By Aaron Elder
Both are likely appropriate translations, I mean it isn’t uncommon for a Biblical passage to be saying one thing and winking at a second meaning. Here, let me pose the question: in verse one, is it that when a person says in their heart, “there is no God” they become a fool? Or is it that foolish behavior communicates to the outside world, “there is no God?” There’s no question which interpretation clearly draws the dividing lines – that’s familiar and certainly certain territory I’ve lived in.
I wasn’t really sure what to write so I went to one of my resources, chabad.org (https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16235/showrashi/true/jewish/Chapter-14.htm), to see what they had to say. Let’s just say it muddied the waters. According to some Jewish tradition, this Psalm was written about Israel’s lack of faithfulness when Babylon descended on Jerusalem to sack the city.
Why does that matter? Well, first of all, I always thought this Psalm was about those non-Christians over there (cue annoying buzzer). Wrong!
Second, if the above is true, the first view can’t be the primary one, can it? Somebody try to convince me that you would have found even one Jew who would say, “there is no God.” In fact, you would have been hard-pressed to find ANYBODY at this time in history who would say, “there is no God.” Now, one could argue that many didn’t believe in the true God. Granted. What are you going to do with the Jews? The sign on this road reads, “Warning: Hermeneutical Gymnastics Ahead.”
Back to the point. The old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” What if it goes deeper than that? What if how we live our lives is our personal faith statement? Not what I say I believe, but what I actually do. What if what I do communicates to the world around me what I actually believe God is like? Here’s the humbling part – lest I think “what I do” means the activities I choose to engage in or not (i.e. go to church, don’t go to the bookstore owned by a democrat, etc.) – it’s primarily the actions I do when I’m not paying attention. While not exhaustive, this would include what we refer to as “character traits.”
[Sorry *rummaging* – quick break – just trying to collect the pieces of my shattered ego *rummaging*…]
In this short Psalm, I’m emotionally exhausted by the time I get to verse 7. But with gritted teeth, bearing the weight on my feeble legs, I beat my chest and yell, “Oh, that salvation would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (NIV) Indeed salvation has come. May my faith statement act more and more like Jesus.