The Argument Between God and Israel

One of the things I love about the Old Testament are the countervailing voices, the way the Bible argues with itself. For example, in Unclean and Stranger God I spend time pointing out how Israel's prophetic tradition likes to pick fights with the Levitical tradition.

Another place where you see a fight break out is in the Psalms in how God and Israel feel about the exile.

On one side you have God's perspective: "Israel, you deserve this."
Psalm 78.57-64
But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes.

Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.

They angered him with their high places;
they aroused his jealousy with their idols.

When God heard them, he was furious;
he rejected Israel completely.

He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent he had set up among humans.

He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
his splendor into the hands of the enemy.

He gave his people over to the sword;
he was furious with his inheritance.

Fire consumed their young men,
and their young women had no wedding songs;

their priests were put to the sword,
and their widows could not weep.
Israel, for her part, disagrees and responds with "No, we didn't deserve this.":
Psalm 44.13-22
You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.

You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.

I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame

at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

All this came upon us,
though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.

Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.

But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.

If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
It's a fascinating debate in the Psalms, this argument between God and Israel.

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