“the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” Psalm 19
What commentators have long ago established is that Psalm 19 is a kind of encyclopedia of the Torah’s particular blessings. In song—remember, he’s singing this and so are his people—David creates a handbook of what God’s instructions to his people can and will do, a melodic sermon; and the very first of those blessings is that God’s way is, quite simply, perfect. Nothing is missing. Nothing is incomplete. Nothing more is needed.
Won’t someone here say “amen”?
Sure, plenty. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ offers an entire package. It’s the primrose path to joy in this life and salvation in the next. It is a tree planted by water. It will not blow away. It’s spoken in the sky’s voice.
Sure, hallelujah to that. No question.
Really, what’s not to love about that famous Elijah story, where he threatens the prophets of Baal to a showdown at OK Corral? Go ahead and pray to your false gods, get them to light the sacrifice, you idiots, he says. Go ahead and see if those false gods will get off their cans. When they don’t, he calls in a heavenly air strike, and his own hosed-down sacrifice conflagrates. Jehovah is the whole package all right. He’s all we’ll ever need. The way of the Lord is perfect.
The inherent exclusivity in the Torah’s perfection turns us all into Elijahs and makes the host of other world religions undeniably false. That’s right, false. Islam, for one; Buddhism, for another; Confucianism, Animism, even the faith which takes these very words of David as seriously as Christians do, Judaism. They’re all wrong, in one way, shape, or form. Only Christianity is perfect.
That’s an assertion that still wouldn’t be troublesome for most Christian believers, of course. But it is for me, in part because I know what we have done to others in the name of Jesus Christ. I know what happened in
Salem in 1692. I know how many were hung. I know about the deep and abiding faith of
those who held slaves and in human bondage.
I know what happened on the Great Plains in the 19th century, how a noble people were robbed of their dignity and culture when devout and enlightened Christians determined that in order to enter the 20th century the Sioux people were going to have to don bib overalls and tote Bibles. I know what still happens every day—how good, well-meaning Christians, me included, can beat up on those they considered not worthy of the “perfection” which David asserts.
And I know, too well, that undoubtedly there were some Hunkpapas and Minneconjou Sioux who were better human beings, stem to stern, that some of those who, with Bible in hand and Godly praise on their lips, simply grabbed their land, and got rid of a couple hundred at Wounded Knee.
I have no problem saying amen to David’s assertion here—the “way of the Lord” is perfect. But what any cursory reading of history offers is an undeniable list of horrendous travesties committed in the name of that perfect law.
And that’s what scares me—as it did David.