streams from the snow, rioting down the rocky shoots with superabundance of content and force.
Some of the impacts from this Psalm appear readily. Thus the Lord is more glorious than the predators, overwhelming to folly when the final accounts are read, and the issues summarily addressed at the ripe time, He is the deliverer without equal, and wise, using even man's wrath to serve Him, while retaining the reservoir of His own, to let flow when the issues are deemed to require it. Yes, He deploys His own wrath as is fitting, for His truth will rule. It does not rule out freedom in advance, but it does settle accounts with the unrepentantly riotous, whose renegacy knows no bounds and whose spirit is as unsettled as a stormy sea which proceeds as if eternity were its domain.
But it is not so. There is a peace which remains, and this is found only in the good favour and address of the Lord.
Amidst these impacts from the text of this Psalm, there is an issue His splendour. It concerns verse 10, to which we shortly come. Meanwhile, however, let us consider that "Thou art more excellent than the mountains of prey."
The mighty prey, and are predators on the weak. That is the office of evil, and the creation has been subjected to such demeanour as a rejoinder to sin. Many use strength spiritually, and so enduring, create what endures; but others scoff and are scorners, duly to be scorned when their time comes. They may accumulate billions, direct the work of millions, in astral self-importance slickly connive, became base in language as we often see among the mighty, and corrupt in demeanour, mere empty vessels of sound and often of fury. What is there to their name ? It is rotten.
God has not some strength. He has it ALL. If it comes to a contest, His victory is not only imminent, unless He delays for expository purposes or with merciful intent, to show for eternity the nature of what displays itself among mankind; but it is eminent.
The Psalmist reminds us of the Exodus, when after great patience in dealing with the aggressive, repressive Pharaoh, He acted so that "chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep." Yes, it was the sleep of death, the fitting divine rejoinder by the movement of waters, to their rapacious, rambunctious pursuit of the fleeing 'slaves' of Israel. On these historical facts, see Downfall from Defamation Ch. 4. This is indeed part of the very institution of the divine coverage of history and of history in its conglomerate of strength and sores; for here God showed to Israel and Egypt alike, His power and mockery of naturalistic gods, His determination and resolution, His complete willingness to talk with man and to show patience, while yet effecting His sovereign purpose with means amazing to the mind, but correlative to His majesty.
It led to the institution of the entire system of Mosaic sacrifices, the definitive Old Covenant Prelude to the realities of the sacrifice that materially counted, that of man for man, God as man for mankind, offered to all, effective only for those who, naturally enough, were willing to receive it. It is similar in amnesty: if you are too proud to accept it, you need not bother ...
This in turn led on the prophets who expounded on from Moses concerning the coming of the Messiah and that onto the New Covenant in His blood which led on to the establishment of the Christian Church, and the dowering of the Holy Spirit to His body, and the power to accomplish the Great Commission appointed as shown in Matthew 28:19-20.
While then He CAN deal summarily with the vengeful, the vindictive, those for whom power is addictive, He also WILLS to deal kindly with the sacrifice of His Son as not merely the attestation of His love and mercy, but of His personal nobility of nature and grandeur of commitment.
It is in this overall context, looking now here and now there at the surrounds, that we examine Psalm 76:10.
Torrid Angers and Divine Wrath:
Neither Dance nor Dilemma, it is Action and Counteraction
The Wrath of Man will Serve You;
with the Remainder of Wrath, You will gird Yourself
What then does this mean in the context ?
Surely man's torrid angers, reaching out or even searching up with a quasi-divine impudence and arrogance (as occurred in the case of the Pharaoh of Exodus 9:16ff.), will bring glory, praise and even honour to God as He arises, at His time and in His chosen manner, to quash, quench, belittle, annul it in confrontation. The Song of Miriam, Exodus 15, gives some sense of this, even before the judgment is final, in the day reserved for its consummation.
Man's spirit may be allowed to blaze in its mini-furies, only to be vitiated by victories with a divine vigour, in confrontation. The worst man can do becomes a sounding measure of the least God arises to do, to overtower, overpower, and overthrow its insolent gross and greedy appetites.
Hence the more man's wayward wrath arises, the more its downfall at the hand of God smites the eye, and the more praise arises from the resting heart, for Him; and this, it is both for the stark reality of the overthrow and the baseness and unloveliness, indeed often the execrable nature of what is so overthrown, so delivering the earth from its impenitent pollution.
As for the 'remainder of wrath,' that great store of divine indignation at the multitudinous violations of righteousness, of human need, elevations by human pride of what is mere pretence, vanity and panting unspirituality, wilfully gross ungodliness, it is still there to be met, in times, in events, in phases of history, in developments, in blights, in settings to rights, in deliverances for some, in exposure of others. Things are weighed and their repose does not last, without Him whose word sketches the sickness of man, and whose power either dumps it in its degradation for all to see, or lets it arise, till its pungency, as with Hitler and Stalin, becomes its own wake. It is unwise to sleep at such a wake.
After man has his unjust worst to be overthrown, God's store of judgment circles the earth like flocks of watching, migrating birds in their millions, and as a man of war, an athlete, a labourer, a messenger or a manager 'girds himself', so LORD, arising with directed power and divine dynamic proceeds to give a foretaste of what is to come, as the aweful antics of man at length require (cf. Genesis 15:16-17).
Here we move into the most personal part at the level of the Psalmist himself. We meet first the overwhelmed spirit, the shameful surge of defeated emotion, but move swiftly to a restoration from that regression, for he realises that he has been cheap, sudden and unspiritual, like a short-fuse when a leisurely and long one is required, so that what is to be saved is threatened, and what is to go is in danger of escape.
No, he cries, "I will meditate on Your work" ? no. Rather it reads, "I will meditate on all Your works, and talk of Your deeds." They speak for themselves to the logical mind, which does not seek from the dead, the ways of the living, from the blind the methods of sight or from the inanimate, the depths of desire. ALL the works of God, from law-girt matter to often erring mind to energising spirit with its fantasies and facts, often in pure ebullience of self-will confusing the two where a child could tell the difference: all are considered. "Who," he asks, "is so great a God as our God!"
In plain attested history, NOT OTHER has any sustainable record as the One who "does wonders." These are the specialty, naturally enough, of Him who is wonderful, as the Christian quickly finds out. The reality of the Exodus was never lost on Israel, which experienced many YEARS of slavery, long HOURS of anguish and fierce MINUTES of the raging exploitation of Egypt, only to be led, given mission, delivered with signs and signals, plagues and words this world had never seen, and led with a presence which was sufficient for millions for years in the desert.
But how does God articulate such marvels, perform such wonders, work such miracles ? When spirit moves into the world of mind and matter, there is a power which is to this or that degree, derived in a superior mould to that of matter, which can understand it, maniplate it, explore or even exploit it,a s man does; but when it comes to God, He having MADE the thing, has no difficulty in invading it and preventing it by the simple application of direct power, much as a novelist can suspend, quash, add to or subtract from the prior parts of his story, by injecting new characters with new powers at will.
God is no new character, but He can inject such, as with Cyrus, which Isaiah 44-45 explains in detail: the king to deliver Israel from the Babylonian captivity, being a ruler in the next Empire, that of the Medes and Persians which Daniel for his part (Daniel 8) predicted in its place in the revealed sequence (cf. Highway of Holiness).
How does the Psalm speak to us on this topic ? With the Exodus in mind, it is like this (77:19):
"Your way was in the sea,
Your path in the great waters,
And Your footsteps were not known."
In other words, God could and did rove in His own way, as the mind of a creative author roves over what He is about to write, and in the writing, but with an infinite capacity and power. His knowledge and power, wisdom and inventiveness were active, not only in the creation in so manifest a way (cf. Romans 1:17ff., Deity and Design ...), but in the deliverance of Israel from the oppression of Egypt. How often the Christian may call out to the Lord, as some other oppressor seeks to ravage the people of the Lord, the whole believing (not the deceptive surrogate) Church of Jesus Christ, and His Spirit is able to act; but how seldom it is on HIS name that the call is made. Even at that, many will be murdered as they have been (Revelation 12:11).
Why ? It is because they are giving the vocal and ideational, the scriptural and saving testimony of the truth of the Lord, His word, His Gospel to their generation, and this costs. Christ died to save sinners, His people die to deliver those who do not know, or are tempted to folly, from their sins BY the very Gospel which Christ the Master, made real by coming and living and acting and dying and rising and sending His Spirit, and directing history until as now, it stands ready like a battalion on parade, for His coming. To inspect ? Rather, He knows, no, to take His own by the power of His Spirit and the authority of His own word, where they belong, and then to vindicate His victory by showing life in the glory of a world now ruled by Him, until He removes it for a new heavens and a new earth.
Before this realisation, how
heavy were the Psalmist's eyelids, how dreary his mind, how weary his spirit.
"Will the Lord cast off for ever ? And will He be favourable no more ?"
he ... whines ? whinges ? complains ? the last at any rate.
"Has God forgotten to be gracious ?" he asks,
"Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies."
Actually, it seems almost one thought as if he is weighing appearances with increasing alarm, but even as he speaks the correcting realities enter in, and "tender mercies" are attributed to God, rather as in Job in places, even while the static enters into the soul. It is like a dog on a leash; for while he drags a little, he comes back, his heart stronger than his straying, and there is a gentle pressure ... for man, of reality, of the knowledge of God, which cautions inflamed speech and inflammatory thoughts.
THIS IS MY INFIRMITY! he says, in some symmetry with Psalm 73. It is appearance, it is volatility, it is not just and not true to the foundations. Hence he reviews the wonders and power of God, and His leading and love, and seeing past the current turmoil, he rests in the realities of God, whose ways ARE after all in the waters, and who DOES act (as in Isaiah 64:5 and manifestly in the life of the Christian and the Church, to whom He sends soldiers of the Cross, even while the enemy invades with its treacherous people as in II Peter 2).
Human feelings, divine dealings, this is the theme.
So does the Lord teach His people by word and deed; and educate our spirits by seeing the short-term upsets and the long-term truth, side by side. Patience is needing for co-operation with One so deep as He, and if we do not learn it, affliction adds to our woes; but if we do, joy rushes even when the wheels grind, for the end is in sight, and it forms like the boughs of a tree, not in a trice, but by growth as the winds blow and the seasons change. In the end, it bears fruit, even to old age, full of sap and spiritual blessing, both to have and to impart.
Thus in a little, you can see a lot.
It is no use trying to short-circuit God. He has His ways and His wisdom, and our very capacity to think is only a small part of it!
This is translated either "set up" or "hold up". In fact both are true of the Lord, who both instituted the earth and its 'hanging on nothing' as Job puts it (Job 26:7 cf. Matthew 16:18 cf. SMR p. 99ff., The Secular, the Sacred and the Sublime Ch. 3), yet with great firmness established, and in a figure holds it up, that is, sustains it in the stability and strength needful by the forces and methods of His wisdom, multiple, seen and unseen. Thus a car has to be manufactured, that is one thing, but also sustained, and what is required in the latter case will depend on what was initiated at the outset in its mode of construction and emplacement.
God holds up the creation (cf. Hebrews 1:3) by the word of His power, and is the only Rock (as seen in the above references); but is not to be confused with a geological stratum for that reason! It is necessary, having spirit, to use one's mind!
Indeed, the Lord has concentrated the laws, made symphonies out of the correlated information inputs so that the myriad connections in the body of man can relate first to the parts in their varieties of works, themselves, then to the brain and this to its system and formats, and this, all prepared like high-level executive work for the Manager, in its properly interpretable codes, both for the provision for the body and for the mind of man, so that his spirit, in its invisible but directive intensity can resolve issues at the more personal level, moves into the history of man and of nations.
That in turn, duly directed, corrected, judged, but never fudged by the Lord, is turned like an object on a lathe, until from it comes a form and force that may be studied in historical analysis and felt in personal results. Grasshoppers among men, and great minds alike, grand hearts and weak fallen temples of thrust and lust alike, love and hatred alike, truth and fraud alike, loyalty and deceit in collation but never unity, these things spin past like the trees when one is travelling in a fast car.
The Lord holds it all up,
just as He set it up:
for though He is for the time, keeping the DNA sufficiently intact
(see Ch. 6),
yet it is deteriorating as
all exposed designs tend to do
so that the time on earth for man is not
vastly extended, even on this basis,
just as the time for the
mountains to remain on earth with its erosions is not unlimited;
for that is the nature of the temporal:
and of course you do not MAKE it by what in fact is a DETERIORATIVE process!
This is precisely in line with what Gould was noting in the field of novel design, of design types, in what he deems the Cambrian 'Age': so that far more designs at the earlier times, he avers, are to be found in superabundant multiplicity, than that 10% residue with which he accredits our own time. On whatever understanding, MORE found in one episode or layer, is MORE. Less is deteriorative. The second law of thermodynamics is not a dice or play-ground; it is a simple fact seen in the very nature of things. MAKE and you must either constantly keep, or the making part is under assault from forces not always in keeping with its sustenance, and will deteriorate. That and not the opposite is apposite to both observation, in things current, in things ancient and in paleontological testimony (cf. SMR pp. 199ff.).
Truly man's wisdom is a mockery; and when he mocks God, he mocks only himself, increasingly a data bank of confusion. In this, man increasingly resembles the financial melt-down which this world is currently watching, as if it were another first in the realm of atomic bombs. Greed and unmitigated expansion of loans, these played a part. Devastation is a real gift; but it is not always very useful. Creation - that is something entirely other, something else. It is not found in the relics of design, except where created intelligence is at work; but in their production.