Is Poetry Less or More Accurate – Part II

scribe.2After the last post, I found in my old friend from the last 40 years, The New Bible Commentary, IVP, 1960 the following quote.  The commentators on the Psalms in that work are Leslie M’Caw, J. A. Motyer.  My guess is that this particular quote is by Motyer, it sounds like him. ( His commentary on Isaiah is the best mis of scholarship and faith on that book that I have encountered.)

The question was, is poetry less accurate than theological language?  I said that poetry and theological prose are complimentary.

 

 “It is characteristic of the bible to express its great truths in the context of personal experience.  Partly, this is because God is never proposed as a subject of man’s intellectual, speculative enquiry (cf. Jb. 11:7,8), but for his devotion, worship and obedience. It is also because the Bible never considers a truth ‘known’ until it controls the life of the learner.  Of all this view of things, Ps. 139 is a classic instance. The psalm could be said to teach  God’s omniscience (vv. 1-6), omnipresence (vv. 7-12), sovereignty (vv. 13-16) and holiness (vv. 17-24), yet in the truest sense nothing could less exactly express the psalmist’s mind than these four great abstractions.  To the psalmist, omniscience is “god’s complete knowledge of me’, omnipresence is that ‘God is with me no matter where I am’, an so forth.  The ‘I-thou’ relationship is basic to the poem.”   (p. 537)

 

“Security is the central truth of the psalm. God’s complete knowledge of him (vv.1-6) focuses on God’s encirclement and tender care (v. 5); God’s omnipresence (vv. 7-12) means that his hand ever guides and holds (v. 10); and God’s creative power (vv.13-16) includes the pre-planning of all his days (v. 16).  At all times, in all places and in every circumstance, god is in control and the psalmist is in safety.”  (p. 528)

Psalm 139 (NRSV)

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.

Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.

19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
    and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
    and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

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