Acts of courage


Psalm 111

File:Auguste Bigand - Visage capuchonné.jpg

Auguste Bigand, Visage capuchonné (A cloaked figure)

1 Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

It’s not the most creative of the psalms. One study Bible I possess describes it as rather pedantic, as if it were a student’s exercise to write a brief acrostic that he then fills with conventional aphorisms. It doesn’t have the majesty of Psalm 145 or the indomitable will of the 176 verses of Psalm 119. It doesn’t have the passionate intensity of the acrostic poems of Lamentations or the imagery of Psalm 34.

And yet…

Artur Weiser, normally quite generous with his praise of the depth of faith in the psalms, describes the verses as “a string of unmatched pearls, in the form of general propositions, and without any very systematic arrangement.” (The Psalms: A Commentary, OTL, Philadelphia:Westminster, 1962, p. 698) He blames the form as “not conducive to a consistent thought-sequence.” But the problem is not the form.  Other poets – like the author of Lamentations – have mastered it brilliantly.

This is not brilliant. Any yet…

There are times that platitudes are no more than platitudes, cheap and easy slogans that require no effort and challenge little. But there are also times that such platitudes are the thin handholds of the desperate. “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” is a cheap knock-off when spoken by the well fed and well heeled. But it is a rock in a weary land to those who are at life’s edge.

So I will not dismiss this psalm so easily. I do not know whether the poet sat in a classroom or at the edge of desperation. I do know that simple phrases like “Praise the Lord!” are words not always easily spoken. They are, at times, acts of great courage.


Auguste Bigand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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