Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sweeter than honey



In an effort to encourage myself to read more books (and less Buzzfeed) here's some good bits from something I've been reading lately.

Do you ever read the Psalms? Ever come across those bits where the writer says things like "Your law, O Lord, is sweeter than honeycomb," and think it's a little weird? Well, I didn't. Those are among my favourite bits because I knew exactly what it meant instinctively. I've spent the last 15 years or so looking closely at what the world looks like when it abandons the Law of God, (that I like to call "The Real" at this 'blog) and it has been getting more and more obvious that the Pslamist wasn't just kissing up to God, he was just saying that the world without God's law is a cesspit of cruelty and horror.

The other day, I read C.S. Lewis more or less describing that same thing in Reflections on the Psalms.

"Sweeter than honey" Ps. 119:

One can well understand this being said of God's mercies, God's visitations, His attributes. But what the poet is actually talking about is God's law, His commands; His "rulings". What is being compared to gold and honey is those "statutes" which we are told "rejoice the heart"...

This was to me at first very mysterious. "Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery" I can understand that a man can , and must, respect these "statutes" and try to obey them, and assent to them in his heart. But it is very hard to find how they can be, so to speak, delicious, how they exhilarate"...

But the Divine Law is really an expression of the Divine Mind, and a world ordered according to it is a thing greatly to be desired:
What should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life? His "delight" is in those statutes; to study them is like finding treasure, they affect him like music, are his "songs" they taste like honey, they are better than silver and gold. As one's eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in them, and it excites wonder. This is not priggery nor even scrupulosity; it is the language of a man ravished by moral beauty. If we cannot at all share in his experience, we shall be the losers....

For there were other roads which lacked "truth". The Jews had as their immediate neighbours close to them in race as well as in position, Pagans of the worst kind. Pagans whose religion was marked by none of that beauty or (sometimes) wisdom which we can find among the Greeks. That background made the "beauty" or "sweetness" of the Law more visible...When a Jew... looked upon those worships - when he thought of sacred prostitution, sacred sodomy, and the babies thrown into the fire for Moloch - his own Law, as he turned back to it, must have shone with an extraordinary radiance. Sweeter than honey; or if that metaphor does not suit us who have not such a sweet tooth, let us say like mountain water, or like fresh air after a dungeon, like sanity after a nightmare.

And here is something interesting, Lewis issuing a clear warning, that should be even more pertinent to us today:

In so far as this idea of the Law's beauty, sweetness or preciousness, arose from the contrast of the surrounding Paganisms, we may soon find occasion to recover it. Christians increasingly live on a spiritual island; new and rival ways of life surround it in all directions and their tides come further up the beach every time. None of these new ways is yet so filthy or cruel as some Semitic Paganism. But many of them ignore all individual rights and are already cruel enough. Some give morality a wholly new meaning which we cannot accept, some deny its possibility. Perhaps we shall all learn, sharply enough, to value the clean air and "sweet reasonableness" of the Christian ethics which in a more Christian age we might have taken for granted.
Reflections on the Psalms, 1961



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