Psalm 69:22–29; Proverbs 20; 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:6

Psalm 69:22–29: The present straits of the psalmist have made him physically sick: “Reproach breaks my heart, I grow ill.” (21). He feels abandoned by other people–and by God: “I hope for consolation, and there is none,/ and for comforters, and do not find them.” (21) Nevertheless, he musters sufficient energy to spend the next few verses continuing to describe his plight and asking God to punish his enemies.

There’s an evocative reference to Christ on the cross here: “They gave for my nourishment wormwood,/ and for my thirst they made me drink vinegar.” (22) However, I think it would be over-interpretation to take that metaphor as a prediction of what happens to Jesus in the hour of his death.

The next verses are imprecations against his enemies, wishing them every possible physical and emotional harm: “May their eyes grow too dark to see,/ make their loins perpetually shake./ Pour out on them Your wrath,/ and Your blazing fury overtake them.” (24,25) Once again we have to ask, is it acceptable to pray to God for our enemies destruction? Or are we to take Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek?  I think that if we look at the psalms as the deepest possible expressions of a man’s spiritual and emotional relationship to God and not as pure theology, then I think we can see that it is acceptable to raise our fists, be angry with God and wish the worst on our enemies. It’s certainly cathartic.

But we also need to note once again that the prayer is to God for God to take action. The psalmist knows that vengeance belongs to God, and that this disturbing prayer is emotional release. Speaking angrily to God very probably allowed the psalmist to get on with his life and to not try to take action himself. Good advice to follow, I think.

Proverbs 20: I continue to be struck by the odd juxtapositions of the sayings in Proverbs. It seems like the proverbs had been written on scraps of paper and stuffed into a box. The editors who wrote them down then seem to have drawn the scraps out of the box at random. For example, we learn that the effects of alcohol and alcoholism have been a problem for a long time: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,/and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (1) But the very next verse has to do with fearing the king: “The dread anger of a king is like the growling of a lion;/ anyone who provokes him to anger forfeits life itself.” (2) 

At one point we have deep reflection: “Who can say, “I have made my heart clean;/ I am pure from my sin”?” (9) And then immediately, a statement about honest weights and measures: “Diverse weights and diverse measures/ are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” (10)

And then later, the all-important issue about revenge belonging to God, “Do not say, “I will repay evil”;/ wait for the Lord, and he will help you.” (22) Followed immediately by another warning about weights and measures: “Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord,/and false scales are not good.” (23)

Finally, I am puzzled by the very last verse of this chapter: “Blows that wound cleanse away evil;/beatings make clean the innermost parts.” (30) Is this an argument for abuse? Or is it simply an observation that a physical altercation has some kind of salutary effect by bringing people to their senses?  We often see this in the movies where two men get into a fight, brawl and then suddenly end and seem to look at each other with new found respect.

Be that as it may, my fear is that this verse has been used as justification for some very ugly actions down through the centuries.

2 Corinthians 3:12–4:6: Paul talks about how Moses had to veil his face upon coming down from Sinai because the glory of the Old Covenant was so great–and how much greater the glory of the New Covenant. But in his inimitable stream-of-consciousness style, that same veil becomes a metaphor for the hardened hearts of the Jews who “to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds.” (3:15)

How much greater it is, Paul argues, that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”(16) and that it is the Holy Spirit that has brought us the freedom that “with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (3:18)

Paul is deeply frustrated by these veiled minds as he reasserts his own unveiled nature, “we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” (4:2). He basically cannot believe that people would reject the Good News, deciding that “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (3) And he immediately tells us why the rejecters are perishing: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,” (4).

Which leads him away from the depressing metaphor of veils to the far more glorious metaphor of light: “For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (6) Christ’s face is unveiled before us and we thereby enjoy the glory of God that is reflected there.

In short, the Good News is so glorious, it is almost impossible to believe that anyone would reject it. But still they do. Is it just the “god of the world” that causes this–or is it something deeper? Such as our own pride and self-centered desire for control.

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