Two Books

Yahara River

 

Fresh Read is about reading the Biblical Text freshly, looking and listening to take in what the text is saying.  I have recently started Two Book Retreats which has as its goal to explore the book of nature and the book of scripture through various art forms.  So if you are interested in that check out the web site and the Facebook Page

We are currently in the middle of a watercolor class that explores the Yahara river that runs along just across the street from my office.  The Text we will explore this week is Psalm 19.  This psalm transitions from the book of nature to the book of scripture and then to the response to the Lord by the psalmist.

Psalm 19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

To the leader. A Psalm of David.

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

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Psalm 19 – Two Books

This is the classic text on General and Special Revelation.  The terms refer to the idea that God reveals himself generally, to all people, in nature and history, and perhaps in human nature.  The second term refers to more specific revelation through the Scriptures which contain the story of the faith descendants of Abraham.

Note that in the first 6 verses there is an exuberant and all pervasive communication to all the earth about the “glory of God.”  We find a universal but general message.  It is interesting that the word “God” (El in Hebrew) is used here.  This message is widespread but not specific.

Psalm 19:1-6
    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
        and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
    [2] Day to day pours out speech,
        and night to night reveals knowledge.
    [3] There is no speech, nor are there words,
        whose voice is not heard.
    [4] Their measuring line goes out through all the earth,
        and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,
        [5] which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
        and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
    [6] Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
        and its circuit to the end of them,
        and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

   The following Verses celebrate with great joy the specificity of scripture.  There are 6 sayings that match nouns, adjectives and verbs, and then there are additional adjectives and verbs.  So you get a tapestry of specificity.  I note that there are different words for scripture (law, statues, precepts…) for their qualities (perfect, trustworthy, radiant…) and for their effect (making wise, reviving, giving joy).  V. 11 adds that there is both warning and reward – the Word is a two-edged sword, or if you prefer, there are two sides of the coin – both “Do Not” and “Do.”

Psalm 19:7-11
    The law of the Lord is perfect,
        reviving the soul;
    the testimony of the Lord is sure,
        making wise the simple;
    [8] the precepts of the Lord are right,
        rejoicing the heart;
    the commandment of the Lord is pure,
        enlightening the eyes;
    [9] the fear of the Lord is clean,
        enduring forever;
    the rules of the Lord are true,
        and righteous altogether.
    [10] More to be desired are they than gold,
        even much fine gold;
    sweeter also than honey
        and drippings of the honeycomb.
    [11] Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
        in keeping them there is great reward.

However, the world and the word are not enough for the Psalmist – he is concerned for his inability to honestly and truthfully hear, becasue of self-blindness.  So he calls upon the Lord to preserve him.

Psalm 19:12-14
    Who can discern his errors?
        Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
    [13] Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
        let them not have dominion over me!
    Then I shall be blameless,
        and innocent of great transgression.
    [14] Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
        be acceptable in your sight,
        O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
 

Note that in the Second and Third sections the Psalmist talks about and then to the LORD (Hebrew is YHWH).  This is the personal, covenant name that God uses with “his” people.  So in the end, the world and the word are personal!

FR

God Created – Psalm 24:1,2

We are hoping to explore a few passages that show the implication of the idea of Creation.  This week  it will be

Psalm 24:1-2
    A Psalm of David.

    The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
        the world and those who dwell therein,
    [2] for he has founded it upon the seas
        and established it upon the rivers.

We have two verses exhibiting synonymous parallelism.  1a and 1b asserts the Lord’s ownership of all things and all that lives based on Creation.  These statements are parallel but they do not merely repeat.  The verses progress from the idea of things to living things.  Isn’t it a different thing to say that mountains, rain, clouds, rivers and so forth belong to God, than to say you and I and everyone else belong to God?  The implication to ownership of the earth is profound, as is the implications to nations and races, individuals and groups.

Why does God have all this ownership?  Becasue he is the founder.  He has established its very structures.

What would be different if the world created and established itself?  What if people were truly, in the biological sense, self-made?

FR

Psalm 19, Two Books

Psalm 19 speaks of the revelation from nature in the beginning.  this portion reminds us of a statement found in a confession of the Reformed Church tradition.  Generally this is a Fresh Read so we don’t quote theologians from previous centuries.  However, this was heard at a lecture on the spirituality of John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club.  Muir was raised in the Scots Presbyterian tradition and his writings are filled with language of the scriptures – particularly the Psalms.   This quote is from the Belgic Confession, which sprang out of a time of great persecution by the state church against the reformers.  It speaks clearly and eloquently about the Two Books of revelation:

Article 2: About the Knowledge of God

Moreover, we know God by two means, first, by the creation, preservation, and government of this whole world. For it is before our eyes as a most beautiful Book in which all creatures, from the least to the greatest, are as certain letters and marks through which the invisible things of God can be examined and understood, certainly His eternal power and His divinity as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. This knowledge is sufficient for convicting any given people and rendering them inexcusable. But He also bears His very self to us, much more clearly and openly, in His holy and divine Word; indeed, as much as is expedient in this life for His glory and for the salvation of His own people.