Thursday, March 22, 2007

Awake lord!

Every month, on the Thursday of the fourth week of the Psalter, Psalm 44 rolls around in the Office of Readings. And every week, the last few lines strike me. The Psalm is an exilic one, lamenting the fate that has befallen Israel, the ruin that has befallen her. And then comes this:
All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten thee, or been false to thy covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from thy way, that thou shouldst have broken us in the place of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness. If we had forgotten the name of our God, or spread forth our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Nay, for thy sake we are slain all the day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse thyself! Why sleepest thou, O Lord? Awake! Do not cast us off for ever! Why dost thou hide thy face? Why dost thou forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our body cleaves to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Deliver us for the sake of thy steadfast love! (RSV, emphasis added)
In place of the normal acknowledgment that what has come to pass is a result of Israel's faithlessness, of God abandoning her to her harlotry (to paraphrase Hosea's imagery a bit), there is this strain of (self?) righteous indignation, morphing into a plaintive cry. "Why has this happened? Our hearts were not false! God must have fallen asleep! Wake up! Arise! Help us!" I'm not sure what it is about these lines that strike me -- the seemingly brazen self-confidence? The sense of bewilderment? The cry -- betraying the faintest hint of panic -- that God wake up? I don't know. In these past few months I've found myself really praying through these sentiments.

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