The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary

By Walter Brueggemann | Go to book overview

4

Psalms of New Orientation

I have tried to show that a major move of the Psalms is the move from an ordered, reliable life to an existence that somehow has run amok. The Psalms give expression to that new reality of disorientation, when everything in heaven and on earth seems skewed. We may believe that such psalms not only express what is already experienced. They also articulate and evoke the new situation of disorder, so that it may be experienced. That is, it may not be fully experienced, embraced, acknowledged, unless and until it is brought to speech. We have seen that the experience of disorientation is experienced and expressed in many different ways. These different ways embody very different theological readings of reality, which cannot be explained by, understood through, or reduced to any single formulation. We have spent a major portion of our time and space on that reality in the Psalms because that is the part of the Psalter that has been most neglected in church use. In the present religious situation, it may be the part of the Psalter that is most helpful, because we live in a society of denial and cover-up, and these psalms provide a way for healing candor. 1 It may also be so because we live in a society in which the disorientation is not only personal but also public. The “sacred canopy” is clearly in jeopardy, and that jeopardy must be dealt with as a religious issue.2

But obviously the move into disorientation is not the only move made in the faith of Israel or in the literature of the Psalms. While the speaker may on occasion be left “in the Pit,” (as in Ps. 88), that is not the characteristic case. Most frequently the Psalms stay with the experience to bring the speech to a second decisive move, from disorientation to new orientation. That is, the Psalms regularly bear witness to the surprising gift of new life just when none

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The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Abbreviations 8
  • Preface 9
  • 1: Introduction 15
  • 2: Psalms of Orientation 25
  • 3: Psalms of Disorientation 51
  • 4: Psalms of New Orientation 123
  • 5: A Retrospect: Spirituality and Theodicy 168
  • Notes 177
  • List of Psalms Treated 206
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