Psalm 60; Numbers 2; Mark 9:38-50

Psalm 60 Yet another psalm beginning with an angry shout to God: “God, You have abandoned us, breached us.”  But the second verse tells us why: “You were incensed—restore us to life!” (1) One way or the other, David and his army have gone against God’s will.  The psalmist turns retrospective, noting how “You once gave to those who fear You a banner for rallying because of the truth.” (5)  Where are you now, God? is the question at hand.  God once blessed all of Israel, naming its geographical components from north to south, ending in Judah, where Jerusalem lay:

   God once spoke in His holiness:
“Let Me exult and share out Shechem,
and the valley of Sukkoth I shall measure.
Mine is Gilead and Mine Manasseh,
and Ephraim My foremost stronghold,
Judah My scepter. (7-8)

At the same time, the lands near Israel are to be despised:”Moab is My washbasin, upon Edom I fling My sandal, over Philistia I shout exultant.” (9)

Regardless of their complaint, the psalmist acknowledges that God’s help is still the only way in which victory will come: “Give us help against the foe when rescue by man is in vain.” (12) and this psalm ends where they always do: praising God, full of assurance that “Through God we shall gather strength, and He will stamp out our foes.” (13)

Again, no matter how angry at, or abandoned by, God we feel–and we have the absoluter freedom to raise our fist and shout to God–our faith, indeed, our assurance, in God’s power and righteousness remains unquenched.

Numbers 2   This chapter impresses me with the reality of just how ancient military organization really is.  After conducting the census cum military draft in the first chapter, this second chapter covers all 12 tribes, naming the tribal chiefs, the headcount, and marching order, with each tribe marching under its own banner.

Exactly the same arrangement as when I was in US Navy Officer Candidate School: NAVOCS class 6908, November Company, marching under the blue and white checkered flag that means the letter “N” in the US Naval Flag system.

 Mark 9:38-50 Jesus’ statement, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” (39-140) is incredibly freeing.  Jesus is asking only one thing: that whatever deeds of power we accomplish that they be done in his name.  To me, this means that the incredible variety of Christianity, the multitude of ways we “do church” is not outside of Jesus’ plan.  

Ecumenism may be desirable, but it is not necessary for the church to be effective in the world.  How much energy has been expended in looking inward at each other trying to find common ground when Jesus has already defined that very ground!  But then again, it’s always easier to look inward and talk to (or shot at) each other, rather than doing the difficult work of advancing the kingdom.

Which is exactly Jesus’ point in the passage that follows.  Stay out of the stumbling block business! 

And in what seems to be a clear prophecy of Pentecost–“for everyone will be salted with fire” (49)–Jesus’ final words are “be at peace with one another.”  How greatly the church has sinned through history; we have sinned; I have sinned…


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