Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Sunday Morning Meds--Destiny

“If the LORD delights in a man's way, 
he makes his steps firm.” Psalm 37

Thus saith the NIV.

The rough logic of verse 23 of Psalm 37 is not that difficult to understand:  when—if, even—the Lord likes what he sees in a person, he’ll give the guy or gal a break. Sounds fair. That’s the kind of God I can deal with. He’ll love us if he determines we’re worth his investment. I can deal with that.

Listen to this: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord,” says the New American Standard; “and he delights in his way.” Or how about the KJV: “The steps of a good man are ordained by the Lord, and he delights in his way.”

Seems a whole lot different from the NIV. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the gap that separates the translations, you could float a whale of a difference. In the NIV, something reciprocal is occurring—“you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” That kind of thing, as if God almighty is shopping for a used car—kicking tires, checking mileage, looking for dings. If he likes what he sees, he buys. It’s that simple.

In the King James, God isn’t shopping. He’s turning out human beings, setting them on a charted course, and watching them go exactly where he’s determined they would, as if, in a way, he were spinning tops. But even that’s a lousy analogy because, once spun, the top-spinner has no idea of direction. Maybe he’s like one of those folks who love model trains. Get the cars out of the box, assemble the tracks, and let ‘em go.

What seems unmistakable in the KJV and New American Standard is that God knows where we go, when we stand, and when we stoop, our ups, downs, and all arounds. What’s more, he delights in watching it happen, in seeing what he in fact determined. He loves to watch us circle around the tracks he’s laid.

That’s a whole different God from the one looking for used cars—or so it seems.

What’s at the base of the difference is a pair of contrary ideas that are not arcane, ideas that have puzzled human beings for centuries, and prompted a whole lot of folks to walk right out of church: Are we free, or is everything about us pre-conceived, foreordained, predestined? Good folks, brilliant theologians, learned scholars have and will continue to disagree, I’m sure, as do—obviously—the linguists who work as bible translators.

Who’s right? Good question, and worth considering.

But what did the poet/King say? Where would he come down? What did he intend? And which translation, pray tell, is accurate?

Those questions don’t bother me a great deal because the passage is, first of all, a song. It's not an academic paper or theological treatise. Psalm 37 is all about comfort, about feeling rest and peace in the Popeye arms of the One who made us and who never ever leaves.

In the very next verse David will admit he’s an old guy, a fact which may well be key to our accepting the sheer joy of this line’s thickly upholstered comfort. I’m probably about as old he was when he wrote the song or offered the meditation, and I think I know why he wouldn’t care for the debates this kind of verse might incite. 

All he wants us to know is that when he looks back on his life—all of his life—he knows for sure that the God who breathed his own breath into the child who would shockingly become King of Israel, that God would never ever leave him alone. 

That God was there always, and will be, forever.  That's the comfort of verse 23.

No matter how you read it, is far less a proposition than it is a promise.


Anonymous said...

Interestig difference of interpretation as displayed in the various versions....wish I could read the original Hebrew.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"Are we free, or is everything about us pre-conceived, foreordained, predestined? Good folks, brilliant theologians, learned scholars have and will continue to disagree,"

This apparent contradiction can lead to many restless nights, however, many nights of peace and comfort can be had when one rests in the fact that we have a sovereign loving father who cares for each of us and indwells us with His Holy Spirit.