Daily Office Scriptures (April 28, 2016)

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us,Selah
that your way may be known upon earth,
    your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth.Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth revere him

In this psalm, the poet begins with the request for blessing, which is fairly common. The request is then seen to be granted  already in v. 6, and a request for continued blessing ends the meditation (v. 7). The psalmist’s view moves from asking for blessing to accepting that the community had already been blessed. There’s no time passage here, or anticipation of future blessings. It is almost as if the poet, in reflecting on how God needs to bless them comes to realize that they have already been blessed. “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us,” (v. 6). They already possess blessing, in the harvest season.

The psalmist also has an agenda for requesting blessings from YAHWEH: “that your way may be known upon the earth, your saving power among all nations,” (v. 2). This is not entirely, or not really, a call for blessings as the relief of need. This is a call for blessing that the nations will notice. There is a selfless orientation to the request. God, they hope, will show forth his blessings in such a way that the nations will desire those blessings too. Later this is connected to justice. The nations should be “glad and sing for joy” because YAHWEH evaluates communities in “equity.” Equity here is mishor, which means “fairness” or “equality.” God is fair, but he is also interested in equality. This means he doesn’t play favorites (how? Doesn’t he play favorites with Israel?), but it also speaks to the Old Testament’s vision of justice as solidarity, redistribution, and activism on behalf of those forgotten or left behind. God will not merely deal equally, but will make all nations equal.

Proverbs 2:1-5

My child, if you accept my words
    and treasure up my commandments within you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
if you indeed cry out for insight,
    and raise your voice for understanding;
if you seek it like silver,
    and search for it as for hidden treasures—
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs, as a book of aphorisms and wisdom sayings, is meant to shape the hearer in certain ways. Its purpose is to cultivate wisdom, so for all those who want to treat it as a list of things that are absolutely true in the world, or as a collection of natural laws, are not merely reading it incorrectly, they are not letting the text mess with them. Here the author advises the reader/hearer, as a father would to a child, to approach the book with an open mind and an open spirit. The meaning is not simple, but must be sought carefully and deliberately, over time. The one who yearns for wisdom must “seek it like silver” and “search for it as for hidden treasures,” (v. 4). In such pursuits there are many attempts and false starts where no silver or treasures are to be found. Only those who really want it will persist long enough to “strike gold,” as it were. This should be our approach to all of Scripture in any case, open and receptive, though not passive. God wishes us to wrestle with the text and with the Spirit, not limply accept whatever a leader or charismatic person says it means on the basis of authoritarian fiat alone.

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