Years ago, when I was a child and TV was young, there was a game show called, “To Tell the Truth.” Three people claimed to be the same person. The object of the game was for contestants to determine who was lying and who was telling the truth. At the end of the show the moderator said, “Will the real ‘John Doe’ please stand up.”
I thought about this game show as I read commentaries on Psalm 68. The psalm begins with, “Let God arise,” but who this God is, is a mystery.
The psalm is a composite of different forms making it difficult to classify. Some describe the psalm as a collection of songs or fragments strung together. No surprise then that God would appear with different features in each fragment. Others say the psalm is a processional hymn celebrating God. Each section is a chorus depicting diverse aspects of God.
God is seen as destroyer, “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before fire, let the wicked perish before God!” (2); as protector, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (3); warrior, “The Lord gives the command; great is the host of those who bore the tidings: ‘The kings of armies, they flee, they flee!’” (11); savior, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation; and to God the Lord, belongs escape from death.” (19-20); and one to be worshipped, “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord.” (32) Each represents aspects of God that lead me to question: Will the real God please stand up?
I recently read the following quote by Melissa Studdard, poet and author, “God is a mother, who, looking at her imperfect world, believes it to be perfect. She has the power and benevolence to change it. She just doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with it.” Yes, there are problems with this quote. As a mother, much as I love my children, I’m able to see their failings and weaknesses as they are able to see mine now that they are grown. But I love the idea that God is crazy in love with all creation, including us fallible human beings. Her statement doesn’t sum up the totality of all that is God, but does reflect one facet of God.
While some reading this psalm and other parts of Scripture may question how God can one minute be tender and full of compassion, and other times a God of vengeance wreaking terror upon those who oppose him, this was not a problem for the early Hebrew community.
Our God is multi-faceted; he can’t be relegated to one way of being. No matter how hard we might try, we can’t quite put our finger on the totality that is our God. Our unchanging God takes on different aspects when faced with different circumstances, while still being one, unchanging, loving and compassionate.
I’m glad God remains a mystery until that day that when we meet God face to face and ask, with the writer of this psalm, “Let God arise.”
What are some of the ways that you see God?
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