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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: You say terrible acts but I say terrific acts (Psalm 145:6)

Psalm 145:6. “They will tell of the power of your awesome works; and I will proclaim your great deeds.” (NIV). “And men shall speak of the might of your terrible acts, and/but I will declare your greatness.” (KJV)

Exegesis and Application

This verse contains a very interesting contrast that is not clear in the NIV translation. I don’t want to build too much on this one verse because the Hebrew text is not absolutely definite, but the KJ has an interesting contrast. What we have here, and I am not alone in seeing this verse in this light, is a contrast between a correct understanding of historical events from God’s perspective and an incorrect, lack of understanding of historical events from the human perspective. As I see it, the focus is not just on Israel’s worship of God but rather the whole creation is to marvel and eventually worship because of God’s awesome deeds (vs. 1, “the King;” vs. 10, “all that you made”). The Hebrew word for “tell” or “speak” is “amar” and in our verse is literally translated “let them speak.” It is the “them” that is universal and not restrictive to the Church. The Hebrew “waw consecutive” before “I will declare or speak” can be translated “and” or “but.” I choose “but.” Now on to the Hebrew word for “awesome” or “terrible” in vs. 6a, “niphloouth.” In the OT the “terrible acts” were phenomena such as the Noahic flood (2 Peter 2:5), the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2:6), the plagues of Egypt, and the slaughter at the Red Sea. In vs. 6b, David looks on these awesome historical events as divine acts of providential kindness and mercy and greatness. What is awful and terrible to one group is merciful and redemptive to another group. And David says that he will tell the future generations of these great things God has done.  Furthermore, David says this telling is the occupation of great devotion – to be a herald, that is, to rehearse the “great doings” of our “great God.” Spurgeon writes on this verse, “Those acts which were terrible deeds to most men were mighty deeds, or greatnesses to our holy poet: these he would publish like a herald.”

Did not the secularists in the Bible see and hear simple nature (“thunder”) when God’s people heard the voice of God (John 12:29)?  Did not men in the Lord’s day speak of the falling tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4) and the slaughtered Galileans (Luke 13:1)?  Are there not rumors of wars (Matt. 24:6), and not even whispers of more pleasant things?  Horrible news is sure to spread.  When we experience God’s mercy we are closed mouth, but when we are miserable we raise an outcry.  Dread loosens the tongue – satisfaction locks the tongue.  We are sure to talk of that which makes the ear tingle for gossip and the hair stand on end. Look it! — Secular journalists prefer crises to comfort: if it bleeds it leads.

1) Christian journalist, we are not to leave the story telling of current events to the secularists, but we are to report what we see and hear. As our reportage of the acts of a sovereign God is passed down from “generation” to “generation,” we can be confident that the Church incense will always burn upon the alter of Jehovah (Rev. 8:4). God Himself will not permit Himself to be without a human voice of truth (Luke 19:40).

2) Christian journalist, once again we are to see our Lord in everything, in all creation and in all of earth’s phenomena. The Lord’s hand is constantly at work. When others see catastrophe we are to look for the handiwork of the Creator. We are not to deny evil or tragedy, but we are to deny chaos and randomness in the world.

3) Christian journalist, because of the unseen hand of a sovereign Creator behind the events we report on, we are to see hope and purpose infused in the natural world around us.

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One Response

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