Leader The so-called "historical-critical" method used by Biblical scholars is perhaps defined most simply as "the sum of the techniques which are currently used to read and study a document or book, whether ancient or modern." It is not something particularly esoteric or limited to Biblical study. Whether we realize it or not, we all learned some of the basic principles when we took literature classes in school. Children and college students continue to learn these methods, whatever name may be given to them. God chose to give us His Word in the form of a collection of ancient documents. It is only proper that we use the best tools we have to study this ancient book, and that means historical tools. Of course, the Bible is not only a book written by men, but it also brings us the word of God. We therefore need more than only the best historical methods to hear it fully. We must also approach it with faith, for only faith can receive God's Good News. The two go together, a method by which we can come to understand this uniquely authoritative book, and the faith to take it to heart. (For a fuller development of this thought, see Carl Graesser, "The Promise and the Bible," Currents in Theology and Mission, Volume I, 1 (August, 1974), pp. 4-23. Pastor will have a copy of this. The present series of lessons will deal with just one of these techniques, namely, the study of form (genre analysis). We shall do this in connection with the Psalms, where form study has proven to be especially fruitful. It is so important in Psalms study today that many books on the Psalms use as their organizing principle the Forms of the Psalms! One such book which would prove most valuable to a leader or learner in this unit, or provide a supplement for later study, is a paperback, Bernard W. Anderson, Out of the Depths (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), $3.50. The objectives of this unit may be stated formally as follows: Those participating in this study will grow in their: Understanding of a) the contents of the Psalter and the faith of the psalmists b) the worship life of ancient Israelites. Skill in a) reading the psalms against the backdrop of the life of these people b) discerning some of the forms and formulas used in the Psalms c) applying the psalms to our own lives.

Appreciation of a) the Psalter's resources for worship together and individually b) the value of form study for interpreting the Scriptures. The First Lesson The lesson is basically laid out in two parts. First it will be wise to try to understand what form and form study is. Then the class can move on to the study of the form "Hymn" in the psalter. As leader you can begin by quickly laying out the goal of the lessons. It may also be a service to spend a couple of minutes trying to deal with any misconceptions the class may have of the term "criticism" as it is used in form-criticism, literary criticism, historical-criticism. See the class guide for the Webster definition! The term is not only neutral, it is a good word. It comes from the Greek, krisis, "judgment." Criticism is the process of making judgments, decisions. It means thinking carefully, using all the brainpower and ability God has given to understand the text. When it is put that way, how can a Christian dare NOT to be "critical" when reading the Bible. Don't we owe this task the very best of everything God has given us? In these lessons the term "form study" will be used rather than "form-criticism." You may find it useful to help the class to define the word "criticism"- correctly and then practice using it without a negative connotation! Introduction: Just what is a Form, anyway? In this first half of the lesson the class should come to understand in a general way what a form is, how it develops, and to understand that our language is filled with forms and formulas. It will not take long to do this. We are all really form-critics today, whether we know it or not The leader should take time to be sure he understands the "big three" of form, setting, purpose. Memorize the definition. Work through the four examples, then find some of your own examples and analyze the form, settin , purpose. It will not take you long to do this, and ten you will be ready to lead the class into this rather enjoyable technique of analyzing language! A form is a pattern. Take a telephone conversation. 1. Greeting: "Hello/Hi/Good Morning." 2. Identification. "This is John speaking." 3. Body: (Main conversation.) 4. Conclusion: "Goodbye/See you later/So long," etc. . .


The ideas form a pattern. The order is pretty much inflexible. You don't begin by saying (goodbye! You don't identify yourself after the Body of Conversation! Why do telephone conversations exhibit this pattern, or form? Because it is a setting (Telephone Conversation) which happens over and over and over again, with many within the community. And the needs and purposes are the same!--and so with the same purpose in the same setting there is a pattern/form of speech which develops. Soon people feel this form is the "right" way to do it. And of course, it is, at least it accomplishes the purposes, needs that we all have in such a setting. 1. The Greeting initiates the conversation. 2. The identification makes meaningful conversation possible, we know to whom we are talking. 3. The body is of course the main business! 4. The conclusion terminates the conversation and does it in a way which keeps the conversants on good terms. (Ever try simply hanging up, without saying goodbye? People know the form for telephone conversation, and you do too! That's no way to do it. If you "break" the form, it means something is wrong! Anger? Sickness? What? It takes a form-critic both to know to say goodbye, and to know that that means all is well.) This analysis is just another example of one of the many forms that we instinctively use in our life and conversation together. Most classes find that it is fun to take a situation they never thought of and analyse it It is amazing to see the nuances of emotion and feeling which are involved in certain forms and using them "correctly." 1. These formulas will show anyone how a word or two will suddenly conjure up a setting or situation. Be sure they get that point. Just a phrase--and you're in the grandstands, or at church, at a very specific moment, too--just having unsuccessfully slid into 2nd, finished a prayer, etc. 2. "Preaching," a sermon, is hortatory, It uses verbs like "you should," "we ought," "let us." It uses imperatives, "Go and..." It uses rhetorical questions, "Shouldn't we..." Its content is hortatory, attempting to lead to a certain kind of action. Mother preaches, "Now you should get up early and make your bed and pick up your clothes. Then eat a good breakfast and get off to school on time...." 3. Once a form has developed, the society teaches the next generation the "proper" form so that children can be accepted and act acceptably. Form for Letter: Address of writer: purpose--to give correspondent the address to which to respond. Date: to locate this in the time span. Address of correspondent: to identify the person addressed. Salutation: to initiate conversation, and to indicate the relationship (Dear vs. Dearest, for example). Body of letter: to accomplish the business! Concluding salutation: to express feelings toward correspondent (Sincerely yours, vs. As ever, vs. Always, etc.). Signature: to identify the person writing.


4. Here is a chance to have some real fun! You can examine cartoons for awhile and find examples that are superb. The humor often comes when the setting is shifted ever so little--so that the formula known to fit so well in one setting seems somewhat incongruous in the new setting. The boy is concluding his prayers, uses a formula for conclusion of news broadcast--and the purpose is clear, too--reviewing the high points, so that God will get the message! (originally that the audience would get the News.) "Harrison B. Endicott speaking" is a formula from a phone conversation, initiating the call and identifying the speaker. The wealthy man is initiating prayer, or conversation with God. The setting is shifted ever so slightly, and incongruously. Try your own examples. This is most effective when you can show the cartoon picture itself. form, setti ng, But why bother with all of this form, setting, purpose? Well, a study of cartoons, and the formulas we've just seen shows how much can be packed into words and phrases that simply cannot be found in the dictionary! Every language has this, no less the language and culture of the Bible. The writers of the Bible used forms, consciously and unconsciously. The original readers of the Bible, the Israelites for whom the Bible was written, "heard" those forms too, consciously and unconsciously! If we want to read the Bible in its fullness, "hearing" all that the sacred writers wrote and the readers "heard," we will want to know more of the forms they were using. We can never recover all the nuances or all the forms, but we can discover some and often they are very helpful. The Hymn Stress the fact that "hymn" is used in form study with a special definition, not broadly, as today. Understanding will probably come most quickly if you go immediately to Example 1 and illustrate and discuss the form of the Hymn on the basis of the example. You will probably not have time to take all the examples. The leader should work through the examples and decide which are best for his teaching and for the learning and interest of this particular group. Verse-by-verse reading is not at all necessary after Psalm 117. Snatches and parts will be enough to illustrate the form. The leader can judge best whether it will be most helpful to cover more psalms quickly, or to go into depth with fewer psalms. Example 1. Psalm 117 Verse 1 is Introductory Call to Praise, v. 2 is the Body of praise, up to the words "for ever." The Conclusion is "Praise the Lord!"

The introductory call to praise may be addressed to the psalmist himself (Oh, my soul, Praise), to the fellow worshipers (Oh, sons of Israel), nature (Oh, stars above), or the world (Oh, all nations). In short, it is not necessary for the addressees to be physically present. In spirit, the whole world and all nature stands before God in warship, and the psalmists can address anyone or anything in the universe to render what is due to the Lord. "For" or "therefore" are key words. They introduce the reason. They connect and show the logical relationship. They are important words wherever found. The Body of Hymns often begins with "for" and this should be duly noted. Yes, this "steadfast love" (RSV) of God may fairly be called the central all-encompassing attribute of God. It is in fact the covenant love of God. It not only stressed God's good and loving disposition toward man, but also that he oan be counted on to have this loving disposition. It reminds us of God's promise to be gracious (in Jesus Christ, we Christians would add in the light of God's full revelation). Let none say the God of the OT is an angry god! Here is the God and Father we know in Jesus Christ, sola gratia, all depends on His promise and grace! If some wish to study hymns further, a most interesting study is of the reasons for praising God given in the Body of hymns. See the hymns listed in Example 7. Overall, this gives a good picture of how the Psalmists viewed God! 'Be sure all know the meaning of the formula, Hallelujah! Example 2. The two most common reasons for praise listed in the Body of Hymns are creation and historical deeds of God. These two psalms, probably set together by the compiler, exhibit this one-two punoh: Raise the Creator and the Lord of History. It is useful to point out the parallel in our Creed: Creator God--Article I; Lord of history--especially the history of Jesus' life, death, resurrection--Article II. You need not spend long with these psalms. You can in a minute or two let the class "analyze" the hymns--that is find the calls to praise in introduction 104:1a, 105:1-6, and at the conclusion, 104:35b, 105:45b. (104:31-35a has a concluding prayer inserted. This is not common in hymns, but is an example of how forms are flexible and at times psalmists add elements.) Example 3. Here is another example of the flexibility of forms. The first half of all these verses can be taken to form a perfectly good hymn. With Introductory call in verses 103, Body in verses 4-25, and Conclusion in v. 26. But each verse is expanded with the phrase, "for his steadfast Love endures forever." It is hard to avoid the hunch that this refrain was


repeated by a choir or the congregation, just as we sometimes read the psalms antiphonally in our congregational worship! You can note how the RSV has divided the hymn according to the parts discovered by form study! Note, too, that the body is divided into three "paragraphs," creation, history, continued care. Example 4. Every verse begins with "praise" and there is virtually no reason for praise given in the whole psalm (except in v. 2)! The entire psalm is a Call to praise, part I of the Hymn form. A compiler has placed it at the end of the Psalter, to serve as a conclusion, in a sense treating the entire psalter as if it were a Hymn! Thus the Psalm beoomes a "concluding Call for Praise." Example 5. It is fun, and usually a surprise, to find that you can analyse the hymns we've sung lustily also! And some show the pattern of "Hymn." Hymn 14. Stanza 1 is Introductory Call, 2 is Body, 3 is concluding Call, 4 is another Body, 5 is concluding doxology or call to praise. Hymn 15 would appear to be fundamentally a call to praise (like Psalm 150) especially if you remember that Alleluia means "Praise the Lord." Or one could analyse the first line of stanza 2 as the body, and the rest as introductory call and concluding call to praise. Hymn 475 is one long series of Calls to praise. Stanza 1 calls on the angelic beings, Stanza 2 calls on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Stanza 3 calls on the departed souls, Stanza 4 on fellow worshipers. The "common doxology" which we know so well functions as a concluding Call to praise in Hymn 558. It functions the same way when we use it to close our service--treating the whole service as a hymn of praise, as it were. Example 6. The compiler of the oracles of Amos (could have been Amos himself!) apparently bracketed some of the oracles with snatches of what may have been stanzas of a Hymn of praise. It is impossible to determine all the reasons for putting them in just where he did. In general however, they add grandeur to the oracles, stressing the power and majesty of their ultimate author, the Mighty Creator. This shows one more variation of how Hymn material has been used in the Old Testament. Example 7. Example 7 lists a series of Hymns. One which is short and very clear is Hymn 100. This might be a most useful short example for the class to study. See paragraph below for analysis. Setting. The Hymns of praise are really quite general. The call to others to worship clearly suggests that their setting was community worship in the temple. It is difficult to tie down the specific point of worship more precisely. No doubt hymns were written in general terms also that they might be used at many points in the service! Ask the class to speculate


when the hymns would fit in Temple worship. Where would they fit in our own worship? Indeed, where are the points when we use hymns of praise? At the beginning of worship, at the conolusion, and sometimes in response to a lesson or sermon announcing God's good deeds for us. We also use them on certain occasions, when we celebrate the great good deeds of God, Christmas, Easter, and so forth. Psalm 100 would seem to be a hymn used at the beginning of worship, perhaps as the congregation processed to the gate of the courts of the temple. 1-2 are the introduotory call to worship, with a call to enter in v. 2 V. 3 is formally an exhortation (it begins with an imperative!) but it serves as the body of the hymn, giving the reasons for praise. V. 4 is a call to enter again. V. 5 is that verse we've seen so often, a reason for praise.
Discussion. The class could at this point fruitfully discuss how they believe Hymns of praise could be used more fruitfully in their lives--in community worship or individually. Praying this Week. It is suggested that in prayers and private devotions the class think about the form "Hymn" this week and then come to share some of their thoughts at the next meeting. Are there aspects of the Hymn that are helpful in individual prayer? Are there parts that are only suited for corporate worship? Personal witness and responses here could prove to be very valuable for the class. Writing "hymns" should be encouraged. Conclusion. We suggest the class conclude its session by praying together a hymn of their own composition. This is an easily understood worship device and could be used by any group. Organize and explain how the class will do this first, and then the group can simply conclude with praise! Let each contribute a verse or two. A few calls such as "Oh, brothers and sisters, Praise..." A number of reasons, "For he speaks when we call upon him," "For he supplies our every need...," and ooncluding call for praise: "Yea, praise him Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists all."....


LEADER's GUIDE II. LAMENT INTRODUCTION: The Student's sheet suggests beginning with sharing reflections on how the "hymn" form enriched devotions during the past week. The Leader may decide that this is not the best point in the lesson. to take up this matter. It should be noted that whenever the discussion of how a knowledge of these forms can enrich our worship is scheduled, and whether it takes place a week later or immediately in the lesson, covering that form, such discussions are vital, and probably the most significant manner in which these studies will benefit the class. Make the most of them. They need not take a large portion of calsstime. Most likely a brief review on what form study is will be useful to most, and even crucial for any newcomers who did not participate in the last lesson. Prepare your analysis of some form. If you have given previous thought, you can then better lead their discussion. A blackboard is useful if not absolutely essential for helping the olass set any pattern in mind! The analysis of telephone conversation in the previous Leader's Guide may be useful. It will surely be fun and perhaps especially insightful to analyze the form of "Bible Class" (or whatever name your group study goes under!) The point of all this is to help the group to think form study-wise, to look for a pattern in a setting which accomplishes the purposes of those involved. The Form Lament The names used in form study are often really not the best! Yet they are kept because they have come into current usage. This form could easily be called "petition", "plea", etc. In any case, the two parts "petition" and "lament" are the crucial ones; either could give its name to the whole form. Keep in mind that some forms are quite flexible. Flexibility is difficult in the hymn, by the nature of the oase. A concluding call to praise could hardly precede the body, nor an introduction conclude the Hymn! The lament is more flexible. Lament and petition may come first or last, or they may be intertwined, or be repeated over and over. This is not surprising and should be expected. Certain elements are not essential and may be omitted, others are crucial and always present. The student's guide lays out the parts of the lament and purposes in some detail. It is done in schematic form for reference again and again. Probably it will be best NOT to study


this first in a vacuum, but rather in connection with a Psalm, as Psalm 13. The leader may first read off the 6 parts, as a list, and then the words in brackets--reading them together as if they formed a complete Psalm, for they exhibit in shortest form the essentials of a full Lament. Example 1. The Introductory address is usually short, "0 God/Lord." if all in the class are not aware of the meaning of LORD with oapital letters, it is useful to point this out. This is used when God's personal name in the Old Testament is in the text as "Yahweh." The English translations (most but not all) translate this "Lord" in imitation of the Rabbinic Jewish practice of avoiding the pronunciation of God's name, Yahweh, and substitute of the title "Lord" instead. The avoidance of pronouncing "Yahweh" is a late practice, coming when there was a heightened reverence toward God's name. It also was a way of keeping the letter of the seoond commandment. If you never used God's name, you oouldn't possibly abuse it by "taking it in vain"! Sometimes the text makes more sense when one remembers that LORD/Yahweh is a proper name, as Ex. 15:3. The laments which describe the psalmist's problem often begin with "Why" or "How Long?" These are also used in ancient Babylonian laments. A common plight of mankind! What really does this psalmist suffer from? It is likely that the class will not agree exactly, a good sign that the lament is purposefully vague, so that many could use the psalm--and we can too. Note how trouble in the life of the psalmist is immediately traced to God, for He controls all things that happen. No "Death of God theology" here! 3 suggests that illness/death is the problem. But that may be metaphorical, 'pain in soul" "sorrow in my heart" of v 2 are very vague! A man in misfortune or sickness was often assumed by others to be a sinner, undergoing God's punishment. A man's enemies could take delight in this. The three imperatives in v 3 are the petitions, "consider, answer, lighten." Is this "lightening of eyes" literally continued sight? Lengthening of life? It would appear to refer to physical death, yet note that v 4 calls this "being shaken," a rather mild description if it really is physical death. The point is that there is so much picture language one must allow for variety of interpretation, as there probably was already among the temple worshipers! But as vague as the description is, the reality of the trouble is not in question, nor the fact that God was in control and the one to whom one must flee for aid.


Three motives are urged by the psalmist. You ought to do this God, or else look what will happen. "I will die." "My enemy will say 'I've won.' "My foes can rejoice." (Let the olass discuss just why the psalmist believes these three motives will urge and lead God to answer positively.) The first appeals to God's pity. The second two may be said to appeal to His sense of justice, or even pride. The psalmist is God's pious man. Is it right for him to suffer so? Will this reflect poorly on God's justioe as one who aids His people? (This is one possibility, at least.) One does not have to look far to find the emphasis on sola gratia, on the unmerited love of God, as a central theme in the Psalms, as the source of hope and life. The psalmist does not claim that God owes him rescue. He hopes rather in the surest resource of all, God's steadfast love. Note the parallelism. Steadfast love/salvation. The one leads to the other; surely God will rescue him! The Gospel promise is at the center of this Psalmist's faith. When we pray, do we reflect on the source of our trust and encourage ourselves thereby? Hebrew verb tenses are not precisely the same as in English, and there is sometimes room for variety of translations. Let the class compare how their various translations treat this verse. All of them fit into the lament form in one way or another, either as statements of trust or as petitions. "I will sing to the Lord," v 6, is perhaps not explicitly a vow, yet a vow may be involved. In either case, the psalmist announces his intention and desire to thank God for rescue! Is there a profound change in mood between the lament of vv 1-2, "How long?" and the confidence of verses 5-6? It could be debated just how profound it is, or whether a priest actually gave an assuring oracle or blessing to the petitioner between vv 4 and 5. The ohange to confidence could be a result of his reflection on God's steadfast love. A good example for (Of course, if these verses are understood us to follow also as petition, then the change in mood is not so profound.)
Example 2. Psalm.

The address, 0 LORD, is repeated 5 times in four verses. The major lament is in verses 6-7. They graphically speak of his sleepless, sad condition. The mention of "foes" is fleeting and not very helpful for determining the precise problem.


There is also lament material in verses 2-3, whioh mention languishing, being sorely troubled, and troubled in the bones. In content, this is lament, describing his trouble. But formally, it functions as motive! It is urged as a reason why God in his pity should answer his prayer! It is a neat distinction, and an example of how the materials within a Form may be intertwined in many different ways. The mention of bones appears to be metaphorical. The petition seems in verse 4-5 to strongly suggest that sickness is the problem. It is possible that the psalmist's enemies have trumped up a charge against him which could lead to his execution. (Compare Naboth's vineyard! I Kings 21.) The question of the "enemies" in the psalms of lament has been the subject of many studies, and is worth time in a Bible class too. Many hypotheses have been developed.. Probably no single hypothesis can account for all references to enemies, and every hypothesis probably is correct in a few cases. Here are some of the suggestions: 1) the psalmist is the king, the enemies are foreign kings and peoples. 2) In the clan life of the small village, strife and gossip was common between families. When a man became sick or encountered grave misfortune, it was easy to assume this was punishment by God for sin, and the individual could be socially ostracized. 3) These may be enemies who have brought accusations against the psalmist in court. (Many psalms include a "protestation of innocence" which would suit this interpretation). 4) The "workers of iniquity" (Psalm 6:8) are people who "work magic spells." 5) The enemies are members of a different religious party. One wonders if the people who used the psalms in the temple always knew just what sort of "enemies" the original psalmist had in mind--or was he vague on purpose? These references to enemies can cause trouble for a thoughtful Christian, after our Lord's injunctions to pray for our enemies! See below under Psalm 54. Excursus: Sheol/Pit. Afterlife. One of the important de cisions the leader will have to make in this lesson is whether or not to pursue this matter at some length. The theme of death and Sheol is common in these psalms, and so is a useful object of study. This is a topic, however, which will be studied most fruitfully where the leader has gone over the ground carefully for himself. Then he can help those in the group who may find the matter somewhat of a shock or threat. It comes as a shock to many that the Old Testament texts dealing with death and afterlife do not give the same unequivocal, glorious, hopeful picture that the New Testament texts do! This of course does not call our hope for resurrection and life with God in heaven into doubt at all! Our Lord, St. Paul, St. John, and the apostles give a clear witness! This must be

emphasized! Those who read the texts dealing with Sheol and Pit will see that the Old Testament picture was not usually that of a resurrection to judgment, and then Heaven or Hell. All men, good and evil are in the one abode of the dead! Here is a case where God in his wisdom has chosen to reveal his gracious will for men not all at once, but only after the inbreaking of the new age in Jesus Christ. Praise to him! It is suggested, then, that the leader take a few minutes to look up all the passages mentioning Sheol and Pit (see a concordance for the list) before leading the class. Reading in Bible dictionaries would also be helpful, especially the one noted in the Student's Notes. Isaiah 26:19 does speak of resurrection, but of God's (thy) dead, the righteous. Daniel 12:2, presumably written in the second century BC, speaks of a resurrection to everlasting life and a resurrection to everlasting contempt quite clearly. In the New Testament the hope of resurrection is all pervasive. In the Old Testament it is not the view of most writers. This opinion may seem hard to swallow to some. Let each read for himself and conclude as he feels the text indicates. In any case, our hope for resurrection is as sure as the promise of Jesus Christ. (Psalm 73:24 may refer to a presence with God after death when God "takes" him, cf. Gen 5:24, Ps 49:15, I K 2:10. Ps. 49:15 may refer to something similar, though it may only refer to a rescue from what seemed to be certain death. These are in any case no clear passages proclaiming resurrection of all men!) Be sure to see the point of all this: it is the background to these puzzling passages which say "In Sheol, who can praise thee?" (6:8) "Do the shades rise up to praise thee?" (88:11). How does this relate to the picture of the thousands around the throne of the lamb, praising God as in Revelation 4? They really are not to be compared. They come from two different ages, deal with two different questions. The psalmist says, "If I die, I cannot come to the temple to give you praise and thanks! I cannot come and remember before the community your great rescue of me from my trouble--and I want to do that and give you your due very much, Lord!" This seems a strange argument for us! Can we pray such psalms? If we realize the glorious fuller revelation which we have, we probably can. Yet the words "who can give thee praise in Sheol" are such as we can never fully enter into! This is a matter for personal opinion and taste. Let the class express itself. To sum up, three points: The leader should work the text and the question through to be able to give aid to the group.


Rejoice in our sure hope of Resurrection! Let all respect the honest understanding that each has of these difficult texts, and be ready to learn from all!
Example 3. Psalm 54.

The superscription, giving the presumed occasion of psalm, is not original to the psalm. These superscriptions were added in the course of compiling the Psalms, and are the latest elements in the text. Verses 1-2 are petition, rather vague. Verse 5b is a very specific petition! Verse 3 is a lament. The petition of 5b suits it! Are these enemies of the country, and is the psalmist the king? (One can see how the superscription could come about.) Verse 4 is a statement of trust. 5b (and 7 too for that matter) can be read as a general statement of trust, or more specific confidence of being heard. The two parts are really close to one another, and sometimes blend together. Verse 6. This vow includes both sacrifice and thanksgiving. Ask the class if they feel at ease praying "in thy faithfulness, put an end to my enemies" (verse 5b). There are many that do feel a problem here, and there is no universal answer. To understand this, it is necessary to see the Old Testament situation. Such prayers "against" the psalmist's enemies are not uncommon. In all cases, however, it is a prayer for God, the righteous judge, to take the action, not man. And it is the justice of God that is really at stake. Today we can say, "God is just even if it is not fully clear in this life, for there does come a judgment." However, in the Old Testament there was no general belief in a judgment after death. Thus, if God was to show his justice, he had to do it in this life. When a pious person suffered this was a blot on God's justice! When the wicked prospered without punishment, one could wonder if God was, after all, just! Thus the prayer, "Put an end to my enemies" was in a sense a prayer for God to proclaim before the world that he was God and was just!
Example 4. Psalm 51.

I This shows the usual marks of the lament, but is interesting also for the manner in which all the parts are integrated about the theme of sin. The lament is a confession of guilt. The many petitions ask first for forgiveness, and then for restoration that prepares for an amended life. The vow promises to


teach sinners to repent! Return-repent: (16-17 are a reflection on the relative value of repentence and animal sacrifice, compare "I will have mercy and not sacrifice.") Verses 18-19 are probably a post-exilic addition, from a time when the walls of Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt. Verses 10-12, of course, are well known by all as the Offertory. Example 5. There are more laments even than these, but the list should be a good starter for any who wish to pursue the matter further! For Discussion. Vows? On the negative side: they can degnerate into bargaining with God, and so deny the free gift of forgiveness. They can have a tendency to a legalism which is not in the spirit of the Gospel. On the positive side: They do take seriously the fact that man should really respond to God's gracious rescue when we pray for aid! More of this in the next lesson when we take up the payment of vows and thanksgiving! Motives used in our prayer? The fatherly divine pity and mercy are still appealed to! Also, "for thy name's sake, for the sake of thy steadfast love." These same motives are specified most clearly in the directive our Lord himself gave us, "Whatever you ask the father in my name..." In him are summed up all the motives! At some point the group should share and discuss their reflections on the resources the individual parts of the lament offer for their own prayer. It can be done at the end of this lesson. It could be assigned for mulling over during the week (which is the suggestion of the Student's Guide). In either case suggest that they go down the list of items and consider how each element is reflected in their own prayer. Is there some suggestion in the laments of the Psalms for enriching their prayer?


LEADER's GUIDE III. THANKSGIVING If the group agreed in the previous meeting to reflect on the resouroes of the Lament form for personal prayer they will probably have a good bit to share with the others. It would be useful to begin with a short review of the "chief parts" of form study: form, setting, and purpose. A particularly helpful example for this lesson would be the analysis of a simple lament psalm, such as one of those listed in Example Five of the previous lesson. This review of the lament form will provide a good introduction to the thanksgiving form since the forms lament and thanksgiving are closely related. THE SETTING OF LAMENT AND THANKSGIVING In the Psalms we have only the words which Israelite worshipers used in the temple. We are not told how these words played a part in their lives as a whole, nor much about the ritual which acoompanied their reciting these words. I Samuel 1 gives an example of just what is missing with the Psalms! It tells us of the background and actions of a worshiper, how she came to offer a prayer in the sanctuary, and some of the ritual which accompanied her prayer. It would be impossible to prove that Hannah used a formal "lament psalm" and a formal "thanksgiving psalm" in her two visits to the sanctuary, but this chapter exhibits the same concerns and characteristics of lament and thanksgiving forms. It may therefore be presumed to give a reasonable idea of the baokground and setting of the lament and thanksgiving forms. I Samuel 1 is a fascinating glimpse of life in early Israel. One could easily spend much time studying it. For our purposes we study only one aspect of this chapter, and that briefly, namely how ordinary everyday people and problems are the background and setting of lament and thanksgiving forms. Hannah had a serious problem, she was childless. In this male-oriented society, child-bearing was the foremost function for women. (In the East today this is still true. This writer had a memorable experience as he carried out negotiations to rent a home in Jerusalem for a year. The landlord's wife wanted to wish the writer's wife well while living in this home. She said, "May you give birth to a son while you are living here." She could wish her nothing finer! Incidentally, this also shows the preference for boys!) First of all, Hannah made her vow at the central sanctuary at Shiloh, the "temple" of her day. It is difficult for us Christians to appreoiate fully all that the temple meant to the Old Testament faithful. They went on a pilgrimage to the


temple, the central sanctuary of the entire country, a trip of several days. We no longer ask with the Samaritan woman (John 4:20), "Where should we worship, in Jerusalem or Mount Gerazim here?" We are free to find God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21, 23). "Where two or three are gathered together in Jesus' name" (Matt. 18:20). But for the Old Testament people, God was in a unique sense present in the Jerusalem temple. There the annual (I Sam. 1:3, Luke 2:41) or thrice-annual (Ex. 23:14, Dt. 16:16) pilgrimages to Jerusalem were a most important occasion. There the congregation worshiped, and individuals with special troubles would offer their laments and make the vows associated with their plea. Hannah went up to the central sanctuary each year. There she came before God to offer her lament and vow. She was apparently in the court before the sanctuary, for Eli sat at the door of the temple and heard her. (In the Old Testament only priests went inside the temple or sanctuary. The main altar of burnt sacrifice was in the court, and there, too, the people offered their worship. See a Bible dictionary for a plan of Solomon's temple. The plan of Herod's temple and temple courts is most interesting. See Interpreter's Bible Dictionary, Article "Temple, Jerusalem," p. 556. [Your pastor or church library should have this.] In Herod's temple the limits are carefully laid out: a court for Gentiles, for women, for Israelite men, and then priests.) The anguish reported of Hannah here is reminiscent of the lament sections of the lament psalms, is it not? She also prayed to the Lord. Thus we have the three chief points of the Lament: address, lament, petition! Hannah may not have used a formal, written, lament psalm, but her purposes and her themes are the same as those of the lament form! The vow of verse 11 suits this view also, as the vow is an optional part of the lament form. When granted a son, she will dedicate him as a Nazirite, one specially set aside for a life of service to God. (See Numbers 6 and a Bible Dictionary.) To this day in the Near East mothers or grandmothers may "dedicate" their offspring to be a priest, dressing the 1-2 year old child in monk's or priest's robes. Note the change in Hannah (her countenance was no longer sad) when the priest speaks his blessing! It surely reminds one of the "change of mood" at the end of many psalms of lament! Read Numbers 30 to see how in this male-oriented society the husband has the right of deciding whether the vow is binding. Apparently Elkanah has taken responsibility for repaying Hannah's vow or partly repaying it at the next time he comes to the sanctuary.


The ritual at the vow is instructive. A sacrifice is offered at the oentral sanctuary, where the vow was first made. In addition, they deliver the child to the priest, Eli. There is also a public ceremony with a statement made by Hannah. Compare what she says with the parts of the thanksgiving form: Here the statement is addressed to Eli, but what she says are the same themes of the thanksgiving form. She narrates how she had offered a petition/lament to the Lord, seeking a child. She narrates how the Lord answered her prayer. (These are two parts of "Narrative" in the thanksgiving form.) She makes a statement of repayment of vow. Note too that this is a public act, for "they" slew the bull and bring the child to Eli and then, if the text is to be corrected, worshipped there. This reflects the setting of "Didactic witness." Excursus on Sacrifioe. The sacrifices of the Old Testament are a complicated series of offerings with much ritual that is alluded to and not explained fully. It is clear, however, that the conceptualization of many of the sacrifices is that of a meal. The Israelites knew that the Lord was not "hungry" and did not need these meals for subsistence, yet the picture is surely there, for the sacrifices include the main types of food, meat, bread, drink. The worshipers joined in this meal, and part was offered on the altar to God. This conceptualizes fellowship: as worshipers and God share the meal, so they share fellowship and a sound friendly relationship. A third conceptualization is that of gift, or offering. The gift of sacrifice to God is a symbol of the worshiper's dedication and offering of self to God. Many scholars understand I Sam 2:1-10 to be a communal thanksgiving psalm, that is, one written for use by the community as a whole, riot speoifically by an individual. It mentions God's blessing on barren women, and so is a fitting psalm to insert here. The prayer for the King in verse 10 suggests that the psalm, or at least verses 9-10, were added at a later date. The opinion that this is a later addition, and not from Hannah's lips, is not crucial to this lesson. The leader can probably decide whether this might occasion a lengthy discussion which would eat up time more usefully spent on other things. After looking at I Samuel in detail, it will be useful to review the high points, especially with the pattern or outline of the forms of Lament and Thanksgiving before the eyes of the group, either in the form of the lesson sheets, or written out on a blackboard. Emphasize that vows were made at the central sanctuary and the rhythm of the pilgrimages to that sanctuary annually or more often.




It may be best to study this chart of the thanksgiving form in conneotion with some concrete example, such as Psalm 30. You will note that there is a great deal of flexibility in these psalms: One suspects that some of the psalms of thanksgiving may not actually have been written for specific use in the temple. The custom grew that in response to some special blessing from God a literate educated person would write a special thanksgiving psalm. Since these were not constructed specifically for ritual use in the temple courts, they tend to have a greater flexibility. However, because there was a special "form" for thanksgiving in the culture, the general pattern of "thanksgiving" psalm is followed. Note too that the vow is often omitted. The use of thanksgiving psalms was not limited to cases where the worshiper had made a specific vow. They were used in response to any special blessing of the Lord in time of dire need. The "Didactic Witness" section is of special importance. It indicates that these psalms were used, originally at least, in the company of the worshipping congregation. Furthermore, it stresses the note that proper praise does not and cannot end with praise of God. It must reaoh out horizontally to the fellow worshipers, giving witness and sharing the gift which God has given. It may well be that your group will find reflection on this part of the Thanksgiving psalms most valuable and rewarding. Be sure to include this sort of discussion somewhere in the lesson. Examples: More than enough examples are offered here. The leader will want to work through these and decide which will prove most valuable and will fit into the time available. Example 1. Psalm 30. Since thanksgivings follow on laments, many of the same themes that occurred in the laments will also occur in the thanksgivings. Verse 1 mentions foes of the psalmist. They may not have been his main problem, for they are not again mentioned in the psalm. This may simply be a way of saying, "I've been helped, I prosper." Sickness is not explicitly mentioned, but is indicated by the several references to life and being. rescued from the power of Sheol and the Pit. Considering the trauma that severe sickness is in our lives, even today, it is not surprising that many psalms deal with this problem. It is a universal problem, and gives the psalms universal usefulness. V. 4 is another example of how small grammatical details are the keys to recognizing important shifts in the parts of the form. The fellow worshipers are addressed in the second person.


Verses 2-3 were very brief summary narrative. Verses 6-11 are a narrative with greater detail. Verses 9-10 are in form, a lament; the very lament which the psalmist prayed in the past (see v. 8) and which the Lord answered, so that the psalmist now offers a thanksgiving. Verse 9 supplies a motivation or argument, verse 10 includes.address of God, and in petition. There is no explicit lament seotion in this short lament, but the motive implies the problem, namely his sickness. Excursus on Life and Death. In the last lesson we looked closely at the picture of Sheol and the afterlife in these psalms. Another useful thing to study is the OT view of the relationship between life and death. Death, sometimes poetioally called "the power of Sheol" or even simply "Sheol," seems to reach into this world and life. Death and life are not alternatives, but are at opposite ends of a spectrum or continuum. In many respects it is a most useful way of looking at it. Older people, especially, who have experienced serious illness can probably identify well with this sort of concept and these words of the psalmists! Example 2. Psalm 116 This is another psalm of a man whom God rescued from the "pangs of Sheol" and restored to health. The parts are clear enough. RSV did not divide the introductory declaration (vv. 1-2) from the narrative (vv. 3-4, 8-11) but does have spaces to divide the parts of the psalm otherwise. These spaoes are not found in the Hebrew manuscripts, but are introduced by the translators and editors of RSV as an aid to understanding. Note that the use of 1st person plural in verse 5 is a good sign of the setting of this psalm within the worshipping community. The ritual speoified or implied in verses 12-19 is especially interesting. It is also an example of a thanksgiving psalm which includes mention of the repayment of a vow. The worshippers had a banquet with a large portion of the sacrifice offered at the payment of a vow. Most probably the "cup of salvation" is the name given to the wine that was part of this banquet and sacrifice. Verse 15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants" has often been understood to be saying that God values highly the death of his saints. Of course, as a prelude to resurrection, death of the faithful is a good thing. But that is not really what this verse means in this context. The word "precious" is better translated here "dear," "expensive." The death of God's saints costs God so dearly that he does not allow them to suffer an untimely death.


Example 3. Psalm 107. The spacing of RSV is a help in dealing with this psalm rapidly and with clarity. Each section (beginning at vv. 4, 10, 17, 23) has three parts. You might ask the group to identify those parts, which they will be able to do easily enough. A. description of problem. B. description of their prayer to God and his deliverance. C. call for the rescued to give thanks. Parts A and B are, of course, the narrative section of the thanksgiving form. It seems clear enough that this psalm is a general liturgy for group thanksgiving by pilgrims at the temple. Example 4. Psalm 31. The difference in tone between the beginning of these two psalms and the end is striking. You might dramatize this by asking half the group to analyze Psalm 31:1-18 or 69:1-29, and the other half to analyze Psalm 31:19-24 or 69:30-36. Let each person take care not to sneak a peek at the other portion of the psalm. Probably the first group will see a lament, and the second a thanksgiving. How is this disparity to be explained? Are they really thanksgivings, with the entire lament which was previously used included? Or are they only united by a compiler, and never used as a unity in worship? Or are they laments with particularly striking statements of trust and confidence of being heard, almost giving the thanksgiving in advance? Perhaps a more fruitful question even would be, "On what occasions would you find this a good psalm to pray?" Example 5. Remember that the thanksgiving form is quite flexible. There are many interesting varieties here! Our Thanksgiving: The discussion could take many different directions. One possibility is here suggested. Beginning with a review of present congregational practice in thanksgiving and in individual witness to God's answer to prayer, the group can compare their practice with that of the Psalms. The psalms may not give a pattern which is fitting for your congregation, but it should stimulate some thought and discussion. The element of didactic witness should be a special point of discussion. What are its values? Are you making the most of them?


Be sure to brainstorm not only on how individuals can give thanks and give witness, but also how this might be done in ritual within the congregation's formal worship. Would Psalm 107 serve as a model for a service or a section of a service? The pastor or reader would offer a series of descriptions of the mighty acts of God in human lives,. and then a series of bids "Let all who have known God's healing hand, Praise the Lord:" "Let all this year who have been blessed with the gift of children," etc. etc. Then after eaoh bid, those in the con_ gregation who have been blessed in that special way would " (with appropriate respond "Praise the Lord, for he verses). More and more congregations are finding procedures that special intercessions and thanksgivings of individuals might become a regular part of the prayers. Some have cards to be given to the ushers, others have a book at the entrance to the church, where special requests and thanksgivings can be noted. In this way the pastor can include these prayers. Others call for congregational members to speak out their prayers from the pews. What are the values of these and other methods? What would serve the needs of your congregation?
Praying this Week.

The value of this lesson will be multiplied and applied to life if the group oan agree to some project which they will carry out personally this week. A particularly useful and happy project would be to write one's own personal "thanksgiving Psalm." This may or may not be shared with the group in the coming session.


If the group previously agreed to the project of reflecting on the thanksgiving form at home, these reflections may be shared as an opener to discussion and class interaction. Did anyone compose a thanksgiving psalm?

You can see from the definition that really this is a broader category than the previous forms studied. This is a: combination of several units of differing forms. Do not confuse it with the adjective "liturgical." The meanings are very olose, but differ. "Liturgical" is an adjective indicating that a thing has to do with worship, with the process of the community's worship. A "liturgy" is an "order of worship" for the community, composed of several parts, of a number of forms and/or formulas. The forms Hymn, lament, and thanksgiving are all liturgical, that is, have something to do with worship, but are not, in form, a "liturgy." They can form part of a liturgy, however!
Example 1. Psalm 118. This psalm presents a fine chance to exercise new-found skills of form analysis. It falls into two main sections: verses 1-18 are a thanksgiving by a king after victory in battle. Verses 19 and following are ritual at the entrance to the temple court for the king and his entourage. Begin by making the point that this is called a "liturgy" because it is an order of service used by a number of people, noting a few verses as examples. Then proceed to analyze it verse by verse. One profitable manner of approach is to go through verses 1-18 first with but one question in mind, "Who spoke each verse?" Then return and analyze the form of each verse and what part it plays in the Thanksgiving as a whole. Think through just who the "I" must be. Who but a king would say "all nations surrounded me?" V. 15, "victory" and "tents of the righteous" surely sounds like talk regarding a battle, led by a king. V. 22 "head of the corner" is surely some important individual. The amount of ritual involved at the entry to the gate would be fitting for a king, though it could be used for other occasions. Consider who the speaker(s) may be in verses 8-9, 15-16, 20, and 22-25. In 23-25 there can be little doubt that it is the entourage, for the speakers use the first person plural. In the other verses no first person is used at all, either singular or plural. Since all the other verses in

verses 5-25 specifically use the first singular, there is a good likelihood that those without the first person singular are not spoken by the kind, but by priests, bystanders, or (v. 20) the gatekeeper(s). Certainty is impossible, of course. Verses 2-4 would appear to begin this back-and-forth, antiphonal speaking. Here are three calls for the cry we have seen so muoh already, "His steadfast love endures forever," first by all present (v. 2, Israel), then by the priests (v. 3, house of Aaron), and finally by the congregation (v. 4, those who fear the Lord). Again, certainty is impossible. Good debate where opinion differs is healthy here, especially if it fosters within your group an attitude of willingness to allow the other person a different opinion, so long as there is no denial of dootrine involved. Verses 1-4. Introductory declaration of thanksgiving by king, (?) then by congregation and priests (verses 2-4). Verses 5-18. Narrative, interspersed with applause by bystanders. 5. Summary of narrative. 6-7, Statement of Trust. (Had the king used these before or during the battle? Or is he sharing with worshippers the lesson he learned from God's rescue?) 8-9. Didactic proverbs on the theme of 6-7, trust! Either addressed by king to worshipers, or by worshipers in approving response to king's statement in verses 6-7. 10-14. Narrative of the battle and rescue. Verses 12-13 are apparently figurative, a simile and a metaphor. Verses 15-16. An exclamation praising God and the victory he gave. The "right hand" or "arm" of Yahweh is a figure used in hymns praising God for victory in battle. See Exodus 15:6, Isaiah 51:9-10. (Here the prophet calls on Yahweh's arm to wake up and bring a new viotory!) "Tents of the righteous" refers to tents of the victor, the one who was in the right and whom God blessed with victory. Excursus on "Righteous." The term "righteous" in verses 15 and 20 of this psalm is not used in the broad sense which we often attach to it, "perfect, without moral blemish of any sort." Rather it is used in its Old Testament sense, a narrow sense, "the one in the right." Righteous is a

relationship word, indicating "the one who is in the right relationship" rather than the wrong relationship. Its original setting is a lawsuit between two parties. The one who is in the right is "righteous." The one in the wrong is called "wicked." Of oourse, a fellow may be a scoundrel otherwise, and yet "righteous" in the sense that he is in the right in this particular case, in relationship with this man with whom he is having a lawsuit. At the end of the court argument, the judge declares one man to be "righteous" (in the right) and the other man "wicked" (in the wrong). This is the background for the New Testament pioture of "Justification." God "declares us to be righteous" even though we are sinful and guilty! (Romans 3) Thus the "tents of the righteous" in v. 16 are the tents of the one in the right vis-a-vis his enemy (and God!) to whom God therefore gives the victory. The term is also applied to people ready for worship in v. 20. The "gates of Righteousness" are the gates where only the righteous may enter. This does not mean only sinless people can enter, or the temple courts would be empty! Rather only those in the right relationship with God may enter, those who come in faith and who are ceremonially clean, not having touched a dead body, etc. Verses 17-18. Note how rescue is closely tied to the responsibility to praise God before others! An obvious example for us. The words are stylized. If the talk of battle and victory had not preceded, one might think that sickness was the problem of the psalmist. Of course, there may have been threat of death in defeat. In dealing with verses 19-29, make the most of the ritual that these verses describe and imply. Few psalms bear so clearly the marks of the ritual and temple atmosphere! Most psalms give us the words, not the actions, of the worshipers. Verse 19. Undoubtedly spoken by the king at the gateway. The gateway is a natural place for special ritual, for here man left the secular, the profane, and entered the area of holiness, God's dwelling. This was a dividing line not lightly to be ignored. The class of temple personnel called gatekeepers not only guarded the property, they were guardians of the sanctity of God's temple, and aided the worshipers to perform the proper ritual so they would not profane the temple and thereby bring threat of harm on themselves. Verse 20. The spaces in the RSV translation set this off as the speech in response to verse 19. Many are of the opinion these are spoken by gate-keeping priests.



Verse 21. A thanksgiving declaration. Is the king stating here the purpose for which he wishes to enter the temple courts? This may raise the question of just where the worshipers offered their psalms of thanksgiving. The order of Psalm 118 suggests that the "thanksgiving" of verses 1-18 was spoken outside the gate. We may presume, of course, that thanksgiving was not limited to "outside the gate" but was given within the temple courts, also in cases where preliminary thanks had been given at the entryway. A victory celebration for the king was no small ceremony! The celebration and ritual lasted a long time both outside and inside the gates! Verse 22-25. The picture of a cornerstone, important because it must bear the chief weight of a building, is here used for the king, the person who bears the burden of responsibility in the kingdom. The king of Israel was usually not an important figure among the nations. Yet in this victory God showed that the king was, after all, crucial in God's order of things. The greatest example of the reversal of fortunes was that of Jesus Christ, who seemed to go down to defeat in a humiliating death on a cross, yet was raised victoriously by God. Small wonder that this passage was applied to Jesus often in the New Testament. It is all the more fitting since this was the last and greatest son of David, this was the King of kings. It is important to distinguish between the two uses of this verse. In the Psalm it is used to refer to the contemporary king of Israel. In the New Testament it is re-used and re-applied to Jesus. Thus is it not strictly speaking a "prophecy," it was not intended by the people who used this psalm to be predictive. Yet one can say Jesus "fulfilled" these words, in the sense that he "filled them full" to the brim with meaning, that he was the goal whom God, at least, had in mind in calling and preserving his kingdom Israel, and its kings, through the long years from David to The Son of David. These verses could oocasion a long discussion. The leader would be well advised to consider this beforehand and plan the use of class time. What will be most valuable for this group at this point? A fuller disoussion of the Christological use of these verses, or fuller discussion of Psalm 95, etc.? Verse 25. Note the origin of the term Hosannah! Verse 26-27. Since the priests had the task of officially blessing, these words were probably spoken by priests. You will recognize the phrase reused in our Communion Liturgy at


the coming of the King of Kings into our midst in the Sacrament. The text is not fully clear as to just what sort of ceremony went on. The broad open court before the temple lent itself to large processions and such ceremonies. The huge altar for burnt offering must have served as a focal point and center around which they could have processed. verse 28. A final declaration of thanksgiving. Verse 29. The entire psalm is bound neatly into a unified bundle, ending as it began. Disoussion: Most of us come from a tradition in which the oongregation remained seated or standing in the pews, and in which the chancel was the focus of virtually all pastoral activity. Actually, we are in a minority in Christendom, for in most ages and in most traditions, there was a much fuller use of processions and motion, as well as a variety of focuses of ceremony other than the chancel. Discussion may show that variety may not be useful to the group, or it may open some fresh possibilities for meaningful worship. Entryway ceremonies: Baptism, or part of baptismal services, to symbolize the entry of the ohild into the church. At the dedication of church, when congregation first enters the building. (Some communities have elaborate ritual at the enthronement of a new Bishop. He knocks at the locked door. The community then unlocks from within to welcome him, symbolizing their voluntary acceptanoe of his authority!) Are there any entryway ceremonies that the group thinks would be helpful for their worship? (Share that with the pastor!) "Happy parades." Many congregations have a processing choir. Funerals and weddings, occasions with many clergy suoh as ordinations, installations, conventions, are other examples. Congregations may process, singing hymns and have a "happy parade" on happy occasions, as Easter ,and Christmas. A parade should not be an "ordinary affair." Would your group find this an appropriate worship form? The Psalter, like many hymnals, contains not only a variety of hymns, but also several orders of service, that is, "liturgies."
Example 2. Psalm 95.

If your congregation uses the order of Matins, this will be especially useful. Verses 1-7a are clearly a Hymn. Verses 1-2 are the call to worship, the "for" of verse 3 introduces the body of praise in verses 3-5. Here the main note of God's creative and ruling


power are struck. Verses 6-7a are the concluding call to praise. The space between verses 5 and 6 in RSV seems to suggest that the editors of RSV understand 6-7a as a separate short Hymn. 7a could possibly be understood as a brief "body of praise." Such short "reasons for worship" are, however, sometimes found in introductory and concluding calls to worship. Many scholars understand this to be a hymn at the beginning of worship, used at the entrance, taking verse 2 literally. The "come" of verse 6 literally means "enter." We live in a monotheistic world, so that God is a proper name for us! The Israelites were monotheists, too, but lived in a world of polytheists. They used the word god also as a common noun, for any "more than human being" -- including angels (Job 1:6, "sons of God,") and dead "spirits" (Samuel, II Samuel 28:13). Yahweh is pictured as the Great "King" of all the heavenly beings (angels, powers, principalities, Col. 1:16) who range about him as a court about a king. The net result is that Yahweh is unique, ruling and powerful over every force in the universe. This verse ascribes majesty to God! What do the members of your group really think of when they sing this verse? A happy blur!? Since 1-7a is a unity and complete within itself, many feel it was originally oomposed as a unit, and only later was used in the liturgy of Psalm 95. (The hymns we sing in our services were written separately and then used in the liturgy in exaotly the same way!) The Scriptures do not explain the "how" of Inspiration. Many prefer to see the Spirit active throughout the whole process of the writing of Psalm 95. This too could be a topic for long and fruitful discussion. Any view which advances and does not deny a full inspiration of the Biblical Psalm is allowable under the Scriptures and Luteran Confessions. Verses 7b-11 have a hortatory tone, (7b, "0 that"...) (8, imperative, "Harden!") An example is given urging compliance, and the implied threat of punishment is given in that example. Thus, words like Sermon, Exhortation, Warning come in mind for the forma Verses 9-11 use "I" of God! Prophets (sometimes priests) speak for God like this. Thus, a term like "Prophetic Exhortation" would be a reasonable name for this form. There is no widely used agreed-upon name used for this form. The Group may find one more to their liking. This is a liturgy for entry to worship. As they approach God the people naturally fall into a hymn of praise. A prophet rises to exhort them, reminding them that this great creator God is one who expeots faithfulness and loyalty and punishes those who turn from him! The purpose is to enable the congregation to come before God properly, that is, with praise, and with dedication, aware of whom it is they meet to worship!


Discussion: The purpose of the Venite is to call on ourselves to initiate our worship with the praise of God. We use it with virtually the same purpose that the Psalmists used it There are reasonable explanations for not using the second half. First, the Venite is a unit, and probably was so before beooming attached to Psalm 95. The second half of Psalm 95 has a somewhat different purpose, warning. The compilers of Matins wanted a canticle of praise, a hymn. An exhortation would not be out of place, but neither is it necessary. The example given in the exhortation was tailored for Israel; it is not as powerful an illustration for us, since the fathers in the wilderness are only figuratively "our fathers." By what right do we "put asunder what God has joined together" and use only part of Psalm 95? in choosing the lessons, the Gospels and Epistles, we must use our sanctified common sense in choosing limited seotions that serve a purpose. So long as we do not thereby do violence to the sense of the text, but use the section for edification, we are using the Scriptures properly. Concluding discussion: This is the point to sit back and take stock. Thera will probably be a variety of opinion whioh will help to stimulate discussion, There is of course no single "approved" mode of interpretation. Through the centuries many different methods have been used and their proponents each thought their method was the best'. Each must determine what is the best method available to him. For Lutherans there are limits however! There are two words which God speaks in His Scriptures, the word of. Judgment, Law, and the word of Promise, Gospel. A method which does not discern these, or confuses them, must be corrected. A method which assists the interpreter in hearing this Word of God is a useful, and for Lutherans, a proper method. Tell those who want to study the Psalms further, a good paperbaok is Bernard W. Anderson, Out of the Depths (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), $3.50.

Prepared for The Division of Interpretation and Communioation Program of Education for Responsible Christian Action (PERCA) Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM) 12015 Manchester Road St. Louis, Missouri 63131


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