Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Near to the broken-hearted

Today's reading includes one of my favorite psalms. Here's an excerpt:
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
  he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
  but the Lord delivers him from them all...
The Lord redeems his servants;
  no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34.17-19,22
The lovely Carol was reading this to me as I drove us to the "Y" this morning, and I asked her if she thought God was near the brokenhearted because they were calling out to him, or because he had pity on them and took the initiative himself.

She noticed that the part containing "brokenhearted" and "crushed in spirit" is surrounded by lines talking about the "righteous." Probably, she said, this parallelism means that he's talking about the righteous who are brokenhearted.

Good point. It's important to remember that the Bible has poetry in it, and Hebrew poetry at that. It doesn't seem to be mathematical.

Anyway, in answer to my question, I'm going to guess it's both, particularly after seeing the last line in the psalm -- that's the line that mentions those "who take refuge in him." Those who call on him, in other words.

But this makes me think about something in a George MacDonald novel -- I can't remember which one -- where a little girl is worried about her salvation. Her grandfather asks something like, "Didn't the preacher say that whoever calls on the Lord will be saved?"

And the little girl answers, "Aye, for the elect!" or something like this -- with the clear implication that she might not be. This makes the grandfather wonder about the Scottish theology he was raised with.

What the little girl didn't know, and what her grandfather didn't know how to explain, is that calling on the Lord is the proof that you are indeed among the "elect." Because calling on the Lord, calling him Lord, believing things about his character, aligning yourself with his purposes -- those are all parts of what it means to be righteous, to be in the elect.

And as for this particular psalm, I don't think I'm too far off to say that it applies here as well. If he truly is my Lord - Lord of my heart (in the words of the song), if I care about what he cares about (and care more and more about the things he cares about), if I believe in his goodness and put my life in his hands, if I call on him as Lord... then as the Bible says all over the place, I will be counted among the righteous and can claim their promises.

As can anyone.

Provided, of course, that they're among the elect. ← JUST KIDDING!

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