Psalm 135:1-12; 1 Kings 19; John 19:1-11

Psalm 135:1-12: This psalm opens with a chorus of praise and gratitude with one line in particular, “hymn His name, for it is sweet” that reminds us that God impacts all our senses. This psalm knows that Israel is unique among all the nations, “For Yah has chosen for Himself Jacob, / Israel as His treasure.” (4)

It then recalls that God is Creator of all that exists, “All that the LORD desired /He did in the heavens and on the earth,/ in the seas and all the depths.” (6) and continues His creative activity every day, “He brings up the clouds from the ends of the earth; / lightning for the rain He made; / He brings forth the wind from His stores.” (7).

This psalm reminds us that God did not merely create and then depart the scene, but that God is actively involved in  creation every day–and in our lives every day. Even when bad things happen, we can still come to God a praise Him for we know “that the LORD is great.” (5)

1 Kings 19: The adventures of Elijah continue as Jezebel, upon hearing he has slain her Baal prophets, vows to kill the prophet. He flees and is beyond discouragement that even the great works God has performed have come to naught. He falls asleep and angel comes and minsters to him twice, saying, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” (7).

He finds himself in a cave when the word of God comes to him, instructing him to “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (11) And as many of the psalms describe, God creates wind, an earthquake, a fire and then a “sound of sheer silence.” But God is not in any of these natural events. Instead, God comes to Elijah as a voice that asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (13) Elijah answers in discouragement, “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (14)

God instructs Elijah to anoint “Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel;” a”Elisha as prophet in your place.” And Elisha follows Elijah, “and became his servant.”

What strikes me here is that God speaks to Elijah at the moment of his deepest despair and He speaks out of the silence. But God does not tell Elijah how sorry He feels for Elijah, or even says, ‘Good job, Elijah.” God merely issues instructions for what Elijah is to do next. And Elijah obeys. This reminds me that God is not a therapist, but by merely telling us what to do next and where to go next, we know we are loved by God–even in our deepest moments of despair and discouragement.

But it requires one thing of us: we must be listening for God to speak in the silence, not in the wind or earthquake or fire.

John 19:1-11: Pilate orders Jesus to be flogged and mocked, believing the Jews will be satisfied that this is sufficient punishment. But alas for him, their anger is more intense than ever as they shout “Crucify him!” Pilate then attempts to turn Jesus back over to the Jews, but the Jews reply that because Jesus has claimed to be the Son of God, he must die.

John’s next sentence speaks volumes: “when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.” (8). The roots of this fear are certainly for his own position when Rome hears of this gross miscarriage of justice that he has allowed to happen under his jurisdiction. Whatever Rome was at that time, it was a civilization of laws.

Pilate is also very much afraid of the Jews because he was at the tipping point of having a full-scale rebellion on his hands. In desperation he asks Jesus one more time, perhaps hoping that Jesus will just volunteer to leave town. But Jesus won’t. But he does let Pilate off the hook somewhat, telling him that Pilate’s power comes ultimately from God but that “the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (11) Jesus is basically saying to Pilate, “you’re an merely the intermediary here, not the cause of this.”

I think it is those words that give Pilate the guts to go forward, for there can be no other outcome. This is one more instance of how John makes it clear to us the characters in this drama–Judas, Ciaiphas, the mob, Pilate– that lead to Jesus’ crucifixion are merely players on a much larger, almost invisible stage: the battle between good and evil.

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