Tell The Truth



David Bentley Hart, in his new translation of the New Testament and in his notes before, within and after that translation, insists that Paul’s theology is very different from what we modern Protestants imagine it to be.  Paul writes that Christ came into the “kosmos” to save the “kosmos.” In the translations we are used to, the Greek word “kosmos” is translated into the English word “world.” Hart argues that that will not do; that when Paul used the word “kosmos” he meant something far deeper and wider than anything you and I imagine when we hear the word “world.”


While you and I conceive of “the world” as everything that is apparent to our senses or even what humanity has made of the physical world, the word “kosmos,” for Paul, included all of that and the fallen spiritual order.  Thus, Paul writes, again and again, about the powers and principalities, the thrones and dominions in the celestial places.  In one place he writes that these powers and the order to which they belong were all created through Christ, just like all of the rest of creation – just like everything we can see:

Colossians 1:16 for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him;

In other places, Paul tells us that Christ has conquered these “powers”:


Colossians 2:15 having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.


Hart translates:


Stripping the Archons and Powers, he exposed them in the open, leading them prisoner along with him in a triumphal procession.

And, in yet another place, Paul seems to imply that the final conquest of these powers is somewhere in the future and will be achieved at the end of time:


I Corinthians 15: 24 Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.

Hart’s translation reads:


Then the full completion, when he delivers the Kingdom to him who is God and Father, when he renders every Principality and every Authority and Power ineffectual.


We now have the question before us:  Why should we concern ourselves with this concept of the cosmos?  This notion of a complex and fallen spiritual order that is unseen, has been defeated by Christ, and that yet holds some sway in the affairs of humanity?  What practical difference would this make?


Let us start with the notion that Paul was obviously concerned that his readers – who would have found Paul’s conception of the cosmos and a hierarchical, spiritual order far less foreign than we moderns – not lose sight of the fact that this invisible order is a fact of life.  Thus, he warns the Ephesians:


For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph 6: 12


Paul follows that warning with advice about how the disciple must carry out the battle.  This is the well-known passage about the armor of God. You know, the “belt of truth,” the “breastplate of righteousness,” the “shield of faith,” and the “helmet of salvation.”


I must admit that I never before found this passage very helpful.  It was just a kind of overdone, almost comical picture to me. But, leaving aside the details and whatever might be the distinctions between the helmets and shields and breastplates for the moment, we must admit that  Paul is telling his hearers in adamant terms and tones that since our battle is not against what we see, that our strategies and tactics must be different, much different, than those we would use against a physical enemy.


Let’s start with the idea of truth.  Against a merely human foe, would we be likely to use truth or deception?  Would we lie to our enemy to put him at a disadvantage, to deceive him into a trap.  How strange that Paul tells us here that our best weapon in the war against evil is not deception, but truth.


We do lie, you know.


In fact, it may not be too much to say that when we are facing a battle, our first impulse is to lie, or at least to tell less than the truth.  We want to protect our interest. We don’t want the bad guy to get the drop on us. Here is Bob Dylan:


Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats

too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking

I had something to protect. . .


Jordan Peterson has spent decades as a clinical psychologist, working day after day with people who have crippling emotional problems.  He has come to the conclusion that such problems are always, in the end, moral problems. Even though the sufferers often are not conscious of the fact and may be desperately trying to hide from it, their problems are sin problems.  Many of these are caused or greatly exacerbated by lying.


We lie, Peterson says, for many different reasons:


To impose my ideological beliefs, to prove that I am (or was) right, to appear competent; to ratchet myself up the dominance hierarchy, to avoid responsibility (or its twin, to garner credit for others actions), to be promoted, to attract the lion’s share of attention, to ensure that everyone likes me, to garner the benefits of martyrdom, to justify my cynicism, to rationalize my antisocial outlook, to minimize immediate conflict, to maintain my naivete, to capitalize on my vulnerability, to always appear as the sainted one, or (this one is particularly evil) to ensure that it is always my unloved child’s fault. . . (209)

He goes on to say that our justifications for lying rest on two premises, both of them false.  The first of these premises holds that we are justified in manipulating reality by lying because we are already sure of what should result in any situation we are in.  We know the end we desire and we are sure that there could be nothing better than what we’re set our cap at and so we lie as a means to that perfect end.


Peterson says that this is false because we – limited and finite as we are – very often do not know everything that needs to be known in any given situation.  It may well be that our aim is not prudently made. It may be that the worst thing that could happen – even for ourselves – is that we get the thing we aimed for.  It may be that getting that one thing will prevent a whole string of other good things that might have happened if we had kept our thumb off of the scale. We lie our way into a corner when telling the truth, even if that might have cost us in the immediate, short run, may have led us on to fulfillment and destiny.


Second, Peterson argues that telling a lie presupposes that “reality would be unbearable if left to its own devices.”  To translate that into the language of Christian discipleship, it means simply that we are short on faith; that we do not trust the God of the universe with our lives, with our destinies.


Paul tells his hearers that it is very important that they not forget who the real enemy is; that the battle of life is a spiritual battle.  The century just past proves once again just how right Paul was and how great the cost may be if his advice is ignored. For the twentieth century is the story of a deliberate and intentional ignoring of that advice and of the catastrophic consequences of that ignoring.


Thus, it is Karl Marx who systematically reduced the battle to the seen.  Religion, said Marx – the belief in the spiritual and in powers other than those we can see – is the problem.  He recommended that humanity dismiss the spiritual as mere myth and opiate and focus solely on the physical. That experiment led to  murder and genocides the scale of which was never before imagined.



A Word About Translations


In this morning’s class I read from David Bentley Hart’s newly-published translation of the New Testament.  The passage I read, from the fourth chapter of the first letter of John, contained some words that we are not familiar with, used as we are to the several relatively standard translations readily available to us.  Throughout his ministry with First Baptist, Pastor Joel has stuck rather faithfully with the New International Version. (The NIV has itself been revised several times since it was first published in  1978.)  Many of us are old enough to remember the use of the King James Version in the churches we grew up in.  During my formative years Dr. Weaver often used the Revised Standard Version because, as he would say then, “the meaning is clearer there.”  In the past few years, many churches have begun to use the so-called English Standard Version, first published in 2001.  Moreover, many of us will remember using paraphrases like the “Good News Bible,” (1966) and “The Living Bible.” (1971).


There are many differences in the language employed by these several books, but what all of them have in common, and one thing that distinguishes them from David Bentley Hart’s new work, is that they are the work of more than one person.  Indeed, the standard, familiar translations are the product of very involved, long-term collaboration among established scholars who were chosen with the idea of gaining an broad and fair ecumenical perspective.

Given that, Don asked a very thoughtful and fair question in this morning’s class: “How can we look at any ‘translation’ done by any one person as anything more than a commentary?”  Some quick answers might leap to mind, such as “we know that this translator labored to be faithful to the text, even where that text might be somewhat inconsistent with the translator’s overall theology.”  But Don’s point is forcefully made and it stands.  This is the work of one man or woman and inevitably will be tinted by his or her personal biases.  Why then should we even bother with translations that are the work of an individual, where there have been no checks and balances and no compromise?

Mr. Hart takes this very question on in his introduction to his new translation.  He first admits that any attempt to translate the Scriptures is somewhat presumptuous and will inevitably be met with lots of criticism:

To write yet another translation of the New Testament is probably something of a foolish venture.  No matter what one produces – recklessly liberal, timidly conservative, or something poised equilibriously in between – it will provoke consternation (and probably indignation) in countless breasts

Should the translator’s concern be:

to produce good literature or to provide a stringently faithful gloss; whether one should strive for more explanatory clarity or for literal accuracy; whether one should substitute modern equivalents for the obsolete idioms of the ancient world or remain obedient to the unfamiliar diction of the original despite any awkwardness that might ensure; whether a paraphrase is a duty or a sin; and so on.  It is a game in which no player prospers.

Hart goes on to explain why one might find value in a translation made by a single individual:

The inevitable consequence of this [translation by committee] is that many of the most important decisions are negotiated accommodations, achieved by general agreement, and favoring only those solutions that prove the least offensive to everyone involved.  This becomes, in effect, a process of natural selection, in which novel approaches to the text are generally the first to perish, and only the tried and trusted survive.  And this can result in the exclusion not only of extravagantly conjectural readings, but often the most straightforwardly literal as well . . . .

[] I think I have come to be opposed to translation by mass collaboration on principle, even when (as in the King James) the final product is literarily admirable.  All such renderings, it seems to me, become ineluctably mired in the anodyne blandness and imprecision of a “diplomatic” accord.

But even if we credit what Hart says here, how can we know what value to attach to any translation made by one individual?  I can only answer that one must rely on all of the learning and common sense one has accumulated to date; all of the experience of God’s Spirit as we may know it in prayer and in the fellowship of the saints.  Given all of that, does what this author proposes seem right?  Does it make sense?   Can it be defended?

Of course – and as is inherent in Don’s pointed question – in every case there will be instances in which we will disagree with the individual translator.  But the more important question – given how we have been surrounded by the standard, committee versions all of our lives – is maybe this one:  Does this writer open passages for us that remained opaque as we read the old versions?  Does he or she provide a greater depth and dimension to passages that were familiar but perhaps not fully understood?

Although I have already found much to disagree with in Hart’s work, I have already been enriched in my understanding of the New Testament just by reading his outstanding Introduction where he writes at length about the experience of translating the Scriptures and what he learned in the process.  He says that while the Old Testament represents:

the concentrated literary genius of an ancient and amazingly rich culture – mythic, epic, lyric, historical, and visionary, in texts assembled over many centuries and then judiciously synthesized, redacted and polished. . .

In contrast:

the Christian New Testament is a somewhat unsystematically compiled and pragmatically edited compendium of “important documentation” : writings from the first generations of witnesses to the faith . . .

He says that in his translation he made every effort to preserve the distinctiveness of the many voices that are heard in the New Testament.  He claims that the committee translations have, on the contrary, attempted to “flatten out the various voices of the writers into a clean, commodious style . . . And yet in the Greek their voices differ radically.”

The New Testament writings are:

The devout and urgent attempts of often rather ordinary persons to communicate something “seen” and “heard” that transcends any language, but that nonetheless demands to be spoken, now, here, in whatever words one can muster

What Hart hears emerging from this strange harmony of different voices is this:

 . . . the vibrant certainty that history has been invaded by God in Christ in such a way that nothing can stay as it was, and that all terms of human community and conduct have been altered at the deepest of levels

Amen, and Hallelujah.

Cain and Abel

So many of the stories in the Book of Genesis leave me wondering.

What is wrong, for example, with humanity gaining the knowledge of good and evil?  Isn’t that the very thing that separates us from all of the rest of creation?  We know good and evil.  We can tell right from wrong.  Seems like half of the Bible is about refining that sense and putting that knowledge into practice.  Why is that a curse?  I think I may have a better sense about this now, after having read Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and I may blog on that story later.

Today I want to talk about the story of Cain and Abel.  Everybody knows this one – the first murder story.  No doubt there are many lessons that can be drawn from the story and no doubt there have been thousands of sermons preached on this text, but the thing that always struck me about this story – that left me kind of cold and unsatisfied – is that the text gives us no explanation of why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected by God.  It always seemed to me that such a story in such a book should at least tell us why God acted as He did in rejecting Cain’s offering.  I’m sure that preachers and scholars along the way have come up with a thousand theories in answer to that question, but I think it is fair to say that the text itself does not give us an answer and, it seems to me, is deliberately obscure or dismissive of the issue.   Here is the text:

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

The omission of any mention of God’s motive or reason for rejecting Cain’s offering bothered me till now.  It bothered me because it made it seem that God was acting arbitrarily and capriciously.  Unjustly, even.  It seemed to me that there must have been some just motive or reason and that the story would have been much better as a moral lesson if we had known that reason.

But now I believe just the opposite.  I now believe that the story is more true to life and better as a moral lesson because it does not explain why Cain’s offering was rejected.  Again, I have Mr. Peterson to thank for this.

In 12 Rules, Peterson spends quite a bit of ink talking about sacrifice.  At the most profound and fundamental level, writes Peterson, sacrifice is the forgoing of some immediate pleasure or gain in the hope of a greater, future benefit.   Under such a definition, work is sacrifice!

That brings the whole matter a lot closer to home for me.  I have always viewed the sacrifice rituals in the Old Testament as a forerunner or foreshadowing to the ultimate and all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake, I still believe exactly that.  But the idea that sacrifice – other than ritual sacrifice – is a fundamental part of every human life, including mine, made me think harder about that dynamic and gave me a different slant on the Cain and Able story.

When we go to work we are giving up immediate freedom and pleasure and involving ourselves in something that, although it may be meaningful, takes something out of us.  It absorbs our time and energy and strength and in doing work a part of us gets used up.

We do this because we have an aim or goal in mind.  Cain, ostensibly, had the goal of directly pleasing God.  This would have led to his own good – the blessing of his efforts on the farm; the growth of his family; that kind of thing is what he probably hoped for.

By the same token, we hope that our efforts – our sacrifices – will lead to God’s blessing, too.  We may have a very specific kind of blessing in mind.  We may meet and fall in love with someone and accordingly make sacrifices for them.  Our time and our effort are focused on pleasing them with the goal of winning their love.  We may have vocational goals.  And so we practice and plan and study and make decisions in favor of the pursuit of that goal that take us away from other avenues that might have led to pleasure or gain.

We may have such goals and we may work toward them and yet so often we find that our sacrifices are not accepted.  We are not blessed.  The person we fell in love with and made sacrifices for rejects us.  The medical school that we sacrificed our youth to get into rejects our application.

And when these things happen it is more common than not that we really don’t know why we have been rejected.  At least it is not obvious at first.  If the reason for our rejection had been obvious, then we would have made a different kind of sacrifice.  The common experience is that we’ve laid what we thought was our best on the line and it has simply not been enough.  The blessing we so desired is denied us.  Our sacrifice was rejected and we, like Cain in the story, are not told why.

That makes the Cain and Abel story seem true to life and something that we moderns can relate to, but what is the moral?  So Cain is rejected – no reason given – and we are often rejected in the same way.  Interesting.  But what instruction or insight for living does the story give us?

I think it is this: faith is patience in the very face of what appears to be unfair and unexplained frustration and disappointment. Faith is that which does not rebel or give up when rejected but instead waits in the humility that says that maybe I don’t know everything I thought I knew.  Maybe there is something else; something more.

This is extremely difficult, particularly when your brother’s sacrifice – which did not seem all that different from your own – was accepted.  He gets the girl.  He gets into med school.  And here you are with nowhere to go and no one to run to.  But accepting such a judgement – such a verdict – and continuing to listen and to wait and to work, that is faith.

Tell The Truth

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about telling the truth.  We’ve looked at a couple of passages in Paul’s letters where he admonishes the believers to stop lying.  We might chuckle just a bit when we read these verses, since such advice presumes that the saints in Ephesus and Galatia were in fact lying and probably doing so habitually.  If they were anything like we are, we have no problem imagining that this was the case and that Paul’s warnings were quite justified.

Our own tolerance for the “little white lie” is evident from our discussions in class.  Let us leave aside for the moment the questions whether a “little white lie” can ever be justified or whether one who is hiding Jews from the Nazis is justified in telling the would-be murderers that he or she does not know the whereabouts of any Jews.  Let’s take away the absolute extremes and work from the proposition,  amplified by Jordan Peterson in his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,  that we – most all of us, really – are far too casual about lying and far too willing to ignore the effects of lies – both on the speaker and those to whom the lie is spoken.

Peterson writes that we have a long list of reasons for telling lies.  We may twist the truth a little bit –or a lot – to make ourselves look better; to avoid the shame for what we might have done or, the reverse, to give ourselves credit for the good work of others.  We might lie because we are lazy – because it seems to us in the moment that telling the truth would require more work and more explanation than we are willing to give.

Peterson writes that telling the truth may often cost us something.  That truth telling may be a kind of sacrifice: we give up something immediate – our present peace or rest or reputation in the mild cases, perhaps even our physical or financial security in other cases – for the hope of some future benefit.

Peterson writes that there are lies of commission – out and out statements that are deceitful and deliberately misleading – and lies of omission.  The lies of omission are those where we remain silent about something when we really ought to speak.

He argues that the lies of omission are every bit as morally destructive as lies of commission and that the lie of omission might be the more common and more devastating in the modern world.  He says that it is the willingness of the common man to keep silent in the face of wrongdoing that has allowed the great tyrannies of the twentieth century to flourish and that it was the willingness of a very few brave men – Alexander Solzhenitsyn among them – to stand up to the tyrant and speak the truth  that actually began the process of loosening the grip that communism held on half of the world in the 20th century.


With all of that in mind, let’s go back about three thousand years and examine a social and governmental situation that existed in the empire of Persia during the period of the exile

Little White Lies?


In yesterday’s class it became obvious that most if not all of us subscribe to the idea that a little white lie never hurt anybody.  Hiding the truth or inflating things a little bit can keep others from being hurt, we think.  Sugar coating a response in a tense situation can avoid violence, we say.

It also became obvious – at least I hope it did – that Jordan Peterson, in his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos takes just the opposite position.   He says that lies – even those we might consider innocent – are like living things and that their effects are unpredictable and may be long lived.  We may mean well, but when we don’t tell the truth we can set dynamics in motion that we did not foresee and may be powerless to stop.

Peterson contends that speech itself is far more powerful than we generally think it to be.  He points to the Biblical truth that God “spoke” the universe into being:  “And God said ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  He reminds us that “In the beginning was the Word.”  He could have taken the Biblical theme further and mentioned that the life-changing force of the gospel is transmitted – is effective – through the spoken and written word.  Speech, Peterson argues, is a creative force.  We speak things into being.

So the lies we tell may have unfortunate and unpredictable effect in the world, but Peterson also emphasizes that one principle effect of a falsehood is actually on the speaker.  The lies we speak affect ourselves.  Once again, I am struck by the symmetry or harmony between what Jordan Peterson is saying and the way Eugene Peterson (I don’t think they are related to each other) translates the New Testament.  Here’s Eugene Peterson’s translation of Galatians 4: 25:

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

Now here is Jordan Peterson, from 12 Rules:

. . . hiding from others also means suppressing and hiding the potentialities of the unrealized self . . .  If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.  That does not only mean that you suppress who you are, although it also means that.  It means that so much of what you could be will never be forced by necessity to come forward

When things fall apart . . . we can give structure to [life] and re-establish order through our speech.  If we speak carefully and precisely, we can sort things out and put them in their proper place . . . and navigate

Recap of Yesterday’s Lesson



Old Testament Lesson:  Psalm 16: 4

Gospel Lesson: Mark 4: 24

Epistle: Galatians 5: 19-23


What is the most famous line from the movie “When Harry Met Sally?”





When we ended last week we were talking about the Peterson brothers, Eugene and Jordan.  Actually, they are not brothers.  Jordan Peterson is a professor at the University of Toronto and a clinical psychologist.  Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian pastor and a theologian.  They do have this in common:  both of them are well known for what they have written.

Jordan Peterson has published two books, the most recent of which was released only weeks ago and is now one of the top selling books in the country.  That book is called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.  Eugene Peterson has been around much longer.  He is over eighty years old and has spent his life pastoring various churches around the country.   He has written a score of books, including the interpretation of the Book of Revelation that we studied here years ago, Reversed Thunder.  But Eugene Peterson is best known for his translation of the Bible.  It’s called The Message, and it has been around for more than a decade now and we’re referred to it, time and again, in this class.

The first chapter in Jordan Peterson’s book is about lobsters.  He tells us that extensive research has taught us that lobsters are territorial animals.  Like so many other animals, they fight for the best real estate; the best niches for their safety and well-being.  Not much news there, but what is interesting is what happens to the lobsters – inside the lobsters’ brains – after they tussle over the best rock to hide under.

Winning the fight gives the dominant lobster a real shot in the arm, so to speak.  When he wins, his body releases a chemical called serotonin and that makes the world a rosy place for him.  His posture and stature changes.  He stands straight with his shoulders back, like – as Jordan Peterson puts it – “Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti Western.”  He is more likely to win his next fight and – no surprise here – he becomes more attractive to female lobsters.

“Them that got shall get, them that’s not shall lose.  So the Bible says, and it still is news. . .”


It’s all downhill for the losing lobster.  In fact, after losing a fight his brain disintegrates.  He grows a new brain – the brain of a subordinate, a subservient.  He rarely, if ever, wins another fight, even against a weaker opponent.  He’s banished into shallows and miseries.

Why is this business in the world of crustaceans of any more than novelty to us?  Why does it matter?  How can it be relevant in a book that tells us how to live?

Well, anybody who has ever won or lost a fight will not find this next proposition surprising: what happens to lobsters also happens to human beings.  With humans, we are not necessarily or usually talking about physical altercations, but we are talking about the overall competition of life.   Jordan Peterson tells us that there is a sort of calculator at the base of our brains, so deep below consciousness that we are not aware of it, which measures our social rank; where we fit in the world around us.

Our calculators measure social position by making note of how we are treated by others.

If our calculator finds that we are treated poorly, it adjusts the chemical flow to the brain to increase our alertness.  After all, life at the bottom of the scale is dangerous.  This hyper-alertness has another name: stress.  And it does all the things we’re heard about before.  It depletes the energies that might have been used more productively if life were a little more secure.  Life is not much fun, so, as Jordan Peterson puts it, low-serotonin people will:

Jump . . . at any short-term mating opportunities, or any possibilities of pleasure, no matter how sub-par, disgraceful or illegal . . .

And now, back to cousin Eugene and his translation of Paul.  This is from the fifth chapter of Galatians:

19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.



On the Other Hand


If we rank highly, our calculator permits the release of serotonin – the same stuff that the lobsters release – and, accordingly, our world becomes a rosier place.   According to Jordan Peterson, your brain is assured that:

Your niche is secure, productive and safe, and that you are well-buttressed with social support.  It thinks the chance that something will damage you is low and can safely be discounted.  Change might be opportunity instead of disaster.


You don’t need to grasp impulsively at whatever crumbs come your way, because you can realistically expect good things to remain available.  You can delay gratification, without forgoing it forever.  You can afford to be a reliable and thoughtful citizen.

How about them apples?  Now let’s look at what the Apostle Paul – as translated by cousin Eugene – has to tell the churches in Galatia about the life in Christ:

what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart . . we find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely . . .

I’ll have what she’s having . . .

Meditation on Psalm 63


Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. . .

Psalm 63: 7


In his very helpful book Reflections on The Psalms, CS Lewis makes some allusion to the fact that many of the psalms are “attributed to David” and that some of them, particularly Psalm 18, are actually from David’s pen.  This, of course, suggests that many of the psalms that are attributed to David were actually written by someone else, perhaps long after David lived, and are aimed at capturing the drama of David’s life and the essence of his spirit.

I owe CS Lewis a great deal.  I don’t know of any other writer quite like him.  He seems to have read everything ever written and he can explain complex things clearly and precisely.  His book, Mere Christianity, found me at the right time, answered many of my questions, and changed my life.  I know that Lewis would not have made a statement like the one about the authorship of the Psalms unless he had scoured sources.  He may be right, but this is one time I don’t want to believe him.  I want to believe that the Psalms attributed to David are actually the work of his hand; his imagination; his heart.

That is particularly true of the Psalm I read this morning:  number 63.

David is a great romantic figure whose life is marked by fantastic acts of heroism and courage and horrible, deliberate actions that plagued his house down to and even after David’s own dying day.  We might think of him as a kind of rock star.  Not only was he a great military man, he was a poet (while scholars may debate which of the psalms now in the canon were actually written by David, no one denies that he did write poetry) and a musician.  Kind of a mixture of General Patton or Lee or Grant and Jackson Browne.

Psalm 63 is an intensely personal psalm, full of emotion. If we think of it as something written about David and not by David, it loses some of its punch.

This Psalm is the confession of a man who has known God personally.  So personally, in fact, that he “remembers” God as he lies awake at night.  So personally that he speaks of communion with God as the deepest satisfaction.  In worship, David’s “soul shall be satisfied as with the richest of foods.”  And this Psalm suggests that David’s knowledge of God is not based on what someone else told him about God, but rather on immediate, personal experience.  David the warrior has, time and again, acted on God’s command in the face of great odds and has been saved from his enemies, even when surrounded.

Time and again in the psalms we see reference to the protection of “the shadow of [God’s] wings.”  One is tempted to imagine how David looked at the desert landscape before him as he traveled with his band of troops.  How David may have “seen” the shadow of God’s wings covering him, protecting him, allowing him rest.