Psalms of Orientation
The psalms of orientation were created, transmitted, valued, and relied upon by a community of faithful people. To these people, their faith was both important and satisfying. A beginning theological point for the Psalms are those psalms that express a confident, serene settlement of faith issues. Some things are settled and beyond doubt, so that one does not live and believe in the midst of overwhelming anxiety. Such a happy settlement of life's issues occurs because God is known to be reliable and trustworthy. This community has decided to trust in this particular God. Many of the Psalms give expression to that happy settlement, to the reality that God is trustworthy and reliable, and to the decision to stake life on this particular God.
Here we will consider five representative types of psalms that reflect welloriented faith in a mood of equilibrium. These various poems are not easily assigned to any standard form. They might best be treated as Westermann's descriptive hymns.1 That is, they are statements that describe a happy, blessed state in which the speakers are grateful for and confident in the abiding, reliable gifts of life that are long-standing from time past and will endure for time to come. Life, as reflected in these psalms, is not troubled or threatened, but is seen as the well-ordered world intended by God. They approximate a “nosurprise world” and consequently a world of “no fear.” They do not report on an event, a happening, or an intrusion. Rather, they describe how things are and indeed always are.2 It will be clear that we are not following any strict form analysis, but are paying primary attention to the content and the mode of articulation.