They have voided your Torah: Monster-Psalm Meditation #16

Psalm 119:121-128

I have done what is just and right;
   do not leave me to my oppressors.
Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
   do not let the godless oppress me.
My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
   and for the fulfilment of your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
   and teach me your statutes.
I am your servant; give me understanding,
   so that I may know your decrees.
It is time for the Lord to act;
   they have voided your Torah.
Truly I love your commandments
   more than gold, more than fine gold.
Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts;
   I hate every false way.

In this section of Psalm 119, it was verse 126 that got my attention, “It is time for the Lord to act; they have voided your Torah.” Perhaps no other line better captures the basic rage that I have felt in my heart for many years watching as people who call themselves Christian act the opposite of Christian and destroy any semblance of credibility our faith has with reasonable people. It is time for the Lord to act! I cannot write that phrase emphatically enough, watching what Christianity has become. It wouldn’t hurt so badly if it weren’t people who  claim the name of my Master who seem to most relish the battlefields of our post-truth world in which the loudest ideology wins regardless of whether it has any correspondence with reality.

As an evangelical Christian, I’ve seen so many circumstances in which my fellow evangelicals use the Bible cynically as a tool for consolidating their own power and affirming themselves in self-righteousness. They would always say that their only investment was in defending the Bible, but the word “Biblical” long ago stopped being about all the words that appear between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. It has come to mean taking stances on particular issues (especially anything involving sex) that are perceived to be politically incorrect and offensive to “liberals” as the result of a perverse interpretation of what it means when Jesus says, “The world will hate you because you’re my disciples.” Certainly, the truth of Christ is offensive to the world, but that doesn’t mean that whatever is offensive must be true.

For example, it’s “Biblical” to deny the existence of global warming, not because the Bible advocates drilling for oil in the rainforest and actually not because there’s any kind of organized conspiracy between the owners of the factories that want to pollute the air and grassroots fundamentalists, but simply because global warming is a “liberal cause” and therefore the Bible must be saying the opposite. I don’t think there’s a better application of the two Hebrew words heferu toratecha (“They have voided your Torah”) then this perverse misuse of the word “Biblical.” The fact that fundamentalist Christianity has become the loudest voice in Christianity makes me want to tear my clothes and pour ashes on my head and say over and over again, “It’s time for You to act, O Lord!”

Of course, my own perspective is derived in my upbringing in a moderately conservative Southern Baptist family in the midst of the fundamentalist takeover of our denomination at the dawn of the Reagan Age. It is hard to transcend my upbringing and recognize that people who grew up during the social upheaval of the Sixties for example probably come to very different conclusions about who is voiding God’s Torah and why. For that matter, the original fundamentalists of the 1920’s certainly felt that the historical-critical Biblical scholars of that time were voiding God’s Torah by asking questions that undermined the Bible’s authority.

Perhaps right now, we are living through the disgusted overreaction of one generation against the excesses of the hippies while 2020-2050 will see people in my generation living in reaction to the excesses of the ideologues of our era. I’ve often wondered if the way that God “acts” in response to the voiding of His Torah is through the back-and-forth pendulum swings of subsequent generations in human history. I’m really trying to step out of my own reactionary tendencies and simply “hate every false way,” as the psalmist says in verse 128. I certainly don’t want to void the Torah in the opposite direction that other people are doing it.

I just want for God to win. I know that I’m supposed to trust that He will eventually. I’m better at believing that some days than other days. But I also wonder if the way that He chooses to act in history is to engrave the mantra of Psalm 119:126 into the hearts of His people: It’s time for the Lord to act; they have voided Your Torah.

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