Psalm 95; Joshua 14:6-15:19; Luke 14:25-32

Psalm 95: This is one of those psalms where singing becomes shouting: “Come, let us sing gladly to the LORD, / let us shout out to the Rock of our rescue.” (1) But it is not mere shouting, it is shouting in song: “Let us greet Him in acclaim, / in songs let us shout out to Him.” (2) Perhaps a modern analogue would be Red Sox fans singing “Sweet Caroline” in Fenway Park. The point is, that God’s greatness transcends mere songs of praise, but is something that is to be sung in massed unison.

This psalm focuses on the greatness of God as Creator, In Whose hand are the depths of the earth, and the peaks of the mountains.” (4) And, as always, our natural response to so great a God is worship: “Come, let us bow and kneel, bend the knee before the LORD our maker.” (6). The phrase “the LORD our maker” reminds us that we are His creation, we are not the small-g gods that we (me, anyway) so often see ourselves as being.

“For He is our God and we are the people He tends and the flock of His hand.” (7) reiterates the Creator/created relationship. This is the proper order of creation, and we do well to remember that order, which is why worship is about praise and remembrance, not about being entertained or edified or even (as I heard my parents say so often) “getting something out of it.”

When we corrupt that order and set ourselves above our Creator, as seems to be our natural bent, then sin–especially the sin of pride–arises, and all its dreadful consequences. This is what happened at Meribah (8) and again in the wilderness when the people complained when the spies came back and were afraid of the Canaanites. The result: “Forty years I loathed a generation, /and I said, ‘They are a people of wayward heart.” (10)

Through the saving power of Jesus Christ we will never be loathed, but that does not absolve of of our responsibility to remember we are the Created and our natural singing/shouting response is gratitude and worship of our Creator.

Joshua 14:6-15:19: In chapter 15 we are introduced to Caleb, whose warrior qualities and capabilities are described. In one of the odder bargains of the OT, Caleb says that whoever takes Kiriath-sepher will be awarded his daughter Achsah and in something edging toward incest, she becomes the wife of Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, her cousin.

Since the family is assigned to the desert, so she urges her new husband to ask for springs of water as part of their territory. However, he apparently says nothing, so being no slouch, Achsah takes it upon herself to ask her father, which request she grants. While the theological application may be as simple as “ask and you shall receive,” I’m amused that the father-daughter bond of the father granting a daughter’s request–something I have happily done many times myself–has deep historical roots!

Luke 14:25-32: This is one of those disturbing passages about the cost of discipleship that rubs against our grain, especially when Jesus says ““Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” (26) Perhaps I’m softening “hate” too much to suggest that these relationships cannot have greater precedence than the relationship between Jesus and ourselves as his disciples.

The latter half of this passage, which seems not to be preached on as much, is that discipleship requires preparation and planning, which point Jesus makes not once, but twice: once in building and once in military planning.  To me, Jesus is saying there is nothing random or particularly about working in the Kingdom. To be sure, Kingdom work requires vision, but it is vision that anticipates cost (the tower example) and potential consequences (the military example)–not the short-lived enthusiasm that we too often mistake for vision. If the cost or consequences are too great, then the plan must be modified accordingly.

This is also a good example of what my father said distinguished Christianity from cults: You cannot “leave your brains at the door.” Being a worker in the Kingdom requires thought, insight, and yes, intelligence.  We cannot mindlessly follow some charismatic but ultimately empty leader and expect to build something lasting or expand the territory of the Kingdom.

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