Psalm 70; Proverbs 22; 2 Corinthians 5:1–15

Psalm 70: The compactness of this psalm of supplication makes it all the more powerful. Dedicated to David, it begins with almost telegraphic urgency: “God, to save me,/ Lord, to my help, hasten!” (2) Rather than stopping to explain exactly what his plight is, the psalmist moves directly to his desire for have his enemies “who seek my life be shamed and reviled./ May they fall back and be disgraced,/ who desire my harm.” (3) And that their mockery of him be turned upon themselves: “Let them turn back on the heels of their shame,/ who say “Hurrah, Hurrah!” (4)

The poet quickly turns his attention to the righteous, wishing them joy: “Let all who seek You/ exult and rejoice/ and may they always say, ‘God is great!'” (5) As always, there is a note of worship here. The psalmist then returns to himself, again begging God to act without delay: “As for me, I am lowly and needy./ God, O hasten to me!…Lord, do not delay!”

This psalm shows me how we can pray on the run; that we do not need to pray for “thy will to be done at some point in the hazy future.” It is perfectly OK to ask God to listen up and act! Now!

Proverbs 22: This chapter has an emphasis on the relationship between rich in poor, first pointing out “The rich and the poor have this in common:/ the Lord is the maker of them all.” (2) Then there is the economic reality that persists to today: “The rich rule over the poor,/ and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (7) This ancient saying makes it clear that achieving economic parity or income equality is a chimera. As experiments in socialism and communism have so amply demonstrated. Nevertheless, there is another verity: “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself,/ and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.” (16) Unfortunately, this reality is not always obvious in the short term when it seems that the rich are winning out permanently. 

In the second half of this chapter our writer adds an editorial admonition as to the wisdom of his observations:

17Incline your ear and hear my words,
    and apply your mind to my teaching;
18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
    if all of them are ready on your lips.

In other words, the writer is telling us, what I have to say here is important and will guide you through life. And here’s a summary of the key points I’ve been making.

His first aphorism is about the rich and poor: “Do not rob the poor because they are poor,/ or crush the afflicted at the gate;/ for the Lord pleads their cause/ and despoils of life those who despoil them.” (23, 24). In other words, God is on the side of the poor. When the rich oppress the poor, they are tangling with God and will reap the consequences of that sin. Again, the negative consequences for the rich are not always obvious in the near term. But this chapter once again reminds us that one of the major themes in the OT is how God cares for the poor. The problem of rich and poor is as old as humanity; good intentions and programs do not hack it in the long run. Mankind’s sinful nature will always end up oppressing the poor and the weak. In the end, only God can rectify the injustice constantly heaped upon the poor. 

2 Corinthians 5:1–15: Paul’s stream of consciousness brings him to the issue of our physical bodies, which, tentmaker that he is, he views as a temporary dwelling–a tent. It is God who provides permanence: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (1).  A tent can partially protect us from the elements, but in the cold and rain, and in our physical weakness, “in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.” (2)

Paul then draws an interesting distinction between mortality and the true definition of life, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (4) Here, “life” is what is true and real; life is being present with God. Our mortality separates us from true life and our true home: “even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (6).  And that while we are inside these mortal bodies, these tents, we must “walk by faith, not by sight.” (7).  Paul admits he’d rather “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (8) But Paul is also a realist and he accepts that whether in the tent or the true home our duty is clear: “whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (9)

He then makes a statement that most of us would rather skip right over: “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.” Just as the writer of Proverbs warns us over and over, our actions have consequences. These may not be visible in the near term, but they will always be visible to God and in the long term, we will stand accountable for them.

Understanding the long term consequences of our near term actions is what drives Paul: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.” (11) But it is far more than fear of judgement that drives Paul, it is “the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” (14) And then the core of the Gospel message: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (15).  It is through the loving act of Jesus Christ that we will be able to find our permanent homes after we leave these tents. It is living for Christ that gives our present tent reality its purpose.


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