Posts Tagged ‘God’

Questions about the psalms of David?

January 19, 2010

What do David's Psalms tell us about David, and us?

Question 1:

The Psalms of David seem to bounce back and forth between praising God for taking out his enemies, and then asking God where he went when his enemies are defeating him.  Who was attacking David?

Answer 1:

Like most people throughout the course of their lives, David experienced highs and lows.  There were times when he felt like he was victorious and things were going well, and there were times when it seemed like the whole world was crashing in around him.  David’s first attacker was King Saul.  David had been hired by Saul as a musician in his courts.  But following Saul’s rejection as King by God and David’s famous defeat of Goliath it slowly became clear to Saul that David would be a rival to his throne because he was so loved by the people.  David became a fugitive and was pursued by Saul (1 Samuel 19 see also 2 Samuel 3:1).  It was in the midst of this that David wrote many Psalms that spoke both of his triumphs and his defeats (see intro to psalm 18).

David was also a great warrior king, in fact David spilled so much blood during his reign that God would not allow him to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.  The primary enemy was the Philistines, but also included the Moabites, the Edomites, and other enemies of Israel.  David was victorious in almost everything that he did but he had trials too (see intro to Psalm 56)

Sadly, one of David’s final enemies was his eldest son Absalom, who rebelled against David to take the throne (see Psalm 3).

Question 2:

How should the Psalms be viewed? David comes off as prideful and unloving at many times. Building himself up in the sight of God. My thought was that they should be viewed as a study of how stress and constant anguish can take its toll on a person, and how humans cry out for vengeance, while God cries out for love. What’s the dilly?

Answer 2:

There is a bit more going on in this question.  The first issue “how should the Psalms be viewed?” is a question about interpretation.  It is important that we view the Psalms for exactly what they are, poems.  Some of them are songs, some of them are prayers, others are expressions of wisdom, while others are liturgies used for worship services.  Just like songs today, they capture the most raw emotions of the human spirit, and they run the range of human emotion.  One of the great things about the psalms is that they can help us find words for our own circumstances today.  If David seems prideful in one psalm and depressed in another, this does not advocate these feelings as virtues, rather, it speaks to issues and feelings that all people experience, and it reminds us that we can go to God as we are.

I would not be too quick to say that the psalms of David are a commentary on human anguish or a cry for vengeance, nor would I want to suggest that humans are all about vengeance while God ‘cries out for love’.  The narratives in 1 & 2 Samuel help us with the commentary of the psalms.  In 1 Samuel you see that David actually had mercy on Saul (his greatest enemy), sparing his life on multiple occasions (1 Samuel 24 & 26).  David never murdered Saul, Saul killed himself.  Similarly, David asked that his son Absalom not be hurt when David’s army went out to meet him (2 Samuel 18:12), and David grieved over his loss when Absalom was killed (2 Samuel 18:31-33).  So it must be more than a simple commentary on the vengeful nature of humans.  Likewise, it is God who is enables the victories of David (see 2 Samuel 5:9-10) so we cannot make such a simple commentary that God is love and humans are vengeful because God helped David win some bloody battles.  While God certainly is a loving God, he is also a God of justice, vengeance, and wrath (see post on Atonement).  Those are the ones that no one ever wants to talk about.

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How can there be a day when the sun wasn’t created until third day?

January 5, 2010

According to Genesis the first days were sunless.

There are three ways that we can understand the idea of a day…

The first is a 24 hour day.  Technically, the sun has nothing to do with a 24 hour day.  The 24 hour day has everything to do with how long it takes for the earth to rotate once.  Right now at the North Pole they won’t see the sun for another month or so, but it still takes the globe 24 hours to spin all the way around.  Many people believe that the earth was created in six 24 hour days.   And this view can easily be understood if for no other reason then the author 6 times says “there was evening and there was morning”.  This however may simply be a way of expressing the transition from one stage of creation to another.

The second definition of day has to do with the time when there is light outside.   Likewise, the time when it is dark outside is called night even though night is a part of the same 24 hour day.  The first order of God’s creation was to make light and separate it from the darkness.  God distinctly calls the light “day” even though there is no mention of sun for another couple ‘days.’  So in one verse God the author of Genesis used two definitions of the word day: the definition of day that associates with light, and the definition of day that associates with time.  But when it comes to time, 24 hours is not the only time-related definition of day.

The third kind of day is also related to time, not lightness.  It is a long period of time, an age of time, or longer.  For example our grandparents may have said of their youth, “back in my day” in which case “day” may represent several years of their lives.  Sometimes we might say the day (or age) of the dinosaurs is over.  In those cases a day is not a specific length of time, but a very long time with imprecise boundaries.  It is very likely that this might be the proper understanding of day in Genesis 1, as God may have taken years or epochs to create things.  (see the post on evolutionism vs. creationism).

In short, the sun is only a small part of the meanings concerning the word day.  Thus, there could have been days before the third ‘day’ of creation.

Why do you think the serpent didn’t suggest Eve to also take fruit from the tree of life?

January 5, 2010

The serpent was the enemy of God.  He came to deceive Adam and Eve and ultimately to destroy what God cherished so much.  He lied to Eve so that they would disobey God, and that was the one thing that God told them not to do.

The tree of life is inconsequential to their wills and obedience, and that was what was at stake.

Why did God previously require animal sacrifices?

January 5, 2010

This question could require a lot more, but I will give the bare minimum for basic understanding.

When Adam and Eve committed the original sin (Genesis 3) the consequence was death.  The first time we see this consequence is when God kills the animal to clothe them in animal skin.  Thus, blood was shed as a result of their sin.  Death remains the consequence of Sin, and like all people we will one day die, because our entire world has been contaminated with Sin.  God however, allowed men and women to live on this earth in spite of their sin, and he began to set in place ways for people to “atone” for their sin.  Animal sacrifice was a practice of atoning for their sin.  Instead of receiving the penalty of death, God would transfer the penalty to an animal, thus the penalty of death was still carried out for Sin.  This is a root part of the meaning of atonement (at-one-ment), because it allowed the people to be one with God even though the deserved death and eternal separation.

The crucifixion of Jesus and the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament are intimately related.

Unfortunately this was only a temporary fix for the situation because sin was so great.  The reason that we do not continue this practice today is because Jesus received the penalty once and for all.  No longer would a sheep, a cow, or a goat need to be sacrificed, and no longer do we need to live under the consequence of our sin, because Jesus took the penalty that we deserved and satisfied the wrath that God had for our disobedience.  This is called substitutionary atonement.  There are many different good analogies that describe Christ’s atonement for our sins, but this is the most common and it is one of the fundamental beliefs of Christian faith.

Remember that God is both perfectly just and perfectly loving.  Sometimes it seems like the two cannot coexist, because if justice is to be done perfectly then everyone God loves deserves death, but if God is to love perfectly how can he bring death to those he loves.  It is a huge conundrum and that is why Jesus was the only way to redeem, or fix, the situation.  God could bring his perfect justice on Jesus.  Paul says that on the cross “he became sin for us” even though he was perfect in every way.  This substitution of Christ in our place satisfied God’s nature as one who is perfectly just, and allowed him to continue loving us by opening the door for eternal life.

Who is “us” in the first few chapters of Genesis?

January 5, 2010

Question:

Who else is God referring to when he mentions ‘us’?  Gen 1:26 ‘ let us make human beings’.  Gen 3:22 ‘look humans have become like us’?

Answer:

There is no doubt in my mind that these are the first references to the fact that our creator God exists in a community called the Trinity.  This is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, it is not the belief in 3 gods, or the belief that God takes on 3 different shapes or ‘modes’ (a heresy called modalism).  Rather, this is the simple yet ineffable idea that God is One AND God is 3, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the Gospel of John Chapter 1, we see that Jesus (described as logos or ‘the Word’) was there at creation:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Thus, God can have a conversation with himself, because he dwells eternally in the community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In Genesis 1:22 and Genesis 3:22 we get a glimpse of what that conversation looked like.