Special Feature! Psalm 13:

Written by: Suvojit Mondal

Psalm 13 was composed by David, when Absalom conspired against him Saul tried to kill him. The Psalm is quite simple in form. The psalm falls into three stanzas, two verses each. The problem—David is depressed (13:1 2). David thought that God had left him. David asks God for an answer. David asks for “light to my eyes” (13:3 4). This means life; David does not want to die. God does not answer David; but, David believes that God will answer. This is because the love of God never fails.

 

When we feel sad or depressed remember Psalm 13. Tell God that you feel sad, and ask God for help. Then tell God that you believe that he will answer you. Remember, the love of God never fails. Almost all the Psalms are a way to glorify our God and telling God that I am your son, don’t forget me ever. We need to make strong relations with God like David had with God. So that we can ask God why did you do this to me? We can praise God and tell him you are the one who have to give light to my eyes. Most importantly, we have to trust in God—like David did, even when he was dying. We need to praise God even when we are going through the most difficulties in our life.

 
Everything in this world is changeable—nature, feelings, humans, relationships—everything except God (maybe he is outsider). In the same way, our relationships with God also change every day. Some of us are getting closer to God; some of us are going away from God. But we have to remember that God is always with us—he never changes. When you are facing many difficulties in your life, ask God as many as question you want; but, do not abandon God.

 
Remember, only God will be your constant in every moment or situation of your life. David may have had many enemies, but he had one true friend—and He is God the almighty. If God is also your true friend than he will never abandon you, in the same way He never abandoned David.

 
We need to build up a friendly relation with God and have a deep faith in God. So that when we are angry we can argue with God; when we are in depression we can share our bad feelings with God; when we are happy we can enjoy together with God; and thank God when we are in danger. We can ask help from God and depend on Him just like a friend.
Trusting God also means loving God, and having faith in God means declaring God as your Lord. In the same way, believing in God means singing praises to the Lord—even in worst time of your life—for God has been good to you.
A famous Bengali song by the great Rabindranath Tagore goes:
FORGIVE MY languor, O Lord,
If ever I lag behind
Upon life’s way.
Forgive my anguished heart
Which trembles and hesitates
In its service.
Forgive my fondness
That lavishes its wealth
Upon an unprofitable past.
Forgive these faded flowers
In my offering
That wilt in the fierce heat
Of panting hours.

Check out the song here, and the English version here!

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Psalm 10: Note to the Powerful: In the end, God wins

Written by: Jeff Wright

 

Psalm 10 represents the second half of a two-part examination of the world as it is, and the world as God intends it to be. These two Psalms were likely at one point a single Psalm (Psalm 10 has no title, which is unusual for the first 40 or so Psalms). The two Psalms are also written in an acrostic form. Psalm 9 has eleven of the twenty-two letter Hebrew alphabet, and Psalm 10 has the second half of the alphabet as the first letter of the first word in each stanza.

 

Together they remind the people of God that the wicked do not prevail. It is, however, important to remember that by “wicked” the Psalmist isn’t describing a naughty person. “Wicked” doesn’t refer to the driver who cuts you off on the freeway, or doesn’t tip their waitress, or swears too much. In the Psalms, “the wicked” are powerful people – captains of commerce and land barons. Now, it is not wicked in and of itself to be a captain of commerce or a land baron. It is, however, wicked to be a wealthy and powerful person who uses their wealth and their power to ensure that others do not get their shot. The wicked in the Psalms are wicked because they believe that they got theirs all by themselves, and that unless they take opportunity away from others, they will lose their wealth, power, and status. In the Psalms, the wicked are those who steal the bootstraps of others and then have the audacity to complain that the poor are lazy.

 

Psalm 10 begins with an extended lament about the reality of such wicked people (vv1-11). They are functional atheists. Not because they have philosophical objections to the existence of God, but because they live as if God doesn’t matter.

 

The second movement of the Psalm is a petition to God, a prayer that God arise on behalf of the poor (vv12-15). The poor do not wish for a handout from God, not do they seek to win some divine lottery. The poor just want their bootstraps—they just want their opportunity for a decent home, good health care, a meaningful job with dignity, and education for their children. However, when the wicked steal the bootstraps, the only thing left for the poor to pray is, “Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer, seek out his wickedness until you find none (v15).” It should not be that the restoration of opportunity in a society requires the eradication of others, but the wicked have set the terms and having sowed the wind, the poor pray they will reap the whirlwind.

 

So, the Psalmist concludes with a third movement—a chord of praise that God wins in the end (vv16-18). His Kingdom, no other kingdom, endures. The poor—those denied their opportunity to flourish will be vindicated. The wicked will be disempowered and forgotten.

 

It would be easy to connect Psalm 10 to the current social and political conditions of our nation. That is almost unnecessary; Psalm 10 is as obvious as can be. In the end, those whose bootstraps for a better life have been stolen will be given their hearts desire, and those who—for petty, ugly, and injurious reasons—have made a career stealing bootstraps to secure their wealth, will find themselves broken and eradicated.

 

Psalm 10 asks of us: which side of history will we find ourselves?

Psalm 9: Home(lessness) and Refuge

Written by: Jenna Pontious

I am the supervisor at a public library, and I interact with at least one person experiencing homelessness a day. I give thanks to the Lord, with all my heart, that I am in this position to serve His people and spread His message of love through my actions. It is challenging to find a way to interact in a humane and respectful way with the homeless, while still fulfilling my duties as a supervisor and a city employee. Our library has rules of conducts in place to address such issues as odor, personal belongings, and loitering; which can be at odds with the message to love one another. A recent encounter left me reeling, clinging to a God who is just and righteous and does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

There was a man sleeping at near the front door of the library, and he had a very pungent body odor. He was surrounded by a several beer cans, making me think he was perhaps drunk and sleeping it off. I went out and spoke loudly to wake him and then asked that he move along or collect himself to come sit in the library. He stated he understood and left. I was glad the interaction went as it did.

Later in the day, half an hour before closing, he was back and sleeping again. I didn’t want to deal with him further, so I called the non-emergency number and gave a perfunctory description of the situation. By closing, the police were on the scene, attempting to wake the man. After determining the police did not need anything from me, I went about my closing business. Then I heard sirens. I watched as a fire truck and an ambulance pulled up and my stomach tightened. They had called 911 for this man. Thoughts raced through my brain- What if he had died- and I had done nothing? Had he been lying there dead for the last half hour while I was inside?

As my employees and I left, the man was standing, attempting to lay himself on the paramedics’ cot. I was relieved he was alive, but the image of his brokenness stays with me. His pants were falling down, reveling his bare bottom, and he had a stain on the front of his pants, which smelled like urine. The firemen, paramedics, employees, and I silently watched as he lowered himself to the cot.

On the drive home, I felt close to tears. I had not loved this man as a fellow Christ-image bearer. I had disregarded him as a nuisance and called the authorities on him so I didn’t have to interact with him.

I called my superior once the fire truck had arrived to determine if I needed to stay and expressed dismay that I had not went and checked on the man. My superior assured me I had done what I was supposed to do. Another friend I texted also assured me I couldn’t have done more. But that isn’t the truth. I may have done all I needed to do according to the library policy, but I had not lived up to the call to love others as myself. I had overlooked the least of God’s kingdom, the one afflicted by homelessness.

I am comforted though, by the knowledge that God is a refuge for the oppressed, and who does not ignore the cries of the afflicted. There is a God who despite my own brokenness, is working to reconcile His people. Praise to a God that loves and is a refuge.

Psalm 8: From Obscure Notes to the Majesty of Creation

Written By: Jeff Wright 

Nothing exists for its own sake, but for a harmony greater than itself which includes it. A work of art, which accepts this condition, and exists upon its terms, honors the Creation, and so becomes a part of it” – Wendell Berry, Standing By Words (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983), p.85

Another Psalm, another obscure, unknown marginal note. “Gittith” is a Hebrew word of unknown origin and meaning. But the rest of the Psalm knocks us flat out with the glory of God and all He has made.
Sandwiched between identical summons to and ascriptions of praise (v1a & v9) is a powerful meditation of the majesty of humanity in the context of the wonders of creation (v1b-8).
The Psalm begins with a clear declaration: we live in a God-created universe (v1). The Lord is to be praised for the majesty of the cosmos. God is ultimately the artist who fashioned the processes that created the Grand Canyon, the Oregon coast, Yosemite Falls, and millions of other wonders on our globe and across the sky. But the majesty of creation is not just found in geography or astronomy. V2 points us to two sharply contrasting images to frame the marvel of God’s creativity. The wonder of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is also found in every newborn baby’s cry of hunger and their tenacious, wondrous commitment to life. The wonder of God is further expressed in the defeat of the agency of chaos—adversaries and vengeance. Creation, in all its forms is good, but not necessarily benign.

The heart of the Psalm, vv3-8 consist of two meditations on the place of humanity within the ecosystem of God’s sensational creation. Vv3-5, point to the sky and calls us to greatness. We are only little less than the angelic chorus, and yet crowned with glory. Reaching for the stars is not a secular activity of atheistic dimensions. It was not just a marketing ploy or an accident of Christendom that filled the astronauts of Apollo 8 with the awe and wonder of the words of creation in Genesis 1 as they became the first humans to orbit the moon fifty years ago. The heavens excite in us the possibility of more. The hope of the new and amazing and wonderful. God’s skies call us to greatness every night at astronomical dusk.
The second meditation on the place of humanity in Creation is vv6-8. This passage looks all around us and calls humanity to rooted, local existence. To the wonders and beauty of our place. This passage calls us to a life of stewardship and care for the tender land and all that dwell upon it. If greatness is found in the skies, home is found among us on the good earth. Grasping and stewardship are the twin invitations embedded in the glory of creation.
In the final analysis, creation’s glory is that it calls forth creation from us—we till the soil, reach for stars, make art, write literature, hope and act. God’s majesty permits us to see life as an expansive wonder—from the images of Hubble, to the microscopic bacteria that make our food chain a possibility, God is at work.
A creation teeming with life and opposing the power of death. A creation that calls us out to greatness and keeps us home as stewards of beauty. “The Lord God made them all… ”

Psalm 7: Obscure Legal References

Written By: Jeff Wright

What on earth is a “Shiggalon”? Scholars of ancient Hebrew realize that its use as a superscription means something. But no one knows what it means. Musical notation, melody? Filing clerk notes?
There is also this reference at the beginning of the Psalm regarding David singing about Cush. Huh? The story of David, as recorded in the Old Testament, does not include any stories about a member of the tribe of Benjamin named Cush (although Benjamin is the tribe from which Saul, the first king of Israel, hailed). Still, no clue as to the identity or whereabouts of Cush of Benjamin. Fodder, perhaps, for the next issue of Atlas Obscura.
Whatever the marginal notations at the top of Psalm 7 might mean, we can read the text of the song and quickly realize this is a long song of declared innocence. The voice of David in this Psalm sings out for refuge and a declaration of innocence (vv1-5). This cry is followed by two petitions: one for personal vindication (vv6-8), and one for public vindication (vv9-16). The song concludes with a promise of praise (v17).
Something has happened that has called into question the innocence of the Psalmist. The Psalmist is, directly or indirectly, being accused of committing or collaborating in some sort of collusion to perpetrate injustice. The Psalmist wants the community to know there was no collusion. The Psalmist asks God for assurances that the good name is cleared both with God and with the community.
We live in a culture that is not too discerning. The mere accusation of a thing leads to unfortunate consequences. Our society is convinced if there is smoke, then there must be fire.
And yet there are those who are falsely accused, and those who are rightly accused. There are those who, on top of injustice perpetrated against them, are further victimized because they somehow “deserved it” (women and minorities experience this god-awful travesty far too often).
So, what does a society of righteousness look like? I’m not a legal scholar, but I do believe our Christian faith points us toward some possibilities about how to create and sustain a just society that exonerates and vindicates the innocent, and captures and punishes the guilty.
First, we must retain the presumption of innocence as the bedrock of a just society. Just because an allegation is made, it does not follow that it is true. Allegations ought to be backed up with evidence. Hard facts are not fake news. We presume innocence and, in the course of an investigation, we do not shame the investigated or the investigators with ad hominin innuendo.
Second, we should have a justice system that moves with all deliberate speed toward justice. It does not ever serve the cause of truth to tactically delay justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Third, and most radical, the goal of justice ought to be, whenever and wherever possible, the reconciliation of victim and offender. Retribution serves no meaningful purpose, apart from a momentary emotional release. This is not to proffer a soft sense the easy way out for a perpetrator, nor force a victim into a false sense restoration. Reconciliation is, and ought to be hard, painstaking work at making a community right with itself.
There is no quid pro quo between action and consequence in the real world. But in the obscurity of Psalm 7, in the crying out for just such a quid pro quo, we are challenged to form a more just, reconciling society in our midst.

Psalm 6: Boys Don’t Cry

Written by: Ryan Skove

“Boys don’t cry…”
“Be a man…”
“Suck it up…”

Men are more than likely to have been on the receiving end of these phrases growing up. Phrases like these are small examples of toxic masculinity, a warped understanding of manhood that causes men to constantly show proof of their manliness and repress their emotions, except for anger. This not only leads to a fear being perceived as weak but can also develop habits of resolving conflicts with violence, as well depression that leads to suicide.
Perhaps these phrases are trying to teach us that sometimes we have to search deep inside of ourselves to find the strength to overcome the obstacles in our lives and not let our feelings get in the way of doing the right thing. However, the effects of hearing such phrases has more than its fair share of downsides not only with our understandings of both masculinity and femininity, but with our relationship with God as well. If there is no vulnerability with ourselves there will be no vulnerability with God.
In many ways, King David could be a victim of toxic masculinity. If we look at his military record, he knew the thrill of dominating enemies and being perceived as powerful. He used violence to solve his problems outside of military campaigns, as well. His rape of Bathsheba is characteristic of toxic masculinity’s perception of women as another obstacle to conquer. David is like Captain America on steroids. That’s why when we read something like Psalm 6, which is attributed to David, it is so compelling. David—who in these other ways is the world’s definition of a “man’s man”—shows remarkable vulnerability, sensitivity, and emotional awareness. “Boys don’t cry” doesn’t fly with David. He tells God that he’s cried so much that his furniture is soaked!
According to Psalm 6, in what way does this warrior king express his need for God in his time of despair and therefore define his masculinity? First, David doesn’t hide his feelings of angst from God, which we see in the first three verses. Although it appears David believes God is responsible for his suffering, and we can debate until the sun dies out on how God governs the world, focusing on that would be missing the point. For David, God is not separate from his pain. How often have I, as a white American male, refused to take my pain seriously and hidden from God?
Second, David uses unflattering words like “groaning” and “weeping.” Let’s remember that this is the most powerful man in Israel! What does this say about being a man when we read this? What about what is said for the Israelite warriors? These men, who have experienced just as much if not more warfare than someone like David, are being told it’s ok to cry like a baby. And what happens when one has the bravery to acknowledge their emotional weakness in front of God? “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.” God not only hears the heartache but comes to the rescue of the one who expresses need.
It’s a man’s world and that needs to change. Patriarchy has its negative effects on its beneficiaries that might be hidden to us. Psalm 6 stands in stark contrast to a “boys don’t cry” mentality. And if we read its words, we can be set free. Because if there is a war on men, it’s not feminism. It’s our embrace of toxic masculinity. How can our community break its hold on us?
Reading List
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Butler, Judith)
• #MasculinitySoFragile: culture, structure, and networked misogyny
(Banet-Weiser, Sarah & Miltner, Kate M.)
“Toxic masculinity is killing men: The roots of male trauma”. (Holloway, Kali)
“Toxic masculinity doesn’t just target women: The viciousness and vacuity of modern American manhood is also harmful to the self”. (Masciotra, David)
“6 Harmful Effects Of Toxic Masculinity”. (Weiss, Suzannah)