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The Book of Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible. Eugene Peterson says that it provides us with the language for prayer: our responding to the God who speaks to us. “Prayer is not just what good people do and say when they’re doing their best. It’s the language by which we become honest, true, and personal in our response to God. It is the means by which we get everything in our lives out in the open before God.”
First Testament Scholar Walter Brueggemann writes of Psalm 96 noticing its close connection to Psalm 29. Both are likely a song (psalm) written and commissioned for a new enthronement, inauguration or coronation. It’s a new song that sings of a new God who has not been known in this way for these people until now. So there must be new music to match the new reality of liberation, justice, and hope.
The first nine verses tell us of this celebration that the future belongs to the God of the Bible, not the feeble idols, who are in fact agents of Chaos. This new social reality is happening not just in heaven, but right here on earth, among us.
The remainder of the Psalm (verses 10-13) tell of what the new leadership of Yahweh brings: a reliable, equitable, just order to creation. It’s a new reality for the people of God, the peoples of the earth (the nations), and even creation itself (the sea, the fields, the trees).
This psalm celebrates in the face of the old order still present to us, an order of injustice and faithlessness. But that old order is an order which in fact has no serious claim to make. The liturgy is the beginning of the dismantling of that order.”
(Walter Bruggemann. The Message of the Psalms. pp. 144-146.)
Today many of us feel exhausted by the pandemic, needed change in our society, and the uncertain future. This psalm is a proclamation that God is at loose in the world, already bringing a new reality into place. It’s hard for us to claim and thrive into that vision as we seek to survive in this time of problems that seem to have no foreseeable solutions.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation