Psalm 89:39–46; Isaiah 54,55; Colossians 1:28–2:10

Psalm 89:39–46: In this section, the psalmist directs some of the greatest anger toward God that we see anywhere in the Psalms. Accusation piles on accusation with the repetition of “You” hurled toward this angry, punishing God:

And You, You abandoned and spurned,
You were furious with Your anointed.
You canceled the pact of Your servant,
You profaned his crown on the ground.
You broke through all his walls,
You turned his forts into rubble. (39-41)

If we ever needed convincing that there’s nothing irreligious or heretical about being angry at God it is here this passage is our proof. Yes, our psalmist is saying, the heirs of David sinned, but your punishment, God, is undeserved orders of magnitude greater than the crime. Worst of all, the punishment seems to culminate in the one thing God said he would not do back in verse 34 (“My steadfast kindness I will not revoke for him”), which was to remain endlessly steadfast in his support of the house of David: “You put an end to his splendor,/ and his throne You hurled to the ground.” (45) And then the greatest accusation of all: “You enveloped him with shame.” (46)

Why this seeming contradiction on God’s part?  Were the sins of the house of David so immense that God would revoke his promise? [As we read the histories, we can see God’s point.] It seemed that there were no strings attached to the promise to the house of David. Yet, to the psalmist–and to us–it appears that God has gone back on his word. What gives?

Isaiah 54,55: In this beautiful passage so full of promise, Israel is compared to the “children of the desolate woman.” (54:1) Isaiah, speaking as the voice of God, promises, “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;/ do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace;” (54:4) because “your Maker is your husband,/ the Lord of hosts is his name;” (54:5)

What is fascinating here is that God admits his anger: “In overflowing wrath for a moment/ I hid my face from you,” but that anger is now replaced “with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,/ says the Lord, your Redeemer.” (54:8) God recalls his original promise to Noah and says here, “so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you/ and will not rebuke you.” (54:9) 

It’s impossible to read this passage in juxtaposition with today’s psalm and not be puzzled at the seeming contradiction. God says he will always keep his Covenant with us, but to the psalmist it certainly looks like he’s broken it. What gives? We need to remember that the psalmist is shaking his fist up at God and here, through Isaiah, God speaks down to us. So, there’s a different point of view here. One thing is clear: we’ll never fully fathom God.

In chapter 55, amidst all the wonderful promises,  there is even a direct reference to God’s covenant with David: “I will make with you an everlasting covenant,/my steadfast, sure love for David.” (55:3)

But rather than try to untangle that knot, this chapter is one to simply read, ponder and savor these famously beautiful verses:
   “For you shall go out in joy,
       and be led back in peace;
   the mountains and the hills before you
       shall burst into song,
       and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (55:12)

Colossians 1:28–2:10: Even though Paul has never been to Colossae, he uses his heartwarming words to try to convey how deeply he cares for these Christians, as well as those in Laodicea: “ I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (2:2)

I’m struck by Paul’s repeated references to “mystery,” which he clearly identifies as Christ himself. Moreover, “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ.” It seems clear that Paul is saying that we discover wisdom and knowledge only over a period of time. When we become believers all things are not instantly revealed to us, even as much as we would like to know and understand everything right away.

Which is why I’m suspicious of those today who exude such confidence that they have Christ all figured, out and know exactly what God’s plans for us and for our culture are supposed to be. This is not just the people who predict the exact date of Jesus’ 2nd coming, but those who claim to speak for Jesus into the larger culture. As in Paul’s day, we need to greet these people with the utmost suspicion, remembering his warning, “I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments.” (2:4)

On thing I’m sure of, the world is still full of those who would “take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” (2:8) Unfortunately, too many of these people claim to be Christians or worse, they claim to have received a special insight from God. Paul’s point is that there is a mystery here. We will only perceive it through a glass darkly. (Which is also why I like the act of worship to convey some of that mystery.)

 

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