Reading: Psalm 118:14-24
It’s not all About You
I grew up with one of those bread-shaped plastic verse-a-day things in the center of our family’s dining table. We ate at least breakfast and dinner together most days (can you imagine such a thing?) and our practice to conclude the meal was for someone to read a verse from the Bible-loaf. We’d take turns. Dad always liked it—particularly on Saturday mornings—if the contents of the verse could be construed to suggest going back to bed. Over time we discovered that the pink-colored verse cards seemed to have more verses about rest, so we always targeted those when it was our turn.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, we were pretty regularly told that the Bible was God’s word to us—every verse. Even out of context. Even as a kid I thought that the idea of random sentence-pulling and calling it “God’s promises” was weird.
I’m a full-on scripture nerd at this point in my life. My love of the Bible has grown exponentially since I was a kid. If I’m being honest, that love has grown just as much—if not more—from studying scripture as it has from reading it. Everything about it is fascinating, and the more I study it, the more fascinating it gets—from how it was written to when it was written, and more. One of my favorite things is how referential it is to the culture of its original context. In today’s reading, the Lord’s right hand gets a lot of attention. A statue of Baal has survived that shows Baal with right arm raised with a handful of lightning bolts, ready to do battle. This psalm takes a poke at that: “Your god’s right hand? Well, let me tell you about our God’s right hand…”
It’s a detail that would be lost to us without the careful study of history. Another one from the same reading in Psalm 118: “This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.” If you’re a take-it-as-it-reads-in-English reader, you might puzzle over what exactly God might be saying to you here. But if you’re willing to look externally, you’ll find that this is a procession psalm, to be used as liturgy. The assembled would be standing in front of the gate that enters the court of the temple. Oh, it’s about… a gate. Seems obvious now.
How do you find meaning in scripture?
If you want to study scripture, what sources do you trust?
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