Friday, November 07, 2008

The History and Theology of the Exile: Day 3

Going into the third day, and the going gets tough. We tackled the writings of the pre-exilic, exilic and post-exilic period. Maybe tackle isn't so accurate a verb. Rather, we discussed, we scanned, we skimmed more like.

These are tough books - Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40-55), followed by the relatively easier ones, Lamentations, Exilic Psalms (44?, 74, 79, 85, 126, 137) and Deuteronomic History (Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings). That's a lot in 8 hours.

Reflecting on what we went through today, I have 2 things:

One, the tension between giving up and standing up. The Israelites were to give in to the Babylonians, to be exiled, not to fight. And yet, there is a call for justice to be done. In our current context, we talked about not keeping silence amidst the oppression we are undergoing. What if we are indeed undergoing a sense of exile for things we have not been doing? What do we do now?

Two, imprecatory psalms. On this I have begun to understand it a little better as I traversed life in this fallen world. Some years back, I did not understand how they can be possible. I now have a glimpse - when a soul would have gone through dark, distressed, utterly difficult and terribly unimaginable times, it will understand imprecatory psalms. The darkened soul would wished something to be done on the enemies, but rhetorically left to the justice of God.

It is indeed difficult to square Psalm 137:9 "How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock" with Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things", but both are Scripture.

Can I say that it is better to leave it be if we could not understand the reality of imprecatory psalms? Imagine how dark your soul need to go before you could see for yourself these psalms. Unimaginable. Reb showed us some appalling pictures of the Holocaust. My question is, do we really want to see the reality of imprecatory psalms?

How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.


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