Recently some huge billboards along British Columbia’s major roadways showed black-and-white photos of car wrecks—gashed and mangled metal, clouds of steam and smoke—all illumined under the luridness of fire, flares, searchlights and siren lights. The caption beneath the ads was as stark and grim as the photos: “Speed is killing us. Slow down and live.”
The one who voices Psalm 51 is on the floor before God, utterly ashamed and as dust before glory: “My sin is ever before me.” The symptoms of sin are gradually displaced by the greater reality of God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned.” The speaker does not look outside for an oppressor to blame, but inside, to the “inward being,” for a heart to be renewed.
The religion of Israel is a great theater. Moses goes up on the mountain and the clouds close underneath him like curtains. He brings down the commandments, and the children of Israel are unimpressed. Solomon builds a huge temple. Inside, behind a great curtain, is the Holy of Holies, where the high priest, like Moses before him, communes with the Lord.