The God Squad: Short Psalms for long study

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

This week, I continue to try to make good on my promise to help M, who asked me for help in developing study guides for the Psalms for her wonderful Bible study group at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Today, we read and study Psalm 131:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

3 Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever. (KJV)

What this Psalm means:


Every old guy like me has had the experience of asking some kid who can’t even drive a car to program their phone or computer. We just do not know what we need to know to manage the stuff of the modern world. What is interesting to me and what produces a wide grin in my soul is that what we humbly accept in trying to understand machines we arrogantly do not accept in trying to understand God.

We want to know right now how a good, all-powerful God can exist in a world with so much evil? We want to know right now if goodness is ultimately rewarded and evil ultimately punished? We want to know right now if death is really the end of us? We want to know right now if God hears our prayers? We want to know right now if angels are real? We want to know right now God’s plan for us?

Instead of approaching these ultimate questions with the patience we offer in learning how to use our smartphones we are impatient with God and with our clergy who are trying to help us understand how to program our lives. Indeed, many clergy who read this column have shared with me their frustration at not being able to answer their congregants’ and parishioners’ big questions in small answers.

I used to respond to the theologically impatient, “Hey, give me a break. I’m in sales not management!” They laughed but that response did not satisfy them. Rabbi Hillel’s answer to the question of the meaning of the Torah was just this, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another person —now go and study.” Good work Rabbi Hillel. Psalm 131 is also a perfect antidote to theological impatience and it accomplishes its task in only three verses.


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