Re: Psalm 137 and God's ethics

Date: Wed Jul 03 2002 - 18:49:51 EDT

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    Jay Willingham wrote:

    > Certainly Babylon of Psalm 137 qualified as a wicked nation.
    > How can God, who is love, decree such things? Perhaps the question is
    > more properly who are we to question his sovereign will.
    > We too often impress our delicate human sensitivities upon a Holy God.
    > Where we see the surface only, he sees the heart. He also sees all time
    > like a table, a created thing lying before him complete from its
    > creation to the passing away of time itself. The images of people under
    > the full wrath of God set forth in Revelation does not draw a
    > distinction between babes in arms and adults.

    At the time of the writing of Psalm 137, certainly Babylon
    was very powerful in the Middle East. However, at the time
    of the writing of Revelations, everyone in the Middle East
    was under the boot of Rome and prior to the under the Greeks.
    In fact, the international language of the time was Greek not
    Italian, so the influence of the Greeks left far more impact
    on the world of that time than even Rome. So I would first
    argue that "Babylon" is strictly a symbolic reference to a
    source of unabated oppression and wanton corruption of mind
    and spirit. It has real dimensions of the time (i.e., Rome),
    but its lasting impact lies in its poetic imagery.

    As to Psalm 137, I defer to the real scholars on this list,
    but I'll go out a little here and say that I wouldn't be
    surpassed if verse 9 could be taken on the one hand as a
    description of the author's wish but may also have simply meant
    "defeat". War has always been cruel, and that kind of cruelty
    was common at that time. So if you wanted to describe the
    image of "utter defeat", this might be something you would
    come up with in circa 550 BC.

    After all, we have expressions like so and so "is gonna
    really kick your ass". So 2500 years from now, should I
    expert people of the future to read these expressions and
    think that the boss really does physically kick people in
    the behind? Likewise, I don't really think anyone _actually_
    wants to see a soccer team "totally destroyed" (I hope).
    "Defeated" yes, but "killed", most certainly not. How about
    my earlier expression about "being under the boot"?

    So I don't think this is a matter of "who are we to question
    God", nor do I think we should say "how could a loving God
    desire such a thing?". At most, it should be a chilling
    reminder of what a nation deserves for disobedience and
    rebellion against the Lord. But if we desire repentance
    of a nation, we would have to put that in God's hands,
    because only God can find a way to turn the hearts of a
    people to genuine repentance.

    by Grace alone we proceed,

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