18th April, 2012
BRUCE C. WEARNE
Oi, Lord God of Hosts come hear me!
Attend and hearken to my voice;
Like Jacob wrestling I won't let you go.
No shield can help but You alone.
If you forget Lord, then, we're gone;
Without Your promise, we're just history.
O Lord of Hosts, hear us, give ear,
O Wrestled God of Jacob hear.
When you come near its better,
In one day and all life is changed.
A thousand elsewhere just cannot compare.
To live one day near You is bliss,
Enough to give tenure a miss,
Wherever I might fail to serve You.
I'd rather keep Your dwelling's gate
Than dwell secure in evil state
Great honour He has favoured
All those with whom He deigns to stay,
Who in His light and shadow dwell secure.
No good thing does the Lord hold back,
From those who follow down His track,
He holds their course to walk uprightly.
And He will bless the One who trusts,
His safety sure, the Lord of Hosts.
Metre derived from
Genevan Psalter 1562
So sweet the place of dwelling
Where You, great God decide to stay,
That place of meeting where I long to be.
I'm weak with faint, my song will break
With joy so deep, since here You make
A spot to rest which is so lovely.
O God of life here I must sing
With heart and soul and everything.
Yes, busy birds are welcomed;
Swallows here nest their growing brood.
They nestle snug in holy shadows..
Great Lord all life is blessed indeed,
My King, My God fulfills my need,
I dwell secure within Your bounty.
For here Himself the Lord will give
And with His singing I will live.
That one is truly happy
Who knows his strength descends from You,
With deepest yearning for your paths to tread.
In times of drought the waters come,
The pools and creeks filled to the brim,
And what was barren bursts with blooming.
From strength to strength to step out free,
Thus God displays His majesty.
The technical note appended to this psalm in the Old Testament's "Book of Worship" tells the choirmaster it is to be sung to the accompaniment of the gittith - an instrument which, presumably, came from Gath, Goliath country. The words in this note do not appear in my English concordance. But we should not ignore the note - it was written to help singers understand the psalm they were to sing. And as we learn (again) to sing the psalms, as personal meditations, as corporate acts of faith, it will assist us if we pay attention to such technical notes to see what we can make of them.
RESTORING A FALLEN CREATION. PICTURE: Christopher Bruno/www.sxc.hu
"The Almighty Creator, the Merciful Redeemer not only restores His fallen creation - He is busy making all things new. And Korah's sons still call on us anno domini to "join in the chorus"."
Like psalms 42-49, 85, 87 and 88, 84 is ascribed to the sons of Korah. In the Bible, Korah is known for his rebellion against Moses told in Numbers 16. That is a gruesome story of God's judgment upon naked presumption. In the New Testament, Jude (verse 11) tells his readers to avoid "Korah's rebellion" like the plague. But Numbers 26:11 tells us that the sons of Korah did not die out completely and I Chronicles 9 tells us of census, under the watchful eye of David and Samuel, in which the Korahites were listed as "keepers of the thresholds of the tent of meeting." Despite a family history in which a famous rebellion figures prominently, the sons of Korah remained a Levitical line with peculiar tasks. In terms that Ethan's psalms recount about God's faithfulness to David,
If now his children take
Paths I have not directed
My statutes violate
And my commands neglected.
Then they will know my rod
The scourge of my disapproval.
Still, I'll my covenant keep
My love know no removal.
we learn that God does not play with us - there is something truly beyond our comprehension with His promises to us. They will not be thwarted, even if one's relatives in the line of the promise, in the covenantal line, reject God's rule, this is not the end of the matter. We recall the Lord God re-affirming His rule, His judgement, in the midst of the disaster of the fall. And in that re-affirmation of His creational, fatherly care for His creation He is decisively reiterating His covenantal purposes.
It is this background of God's covenantal promises despite human rebellion that we need to keep in mind as we sing this and the other psalms of the Sons of Korah. We confront an intense and personal faith. This psalm calls upon us to sing wholeheartedly to the Almighty, and not just to be passively content with any "doorkeeper role" we might have inherited, but to live with an active thankful faith.
I'd rather keep Your dwelling's gate
Than dwell secure in evil state.
In so singing, the sons of Korah "sign off", on Korah's rebellion. They delight in opening doors to let worshippers in and out. What more could they ask for? Besides, such a privilege means they are cared for in the same way that the Lord looks after the nest of swallows perching up there in the rafters.
Hundreds of years had passed since Korah's rebellion, but this composition by his descendents reminds us one doesn't and one can't make amends for one's sinful ancestry. Instead, like Jacob, we wrestle with God because if He doesn't bless, we don't dare let Him go. If the Lord didn't come through for us, as He did for Korah's descendents, then, in truth, we would be history, defined by the ancestral rebellion that has gone before us. But the Lord God does come through. God the Lord, keeps His promises, His Son has come, and He allows doors to be opened, tribes to apologise and find reconciliation, poetry to flourish, musical skills to be refined, psalms to be written and all the while the Lord allows swallows to snuggle up close to His face.
The Almighty Creator, the Merciful Redeemer not only restores His fallen creation - He is busy making all things new. And Korah's sons still call on us anno domini to "join in the chorus". The Lord God is especially pleased when those with such ancestral blights are inspired to compose songs of faith about His merciful working in their lives. Out of creation's fragility birds and their brood signify a new generation which will fill our skies, trees and yes even the comforting shadows of our places of holy worship. These are given to us to enjoy - the skies, the trees, our places of worship belong to the Almighty; and we receive them from His hands as tokens of His favour and delight.
He delights in hearing our prayers and ending the drought, in wrestling with us so we can face our estranged siblings with integrity, and He is glad when we live simply on His estate, discovering that one day, one hour, one moment with Him transforms all of our days, hours and moments. The Lord God reveals Himself to us as the One who holds our life together despite our sin. He speaks to, and gives, us a new heart. He delights in walking with us, and this too is so good, good enough to inspire a hearty song like the ones composed by the descendents of Korah, the artful gatekeepers from the time of David and Samuel.
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