Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It is time for YHWH to act

At first glance then, the Psalm's view of the Torah of God seems to present a morally coherent world that jars with the content of much of the rest of the Psalter, especially the psalms of lament. Walter Brueggemann, through a moving exposition of Psalm 73, contends that the candour of the laments is only resolved by a moving from the moral coherence of Ps 1 to communion with YHWH.
“The old troublesome issues of "conduct and consequence' established in the categories of Psalm 1, are not resolved. Those issues are rather left behind for a greater good. No judgment [sic] is finally made whether the world is morally coherent or not, whether Psalm 1 is true or not, whether Ps. 73.1 is sustainable or not. It is enough that the God of long-term fidelity is present, caring, powerful and attentive.”1
While Brueggemann's proposal is an evocative reflection on Ps 73, the candour and the cry for vindication in Ps 119, should warn us from making such a move.
Amidst the positive affirmations of the Law in 119, the Psalmist laments his
current position. The Psalmists spirit is fading, collapsing into the dirt2 , he is surrounded by enemies who taunt, smear, bind and lay traps for him.3 This Torah psalm is no naïve affirmation of a morally coherent universe. Yet the Psalmist continues in his adherence to the Torah, waiting, not for the presence of YHWH, but for YHWH to remember his word 4 and punish his enemies5. The
Psalmist does not want the existential problem of evil to be solved by the comfort of communion with YHWH, but for YHWH to act. “It is time for YHWH to act, people have violated your teaching”6, “Rescue me...decide my cause..restore me”7. This rescue and restoration to life is expected on the basis of the promise of Torah8, on the basis of the Psalmist keeping Torah9, and is enacted by the Torah “this is my comfort in my weakness, that your statement has made me live”10 . Nor is this picture of YHWH as judge and restorer limited to the Torah psalms. YHWH is the great cosmic judge 11, who not only makes covenants but investigates breaches of covenant12. He decides whether Israel or an individual have kept his covenant13 and blesses or punishes them for it.14 The laments of the book of Psalms are not a threat to the Torah piety of the Psalms, but are petitions to YHWH driven by the Torah piety of the Psalms, that plead their case based on the Torah.15 The moral coherence of the universe depends on the present and future (if not eschatological) action of YHWH it's creator, rather than a coherence immanent to the cosmos itself.

No comments: