Selective Reading

I was reading Psalm 15 today as part of the weekly readings at our church and it got me thinking about how we like to pick and choose what the bible has to say to us.

Here’s the Psalm:

O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue,
and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
but who honor those who fear the Lord;
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest,
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Now, most the time when we hear this Psalm used, it is simply the first couple of lines;

O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right

That is fine, but it is also incomplete. The Psalm goes on to list a lot of things that define those “who may abide” in God’s tent or “dwell on” his holy hill.

  • speak the truth
  • do not make false or damaging statements about people (“slander”)
  • do no evil to their friends
  • take up disappointment or disapproval of their neighbours (“reproach”)
  • despise “the wicked” and honour people who “fear the Lord”
  • keep their promises even when it hurts them personally to do so
  • do not gain interest when lending money
  • do not take bribes to mistreat people who are innocent

That is a pretty impressive list … and also one that each and every one of us fail at every single day. While many days we may not knowingly make a false statement about someone, we frequently make damaging statements. We also are very often disappointed or disapprove of our “neighbours” – if you don’t think you do, remember the question asked of Jesus, “But, who is my neighbour?”.

Even if we don’t do that very often, we would definitely struggle with keeping a promise when it personally hurts us, and lending money in order to obtain interest is at the very centre of our economy; it’s how the stock market, our retirement savings, and even daily banking and investment works.

The bible is not a simple series of pithy statements that we can spout off to order our lives. The bible is to be wrestled with. It constantly challenges us and moves us in ways we are not expecting. It disturbs the life of people who feel “in control” and offers a “solid rock” to people who feel pulled under by the waves of chaos.

It can do all this things at once and will never let you think you have it figured out or have a “manual” for a Godly life. It’s not a book that can be tamed because it tells the story of a God who refuses to be tamed or reduced to series of statements.

The bible is wild and disruptive.

And whenever it doesn’t seem to be disrupting my life, all I need to do is read a bit more …

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