Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Much needed words today from Psalm 42.

Lewis: God & Chocolate Easter Eggs

C. S. Lewis 7I think I’m doing what C. S. Lewis wanted readers of his Reflections on the Psalms to do: I’m reflecting. He provides such good material for reflection as he shares insights in this little book.

For instance, he refers to how the psalms always talk about seeing the beauty of the Lord, yet it’s not the Lord directly that the typical Jew saw, but rather the rituals in the Temple or some other aspect of the outward symbols of God’s presence.

That’s good, as far as it goes, but Christians need to make the distinction between that which symbolizes God and God Himself. There is a danger in becoming too attached to the symbol:

When the mind becomes more capable of abstraction and analysis this old unity breaks up. And no sooner is it possible to distinguish the rite from the vision of God than there is a danger of the rite becoming a substitute for, and a rival to, God Himself. Once it can be thought of separately, it will; and it may then take on a rebellious, cancerous life of its own.

We are to worship God, not the external artifacts that point to Him. If we revere those outward signs of His presence more than the Presence Himself, we are setting up a false god, which is in direct contradiction to both the spirit and the letter of the Word.

Lewis provides this example as an illustration:

Chocolate Easter EggsThere is a stage in a child’s life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas and Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began “Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.” This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety.

That would be “for his age.” But we don’t stay children, and neither should our worship remain wedded to a child’s understanding of the object of our worship. Lewis continues,

But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer be sacramental.

What must we do, then, when we reach that point, and we begin to grasp the difference? We have a choice to make:

And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life.

The symbols will never satisfy the inner longing of our hearts. Clinging to them and believing them to be the substance of our faith will lead only to what Lewis rightly calls “a soon withering life.”

May our worship and the presence of God be the real thing. May our spiritual eyes see Him above all else, and relegate all that points to Him as secondary. In heaven, we will see Him face to face. I would like to begin that experience now, as far as this temporary earthly life will allow that to happen.

Lewis & Righteous Indignation

C. S. Lewis 4C. S. Lewis, writing in Reflections on the Psalms, contrasts the anger displayed toward evil men in some of the psalms with the apparent lack of vindictiveness found in some pagan writings. Does this reveal a better spirit among the pagans? Not so, he says.

He gives a personal example to illustrate how lack of anger can often be the worst response. During WWII, he was taking the train one night (as he often did, traveling to speak and then returning home late) and found himself in a compartment with a number of young soldiers. He was more than a little dismayed by the comments he heard:

Their conversation made it perfectly clear that they totally disbelieved all that they had read in the papers about the wholesale cruelties of the Nazi régime. They took it for granted, without argument, that this was all lies, all propaganda put out by our own government to “pep up” our troops. And the shattering thing was, that, believing this, they expressed not the slightest anger.

It’s worth noting that Lewis himself rarely read the newspapers because he considered most of what was contained therein to be lies, yet he certainly had no reason to doubt what the papers were saying about Hitler and his horde. The attitude of the soldiers stunned him:

That our rulers should falsely attribute the worst of crimes to some of their fellow-men in order to induce others of the fellow-men to shed their blood seemed to them a matter of course. They weren’t even particularly interested. They saw nothing wrong in it.

If you were being asked to go to war and possibly lose your life, and you were convinced that the rationale for doing so was based on a fabric of lies told by your government, wouldn’t that bother you more than a little? Apparently not in this case. Lewis then compares these apathetic soldiers to psalmists who didn’t hide their anger:

Now it seemed to me that the most violent of the Psalmists—or, for that matter any child wailing out “But it’s not fair”—was in a more hopeful condition than these young men. If they had perceived, and felt as a man should feel, the diabolical wickedness which they believed our rulers to be committing, and then forgiven them, they would have been saints.

But not to perceive it at all—not even to be tempted to resentment—to accept it as the most ordinary thing in the world—argues a terrifying insensibility. Clearly these young men had (on that subject anyway) no conception of good and evil whatsoever.

Good & EvilLoss of the entire concept of good and evil betrays a society wandering in a fog of moral apathy. “Thus the absence of anger, especially that sort of anger which we call indignation,” Lewis concludes, “can, in my opinion, be a most alarming symptom. And the presence of indignation may be a good one.”

It’s perfectly fine to feel righteous indignation toward evil. In fact, if we feel nothing at all when confronted with the evils of our day, there is something terribly wrong with us.

Lewis: Jesus as the Original Origin

As avid a reader of C. S. Lewis as I have been throughout my life, some of his lesser-known works escaped me until recently. For instance, after seeing the video Planet Narnia, I was fascinated by the way Lewis incorporated the medieval worldview into the series. I also discovered that he had explained it in The Discarded Image, so I readily obtained that book and burrowed through it (not one to recommend to a new reader since it is one of his most scholarly).

Then I decided to delve into a few others I’d never read. The first was Reflections on the Psalms. I admit I have always been reluctant to read that one because I’m not in complete agreement with his view of how to understand the Old Testament as part of God’s Word, but I finally realized that since this was Lewis, I had no need to doubt his genuineness or his high view of Scripture.

I’m glad I jumped over that mini-obstacle. Reflections on the Psalms is like all of Lewis’s works—brimming with insight and unique ways of expressing the faith.

Reflections on the Psalms

Reviewing it once again, I was struck by a passage that compared the Old Testament with the words of Jesus. Lewis begins,

This is one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly. You keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is; how constantly Our Lord repeated, reinforced, continued, refined, and sublimated, the Judaic ethics, how very seldom He introduced a novelty.

While some critics might see the lack of novelty in Jesus’ words a reason to discount His significance, Lewis exposes the faulty reasoning behind that criticism:

This of course was perfectly well-known—was indeed axiomatic—to millions of unlearned Christians as long as Bible-reading was habitual. Nowadays it seems to be so forgotten that people think they have somehow discredited Our Lord if they can show that some pre-Christian document (or what they take to be pre-Christian) such as the Dead Sea Scrolls has “anticipated” Him. As if we supposed Him to be a cheapjack like Nietzsche inventing a new ethics!

Lewis then brings the reader to the main point:

Every good teacher, within Judaism as without, has anticipated Him. The whole religious history of the pre-Christian world, on its better side, anticipates Him. It could not be otherwise. The Light which has lightened every man from the beginning may shine more clearly but cannot change. The Origin cannot suddenly start being, in the popular sense of the word “original.”

You simply cannot make “The Origin” more original. Everything flows from Him already. He is the “original Origin,” and we don’t really add anything to what He already is.

An Applicable Psalm

I noticed this Psalm today, #52, and for some reason it seemed quite apropos, given the big event Sunday night. As you read it, keep in mind that even though bin Laden said he was doing things in the name of his god, he was alienated from the one true God by his own choice. Also remember that he was awash in worldly wealth that helped him carry out his evil deeds. See if you don’t think this applies.

Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The lovingkindness of God endures all day long.

Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is right.

You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, and uproot you from the land of the living.

The righteous will see and fear, and will laugh at him, saying,”Behold the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and was strong in his evil desire.”