Psalm 54; Job 30; 1 Corinthians 6:9–20

Psalm 54: This psalm is dedicated to David “when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, ‘Is not David hiding out among us?'” (2) so we know immediately it’s a psalm of supplication.  Alter points out that the line at verse 5, “For strangers have risen against me”does not exactly fit the incident described in 1 Samuel 23 since Saul was hardly a stranger to David. But then, inerrantists notwithstanding, total consistency is not always a Biblical trait.

Unlike many supplication psalms, the tone of the first few verses do not imply that God is absent, only that the present circumstances warrant God’s immediate intervention: “through Your name rescue me,/ and through Your might take up my cause./ God, O hear my prayer.” (3,4) And as usual, unlike the supplicant, the enemies are against God; “They did not set God before them.”  (5)

At verse 6 the tone changes from supplication to assurance: “Look, God is about to help me,/ my Master–among those who support me.” (6) [It’s interesting that God simply seems to join the ranks of those “who support me.”] And then suddenly we are left the impression that God responded as quickly as David wished: “Let me acclaim Your name, Lord, for it is good./ For from every strait he saved me.” (9)

This compact psalm gives us a real sense that in many situations God will respond quickly and effectively; that the answer to our prayers does not lie off in some hazy future, but can be immediate. Some have derisively called prayers like these “foxhole prayers,” but it seems if David can pray a “foxhole prayer,” so can we.

Job 30: The people, who in the previous chapter respected Job and hung onto his every word have turned decisively against him in his present circumstances: “But now they make sport of me,/ those who are younger than I.” What hurts even more is that his mockers were the scum of the earth: “…whose fathers I would have disdained/  to set with the dogs of my flock.” (1) These mockers are worthless, “They are driven out from society;/ people shout after them as after a thief.” (5) But now, “they mock me in song;…I am a byword to them./They abhor me, they keep aloof from me;/ they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me.” (9,10)

Then, Job makes an acute, insightful observation: “Because God has loosed my bowstring and humbled me,/ they have cast off restraint in my presence.” (15) Simply because Job has been humbled by God, these people  “cast off restraint” and mock him with a fierceness he does not deserve. This is brilliant insight into human nature: how quick we are to mock and then abandon someone whom we once admired, never reflecting on our own inconsistent and evil behavior. Jesus on the cross certainly comes to mind here. 

Rather than showing mercy, never mind succor, to someone who has fallen from grace, we turn to mockery.  Job asks, “Surely one does not turn against the needy,/ when in disaster they cry for help.” (24) But that’s exactly what we too often do. We stand justly accused, for that is exactly what we do. We turn our backs and walk away from the cross. Or change the channel and move on.

1 Corinthians 6:9–20: Paul minces no words as he rolls out one of his famous lists: “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. (9,10). But now that we are baptized we have been transformed, we have been “were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (11) Paul doesn’t have to tell us what the implication of that transformation is. We should know and behave accordingly. 

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (12) is one of Paul’s more famous lines. It is the essence of personal responsibility: we are to set our own boundaries. Simply because a behavior is not proscribed does not mean it is prescribed. Reminding us that we are part of the larger body of Christ, Paul uses the rather stark example of the implications of lying with a  prostitute–and how that brief and seemingly personal act contaminates the entire body. You cannot simultaneously lie with sin and unite with God.

I think Paul is directly addressing those who try to make belief in Jesus a purely spiritual matter, completely separated from the physical body, which can then be used as one pleases. But Paul is telling us that our body belongs to God just as much as our soul with the famous metaphor of the body as a temple in which the Holy Spirit resides. Our commitment to Jesus Christ involves our entire spiritual and physical being. Our duty is clear: “therefore glorify God in your body.” (20)


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