Theology of the Psalms

My Bible reading plan for the year takes me through the Psalms four times. I am struck again and again in reading them by how our hollow, “All You Need is Love” theologies fail to deal with the full range of Scriptural data. For example:

58.10-11

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;

he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;

surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

Calvin said of this verse: “It might appear at first sight that the feeling here attributed to the righteous is far from being consistent with the mercy which ought to characterise them; but we must remember, as I have often observed elsewhere, that the affection which David means to impute to them is one of a pure and well-regulated kind; and in this case there is nothing absurd in supposing that believers, under the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost, should rejoice in witnessing the execution of divine judgments.”

7.8

The LORD judges the peoples;

judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness

and according to the integrity that is in me.

St. Augustine says, “But now, since being called he hath held and kept the commandments which he received, he is bold to say, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, that is upon me.” Calvin, however, says: “But it is asked, how can David here boast of his own integrity before God, when in other places he deprecates God entering into judgment with him? The answer is easy, and it is this: The subject here treated of is not how he could answer if God should demand from him an account of his whole life; but, comparing himself with his enemies, he maintains and not without cause, that, in respect of them, he was righteous. But when each saint passes under the review of God’s judgment, and his own character is tried upon its own merits, the matter is very different, for then the only sanctuary to which he can betake himself for safety, is the mercy of God.”

5.5

Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,

Calvin again: “And assuredly he would not be the judge of the world if there were not laid up in store with him a recompense for all the ungodly. One use, then, which may be made of this doctrine is this, — when we see the wicked indulging themselves in their lusts, and when, in consequence, doubts steal into our minds as to whether God takes any care of us, we should learn to satisfy ourselves with the consideration that God, who hates and abhors all iniquity, will not permit them to pass unpunished, and although he bear with them for a time, he will at length ascend into the judgment-seat, and show himself an avenger, as he is the protector and defender of his people.”

137.9

How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones

Against the rock.

Calvin says that this could only be asked for in prayer because it had prophesied: “To pray for vengeance would have been unwarrantable, had not God pro-raised it, and had the party against whom it was sought not been reprobate and incurable; for as to others, even our greatest enemies, we should wish their amendment and reformation.”

Augustine makes it apply to our spiritual life: “What are the little ones of Babylon? Evil desires at their birth. For there are, who have to fight with inveterate lusts. When lust is born, before evil habit giveth it strength against thee, when lust is little, by no means let it gain the strength of evil habit; when it is little, dash it. But thou fearest, lest though dashed it die not; “Dash it against the Rock; and that Rock is Christ.”

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