Reading: Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. A Song.
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
as wax melts before the fire,
let the wicked perish before God.
But let the righteous be joyful;
let them exult before God;
let them be jubilant with joy.
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds—
his name is the Lord—
be exultant before him.
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a parched land.
O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;
you restored your heritage when it languished;
your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;
sing praises to the Lord,
O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel;
and whose power is in the skies.
Awesome is God in his sanctuary,
the God of Israel;
he gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
Maybe you find the beginning of this Psalm as off-putting as I do. I always feel edgy when I read about God’s strength in these terms. “What about the merciful, loving God?” I ask. But I don’t think it’s that black and white.
At least in the opening of Psalm 68, the psalmist is more wishing terrible acts on the wicked, not pointing out that God does this (although many other Psalms boldly claim that God does punish harshly), but the imagery of God sending the rebellious to a parched land like melted wax is there. We can’t escape it.
But then the tone shifts. Although the psalmist still portrays God as powerful and mighty, there’s a new dimension; God is abundant, restorative, and protective. What we’re left with is a nuanced depiction of God that we can’t fit tidily into a box. And isn’t that just so God?
Even with divine inspiration and revelation, we’ll always be grasping at who God is, trying to slap our labels on so we can get a better understanding of our creator. I imagine even when I’m in the throng rejoicing around the throne, I still won’t get it. We talk a lot about God being love. God being creator. God being [fill in the blank]. But how often do we claim that God is mystery? There’s no box for God, and mystery will always make us feel a little edgy or uncomfortable. So instead of asking, “What about the merciful, loving God?” maybe I can allow some space for God’s mystery.
Mysterious God, sometimes you reveal yourself to us and sometimes you don’t. We thank you for your greatest revelation, your son Jesus Christ, who showed us in the most intimate way your great power and love. When we demand answers, give us patience. When we oversimplify, confuse us more. When we hunt for meaning, remind us of your mystery.