Walter Brueggemann on the Name in Psalm 146

One of the remarkable features of Psalm 146 is the fivefold repetition of the name of the Lord in verses 7c–9(a). The famous Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann remarks:

Then the psalm names the Name five times (vv. 7b–9). In naming the Name, the psalm under its breath debunks and dismisses every other name:

The Lord [not Baal] sets the prisoners free;
the Lord [not Saddam Hussein] opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord [not the free-market system or a Western government] lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord [not the church organization] loves the righteous.
The Lord [not my favorite political persuasion] watches over the strangers, upholds the orphan and the widow.

The doxology draws God and the singing congregation into the reality of social emergency, social inequality, and social possibility.

(Walter Brueggemann, The Psalms and the Life of Faith, ed. Patrick D. Miller [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1995], 127.)

In the context of Egypt today, it is tempting to place after Brueggemann’s “not” names like Mubarak, Morsi, and Sisi, and this would well reflect what is said in verses 3 and 4 of the Psalm: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (ESV).

At the same time, it should not be overlooked that the five statements about the Lord also contain a moral appeal to us as human beings: if this is what the Lord stands for, we should seek to do the same (cf. e.g. Exodus 22:21–22).

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