Psalm 91:1-8; Joshua 7; Luke 12:22-34

Psalm 91:1-8: Nowhere else in the Bible do we find a more eloquent description of how God protects us from danger.  If there were ever a psalm to memorize before setting out on a dangerous mission or for a soldier to read before battle, it is this one.

The person being protected speaks in verse 2, “My refuge and bastion, / my God in whom I trust.” And in the end that is the only prayer we need to say. But the psalmist takes up that theme in the subsequent verses, elaborating in all the ways we will be protected. We are protected both from accident and from an epidemic: “For He will save you from the fowler’s snare, / from the disastrous plague.” (3) and from the “terror of the night” and in war, “the arrow that flies by day,” (4). In light of the ebola in Africa, verse 6 has particular resonance in that God will protect us “from the plague that stalks in darkness [and] from the scourge that rages at noon.”

The image of war and terrorism is evoked in the memorable verse, “Though a thousand fall at your side / and ten thousand at your right hand,/ you it will not reach.” (7)

I think it’s important to note that we will still experience woes and disasters in our lives, remembering that this is a psalm of encouragement, not of prediction. But when we place our complete trust in God we are placed in a protective context far greater than ourselves. The difficult mission is not something we have to do completely alone and unprotected.

When we embark on a dangerous journey knowing that God is with us, our courage is strengthened and we know that even if evil befalls us, we are in the arms of One who loves us.  And that makes all the difference.

Joshua 7: The sin of Achan–taking silver and gold that was the spoils of war and burying it in his tent–is an ominous precursor of the sins of Israel which will follow.  God has required that all the “devoted things” be given to Him alone, and Achan’s sin cannot be tolerated. Through a remarkable tribe-by-tribe winnowing process, Achan is finally identified.

Achan confesses, but his entire family is stoned an all his possessions are burnt. This is not only a memorable lesson to the rest of Israel–one they won’t soon forget–but it is also a stark reminder that confession does not necessarily lead to forgiveness, much less exoneration.  And an equally stark reminder that one man’s sins infect his entire family.

Joshua has asked  the crucial “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord is bringing trouble on you today.” (25) Neither God nor Joshua are being capricious. The moral health of the community depends on the moral behavior of its members. A lesson we seem well on our way to forgetting in our post-Christian society today.

Luke 12:22-34: Luke doesn’t give us the back-story that leads to Jesus’ incredibly encouraging words, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (22, 23a) [And in another striking “Moravian coincidence,” both today’s psalm and this gospel are about encouragement.]

I suspect that the disciples saw that even though Jesus’ popularity was at an all-time high and he was surrounded by crowds, they were poor and hungry and tired. I’d like to think that the disciples didn’t complain about their sorry lot, but that Jesus recognized their downcast spirits and encourages them with his memorable words. (Although Judas, as the disciple’s treasurer probably pointed out the sorry state of their finances.)

We’re just like the disciples. All we humans spend lots of time worrying, especially about finances. And lots of us (me included) work hard to maintain our financial position and save for the unexpected. Yet, I know of many dedicated Christians who have been down to their last dollar and receive unexpected gifts form places they never anticipated, and from those they never asked. They are living proof of what Jesus is talking about here.

So why is my faith that God will provide so weak? I suppose once again it’s my own attempts to control what happens rather than giving myself wholly over to God’s providence. In the end it’s all about Kingdom priority.  I talk a good line, but my actions still indicate that I have at least one foot in the worldly treasure department.

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