Psalm 16:1–7; Genesis 24:26–66; Matthew 9:1–13

Psalm 16:1–7: This psalm seems to be a confession of faith by a person newly converted from a pagan religion. He opens with his bold statement about his relationship with God: “I said to the Lord,/ ‘My master You are./ My good is only through You.” (2) The key point here is that true righteousness comes only through a relationship with God; it is not self-generated.

Although idolatry was once the poet’s practice, this small-g gods (here called “the holy ones”) must find others who will worship them: “As to the holy ones in the land/ and the mighty who were all my desire,/ let their sorrows abound–/ another did they betroth.” (3,4) It’s somewhat amusing to think about a wooden or carved stone idol having feelings and that their ostensible sorrows would “abound.”  But such is the depth of belief by people in their idols of choice. But as for the idol he has rejected, it must find someone else to cling to (which is how I read “betroth.”)

Again, the poet restates his trust in God: “The Lord is my portion and lot,/ it is You who sustain my fate.” (5). We see a glimpse of a father-son relationship between God and poet when he tells us, “An inheritance fell to me with delight,/ my estate, too, is lovely to me.” (6) And how wonderful is our our estate–our life situation–as well when we pause and think of all God has done and is doing for us.

Genesis 24:26–66: Rebekah’s big brother, Laban, sees Rebekah decked out in the jewelry that Abraham’s still unnamed servant gave her and invites him in for dinner. Dinner is placed before the servant, but “he said, “I will not eat until I have told my errand.” (33). laban invites him to speak and the servant tells the story that Abraham insists that his son;ts wife come from the father’s native land–hence his errand. He recounts how Rebekah’s appearance exactly followed the script that the angel had given–down to Rebekah’s reply, “‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’” (46)

Laban and Rebekah’s father, Bethuel, agree to the deal because they, too, know God: ““The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good. Look, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” (50, 51)

So, Abraham’s servant is overjoyed and deposits all the dowry with Laban and Bethuel. BUt there’s a hiccup: Laban and Rebekah’s mother ask to “Let the girl remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” (55) The servant demurs, saying, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has made my journey successful.” (56) No doubt very wise lest anyone change his or her mind.

Rebekah returns to Canaan with the servant and her maids. Seeing Isaac, she quickly dismounts her camel and asks, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” (65a). The rservant replies, “It is my master,.” Rebekah, “took her veil and covered herself.” (66).  The major key violin music swells and the scene fades to black.

Without doubt, this is one of the most detailed and romantic stories in the OT. It’s also one of the few where we hear the woman speak so much. One wonders why.

Rebekah of course becomes the mother of Jacob and Esau, and later plays a major role in the deception of old Isaac in bestowing his blessing on Jacob rather than the elder brother. I think it’s important for us to know that Rebekah truly loved Isaac and came to love Jacob. Inasmuch as Rebekah plays a major role in israel’s national story, I’m sure that this romantic interlude amidst all the sturm und drang made the story all the more appealing in the telling. And every Jewish woman could look to Rebekah as the romantic bride that they would be pleased to emulate.

Matthew 9:1–13: Jesus returns to Capernaum where Jesus pronounces that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven and heals him. This of course reflects the Jewish view that illness was the result of sin–either the individual’s own sin or those of his family. Matthew is informing his mainly Jewish audience that Jesus’ main role is to forgive sins, with healing as the happy side effect.

That this is Matthew’s intent is underscored when he reports that scribes observing this think–but do not say aloud–“This man is blaspheming.” (3). Being Messiah Jesus of course perceives their thoughts and says, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?” (5) And for the first time we hear Jesus identify himself as the Son of Man–one of the terms used in Hebrew Scriptures for the promised Messiah.

Matthew notes that the crowds “were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.” (8) In other words, Jesus was 100% human, which of course is what we believe, too.

It’s at this point that Matthew, the tax collecting author of this eponymous gospel comes on the scene. Jesus simply says, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.”  (9) Jesus, being a party animal, eats in celebration, apparently at Matthew’s house with his new disciple’s friends. The hyper-religious Pharisees disapprove and Matthew sets out one of his major themes in Jesus’ reply: ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (12) His point to The Pharisees: You guys are fine, but there are others who need caring for.

Then, being Matthew, whose Jesus is constantly referring to the Scriptures, quotes Hosea 6:6: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”–a passage surely known by the Pharisees, but I’m sure they never heard it in this context before. Once again, we have Jesus shining a completely new light on Scripture. Matthew doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure the Pharisees were left speechless for there is simply no rebuttal. Jesus made it clear that in supping with “sinners” he was acting out exactly what Hosea meant when he said that famous line. 


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