Sing to the Lord a new song,
praise in the assembly of the faithful.
(adapted fromPsalm 149:1)
Corrupt priesthood. Hypocritical congregation. A messenger is coming to clean things up. The Lord will punish those who have authority and assets who don't take proper care of those who lack both.
We can read this passage as telling us what happens to people who have already died. But, it also tells us what we can expect while we are still here. For example, this new heaven and new earth is, according to Revelation, going to be a city.
A city, a place full of people, different kinds of people, people who look different and act different and talk different. And they may be closer to us than we would prefer.
A city is often dirtier than we would prefer and in it, we may see some things going on that we don't understand or like. Looking at this passage and my comments on it, as I think about a new year, I wonder why the earth is not already like this, why this is written in the future tense. Is not God already at home among us?
I turn, as I often do, to Allen & Williamson. According to their Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law, the verb in "It is done" is in the perfect tense meaning that the remaking of the world is finished but the effect of the world still abides.
John saw a vision and returned to earth. We also are staying on earth, and we also can see the vision of what a city would be like--is to be like--as we live out being God's people.Every day, several times a day, we face temptations to bow to the demands of the society around us. We, of course, care about assuring and protecting our own security. But, if we are Christians, or, since we are Christians, we have to take up residency in this new earth, one with tribes from every nation, everybody speaking different languages. We are all there together, all worshipping God.
Where once heaven and earth seemed so far apart, so separate, now, in Christ, we see heaven coming down to us. Where once we thought of God as far away, so separate, now, we experience God's presence right here, right now.
We hear the good news, we become part of the good news, we share what we know, what we have been told, what has been done for us. We share by telling and by doing. Through us, God can continue to give water to the thirsty--both literally and metaphorically.
Think about the city you are living in now. Are there designated places to go to worship? Does it have walls around it, a gate to let in pre-approved people? Some cities and some neighborhoods are like this.
And then there's the new city described in the book of Revelation.
No temple. We won't need some special, set-aside place to go to worship God. God will be present to us wherever we are.
No shut gates. We won't need a barrier to keep out folks not like us. People from all nations will come in, and bring with them gifts to benefit our lives.
Further, we won't even need street lights, because the glory of God the Almighty will provide all the light we need through the Lamb as our lamp. (Also see Isaiah 60:19-20; Zechariah 14:7.) My own imagination limits my ability to understand this one other than metaphorically.)
Instead of a special place to worship God, the whole city is infused, illuminated, and open.
Yet, not completely accessible. (Also see Isaiah 35:8-9).
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song... Let Israel be glad in its Maker.
The praise is to be by dancing and by playing the tambourine and lyre.
A reason is given--the Lord gives victory to the humble. They respond by singing.
The mood of the psalm shifts. These singers are holding swords so that they can wreak vengeance and punishment on their enemies. Executing judgment on their rulers is glory for his faithful ones.
The psalm ends as it began: Praise the Lord!
Why would these angry, vengeful verses be included in the Psalter? Are they appropriate for worship? Are they appropriate for private devotion?
The notes in the New Interpreter's Study Bible points out that since Israel would never have been in position to take kings and princes captive, the rhetoric is exaggerated. Yet, even if they were incapable of humiliating the powerful nations that attacked them, they did have hope for their own survival. The Lord could and would vindicate the righteous and impose judgment on their enemies.
Transferring the message of this psalm to our time could mean for us questioning who are the weak and humble now and who are the powerful.
I had heard these verses read in praise of a worthy woman many times. And, never, had I sensed any underlying threat in them. Wouldn't any woman want to be like this--working with her hands, responsible for getting the food to her family--not just shopping for it, but planting it, too. She works day and night. She makes the clothes for her family--nice clothes, and she makes clothes to sell, too. Her whole family praises her. Everybody does.
Then someone pointed out to be the underlying danger in these verses. Must a woman be a wife to be worthy? Must a wife work from dawn until past dark to be worthy? Can her husband be proud of her if she isn't busy all the time.
She is praised for her house work and also for her work outside of the house. Yet, none of these worthy attributes she has shown has deemed her fit to take a seat among the elders in the gate.
Even so, even we feminists females can find descriptive phrases that we would be proud to have said of us. For example, "She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy" and "Strength and dignity are her clothing" and "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."
Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, we are comforted by the recognition that you have chosen to make your home among us. Help us now to be good neighbors. Amen.