Learning from Biblical Poetry…

Biblical poetry – the kind found in the Psalms – is characterized by a different kind of “rhyme” than most Western poetry. It’s called “parallelism” and it really is a rhyme of thought between the lines of poetry (not rhyme of sound). Sometimes the lines say something similar (but in a different way – “synonymous parallelism”), sometimes the lines express truth by contrast (like in Proverbs – “antithetical parallelism”), and sometimes something is said figuratively and then explained literally (“emblematic parallelism”), and there are others. Being alert to this feature of Biblical poetry not only enriches those who read the Psalms, it also assists in proper interpretation.

All of that to say, one of my very favorite examples of powerful “emblematic parallelism” is found in verses 11-13 of Psalm 103. This morning it was a part of my Bible reading and I was again deeply moved by what the parallelism of those verses expressed! I’ll do my best to give you a sample of what “emblematic parallelism” in those verses communicates…

Verse 11 – “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear [reverence] Him.” Any astronomer will tell you the distance of the heavens above the earth is almost an infinite distance!” Listen you have no idea – no comprehension – of how much God loves you!

Verse 12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us!” I’m so glad the Biblical writer did not say “North and South” – those distances can be measured. “East and West” is an infinite distance! When God forgives your sin (whatever that may be)… YOU’RE FORGIVEN! Never to be remembered against you again (Isaiah 43:25)!

Verse 13 – “As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear [reverence] Him!” Compassion is a very deep visceral feeling! Every loving parent has felt it – I have, and so have you! It is a deep emotion that wells up within us for the welfare of our children! God feels that sensation for us – His children!

Great truths in Psalm 103 taught and communicated through “emblematic parallelism” – Enjoy it! Relish it! I’m grateful for each of those truths communicating God’s “steadfast love” today!

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