Psalm 45:1–9; Job 9; Romans 14:1–12

Originally published 4/7/2017. Revised and updated 4/6/2019.

Psalm 45:1–9: The superscription of this psalm indicates its unique within the psalmic corpus: it is “a song of love.” Unlike other psalms, it opens with the psalmist, who appears to be the court poet, interjecting a personal note by effectively introducing himself to the reader and telling us just how skilled he is:
My heart is astir with a goodly word.
I speak what I’ve made to the king.
My tongue is the pen of a rapid scribe. (2)

He then moves quickly into unctuous flattery of his patron, presumably the king.
You are the loveliest of the sons of man,
grace flows from your lips.
Therefore has God blessed you forever. (3)

Notice the deuteronomic assumption: a man who is good is blessed by God. Our poet continues in this rather syrupy vein by praising his king’s military might both in actuality and metaphorically as he describes the king’s outstanding leadership qualities:
Gird your sword on your thigh, O warrior,
your glory and grandeur.
And in your grandeur pass onward,
mount on a word of truth, humility and justice,
and let your right hand shoot forth terrors,…
…into the heart of the king’s enemies. (4-6)

Then the psalmist comes right out and says it: The king possesses the same wonderful qualities as God himself and that’s the reason he sits on the throne:
Your throne of God is forevermore.
A scepter of right, your kingship’s scepter.
You loved justice and hated evil. (7,8)

Because of these excellent qualities, the king apparently (or at least in the eyes of our poet) has God’s full approval and blessing:
Therefore did God your God anoint you
with oil of joy over your fellows.” (9)

Now that we know the king is anointed effectively by God, our poet will continue with his fawning paean as he goes on in later verses to describe the wonders of the king’s clothes and his “ivory palaces.”

Well, perhaps I am being too harsh. After the agony of the preceding psalm, it’s actually quite nice to enjoy a sunny, even if over-the-top poetic interlude.

Job 9: Job replies to Bildad’s theology that God loves the pure and Job or his children must have gone astray to cause Job to be impure before God—and therefore suffering. Job is buying none of it. He poses the question that remained unanswered until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Indeed I know that this is so;
    but how can a mortal be just before God?” (1)

As we know, none of us can be justified before God on our own power.  Job makes it clear that God is God. Therefore, in the end fighting God is a hopeless cause:
If one wished to contend with him,
    one could not answer him once in a thousand.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—” (3,4)

As he describes God’s ultimately unknowability by mere humans, Job says something—if we are honest with ourselves—that we have all thought at some point. God is unapproachable. God’s mercy is our only hope:
How then can I answer him,
    choosing my words with him?
Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him;
    I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.” (14, 15)

Job then offers an insight into the nature of God that we really do not want to admit. But when bad things happen for no apparent reason, it seems to be the only explanation. We easily conclude with Job that God really does not give a rip about us:
It is all one; therefore I say,
    he destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
When disaster brings sudden death,
    he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.” (22, 23)

The earth is a fallen, evil place—God’s marvelous creation gone awry. Therefore, Job argues, God is not about to leap in and help us. In fact, Job accuses God of allowing this evil state of affairs to exist.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
    he covers the eyes of its judges—” (24)

Wow. These are dark statements: God “mocks the calamity of the innocent” and “the earth is given into the hand of the wicked.” Yet, if we are honest with ourselves there’s no question that what we’ve often thought about God, Job has had the courage to utter aloud.

Job decisively rejects Bildad’s assertion that if we are just happy before God then all will be well:
If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint;
    I will put off my sad countenance and be of good cheer,’
I become afraid of all my suffering,
    for I know you will not hold me innocent.” (27, 28)

As far as Job is concerned, he stands condemned before unknowable and arbitrary God because God is God and humans are not. The underlying theme here is that God views his creatures, if he views them at all, as mere playthings to be trifled with. Clearly, there is nothing new about 21st century cynicism regarding the nature of a distant and even cruel God. It is all right here.

In the final words of the chapter, Job’s only hope us that he could approach God without fear but only if he would become approachable. Once again, we are reminded that it is Jesus who speaks to God on our behalf.
If he would take his rod away from me,
    and not let dread of him terrify me,
then I would speak without fear of him,

    for I know I am not what I am thought to be.” (35)

What sad hopeless words: “for I know I am not what I am thought to be.” And yet, in Job’s suffering all pretenses are stripped away. We have to accept that Job is speaking the truth.  And in our own suffering we realize we are far less consequential and wonderful than what our self-image conceived us to be. Suffering forces brutal honesty to the surface.

Romans 14:1–12: Paul focuses on our tendency to judge others when we feel judged: “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat” (3) As far as God is concerned, both sides are welcome before him. In other words, there are differences in the church due to the different natures and attitudes of each individual in the church.  Paul phrases these opposing attitudes nicely: “Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike.” (5) We all have different outlooks and Paul is basically telling us, “Deal with it” and/or “Roll with the punches.”

The reason for accepting the quirks and annoyances of others is really quite simple. To put it as Oswald Chamber might, if we have truly abandoned ourselves to Christ we are no longer our own persons. We no longer operate under the illusion that we are in control of our own actions, never mind our own destinies. Rather, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord...” (7,8)

And be careful, Paul warns. We are accountable for our actions before God. As we judge others so shall we eventually be judged by God: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (10) In short, it’s not worth it to judge others. God has a very long memory of what we do and who we judge.

As the last line of this passage reminds us, we are responsible for our own actions—and our own judgements: So then, each of us will be accountable to God. (12)

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