“A wonderfully complex hymn,” writes Richard J. Clifford in The Collegeville Bible Commentary in describing the 33rd psalm. The wedding Lectionary picks a few verses for the first stanza, melding together the theme of the Chosen People with the humble fear of the Lord with which believers approach God.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
But see, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness.
Trust in God, the psalmist urges. It’s a good quality heading into a marriage:
Our soul waits for the Lord,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
I like this psalm. I’ve set it twice for weddings of friends. It comes up fairly frequently in the Sunday Lectionary, though with different sets of verses.
Verse 18 seems to challenge us to hope for God’s goodness. Do we have an expectation good things will happen if we rely on God? Or is the expectation of goodness more dependent on our mutual love for spouse, our social status, our earthly riches, or our talents? If people of the contemporary culture think their good looks, their wealth, and their passion will pave the way for a good marriage, disappointment is in store, I’d say.
From the inside, I can say marriage takes grace as much as hard work of the couple. Likely a lot more, actually. Does an engaged couple have a sense of entitlement, that the good life is automatically theirs? I think it’s fine to possess confidence in one’s future. But Psalm 33 offers some needed perspective. Hope for good things, sure. But lean on God as the source of that hope.