Psalm 83:9-18; Deuteronomy 22; Luke 8:40-56

Psalm 83:13-18 : Worse than conspiring against the men of Israel, the enemies conspired against God: “they conspired with a single heart, against You they sealed a pact—” (6) There is remarkable specificity in this psalm, as the poet names places and chieftains. Their conspiracy notwithstanding, they are utterly destroyed.

I particularly like the image, “They were destroyed at En-Dor, / they turned into dung for the soil.” Recycling has early roots!  And  then transformation into weeds: “O God, make them like the thistledown, / like straw before the wind.” (14) Not just blown away but then burned up: “As fire burns down forests /and as flame ignites the mountains,” (15)

But the worse fate awaits, “May they be shamed and dismayed forever /may they be disgraced and may they perish.” (18)  Of course this raises the ethical issue: do we pray for the destruction and death of our enemies? No question that war is a special case, and that’s what’s being described here.  I think this psalm is an exhortation to the troops just before battle.  So perhaps we should dwell on the psalm’s psychological impact rather than its theology.

Finally, we are reminded, as always, that God rules over all the earth and all peoples, not just Israel: “And may they know that You, Your name is the LORD. You alone are most high over all the earth.” Unlike all the small-g gods, there is nothing localized about God. He is the Creator and he reigns “most high” over all the earth and all that dwells therein.

Deuteronomy 22: The exegesis on the decalog continues with detailed rules and examples. If you “see your brother’s ox or his sheep slipping away,” it’s not just a courtesy to ensure they don’t escape, it’s a command. “You shall not be able to ignore it.” (4)

More rules for daily life: “There shall not be a man’s gear on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment,” (5). A difference almost, but not quite, lost in our increasingly androgynous culture.  As for the rule that you can keep the fledging birds in a nest you discover, but “send the mother off,” it is apparently a good omen, “so that it may go well with you and you will enjoy length of days.” (7) More practically, not eating both the mother and her eggs ensures that the species survives.

We also see why houses in the Middle East have flat roofs: “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you not put bloodguilt in your house should someone fall from it.” (8).

It makes sense about not trying to plow with an ox and a donkey together: certainly a way to prevent cruelty to the donkey. But I don’t get it about not wearing wool and linen together or about  the tassels.

Things get more disturbing farther into the chapter when it comes to sexual matters.  The right of a man to “hate” his wife because she might not be a virgin is disturbing, although we have to remember that marriage in that culture was basically a financial transaction between the woman’s father and the husband, who would not want to marry “damaged goods.”  Pretty alien to our ears that think mostly about the love of the couple for each other.

But the command to stone the woman to death who has had premarital sex (21) is just plain disturbing.  Why don;t those who are obsessed about homosexuality pick up on this command? (He said snarkily.)

Luke 8:40-56: Jesus heals the woman with the hemorrhage and then revives Jairus’ daughter.  I’m struck by how Luke weaves the two miracles together.  Jairus comes up and begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his dying twelve-year-old daughter.  On the way, the other woman “came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.” (44) Much to the surprise of the crowd, Jesus is not annoyed, but commends her as an example of faith that he would heal her.  He then goes on to Jairus’ house and revives the daughter.

I think Luke is telling us that we can interact with Jesus both ways.  One is by asking for his healing as Jairus did. That would be the “interrogatory or intellectual method.” The woman with the hemorrhage uses “emotional or feeling method.” Just reaching out wordlessly. Both approaches to Jesus are clearly valid and efficacious.  But the end result for both is identical: healing.

It’s also worth noting that those healed in this story are women. This certainly demonstrates female worth and equality with men in Jesus’ eyes, and therefore in the Kingdom. Luke is also showing us that both these women were represent persons at their most vulnerable. One is a child; the other had been ritually unclean for a long time. And both are healed and become heirs to the Kingdom.

What a contrast to the male rulers, priests and Pharisees, who focused on power as indicative of worth! For Jesus, who as usual turns things upside down, it is vulnerability that connotes worth. Unfortunately, there are still way too many Pharisees in the church today.

 

 

 

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