“God’s/His steadfast love is eternal.” (100:5)
If we measure love as a feeling, our love towards our siblings, spouse, parents, and children waxes and wanes. Psalm 100, however, does not consider love to be a feeling but rather a connecting strand. Our model for love is that no matter how God might “feel” about Israel at any given moment — exasperated, angry, joyful, loving, betrayed, happy — the connection of love is unbroken. If we behave with this understanding, then even when we are disciplining our children, we will temper it with love. When we are exasperated with our parents, we will respond with love. When we are angry at our spouse, we approach him or her with love.
“You exacted retribution for their misdeeds.” (99:8)
“Frier” is Israeli slang for a sucker, a pushover, a chump. No one wants to be the person whom everyone walks over or gets the best of in a deal. When someone hurts us, insults us, or takes advantage of us, we want to get them back. If we can’t do it ourselves, we might say — or at least think — God will get you for that! As hard as it may be, be the mature one in the schoolyard fight. Stand proud and decline to continue the engagement. The cost of fighting the fight to the end is usually more than you expect.
“Sing to the LORD a new song.” (98:1)
I like some new music, but the music that really draws me in are the lyrics and melodies that I have heard many times before. I don’t understand why giving God a fresh, newly created, song is better than putting one’s heart and soul into a song that we’ve been singing for millennia. Ironic, isn’t it, that the lyrics of the ‘new song’ that the Psalmist is singing is in the neighborhood of 2500 years old, and we are still greeting the Sabbath with it! So God … I hope you are satisfied with some old songs alongside the new ones.
“Light is sown for the righteous.” (97:11)
Goodness is its own reward – sometimes yes, sometimes no. We do get recognized, thanked, and sometimes rewarded for good behavior. But the ideal is to behave with pure, altruistic, goodness for its own sake. Because we are human beings with egos, the Psalmist plants a suggestion that a reward is sown for the righteous. We may not get the spotlight today, but someday, perhaps in the World to Come, we will reap the harvest and be rewarded for the things we have done for others.
“All the trees of the forest shall shout for joy!” (96:12)
Obviously, this verse is not literally true. Trees do not shout, trees do not experience joy. How, though, might we understand this as metaphorical truth? How do trees experience the presence of God? The Divine Presence, in the form of gentle rain, causes trees to grow and turn green. In the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms, it snaps branches and pulls trees out of the ground. Severe heat and drought, understood as the absence of God’s presence, causes trees to turn brown. Trees depends on the natural world no less than we do to provide a livable ecosystem.