I am trying to get to know my way around a new computer, and as I was figuring out how to search within my emails, I stumbled across an old email (Doug regularly harasses me for keeping volumes of old emails, which I persist in doing) from Doug that had one of his papers from a Fuller class we took together attached. I stopped and read a portion of it and decided to share a few of the closing paragraphs. The paper was a reflective assignment and the class was Writings, taught by John Goldingay. Doug writes:
In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are describing Aslan to Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmond:
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,’ said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
Is Yahweh in the Writings a safe God? No, not safe, but good. And if creation is built upon the character of God, I can also say that life is not safe, but good. There are no safe places: not Jerusalem or Babylon, dispersion or kingdom. Faith cannot be put into any of the things on earth. There is nothing safe under the sun and the only good is from Yahweh. And in life, even when things are terrible, I would still rather have a good God than a safe one.
Brueggemann has made the argument that Psalm 1, with its dependence on God’s faithfulness in ordering and sustaining the world in predictable and coherent ways is intentionally placed at the beginning of the Psalter. He argues that this is done because Psalm 1 is obviously ignorant of the realities of life but gives us a clear picture of what life should look like if we live obediently. He then states that Psalm 150 “is the most extreme and unqualified statement of unfettered praise in the OT” and that “it is located theologically at the end of the process of praise and obedience, after all of Israel’s motivations have been expressed and no more reasons need be given.”
He makes it sound like there is a journey to be had between Psalm 1 and Psalm 150 and that this journey will be hard. But once we arrive to the place where Psalm 150 is we will have made it to the place of unfettered appreciation of God. When I read the Psalter today, and take the journey from Psalm 1 to Psalm 150, I must conclude, with the help of the Writings, that Psalm 150 is not praise refined and perfected. It is the words of a people exhausted from trusting in things other than Yahweh. And year-by-year these ‘things’ in which they have put their trust have let them down and faded away. Yahweh is all that remains. Yahweh is all that has survived.
For Job, Yahweh was all that mattered in the end. In Ecclesiastes, Yahweh is all that retains meaning. In the psalms of lament, Yahweh is the one addressed even when Yahweh is the reason for the complaint. The Writings say, “trust God or doubt God but make sure it is this God.”