Biblical Wisdom for Divisive Times
November 22, 2016
Dear Friend of The Fellowship,
During my recent travels through North America, I witnessed how deeply and profoundly people have been affected by the recent United States election. People of all political persuasions were glued to televisions and computers waiting for the results. Now, weeks later, we’re still glued to our screens, reading the opinions of politicians and pundits as they discuss how the new American President-elect’s policies may change the country, and the world.
Of course, it is good and right to be concerned about politics. But there comes a time that we must tear ourselves away from our screens and focus on deeper things. For me, the Psalms have a wonderful way of putting things in perspective, of giving us that deeper, more complete view of the challenges we face, both personally and as a nation. Perhaps it’s their honesty – their willingness to address God personally in both good times and bad – that has brought me back to these ancient Hebrew prayers time and again.
The Psalmist sings praises to God’s glory, cries out to Him from the depths of his despair, laments what he believes to be God’s absence from his life, and even freely expresses his doubts before God. And the Psalms don’t just voice our emotions; they remind us of God’s character. In them, we come to know God as Creator, Sustainer, Healer, and Redeemer.
The themes of God’s power and sovereignty are evident in Psalm 76 and Psalm 8. They were meaningful in biblical times because then, as today, Israel was surrounded by fierce foes bent on her destruction. Psalm 76 serves as a sobering reminder of God’s power. It leaves no question that it is God alone who rules the earth. It speaks of the invincibility of God in battle, and the futility of trying to stand against Him and His chosen people.
Psalm 8 uses the personal name of God that He gave to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14): Ya-hweh, the God of Israel’s covenant. God’s majestic name is wonderfully appropriate to this psalm. God is personal in His interaction with His creation, being mindful of mankind and caring for us. And yet, He is also transcendent, the Master of creation Who rules over all.
This psalm reminds us to have a childlike sense of awe and wonder when it comes to the display of God’s glory. His great love for mankind is shown in that He cared enough to place us just beneath the angels in rank of creation.
It’s all too easy to become so immersed in the things of the world that we forget that God is our ultimate defender and protector. But these psalms remind us to have the proper attitude when coming before God. It is both exhilarating and humbling to know that He goes ahead of us in our challenges, and that we are objects of His affection and care.
May we always be awed by the things of God. And may we always be reminded of God’s power, and His sovereignty over all things.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein