If you are a regular visitor and wondering why the posts stop at 4 July it is just because I have been away for a few days – making notes but without the opportunity to post them online. So we will catch up shortly.
5 July. Psalms 46-50
Psalms 42-49 are all headed “of the sons of Korah”. Perhaps they were a group of musicians who played for temple worship.
At present we need little reminder that “the nations are in uproar” (46:5), with violent demonstrations against world leaders in Hamburg this week, continuing warfare in the Middle East, central Africa and other places, and increasing numbers of migrants seeking asylum in more settled countries. But the Biblical response is to hold on in faith, even if the “whole world melts” (which with nuclear tensions building up again between America and North Korea does not seem much of an exaggerated fear). God, his support for the vulnerable, and his strength for the weak, will never cease.
Psalm 47 stands out from most of the others with its positive affirmation of monotheism – there is one God who rules over all the kingdoms of the earth. The triumphal shout that “God has gone up!” is seen by Christians as a prophecy of the ascension of Jesus, forty days after his resurrection. Whether we think of that as a literal or metaphorical description of what happened, all Christians can agree that Jesus is now the “king of all nations” in a way that is much more real than when the Jews had to have faith in an unseen God.
Psalm 49 turns our thoughts to the unavoidable subject of our own mortality, with a reminder that, as we say in English, “you can’t take your money with you when you go [to heaven]”. Riches (“mammon”) have no real existence, nor does the human body after death. All that remain are the soul, and God’s memory of our thoughts, words and deeds. Some of the verses, “No-one can redeem the life of another or give God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live for ever and not see decay” (49:7-9), are a worldview that is in fact overturned by the death of Jesus. We believe that in fact he did, by his death, ransom all people to God at great cost, so that they may have the opportunity of eternal life – free from guilt in this life, and with the promise of resurrection to a new life with a new kind of body beyond death.