“O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.”
– Psalm 137:8,9

The author of this poetic verse didn’t hold anything back. There are many imprecations in Scripture. The ancient Israelites held a sense of entitlement when they prayed. The Abrahamic covenant’s, “I will curse those who curse you” was always in view in “us-them” relationships. Combine this “God is my big brother” mentality with the lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”) as the backbone for Hebrew law and you get a background which makes this desire for baby-bashing of the people who had sacked Jerusalem completely authentic emotion. The fact that it was included in the Hebrew canon supports this picture. Most scholars agree that the book of Psalms was used in the second temple cult (worship). Which I suppose means that the people we encouraged to sing these words… as worship. I wonder if this authentic expression of emotion was authentic worship from God’s viewpoint?

But that’s old testament. Read the last few chapters of Judges and you will find yourself shaking your head in wonder that “In those days Israel had no king”:

” 1 Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim
2 said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.”
Then his mother said, “The LORD bless you, my son!”
3 When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, “I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast idol. I will give it back to you.”
4 So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into the image and the idol. And they were put in Micah’s house.
5 Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some idols and installed one of his sons as his priest.
6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
– Judges 17:1-6

People of the Old Covenant often made a complete mess in trying to discern God’s will. I wonder if we aren’t arrogant in assuming in our post-modern mentality that we are immune to misrepresenting God’s will ourselves.

We want to be authentic in our worship, but how will we protect ourselves from just doing (and singing) as we see fit? There is a strong drive in emerging worship trends towards ‘recovering authentic emotion’ (this is a desire that I hold dear myself). Earlier this year, I heard Brian Doerkson speak on this subject. He said that worship leaders “need to make room for people’s pain in worship”. Many people equate authentic emotion with authentic worship, but authentic worship is more than honest. Authentic worship fears God. Authentic worship doesn’t laugh when it’s asked “Isn’t this ‘strange fire’?” (Leviticus 10:1).

No matter how real and honest it feels.

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