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Those who Seek After God

There's much for a Presbyterian to love in the Daily Lectionary today.

Psalm 53 is almost a proof-text for innate depravity: "There is none who does good." There will be a "terror such as has not been" when God scatters the bones of the ungodly. Notice that the wicked are not (well, not only) committing sins--doing evil acts. The Reformers considered idolatry to be chief among sins. Here, the main sin is hinted at in the NRSV heading, "Denunciation of Godlessness." The evildoers are committing large scale social injustice; they "eat up my people as they eat up bread," but the real complaint throughout this Psalm is that they "do not call upon God."

It's not all negative, but the positive almost sneaks into this Psalm. God looks "see if there are any who are wise." Then, in apposition, those who are wise are defined as those "who seek after God."

The final verse makes me chuckle. "There is no one who does good." "they are all alike perverse." The Psalm rails against these godless evildoers, then at the end it feels like they suddenly realize they are implicating themselves. "O that deliverance for Israel would come." The funny thought in my head is that they are going along pointing out how bad "they" are, and then "Oops, I guess that applies to us, too." May we be delivered from our own sins.

I'm sure this is an anachronistic reading. Probably the ancient Hebrew poet viewed Israel as certainly godly, and the ones who "eat my people as they eat up bread" as other nations. The brilliant (to me) move of the Reformers is to bravely look at our own sin. WE are all sinful and have all fallen short. We don't need to demonize them so much as worry about our own selves--whether we are godly. The wise person seeks after God. The hope is restored relationship with God. The call to action is to call upon God and rejoice in that restoration.


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