Psalm 80:1-7; Deuteronomy 8:1-9:6; Luke 6:12-26

Psalm 80:1-7: Alter informs us that Joseph, Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh all refer to the northern kingdom, Israel.  Clearly, they are experiencing great difficulties and the psalmist feels God’s anger at them is the cause of their present troubles.  He prays to God to “rouse Your might / and come to the rescue for us. / O God, bring us back,/ and light up Your face that we may be rescued.” (3,4)

By now, the psalmist pleads, Israel has suffered enough for their misdeeds, “You fed them bread of tears / and made them drink triple measure of tears.” (6) The metaphor “bread of tears” is striking. What does it mean to be on a diet of sorrow or meals of despair? This is certainly a long term thing, not just a passing cloud. The nation is depressed; its morale shattered.

It’s clear how they came to their present pass: their collective sin and disobedience.  Which is exactly what Moses promised would happen in his Deuteronomy speech.  We diagnose depression now as a disease (that can be ameliorated by drugs…)  But as the psalmist implies here, our “bread of tears” also results from our choices and the actions we take.

But there is always hope: God may be silent now, but he will not “smolder against Your people’s prayer” (5) forever.  By praying we have placed ourselves in right position, acknowledging our sinfulness.  God is listening.  Will he rescue?

Deuteronomy 8:1-9:6:  Chapter 8 weaves God’s injunction to keep his commands (1, 7-10) with a recollection of all God did for them in the wilderness (2-5 and again at 15,16).

Here also is where we encounter Jesus’ famous quote: “you know that not on bread alone does the human live but on every utterance of the L ORD’s mouth does the human live.” (3)

The chapter’s centerpiece is the hymn-like description of what awaits them in the Promised Land:

“For the L ORD your God is about to bring you to a goodly land, a land of brooks of water, springs  and deeps coming out in valley and in mountain, a land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates , a land of oil olives and 9 honey, a land where not in penury will you eat bread, you will lack nothing in it,” (7-9)

The juxtaposition of this passage with the descriptions of the parched desert with its vipers and scorpions makes it all the more alluring. In fact, things will be so wonderful that “you will eat and be sated and bless the LORD  your God on the goodly land that He has given you.” (10).

But then Moses adds immediately,”Watch yourself, lest you forget the LORD your God and not keep His commands and His laws.”  And therein lies the rub. Both for Israel and for us.  We are blessed; we live comfortable lives and forget Who has provided this. Worse, we think we’ve accomplished it ourselves.  We know what ultimately happened to Israel. We, too, must “Watch ourselves.”

This theme of remembering Who has brought us these things is reiterated in chapter 9: “Not through your merit nor through your heart’s rightness do you come to take hold of their land.” (9:5a)  In fact, Israel is getting the land because “through the wickedness of these nations is the LORD your God dispossessing them before you and in order to fulfill the word that the LORD swore to your fathers” (9:5b).  We must never forget that God is God; we are the beneficiaries, not the instigators of His blessings.

Luke 6:12-26: Ever the man of intimate detail, Luke names the twelve Disciples in a single list.  Jesus’ reputation and ministry are spreading ever wider; the crowds increasingly greater: “great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon” (17).

But what’s really fascinating here is that Jesus speaks only to his disciples, not to a crowd on a mountainside. What Jesus says is so unexpected, so outside the mainstream, that at first only the disciples can hear it. No one has ever said any of this the way Jesus has said it here.

Luke is drawing a direct contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, the here and now.  At this point in Jesus’ ministry, this is a message for his disciples, not everyone.

Jesus opens with the Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, which in its juxtaposition of opposites turns the world inside out and upside down.  If you’re poor, hungry or weeping now, all that will be reversed in the Kingdom of God.  And with an almost fearful symmetry, if you are wealthy, sated, or laughing in the here and now, the opposite will happen to you in the Kingdom of God.

There is reversal everywhere: “ when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy.” (22)

As we know, this message is so revolutionary, so unexpected that even the disciples don’t get it.  Even all the way up to the cross.


Speak Your Mind