Good morning! Today we start the third subsection of the Psalms. Book 3 appears to be from a time after David, perhaps in the time of the temple’s flourishing under Solomon and later rulers. One clue about this comes in the fact that so many of these psalms are dedicated to or from Asaph or “the Korahites”, both of which may be professional music communities that took root in the relative leisure years after the successful establishment of David’s monarchy.
Remember Walter Brueggemann’s categorization of psalms by “orientation”, “disorientation”, and “reorientation”? Psalm 73 is an excellent example of this third category. The writer begins with cynicism about the ways of the world because the wicked succeed. An original assumption about the reliability of God to reward virtue and punish vice has been challenged by the “facts on the ground”. Yet on reflection in God’s sanctuary (and remember that the author comes from the temple service), Asaph knows that the success of the wicked is temporary. It is cheese in a mousetrap, and will give way to God’s punishment before long. Reorientation comes at the end in the realization that even when one’s own powers fail, God remains faithful and finds ways to maintain justice through it all.
Disorientation is the name of the game in Psalm 74, and on a national scale. This (probably priestly) account describes the sanctuary’s destruction in bitter detail. All the fine craftwork is smashed and burned. Amid bewilderment that God has not responded, the psalmist nevertheless rehearses how God has acted in the past for salvation. Asaph calls on God to let the future follow suit and be like the past. We even see the psalmist trying to embarrass God into action by describing the scoffing and celebrations of the violent. The writer tries to shame God into acting as protector once more. Confidence that God does indeed protect the righteous is on display in Psalm 75, where God (in the first and third person) deals out unsparing judgment against the wicked.
The superscript for Psalm 76 mentions stringed instruments. This reminds us that these psalms are musical compositions, not only ancient poetry. They aim to communicate deep truths into the mind and then far beyond, all the way to the heart and soul. We do not know what the ancient songs sounded like, but fortunately many psalms are still translated anew into verses and set to music by contemporary artists. This is one way that the Psalms continue to live on, communicating timeless wisdom to future generations. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Psalms 77-78. Thanks for reading!