Sunday, July 20, 2014

21st century (post-modern) reflection on Psalm 90, part one

For a song written about 3,500 years ago, this is pretty much says it all. Yes, there is some discussion about whether Moses is the genuine author. But for people who measure the earth’s history in millions of years, we won’t quibble about a millennia or two. Let’s give Moses credit since the argument hasn’t been settled yet and probably won’t be.

Of course, the biggest red flag is that the song is written to God, whose existence is intermittently questioned by all and sundry. But it was written, by a man, whom we call Moses, whose life is verifiable by archeology and a wide variety of ancient manuscripts.

He makes some outlandish claims as well as time-tested observations. First, he looks at God, then he looks at us humans, then he makes a few interesting requests.

Warning: from here on out, reflections are in second person, since Moses wrote this song to God.

So, Part One: Observations about God. (a total of 7)
  1. You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations: this seems pretty comprehensive. It covers space and time. We don’t “dwell” much nowadays, we are quite far into Moses’ future. We move, travel, organize, develop, expand, invent, market, exploit, explore, and some stuff we’d rather not mention. But we don’t dwell for the most part; we’re too busy. But the essence seems to be that wherever we find ourselves and whatever we appear to be doing, we are doing it where You also happen to be. As things stand, we aren’t getting away from You. Maybe if we did more dwelling and less of the other, we’d connect more. 
  2. You are from everlasting to everlasting. This is a little outside our scope, since we don’t "get" eternal things. We are more in tune with beginnings, endings, upgrades, outdates, obsolescence and temporary. We thrive on change and progress. So when we start thinking about everlasting, we resort to the idea of batteries that last longer, but the thing they energize eventually gets tossed and so do they. We can say “You have no beginning and no ending” and understand it in our heads, but we have no true concept because we secretly know that if we go back far enough or ahead long enough, we will find the point at which it/You begin or end. The only none-ending thing we know is the circle and it comes back upon itself.
  3. You turn us back to dust. Well, that’s what we are made of, so it makes sense that decomposition would get us back there. If Moses wants to give You the credit, fine.
  4. A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by. Time is not significant to You, at least not in the same way it is to us. For you, millennia fly by overnight, or minutes stretch like years. That does not sound appealing at all. Chronos is one of those things that we like because we can measure it and calculate by it. We don’t like to waste it: time is money, we say. It is one thing that levels us: we all have 24 hours in a day. We try to be efficient and cost-effective. You, on the other hand, are notoriously wasteful. You seem to have time to burn. And You are not in a hurry to get anything done. This mystifies us because we only get so much time here and then it’s over, like grass--(and we don’t like that image, Moses).
  5. You consume and terrify us in your anger and indignation. True, we are people who live in fear and terror. But much of it seems to be of our own making; we don’t exactly see You in the picture. Except when we want to find a convenient scapegoat. As for our terrors, we are getting a handle on them. Our security measures are phenomenal. They reduce our efficiency, but make us feel better. We have quality control inspectors, ingredients listed, the FDA, seat belts, speed limits, strict law enforcement, steel bars, electric fences, camera surveillance, and our airports--let’s just say it takes hours to get through security. We are definitely consumed, but your indignation is something we are blissfully unaware of, unless we’re blaming you for a terrorist attack, a tsunami or an earthquake in some impoverished place.
  6. We have no secrets from You. This one is a bit unsettling. We have secrets. Lots of them. So many, in fact, that we struggle to keep our stories straight. Secrets protect us from each other and ourselves. Nakedness of the soul is not something we do well. We are liberated with bodily nakedness, unless it is used as a form of abuse or intimidation. But the idea that You are there, on the inside, and know us better than we know ourselves, this is intrusive. You are taking unfair advantage.
  7. Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due You. We don’t even know what this means. Basically, we have two unmeasurable sides equalized here; sounds like they’re both infinite. And both unsavory. Wrath and fear. Where is the loving God that we prefer to talk about whenever we talk God? This is the 21st century. We’re not back in the primitive old testament days when people actually thought that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of knowledge. Please. 
Tomorrow, part two: Observations about us.

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