Sunday, August 27, 2006

Psalm 16 (Year B, Proper 16; 12 Pentecost)


The lectionary presents us with Psalm 16 for consideration today. There are many fascinating riches here, not least of which is v. 5, "LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure" (NAB).

The psalmist is describing the beauty of his spiritual inheritance using the imagery of land inheritance in Israel. At the settlement of the land, the LORD gave each family-line a permanent homestead within the promised land, the specific portion determined by sacred lottery (cf. Joshua 14:1; 19:51). The homestead provided stability and prosperity, a secure destiny. Naturally, the lottery was kinder to some familes, who were "luckier" than others.

The psalmist considers it very "lucky" to have the LORD as a direct source of this sort of stability and security. But beyond this, v. 5 suggests that it's not just chance or luck that landed the psalmist in this blessed state. God's fingers are somehow in the lottery! "You hold my lot" (NRSV).

God is at work to secure God’s servants’ destinies, but often behind the scenes, in a patient way that respects human choices and natural processes. God does not normally do this sort of work through miracles or magic, and, tragically, there are apparently some very real limits to what is possible, even for God. Nevertheless, the world is apparently a supple and flexible medium, where divine providence may operate in hidden, beautiful ways.

As always, reflections and comments are welcome.

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