The Theological and Canonical Place of Psalm 73 -- By: Corin Mihaila
FM 18:3 (Summer 2001) p. 52
The Theological and Canonical Place of Psalm 73
Sinmartin Baptist Church
One of the great questions of Christianity has been the problem of “unfairness” and “injustice” in the world: How do we explain the success of the sinner and the suffering of the saint in a moral universe directed by a sovereign God? When one starts from experience in building a belief about God, he ends up denying either God or one of the qualities of God’s character, such as His power or goodness. However, a biblical Christian must always start with God and the biblical view of God’s character. It is through this belief that one must interpret experience. As a result, the Christian is faced with a tension: what he believes to be true of God and what he knows to be true of human experience. The question remains whether a Christian can worship and praise God even when holding these two truths in tension.
A positive answer is given in the Book of Psalms, particularly in Psalm 73. The whole Book of Psalms has been given the present canonical shape for the purpose of expressing this struggle of praising God in the midst of life’s injustices while holding to the traditional belief in God. The Book of Psalms starts with the summons to obedience which provides assurance about the consequences of obedience (Psalm 1), and ends with the summons to praise (Psalm 150). However, between these two boundaries the believer rejects the traditional understanding of the consequences of obedience in light of his experience. The way one changes from doubt in God as sovereign over a moral universe to assurance and praise is by a reinterpretation of the consequences of obedience, particularly a reinterpretation of what it means to say that God is good. This turning point takes place in Psalm 73.
The purpose of this article is to show that Psalm 73 embodies the theological movement of the whole Psalter.1 In other words, Psalm 73 illustrates the crisis and the resolution of God’s goodness, characteristic of the whole Book of Psalms. We will begin by showing that Psalm 73 is the canonical center of the Book of Psalms by looking at the canonical shape of the Psalter. In the second part of this paper, we will show that the internal theological structure of Psalm 73 is identical to that of the whole Psalter.
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