Coram Deo. This is the topic that will be discussed in REF this semester. What does it mean? Coram means “in the face of” or “in the presence of”, and Deo means God. Together, Coram Deo means “in the face of God, in all aspects of our life”. It covers all aspects of life and is not restricted to only the church, our prayers or our fellowship with each other. He should be the most eminent one in our life.
Martin Luther once said that Psalm is the mirror of our hearts. The book of Psalms contains many emotions, and this is because it is a book about humans. Psalms contains many metaphors. For example, a righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season. What does it mean for a righteous man to be like a tree planted by streams of water? We could picture him to be firm, stable, mature, fruitful, and prosperous. Another example of a common metaphor found in the bible is used to describe God as king. It means God is powerful; He rules over us, He is sovereign, wise, resourceful, glorious and just.
God uses metaphors concerning the things that we encounter in our everyday life (i.e., king) to help us understand Him. This is because He is the only God and there is none like Him that can be used as a reference to describe Him. But why don’t we describe Him using adjectives such as “cruel, dictator, has many wives, fat, abusive”? These are the adjectives which describe many of the typical kings that we have/had in this world, both in the present and in the past. Apart from that, we also learn, through these metaphors, the true definition of every aspect of our life based on God’s standard. Men are corrupted by sin. Culture is like the air that we breathe. It is embedded in us. It is like fish swimming in the water; they wouldn’t feel wet, just as we wouldn’t realise that we are living a life that is corrupted by sin. Thus, we have to, based on God’s standards, critically question the secular society that we live in, where everybody accepts everything so easily.
In Psalm chapter 1, we can see that there are 2 kinds of people and two different ways of life that lead to two different fates; the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. In verse 1, the psalmist rejects the totality of evil. He describes the Christian life as a life that is “counter cultural”, because everything is affected by sin in this world. We can see in verse 1 that a righteous man does not think like the wicked does. Not only does he not walk with them, he also does not stand in the way of sinners and will not sit in the company of the sinners. From “walk” to “stand” to “sit”, we can see a progress of conformity to the world. To sum it up, despite a lot of peer pressure, a righteous man will not let himself be influenced by other people and conform to the wicked patterns of this world.
In contrary to verse 1, verse 2 is written in a more positive light. A righteous man does not only “meditate” but he also “delights in the words of God” (the Psalmist also writes in Psalm 19 that the word of God is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey). To “meditate day and night” implies that the word of God becomes the focus of our life. It is equivalent to constantly thinking about something at every moment. Verse 3 then continues to describe what a righteous man is like; “tree by streams of water” and “yields fruits”.
Compared to the righteous man, we see in verse 4 that the wicked is rootless and useless, like “chaff that the wind drives away”. In Psalms 92:12-15, we can see that the righteous will still bear fruit in old age, and they will stay fresh and green. There are only 2 kinds of people in old age — full of integrity or full of despair. Verse 5 and 6 show the fate of these 2 kinds of people. God intimately and continually watches over the righteous, and they will be preserved until the day of judgement. But this is not so for the wicked, for they will be cut off. These verses serve not only as a warning for the Israelites in those days, but also for non-churchgoers and for us, His chosen people, despite not being Israelites in the biological or geographical sense.
The assembly of the righteous in Christ will be saved (v5), but the way of the wicked will perish. May we always be filled by the presence of God and be moulded to be more like Him.