Friday, January 4, 2013

A Snowy Trail Run and Psalter Knots

My bride asked me a good question last night about the promises of safety to God's people in the Psalms (and many other Scriptures) and the seemingly contradictory reality we experience in this life. Last night I answered that the Scripture was true, regardless of our experience; sometimes this just isn't evident in the difficult moments of our lives. I was thinking about that question (and my answer) today on a very snowy trail run, and have something more to add to that answer.

It occurs to me that a lot of the Psalms that are quoted in the New Testament by Jesus (or applied to Jesus by others) are challenging in their interpretation and application. Consider these Psalms:

  • “I will declare the decree: that is, the Lord hath said unto Me, ‘Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee’” (Psalm 2:7, quoted in Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5).
  • “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1, quoted in Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
  • “I have said, ‘Ye are gods’” (Psalm 82:6, quoted by Jesus in John 10:34).
  • “For He shall give His Angels charge over Thee to keep Thee in all thy ways. They shall bear Thee in their hands, that Thou hurt not Thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11,12, quoted by Satan to Jesus in Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10,11).
  • “The Lord said unto my Lord, ‘Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool’” (Psalm 110:1, quoted in Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42,43; Acts 2:34,35; Hebrews 1:13).
  • “The Lord sware, and will not repent, ‘Thou art a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4, quoted in Hebrews 5:6; 7:17).
  • “The stone, which the builders refused, is the head of the corner. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22,23, quoted in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10, 11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4,7).
Some for obvious reasons, and others for their implications, are difficult enough. If you or I were writing the New Testament, we'd probably pick easier or clearer Psalms to apply to Jesus. That just doesn't seem to be the pattern the Holy Spirit used in inspiring the New Testament. He seems to have caused the writers to record or apply rather knotty passages from the Psalter.

Today, running in the snow on cow trails, it occurred to me that this tendency of the Holy Spirit is actually illuminating for all the places where Scripture seems to have a difficult intersection with our experience in life. All of these challenging passages find their fulfillment in the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ, though this isn't immediately clear to us.

A few months ago I ran the Pass Mountain 50K. It was 11 miles further than I had ever run before. I had never even run a regular-length marathon before. I had no idea what was going to happen to my body on such a long run over difficult terrain. I had no idea how I would keep my mind from finding a very rational excuse for dropping out of the race. I'm a slow runner, but I knew that speed wasn't the issue. I had to - no matter what - keep putting one foot in front of the other for 31.1 miles. I was encouraged along by the beauty of the trails, the thrill of running with others, and the great support of my family, who drove to every aid station they could. I don't think I could have stayed on the trails for 31.1 miles if I were alone.

So, I guess when tragedy strikes that seems to contradict God's promises to His children, we need to hold fast to two things:
  • Though it's not always clear, Scripture will always lead us to Christ. “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, Who is Himself the focus of divine revelation” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, I). We hold to the promises and truth of Scripture by faith, and faith is not always sight. 
  • We stay in the Way the Scripture teaches us to go together. One foot in front of the other, even when we have no idea where that next step will bring us. We stay in it together, encouraging one another with the clearer truth of Scripture and humbly seeking the Spirit's wisdom on the knottier passages.
Jesus used some pretty odd passages in His teaching, and the Spirit applied some strange texts to Christ in the rest of the New Testament. By themselves, those passages would never have clearly made us think of Christ. But in the fullness of time and the completion of the revelation of Scripture, we begin to see how the pieces connect. I suspect the same is true in our lives in this world. Scripture and our experience don't always seem immediately in harmony. When this happens, though, we determine to hold to Scripture by faith, keep putting one foot in front of the other (together), and trust the Lord that one day our faith will become sight.

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