Psalm 37:16-22; Exodus 23:27-25:9; Matthew 24:36-44

Psalm 37:16-22  Better a little for the just than wicked men’s great profusion.” (16) Even though it’s true, it is still difficult to accept with complete equanimity.  Yes, we believe the promise that follows immediately, “For the wicked’s arms shall be broken, but the LORD sustains the just.” (17)  Not only will the wicked’s arms be broken, but “the wicked shall perish, and the foes of the LORD, like the meadows’ green—gone, in smoke, gone.” (20)

I’m not sure that in our power- and celebrity-obsessed culture that we really, deep down, believe that the wicked will meet this fate.  Yes, in the end, as my father used to say, “the chickens come home to roost.”   And in our hearts we know God sustains us, but as the middle class shrinks and wealth continues to concentrate at the very top, these are verses we need to read again and again.  As the psalmist told his listeners, and he is telling us: faith is not based on the appearance of reality.  Take heart.  God is still there and God will mete his justice.

One side note: Jesus must have had these verses in mind when he said the meek will inherit the earth: “For those He blesses inherit the earth and those He curses are cut off.” (22)

Exodus 23:27-25:9   God gets very specific about the Promised Land and the manner in which the Israelites will gain it: “Little by little shall I drive them out before you until you are fruitful and inherit the land. And I shall fix its borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I shall give into your hand the inhabitants of the land and you will drive them out before you.” (23:30-31)  And no deals.  It will be straight up conquest, with all the former inhabitants driven out of Canaan: “You shall not make a pact with them or with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they cause you to offend Me, for should you worship their gods, it will be a snare for you.’” (23:32-33).

Which of course is exactly what didn’t happen.  The inhabitants stayed and Israel’s history is filled with the problems and tragedies–the snares– that ensued.  But I wonder.  Could any people do what God demanded of Israel?  The New Covenant pretty much proves that we couldn’t.

Contrary to popular image, Moses did not just go up on Mt. Sinai to meet God.  There was an elaborate ritual of sacrifice and the leaders gather and collectively see God–or at least His feet: “And they saw the God of Israel, and beneath His feet was like a fashioning of sapphire pavement and like the very heavens for pureness.”  (24:10) But God no more of himself them: “But against the elect of the Israelites He did not send forth His hand.” (24:11)  This scene of cloud and God’s glory foreshadows Jesus’ Transfiguration many centuries later.

Only Moses goes up into the cloud to meet God, who promises to write the Commandments in stone.  This separation of Moses from everyone else certainly underscores the honor and special place that has been accorded to him throughout Israel’s history.  Unfortunately, the 40-day separation of Moses from the rest of the Israelites will also lead to mischief at the foot of Sinai.

 Matthew 24:36-44  Much has been made of this prophesy about the coming of the Son of Man, leading to the theory (my deliberate word) of the Rapture and bumper stickers that say, “In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned.”

Even though it’s in our Creed, (“He shall come to judge the living and the dead”), we are uncomfortable with the idea that history will end so abruptly.  But apparently, that’s God’s plan that will occur in God’s good time.  For me, the issue is not trying to parse the precise meaning of how that will occur; only that it will occur.

Above all, there is one major lesson: we are to remain alert, always looking outward.  Those of us in the Church are apt to focus inward on our selves and or tasks, metaphorically grinding our meal.  Only by looking outward and upward can we hope to be prepared.

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