Psalm 87; Deuteronomy 29:22-31:8; Luke 10:17-24

Writing this morning from the La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM.

Psalm 87: This paean to Jerusalem [“The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” (2)] appears to have been written by a poet from somewhere else, [“Look, Philistia and Tyre together with Cush, —this one was born there.” (4)] but who may have converted to Judiasm, as he observes that “of Zion it shall be said: every man is born in it,” (5) and that “The LORD inscribes in the record of peoples:  this one was born there.”(6)

And not just that God writes his name, but that God is the source of life, ““All my wellsprings are in you.” (7)

As usual, God is in the details and keeps careful records. Moreover, God knows us by name.  These verses must certainly have been on Paul’s mind when he wrote the letter to Phillipi (4:3) and on John’s mind when he writes of the “book of life” in Revelation.

Deuteronomy 29:22-31:8: The author paints a picture of the destruction of Israel should it disobey the commands and break its Covenant with God: “What is this great smouldering wrath?’ And they will say, ‘For their having abandoned the Covenant of the LORD, God of their fathers,” (29:24) for the greatest sin of all, “they went and worshipped other gods and bowed to them, gods that they did not know…”(29:25)

Here is one of those places where we see the angry, wrathful God that so disturbs us, but as I’ve learned in therapy, anger may be a secondary emotion, but it is still a legitimate feeling. Nevertheless, verse 27 is remarkable for its use of the many synonyms of anger: “And the LORD tore them from upon their soil in wrath and in anger and in great fury…” And in either a prediction or observation of the Babylonian exile, the verse concludes, “…and flung them into another land as on this day.’”

But in chapter 30, there is the promise of return, because God knows that ” you shall turn back to the LORD your God and heed His voice…” (30:2) and “He [God] shall turn back and gather you in from all the peoples to which the LORD your God has scattered you.” (30:4)

The angry God is actually a loving God, whose anger is justified, and in one of the most beautiful verses in Deuteronomy, “the LORD your God shall circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your being for your life’s sake.” (30:7)

The circumcised heart is one which, to use Oswald Chambers’ construction, is a heart that has completely abandoned ego and given itself wholly over to God.  And unlike Israel, which operated wholly under the terms of the Old Covenant, we have been granted grace under the terms of the New Covenant. The question always remains: can I abandon my ego to Christ?

After many, many chapters of rules, commands, imprecations and threats, Moses “finished speaking these words to all Israel.” (31:1) and tells his listeners, “A hundred and twenty years old I am today. I can no longer sally forth and come in, and the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’” (31:2)

One final plea, reminiscent of Henry V’s St. Crispin Day speech, encourages all Israel, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear and do not dread them, for the LORD your God, He it is Who goes with you. He will not let go of you and He will not forsake you.” (31:6) and passes the con to Joshua.

These final words are increasingly apropos for those of us living in an increasingly post-Christian world surrounded by hostility to those who dare speak out against the prevailing culture.

Luke 10:17-24:  Once again, one of those Moravian parallels.  As the psalmist rejoices that his name was written in the book of Zion, Jesus promises and even better thing, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (10:20)

For guys like me, what Jesus says about how to discover God and God’s purposes is profoundly important.  I cannot intellectualize myself into heaven, for “you [God] have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”  (21b) We must come to the kingdom as innocent babes.

Jesus has intentionally picked disciples who are not scholars or “wise,” but in keeping with Luke’s theme that Jesus turned things upside down and inside out, it is the seemingly foolish who are first in the Kingdom and to whom much has been revealed, “I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (24)

And even though Paul did not have Luke’s gospel in front of him when he wrote his letter to Corinth, he says the same thing about the wise and the foolish. You’d think I’d have figured this out by now and abandoned intellectual pretense.

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