Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Absence of Fear in Lectionary Readings


In studying the lectionary edits, this lowly pewster has noticed a tendency for the editors to cut verses from the psalms that teach us about God's judgement, wrath, or anger, and instead teach us about God's love for his people. I have concluded that a steady diet of this is not healthy for the average pewsitter whose only exposure to the Psalms is what he/she hears a couple of Sundays a month.

 Today's readings contain a perfect example of the kind of verse that gets left on the cutting room floor. 

Today's Psalm was Psalm 85:1-2,8-13. Read it and consider its effect as edited.
1 Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
I am left with a warm and fuzzy feeling except for the problematic verse 9,
"Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,".
Why should I fear Him? Certainly nothing in the selected verses would give me any cause to fear God. The psalmist knew better; read the full text of Psalm 85 (I have highlighted the missing verses).
1 Lord, you were favourable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah

3 You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation towards us.

5 Will you be angry with us for ever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
so that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.



8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
I wonder if the subliminal message being conveyed to the typical Sunday morning pewsitter, "We have no need to fear the Lord," is contributing to the decline of churches that use these Lectionary selections? After all, what is the beginning of wisdom?

Stumped? Try,
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

(h/t Topical-Bible-Studies.org)
Funny how, on a Sunday where we hear about John the Baptist's cry for repentance, we are left to wonder why we should repent in the first place.

4 comments:

  1. And that fear isn't just an "Old Testament God" concept:

    "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." Jesus, Matthew 10:28-29

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  2. Yep Tim, it is there too.

    When I consider how small a creature I am in relation to such an awesome creator, who will separate the wheat from the tares, I get a much better appreciation of what fear of the Lord is all about.

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  3. The moment you remove the problem of "Sin" is the moment fear of the Lord becomes irrelevant. Better to play golf on Sunday. After all, better tee times because all the "fearful" types are in Church.

    Cheers.

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  4. Randall,

    Agreed.

    I remember a few die hard golfers who found a way to attend the 8 a.m. service, confessed their sins and managed to get to the golf course on Sunday.

    ReplyDelete