Critically analyse Psalm 23 and one Christian Spiritual Writing (slightly negative) explaining how different representations of God reflect the historical/socio-cultural context of their authors. (200 words)
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Psalm 23 is the very well-known "The Lord is My Shepherd." The various psalms are attributed to ancient religious thinkers such as (King) David, Moses and Solomon. Psalm 23 is attributed to David, himself a shepherd boy in his youth. It is comforting and reassuring, popular in Jewish and Christian practices and a trusted source of religious information to Muslims. Psalm 23, like all the psalms, is a devout prayer which was often sung rather than recited and remains a hymn today.
In Psalm 23, the representation of God is enduring, nonthreatening. The psalm itself is a metaphor: the Lord is the shepherd and his people are the sheep, quite different from other writings which warn of "fire and brimstone," such as Jonathan Edwards', a Christian preacher from the eighteenth century. It is comforting to know that God will "lead me," and "restore my soul." Anyone reading and trusting God will be "comforted," and will "fear no evil," despite "the presence of mine enemies." As a child of God, "goodness and mercy," are assured and a particularly poignant ending provides comfort to those people who are grieving the loss of a loved one as they know that, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." Reading this and other psalms, a pattern becomes apparent and, as the psalms were used for instruction, the pattern is indicative of the historic and cultural time periods in which Psalm 23 was written, where teaching and learning came essentially from priests so it was crucial that the psalms could be used as a source of guidance. John Edwards' thinking was philosophical and he warned of punishment to those who failed to adhere to the strict religious principles taught by the Bible. Humans are pathetic in his view and should strive to be more worthy of God. This is quite contrary to Psalm 23 and its encompassing warmth. Edwards' sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, was intended to inspire fear with the intent of encouraging people to save themselves. Although a Puritan, Edwards did not restrict himself to the traditional teachings and was radical in his approach. His style is indicative of the changes in religion and were appropriate to the time period as Edwards could see how the Puritan teachings of the new America were not, in his opinion, as relevant as they had been to his predecessors.
The psalms, as a method of prayer, also help to pass their teachings on through generations, especially important in the early days when oral teachings could be lost if not sufficiently repeated and entrenched. Modern-day worship has a formality, predictability and pattern that ensures that prayer is structured and not random. This helps ensure that Psalm 23 remains a favorite.
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