Psalm 44:18–27; Exodus 39:32–40:23; Matthew 28:1–20

Psalm 44:18–27: Our psalmist turns from shaking the nation of Israel’s collective fist at God to a new strategy: reminding God that despite God’s apparent desertion—and implied betrayal— of them, they have nevertheless remained faithful through this awful defeat: “All this befell us, yet we did not forget You,/ and we did not betray Your pact.” They have been resolute and obedient: “Our heart has not failed,/ nor have our footsteps strayed form Your path.” (19). And then a direct accusation of God’s having used his malevolently, even to the point of death: “though You thrust us down to the sea monster’s place/ and with death’s darkness covered us over.” (20).

There is a plaintiveness in the poet’s cry as he asks rhetorically that God certainly would have been alert to their sinfulness, “Had we forgotten the name of God/ and spread out our palms to an alien god,/ would not God have fathomed it?” (21, 22a) After all, the psalmist argues, even had they been hypocritical in pretending to love and honor God, “He knows the heart’s secrets.” (22b)

But it’s even worse than that as our poet comes right out and says exactly what he’s thinking. It is because they are fighting for God, but God has abandoned them that they have met disaster: “For Your sake we are killed all day long,/ we are counted as sheep for slaughter.” (23) Surely, he pleads, this awareness will awaken a slumbering God: “Awake, why sleep, O Master! / Rouse up, neglect not forever.” (24)

In some of the most mournful, despairing verses in Psalms, the poet asks the question that rings down through the ages right to today: “Why do You hide Your face,/ forget our affliction, our oppression?” (25) In a world where God seems absent, all is hopeless: “For our neck is bowed to the dust,/ our belly clings to the ground.” (26) Nevertheless, ever-hopeful, the psalm ends with the final plea that it is God’s inherently generous beneficence that he will come to their rescue: “Rise as a help to us/ and redeem us for the sake of Your kindness.” (27).

In the end, we can rely on one thing and one thing only: That God will hear us and will rescue us. But while waiting we can recall this psalm and shake our fist at God at our desperate plight. We can even accuse God of abandoning us. But underneath it all, hope still flickers. As other psalms remind us, God is listening even in silence.

Exodus 39:32–40:23: The work on the tabernacle is complete and “the Israelites had done everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (39:32) and “the Israelites had done everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (33) This provides the authors the opportunity to summarize in one long paragraph just how extensive and complex this project had been as they review the final inventory of “the tent and all its utensils, its hooks, its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases;” (33b) along with the “the ark of the covenant with its poles and the mercy seat” (35) and all the other furnishings.  And not to forget “the finely worked vestments for ministering in the holy place, the sacred vestments for the priest Aaron, and the vestments of his sons to serve as priests.” (41)

As has been their wont, these authors emphasize the human side of this project and repeat the observation that “The Israelites had done all of the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (42) And for their efforts, “When Moses saw that they had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded, he blessed them.” (43) Can there be any better feeling than to have done as God has instructed us to do and to receive a blessing for having done it? However, we must always remember that is not the reason that we do it, but our reward for a job well done.

…I am now off to the hospital and here my reflections must end for today.

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