I didn’t get far into to today’s lectionary readings before again being paused in the Psalter. I prayed before reading for a more open heart – a broader lens, if you will, and less focus on my immediate situation. Then I hit these verses from Psalm 52,
3 You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. Selah 4 You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. 5 But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah 6 The righteous will see, and fear, and will laugh at the evildoer, saying, 7 “See the one who would not take refuge in God, but trusted in abundant riches, and sought refuge in wealth!”
and I realize – again – something we all surely know: Scripture – God’s Word cuts myriad ways, but it will cut and pierce. God’s Word can be thrown by you as a weapon and back at you as a near fatal blow at any given moment. God’s Word is a living, breathing, new and old, contemporary yet archaic, animate yet inanimate, door and wall, window and ceiling, wound and salve. Complete, final and yet eternal and ever-breathing.
I have never really liked this psalm or the many other Davidic psalms that focus on enemies and conjure a dividing line between US and THEM. I don’t like the psalms that call on God to destroy enemies, indeed demand that God step up and take care of ‘them’ and speak so self-righteously of the expected and deserved divine judgment for the enemy.
But as much as I don’t like them, I read them because I know God has something to say to me – to you – to all He seeks in ‘them thar words.’ I find it sometimes taking years of reciting, reading over, ignoring, and getting through before the Holy Spirit touches down and opens up such a psalm to my heart and mind, as it did this morning.
These particular words have been used by others to describe me – well, not exactly ‘me’ but who some think I am. The folks who have used these words to describe me operate from a biblical framework that doesn’t allow much breathing room for interpretation – their framework doesn’t look like much of a broad place but a carefully designed and delineated box that holds God’s world and kingdom together and apart – clear lines, very clear lines in this biblical framework.
And so psalms such as this one and either-or-based scripture casts me – an outsider – easily into enemy camp (sidebar: isn’t that an interesting word choice, CAST – like a character in a play. For this reflection it is the appropriate, if not perfectly providential word – I have been CAST as the enemy). I am understood symbolically, not as who I am, uniquely made by Him.
The natural progression of such air-tight biblical interpretation of who I am, who I represent, what role I “play” – is that anyone who chooses to be in my company has chosen evil, been deceived, has chosen to take refuge not in God but in the world, generally, and my ‘apparently abundant riches,’ specifically.
Whether or not you know me personally doesn’t matter to share my wonder of what the Holy Spirit could possibly say to me this morning with all the baggage I brought to the reading – my lens fairly muddied by a predisposition to dislike this type of psalm AND recognizing immediately that the words found had been thrown at me and used by others to evince how associating with me with ushers in evil, misery and the like.
But the truth is I could easily load up my arsenal with the same words and prayer for divine judgement against these ‘enemies.’ That’s the wonder. That’s the epiphany – my God moment, today.
And I think that is what I hear from the Spirit today. If a psalm like this one can so clearly cut both ways – can be used as a weapon by others against me AND yet if held up as a mirror to those same folks, they would see nothing but themselves – well…then I see that US-THEM is in each of us…we are at one time the righteous, at another the enemy and evil one, at one time steadfast and trusting and in the tent, at another outside of the broad place, looking for worldly success as refuge.
US-THEM – we are all given life by our Father God – who continues to put before us both mirrors and a lighted path – an open invitation, an eternal invitation to walk with Him, choose Him and continue the process of getting right before Him not as others have cast us, but as He has called us to be.