All and every, for ever and ever (Psalm 145)

Have you ever noticed how many times Psalm 145 uses the words ALL and EVERY? (They translate the same Hebrew word, KOL.) I am lowercasing LORD below to let all the KOLs stand out. We could also note three occurrences of L’OLAM VA-ED, FOR EVER AND EVER; these I have italicized.

I will extol thee, my God, O king;
and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.
EVERY day will I bless thee;
and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise thy works to another,
and shall declare thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty,
and of thy wondrous works.
And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts:
and I will declare thy greatness.
They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness,
and shall sing of thy righteousness.
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion;
slow to anger, and of great mercy.
The Lord is good to ALL:
and his tender mercies are over ALL his works.
ALL thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;
and thy saints shall bless thee.
They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom,
and talk of thy power;
To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts,
and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and thy dominion endureth throughout ALL generations.
The Lord upholdeth ALL that fall,
and raiseth up ALL those that be bowed down.
The eyes of ALL wait upon thee;
and thou givest them their meat in due season.
Thou openest thine hand,
and satisfiest the desire of EVERY living thing.
The Lord is righteous in ALL his ways,
and holy in ALL his works.
The Lord is nigh unto ALL them that call upon him,
to ALL that call upon him in truth.
He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him:
he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
The Lord preserveth ALL them that love him:
but ALL the wicked will he destroy.
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord:
and let ALL flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Psalm 145 (KJV)

These ALLs and EVERYs express biblical, theological Wisdom. They are not empirical observations. They are not contingent forecasts, subject to verification on the basis of things we have seen or could in terms of reasonable prognostication expect to see in our day or on any future day in the ordinary succession of days.

They do not flow from human experience. They relativize human experience.

They assert the absolute majesty and sovereignty of God, or better, draw out inevitable, necessary consequences of the nature of God and the nature of creation. Their time is not temporal but eternal. The day to which they apply is the Day of the Lord, the Day to end all days, the Day that is not yet here, and yet is already here every day. It is the Day that is coming—not as surely as 2021 is coming, but more surely, absolutely surely, because 2021 may not happen, 2020 could still explode and prove to have been the last annus domini, the terminus of this olam, never to be followed by 2021; but the Day of the Lord is the aeternitas domini, the ed that has no end, and for that matter has no beginning, because it is already here, has always been here, though we have not seen it, or have only glimpsed it, because it has to be revealed to us. And it has been revealed to us. But we are in the process of coming to see it.

Like “every knee shall bow . . . and every tongue confess” in Philippians, these ALLs and EVERYs are not boastful or blustery, not pugilistic or threatening, not expressions of will-to-power. There is no animus dominandi here. In Philippians the EVERYs are about lordship, all right; they assert that Christ is and will be recognized as kyrios = dominus. But we should reserve our word “domination” for claims of lordship by and for individuals and institutions—powers and principalities—that do not own and must not claim lordship because they are created. “Domination” is about false lordship: in the first person, wannabe lordship; in the second or third person, idolatrous lordship; it is ultimately loser lordship. It is lordship that wants and grasps, or adulates and grovels, bows down to golden calves, kisses human asses. It is false even and especially when it pretends to be or is lauded as being purely benevolent, purely righteous and good: that is the most refined variant of the spirit of Antichrist: not denouncing Christ but simultaneously yelling that Christ is Lord and putting another lord in his place. It is doomed lordship, already defeated on the cross by the Lord who died.

The Lord who is really Lord, is authentic Dominus, does not dominate. This Lord is great without grasping greatness, is all power and zero will-to-power, performs works that are “terrible” in their goodness, is righteous by way of compassion, is tenderly merciful, holding up the stooped, raising the fallen. This Lord destroys, yes: destroys wickedness to leave only goodness, which means destroying the wicked. But how? In such a way that ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue confess, and ALL flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever. This is a mystery, not a place where we should claim to control knowledge that is beyond us, turning ourselves into one or another variety of -ist. But it is a mystery that is being revealed, that was revealed gloriously in the humility of the manger and the shame of the cross, a mystery that resides in the Day of the Lord.

What am I to do in the face of this Wisdom, these ALLs and EVERYs? I must, and so I will, extol, bless, praise, speak, declare, utter, sing, make known. And I will wait expectantly, hopefully, faithfully, to be destroyed (you weren’t expecting that, were you? but yes, this too is a promise that I must and do claim), and saved, and preserved.

A blessed Lord’s Day to all my friends on the third Sunday of Advent in 2020, a year for seeing clearly what and where we are, and how absolutely other and different God is from us, and how wonderful that difference is.

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