Psalm 84:1-7; Deuteronomy 23:1-24:13; Luke 9:1-11

Psalm 84:1-7: This psalm evokes the an image of group of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for a festival, perhaps Passover.  They are camped for the night somewhere along the way and gathered around the campfire.  Perhaps they have just finished their evening meal. The stars shine brightly and perhaps the moon has already risen.

God’s great creation is visible even at night. The pilgrim, looking up at the stars, leans back and sighs, “How lovely Your dwellings, / O LORD of armies!” (1) (BTW, I don’t think “armies” connotes a militaristic tone to this psalm; it’s “armies” in the sense of “many.”)

Creation is so glorious and his heart is so full that he begins to sing, “My heart and my flesh sing gladness to the living God.” (2b)  There’s enough light that our singer spies a bird in the tree above him, settling in for the night, “Even the bird has found a home, / and the swallow a nest for itself, / that puts its fledglings by Your altars,” (3).  God protects all His creation, even the birds.  And we realize that we, also, are God’s creation and that is where true joy–the joy of this one evening and the joy of our lives–comes from: “Happy are those who dwell in Your house, / they will ever praise You.” (4)

The psalmist realizes that all of life is on a pilgrimage, and creates a gorgeous metaphor, “Happy the folk whose strength is in You, / the highways in their heart.” (5). Am I sufficiently aligned to God and in tune with His creation that I remember that my strength in in God on all the highways in my heart? It is God who walks that highway with me.

Deuteronomy 23:1-24:13: This section deals with the intimate details, ranging from castrated men (I feel personally for these guys!) to the problem of nocturnal emissions and digging and using latrines. (I have to wonder how preachers who “preach through the Bible” deal with the practical applications of passages like this…)

More puzzling, however, is the command to permanently shun/avoid  the Ammonites and the Moabites, while effectively embracing the Edomites and Egyptians.  Edom didn’t seem to treat Israel much better than the Ammonites or Moabites, and the Egyptians wanted to kill or at least capture all of Israel. Such are the mysterious ways of God, and/or the editors of this book who may have had certain political axes to grind.

Plus, we can bask in the irony that Ruth of the hated Moabites is King David’s great-grandmother, and of course, Jesus is descended from the same line. So much for various OT proscriptions.

Divorce is the topic that opens chapter 24, and the opening verse is probably claims a place among the top ten misused verses in the Bible: “When a man takes a wife and cohabits with her, it shall be, if she does not find favor in his eyes because he finds in her some shamefully exposed thing, and he writes her a document of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her away from his house,” (24:1) However, the verse is ripped out of its larger context of a special case of divorce, remarriage and divorce, rather than addressing the contentious issue of divorce as a whole. Unfortunately, that has not bothered too many men who cite this passage as justification for their actions.

On the other hand, a newly-married man has certain privileges such as being exempt from military service for a year and his household is exempt form taxes. This makes great sense from a societal perspective in terms of establishing families as the basis of stable community. Too bad marriage and establishing families is now basically a vestigial act in American society–and for which we are paying a heavy price.

Luke 9:1-11: While Matthew gives us the Great Commission, Luke provides us with the practical details of what it means to be on mission and how we should go about it.  Jesus clearly did not share the obsession about church growth and knew (as he had preached in the parable about the seeds) that the message would not be well received everywhere. Rather than persistently beating one’s head against in immovable wall, he says, “Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (5) Working in the Kingdom requires the wisdom to recognize futility when we see it.

Word of mouth was the mainstream media of the day and word about Jesus gets back to Herod.  Obviously his court advisors (not unlike advisors today) were not fully informed but were willing to fake a guess or two about “arisen prophets” so they would continue to look wise and well-informed.  We know that Herod had been fascinated by John the Baptist and no doubt his interest in the Jesus was just as strong, maybe stronger.

Luke leaves us hanging with his tantalizing sentence, “And he [Herod] tried to see him [Jesus].” (9) The meeting surely never took place, and it’s a good reminder that Jesus did not feel compelled to hobnob with the politically powerful. Instead, as Luke tells us in the next section, Jesus went about his primary work.  The crowds “followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.” Which is exactly our template for Kingdom work. As the disciples found out on their mission,  we work most effectively where we are welcomed.

Speak Your Mind