I have realised that if I am to reshape my imagination around the Kingdom, then I must change the story in which I am embedded. Unfortunately, this has proved less simple than it sounds. My last attempt proved a step too far and I am going to need to take much smaller steps. Fortunately, such a path has been trodden before and has often been recommended in the church – which is to meditate on the psalms. With such an obvious path forward, it is amazing that it has taken me so long to find it. Perhaps the less said about that the better. So, to begin with psalm 1.
For such a small psalm, there is a lot packed in it. It lays out the path of the two ways. The way of those who do right and othose who do wrong. It has proved a remarkably apt place to start, with that wonderful line “In Yahweh’s teaching he ruminates day and night”. I like the idea of ruminating. Chewing over, digesting and then chewing over again. It is not the usual way to translate hagah, but it caries that sense, so I am sticking with it. This, after all, is what I am doing – ruminating on Yahweh’s teaching.
I have found the psalm challenge me too. When describing the righteous man it says all that he does prospers. What would Jesus have made of that when he hung on the cross? Actually, though I initially wondered at the psalm’s naivety, I ended up respecting its truth. It does not say that the righteous won’t go through times of trouble or suffering, just that they will prosper in them. Jesus certainly suffered and it was certainly an odd looking success, but it was the reason he came and he in it he did prosper. It was then that I was able to look back at my past and I could concur. In all that I have done I have prospered. For sure, there have been times when it did not feel like it. There have been times when I have felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails. But looking back, those have been significant points in my life. I have, in spite of all, prospered. Like a tree transplanted from the desert to be by channels of water, my leaves have not withered. I am secure and know that fruit will come in its season. The wrongdoer, by contrast, is like chaff blown away by the wind – to perish.
Happy is the man who
does not walk in the council of wrongdoers,
Nor in the way of sinners does he stand,
Nor in the seat of scoffers does he sit,
But, in the instruction of Yahweh, his delight.
In its teaching he ruminates day and night,
Like a tree transplanted upon channels of water,
That yields fruit in its season
and leaves that do not wither.
All that he does prospers.
Not so the wrongdoers.
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wrongdoers will not stand at the judgement,
Nor sinners at the assembly of those who do right.
For Yahweh knows the way of those who do right,
But the wrongdoer will perish.