Sometimes the point of scripture is the transcendence of the Holy One. This was something Isaiah knew well—“Truly, you are a God who hides yourself” (45: 15) —as did the long-suffering Job. So did Paul, who comes to a point in his Epistle to the Romans when he realizes he cannot go any further. “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God!” he writes.
Traditional Christian appropriation of the Hebrew scriptures often flattens them. Stories become precursors of later New Testament events rather than genuine events in themselves. Vivid multidimensional characters become mere prefigurations instead of figures in their own right, and complex narrative situations are reduced to a single theological point.
The Psalms have always functioned as a book of common prayer. But there is also a long history of turning to the Psalter as a sourcebook for poetry. It is not difficult to see why. Many of the psalms foreground the act of speech or song—the activity of utterance itself—as the chief end of everything that has breath.
The lectionary loves to take biblical texts that share some things in common and then watch as worlds collide once differences come to light. This week’s comparison-contrast of call stories is a perfect case in point. The story in 1 Kings 19 comes directly from God’s lips to Elijah’s ears and from there to Elisha’s shoulders.
How do you prove that your uncle killed your father on his way to seizing both a crown and a sister-in-law for himself? Hamlet decides that a bit of drama called “The Mouse-trap” might be the way to “catch the conscience of the king”: