by Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil
Reflections on Psalms 30
|It is no surprise that
people relate to us because of our usefulness. In this world controlled
by utilitarian ethos we can not expect anything different. Once our usefulness
is in doubt, people begin to jump out of lives and row towards better shores.
This may come when one faces unemployment, drop in income, health problems
or damage to reputation. All this may contribute to the devaluation of our
social worth. Spouses may get a divorce, children may abandon parents and
friends may bypass friends. An unemployed member of the family may not be
mentioned when other members of the family who are well placed talk about
their family. An invalid person may not have a place in the living room
when the family throws a party to friends and neighbors.
Psalm 30 is about the pain and pathos of rejection similar to what all of us are vulnerable to in this modern society. The psalmist goes through the severe pain of social isolation and rejection which he describes using very strong words. "I have passed out of mind like one who is dead," (verse 12) he laments.
Death is indeed a strong word to use here. The heroes of the recent past, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, all are behind the thick veils of oblivion. We think of even the famous and the popular not so quite often. If this is what happens to the movers and shakers of our modern world what about the ordinary ones? Death is the end of it all and thereafter a person begins to diminish from the memory of his/her beloved ones even and finally vanishes from memory. The psalmist compares his state to that of the dead person; though he is alive is considered as dead by his dear ones. Nobody takes note of him.
|Another powerful imagery is also used
for this social rejection, that of broken pottery. "I have become
like a broken vessel," (verse 12b) he complains.
In the modern consumer world, pottery is alien, not something that can be found easily around. This is the age of plastic and aluminum cans. In the ancient world in which the psalmists lived, pottery was in abundance and very much part of the lives of the people. They used pottery as dinnerware, as gifts and also for writing documents. However, once broken or even cracked pottery is out of use. Since it is irreparable and not recyclable, it lands in the backyard of the house or palace. There it would spend the rest of its life in the trash heap- rejected, unnoticed and without any hope of returning to usefulness. The powerful image of broken pottery that the psalmist uses here (Ps. 30:12) must be seen against this backdrop.
| Nevertheless, there is comfort to
those "broken pots" and "forgotten like dead ones."
The psalmist's hope is in God whom he calls "refuge" (verse 1)
and "rock" and "strong fortress." He may not have any
social value in the eyes of his dear ones, but he knows that he is loved
by God (verse 7). He may be weak but he has a God who is the rock, firm
and reliable. He may be discarded but he has found shelter in the strongest
of all refuges -- his God.
All of us may go through times of rejection and loss of meaning. It could be for a while or it may be for life. However, whoever discovers that true meaning comes from ones relationship with God will not be discouraged. For the society you may be insignificant but for God you are invaluable. "Weakling" may be the tag the family has attached to you, but God the rock is there to strengthen you. Find hope in God and rejoice! This hope in God gives strength in times of severe sorrow and pain of rejection.
"This is what it really means to grow in grace- that you have your eyes on the Lord and your hope in the Lord all the time, and so are coming constantly to know him better."- J.I. Packer.
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