instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Our help is in the Name of the Lord

In the last post, I plagiarized Psalm 146:
Put no trust in princes,
In mortal men in whom there is no help.
Take their breath, they return to clay
and their plans that day come to nothing.
For years, I've regarded this as sound, if sour, advice. The ways in which other people can turn to clay on us just when we need them are legion.

Still, to survive, much less thrive, we need to trust those around us. We need to have faith to some degree in our parents and teachers, we need to believe those who love us do love us, we need to trust our neighbors not to be perversely trying to harm us. And for the most part, for most people, such ordinary trust is well founded enough to get through the day.

Clearly, the psalmist is not advising against that sort of private or social trust. But neither, I'm coming to believe, is he merely advising against an overdependence on human reliability.

Rather, to say "put no trust in princes" is to say "put all trust in God."

And not merely in a passive way, either. The Holy Spirit didn't inspire the psalmist to remind us that
It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,
the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan,
just so we would say, "Boy, that God sure is powerful." This is an invitation for each of us to see how we ourselves are oppressed, hungry, imprisoned, blind, bowed down. God is telling us that we need not be strangers, widows, and orphans, but can become His adopted children. And we do this by acting as children of the Father, by depending on Him for everything just as young children depend on their human fathers.

Which is not by regarding our trust in God as a practical matter. You don't need faith or trust to see that God, being God, can provide you with what you need; you just need to know what being God means. What God wants, I think, is the faith in Him that sees that God, being a loving Father, will provide you with what you need.