Psalm 119:113-120; 2 Samuel 22:1-25; John 11:1-16

Psalm 119:113-120: Our psalmist continues to draw a stark contrast between himself, who rightly desires God’s teaching, and those who do not: “The perverted I hated / and Your teaching I loved.” (113) Even to the point of hating them, Which is apparently OK since God apparently rejects them as well: “You spurned all who stray from Your statutes, / for their deception is but a lie.” (118)

In contrast to all those supplication psalms wherein the psalmist expresses his deep frustration and anguish that the evildoers seem to be winning the day, this poet sounds almost smug in his assurance that God will do away with them: “You spurned all who stray from Your statutes, / for their deception is but a lie. / Like dross You destroy all the earth’s wicked.” (118, 119a)

And in what seems like an odd twist of logic, God’s destruction of evildoers causes our psalmist to respond, “therefore I love Your precepts.” (119b) Really? He loves God’s Law because it eliminates evildoers? But God is God and the psalmist never forgets the immense distance betweenGod and himself: “My flesh shudders from the fear of You, / and of Your laws I am in awe.” (120)

What becomes clear here is that there is a vast gulf between God and humankind. Those who revere and follow the law understand this. God is not a comfortable idea or concept we can fit into a box of our own making. God is completely Other. We cannot tame God; we can only be in awe of God. As for those–the “evildoers”– who don’t ever think about God or consider Him to be relevant in their lives, well, for the psalmist they are merely dross that will eventually burn up.  Happily, Jesus shows up to demonstrate that God love them too.

2 Samuel 22:1-25: David’s song of thanksgiving is surely the highlight of 2 Samuel. The first verses are familiar to us because we sing them frequently albeit with some words left out…

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
    my stronghold and my refuge,
    my savior; you save me from violence.

But we would do well to pay attention to the subsequent verses, as well. First there is supplication: “In my distress I called upon the Lord; / to my God I called.” (7a) And God hears the prayer: “From his temple he heard my voice, / and my cry came to his ears.” (7b)

Then God reacts in apocalyptic rage: “Then the earth reeled and rocked; / the foundations of the heavens trembled / and quaked, because he was angry.” (8) Then God comes: “He bowed the heavens, and came down; /…He rode on a cherub, and flew; / he was seen upon the wings of the wind.” (10, 11). Notice how God employs nature to make Himself known: “He made darkness around him a canopy, / thick clouds, a gathering of water.” (12).  

Then God speaks: “The Lord thundered from heaven; / the Most High uttered his voice. (14)  Appropriately for David, God is also a warrior, again described as the forces of nature: “He sent out arrows, and scattered them / —lightning, and routed them.” (15)  God hears us and responds. Perhaps not as dramatically as David’s song tells us, but God never fails to hear our cries.

As usual, the deuteronomic theme comes through loud and clear: “Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, / according to my cleanness in his sight.” (25) If we live a life that is aligned to God and God’s will, then in the words of Heschel, “The true goal for man is to be what he does.” David is our resounding example in that regard. He was completely authentic; his being was reflected in his doing before God and man.

 John 11:1-16: To say that those around Jesus were frustrated at their leader’s Big Two-Day Delay when they heard Lazarus was ill is an understatement. But as usual, John uses this event to expound on a theological theme; this time Jesus as light: “Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” (9, 10)

Jesus is speaking at two levels: the physical and himself as Light of the World. And as usual, the disciples don’t really get what Jesus is talking about, so John tells us, “Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.” (13) Then, for once, “Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” (14) And it’s clear that Jesus is going to use Lazarus’ death in some surprising new way “so that you may believe.” (16).  And so, they head back across the Jordan to Lazarus’ house in Bethany and certain trouble with the Jerusalem authorities.

Perhaps what is most intriguing in this passage is Thomas’ cryptic remark, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (16). Is Thomas talking about the inevitable collapse of Jesus’ ministry and realizes that Jesus is indeed going to die at the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities? Probably. As the skeptic we later find Thomas really is, this could indeed be a resigned, almost cynical, remark. Or does Thomas have something more profound here? Does he actually understand what Jesus is about to do with regard to Lazarus?

Speak Your Mind