Psalm 37:34-40; Exodus 27:1-28:14; Matthew 25:14-30

Psalm 37:34-40  The conclusion of this wisdom psalm emphasizes that in the end, the righteous will “inherit the earth.”   This contrasts the ephemerality of evil against God’s eternal goodness.  The evil take “root like a flourishing plant.” (35) but like all vegetation, their season ends and they disappear with the wind: “He passes on, and, look, he is gone, I seek him, and he is not found.” (36)

Instead it is “the man of peace [who] has a future./ And the transgressors one and all are destroyed.” (38) I’m intrigued that the psalmist speaks of a “man of peace” rather than the more typical “righteous man” that we encounter in the Psalms.  That says much about the behavior of the righteous.  Righteousness occurs in the framework of peace.

This psalm talks about the future.  The man of peace has a future, while “the future of the wicked [is] cut off.”  As with Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and the apocalyptic books, Daniel, Ezekiel (to a certain extent), and Revelation there’s much about the future in the Bible.  History moves forward in a straight line and one day it will all end. But like the foolish bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable, we tend to live strictly in the present. As the psalmist implies here, the future is all about hope and many good things are yet to come to pass. The promise always remains: “And the Lord will help them and free them.” (39)

Exodus 27:1-28:14  The details of the exterior construction of the Tabernacle continue, as well as a detailed description of the dimensions and materials (mostly bronze) used in the altar, whose most distinctive feature is its four horns–one at each corner.  I’m struck about how the sacred spaces (Tabernacle, Temple) and objects (altar, Ark, etc.) are described in incredible detail, but the text is, shall we say, stingy about the details of ordinary life, of how the people lived on a day-to-day basis.  But then again, these are sacred writings, doubtless written by a priest, who understandably would focus on details like these.

Details abound, as well, in the next chapter about Aaron’s priestly garments.  But at least we get one human note, as the instructions are  “to speak to every wise-hearted person whom I have  filled with a spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, to be priest to Me.” (28:3-4).  God uses the “wise-hearted” to create sacred objects.

While “wise-hearted” may be an intrinsic quality of the man, he is completed only when God has filled him “with a spirit of wisdom.”  If we are “wise-hearted” we are receptacles for wisdom that comes from God.  The clear implication for me is that we cannot generate wisdom on our own, but must our hearts must be prepared to be filled with God’s spirit of wisdom.  Which is not a bad description of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

Matthew 25:14-30  When I was in Sunday School and we studied this very famous parable of the talents, the emphasis was on investing our “talents” wisely for God’s work–and there’s no question that is exactly what we should be doing as we work in the Kingdom.  Only by putting our gifts to work will the Kingdom advance and will we receive the reward of Christian maturity gained through years of experience.  [Notice the very long timeframe in this story: “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” (25:19)]

Now that I’m older, I see that this parable is also all about taking risks.  And the greater our talents (gifts) the greater the risk we are to take.  Timidity–burying our talents–simply does not fly in the Kingdom.  Our recent study of “Right Here Right Now” boils down to our willingness to take risks, doing things and inviting people in ways we previously viewed as unpleasant, perhaps outright dangerous.  Remaining unwilling to take these risks not only results in no return on the investment, the most charitable spin we can put on the last verse [“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” (25:30)] is that we are creating “negative progress” in Kingdom work–we are a stumbling block that just gets in the way.  Better that we had not been there at all.

 

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