the psalmist

The Psalmist is more like Frodo than Gandalf (Psalm 119:31)

I cling to your decrees, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame
(Psalm 119:30 NRSV).

“Fly, you fools!”  Our son Nathan exclaimed as he was clinging onto a rock at the top of a cliff and suddenly let go, disappearing from our sight.

We weren’t really nervous, unlike Gandalf (in Lord of the Rings 1) he wasn’t actually being pulled down by a Balrog.  There was another ledge just a few feet beneath him.

But whenever we watch Gandalf let go, I like to ask, “Why doesn’t Gandalf just keep clinging to the edge of the cliff like Frodo does at the end of LOTR 3?”  Frodo doesn’t initially let go (despite having just lost a finger) because he doesn’t want to get burned up in lava, but right as he’s tempted to give up and stop clinging, Sam commands him to not let go, so he just keeps clinging until Sam helps him up.

(image http://www.fanpop.com/spots/lord-of-the-rings/picks/results/589222/saddest-part-return-king)

The psalmist is more like Frodo than Gandalf.

The psalmist desperately clings to God word and doesn’t let go.  In 119:25, the psalmist clings to the dust in 119:25 (see here).  And now, just a few verses later the psalmist is clinging to God’s decrees (or “testimonies”; see below in the ESV).

Since the Hebrew verb “cling” is dabaq the psalmist uses it at the beginning of two verses (119:25, 31) here in the Dalet section of Psalm 119 (verses 25-32) where every verse begins with the Hebrew letter Dalet. 

For Frodo, clinging meant not getting burned up in hot lava like Gollum (oops, too late, spoiler alert).  For the psalmist clinging to God and God’s laws protect the psalmist from shame (see also 119:6 here).  (Despite my unfortunate familiarity with shame, I’d still probably rather be ashamed than get burned up in hot lava.)

For the psalmist clinging involved, among other things, writing a 176 verse poem singing the praises of God and God’s laws.  For me, it involves blogging about Psalm 119 every Sunday (or in this case, Monday morning).

What other ways can we cling to God’s word? 

I hope I can be more like Frodo, than Gandalf in this regard, desperately clinging onto God and God’s word.  But all of us, a bit like Frodo, need people like Sam, who tell us not to let go, in this case of God’s word.  Be like Frodo and like Sam.

Help us, God, cling to you and your words. 

Is the psalmist Lord Voldemort? (Part 1)

(Just to be clear,  the psalmist isn’t Lord Voldemort (he’s fictional).  But blog titles are supposed to be provocative.)

At dinner with my family last night, I asked which fictional character is most associated with cursing?  (Cursing not as swearing, but as the opposite of blessing.)  They were stumped, so I gave them a few clues.  Eventually Shannon said, “Lord Voldemort”.  (If you’ve been living on another planet for the last decade, Voldemort is the evil magician who keeps trying to destroy Harry Potter with killing curses.)

This morning in my Psalms class we discussed cursing (imprecatory) psalms so I showed them an example from the highest grossing film of last summer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcJl2YjFcr0, Voldemort’s the one without a nose).

As we looked at Psalm 139, our class thought it odd how the pro-life psalm suddenly morphs into the pro-death psalm toward the end.  In the middle are the famous lines:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (139:13-14).

That sounds great.  I’d put that on a poster.  But wait…

O that you would kill the wicked, O God…
I hate them with perfect hatred
(Psalm 139:19, 22).

Not really poster material there.  Apparently, not everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made.  The psalmist utters a killing curse (in Hebrew it sounds exactly like Avada Kedavra).  Has the psalmist become Lord Voldemort?

So, what would you say to someone who’s troubled by the curses of Psalm 139?  (more to come…)