Psalm 73: How Can God Know?

The psalm set for this evening is the one direct before the psalm set for last night. Sometimes I wonder what logic there is in the arrangement of the Daily Office, but this one seem clear. Whereas last night’s psalm, Psalm 74 sits in the uncomfortable reality that God’s absence is deeply felt, and never resolved, Psalm 73 resonates in the same way, but end on a note of faith, trust, and confidence in God’s nearness, even in the felt absence.

There is some genre confusion about where this psalm fits, exactly, but it seems to be a lament to me. It is reminiscent of the book of Job, in in it’s content. It is a psalm of confusion and doubt in the midst of difficult times, but always with the note of confidence that God is closer that God seems.

Stylistically, the psalm is brilliant. It’s symmetry is uncanny; it is a tightly order, logistically complex structure. While it’s content holds the chaos of a troubled time in life, the style and structure of the psalm are the exact opposite. The psalm itself follows a pattern set forth, but the psalmist faith, life, and experience do not.

I don’t think I could have written this psalm; I’m not that talented, but I know this experience. I know what it’s like to have my life and faith in chaos, all while articulating my faith and experiencing God in a structured way.

Is there anything that speaks to the advantages of liturgical worship more than this? One thing that I continually tell folks who come to me with questions about the way in which we pray in The Episcopal Church, is that there is an advantage of praying together, using the same words. There have been times when I could not use the optional version of the Nicene Creed with the first person pronouns; there have been times when to articulate and affirm my faith with “I believe. . .” would have been too much to bear. There have been times in my life and in my faith in which God’s absence was felt far more than God’s presence.

But in liturgical worship, and in liturgical prayers, we pray together, we worship together; our faith is not an individual experience. It very much is a “We believe. . .” setting. This seems to be where the psalmist is at. She cannot, for herself, know exactly how God can know her trail and yet still feel so very far away, but she trusts deeply in God’s love and protection. She know that it is good to draw near to God.

But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    to tell of all your works.

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