Saturday, 27 May 2017

Shaped by the Story (5): The Main Role

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s a lightly edited re-run of a piece first written in 2012.

Give praise to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing of him, sing his praises;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
Psalm 105:1-6

Like other passages which tell the biblical story, Psalm 105 reiterates God’s own place in the drama. Clearly, his role is not merely that of the playwright, much less that of a spectator in the audience. As it happens, not only is he the main actor, the central character on stage, but he also has the most significant speaking part. In taking us from Abraham to Canaan, the psalmist does not simply recite the events, but attributes them to the initiative and promise of the Lord. And we, ‘his chosen ones’, are called to remember both ‘the wonders he has done’ and ‘the judgments he pronounced’, words as well as works.

Moreover, God’s saving work is effective for subsequent generations, and the summons to remember connects us to the events no less than the original audience. So, we too are not spectators in the audience, but called to be involved in the action, to take our place in the ongoing drama of salvation.

Just one of the ways we do that, exemplified by the psalm itself, is through praise. Interestingly, the first part of the psalm is drawn from 1 Chronicles 16, where it is sung in celebration of the arrival of the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. Beyond its use on that special occasion, it continues to be sung by God’s people, showing that more than a mental act reciting the biblical story is taking place. In poetic praise of God’s covenant faithfulness, God's ‘chosen ones’ of every time and place are invited to recount and remember, then respond in celebration and praise.

Crucially, however, we do so to ‘make known among the nations what he has done’ (105:1) – another reminder of the global dimensions of the biblical drama of which we are a part. Confident that God will bring to complete fruition his promise to bless all nations, we praise the Lord and proclaim his name not to benefit ourselves, but to make known his works and words to all people everywhere.

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