Psalm 57:1–7; Job 38; 1 Corinthians 10:1–10

Psalm 57:1–7: The psalmist sets this supplication psalm at the time when David was in the cave hiding from Saul. So when the poet has David pray “for in You I have taken shelter,” in the opening verse we can take it quite literally. The poet then compares David to a small bird hiding under the wings of its parent—and such is our relationship with God:
and in Your wings’ shadow do I shelter
until disasters pass.” (2)

As seems typical in these David psalms, he cries out God but always with almost serene confidence that God will answer:
I call out to God the Most High,
to the god who requites me.
He will send from the heavens and rescue me.” (3,4)

In the meantime David remains in mortal danger as his enemies are described as metaphorical lions:
I lie down among lions
that pant for human beings.
Their fangs are spear and arrows,
their tongue a sharpened sword.” (5)

As we find so often in the psalms, speech is an equally dangerous weapon as the physical ones of arrows, spears and swords. In our own culture vile words are wielded everywhere, especially with the rise of social media. And words can kill just as effectively as weapons as we have learned in various cases of cyberbullying suicides.

But as always, David rests secure and takes a moment in the midst of danger to worship God and his overarching majesty:
Loom over the heavens, O God.
Over all the earth Your glory.” (6)

And even though his enemies have laid traps for him, David is confident that those same traps will become his enemies undoing:
A net they set for my steps,
they pushed down my neck,
they dug before me a pit—
they themselves fell into it.” (7)

Notice that the enemies do themselves in with no effort on David’s part. Would I were as patient as David when confronted with a dire situation. David’s confidence that God would act in his stead lies at the root of his great patience. May I be equally patient.

Job 38: We arrive at the famous climax of this book of speeches where God himself speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. Job finally gets his day in God’s court as God declares,
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.” (2,3)

But before Job can speak, God lays out a series of stanzas that give us a beautiful picture of God’s action in creation. Each begins with a rhetorical question about creation ranging from the original creation to the sea to the stars as well as all kinds of natural events. And although our poet does not write an answer to the questions, the answer to each is obvious and always the same:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.” (4)

Or who shut in the sea with doors
    when it burst out from the womb?” (8)

Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place,” (12)

Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (16)

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?” (22,23)

Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?” (28)

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
    or loose the cords of Orion?” (31)

Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    so that a flood of waters may cover you?” (34)

Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
    or lie in wait in their covert?” (39, 40)

The obvious answer of course is that only God can do these things. Humans cannot. And these questions have exactly the same answer today. Despite all our technology, human efforts avail little. This is all God’s work. Or, for those who don’t believe in God, it is all nature’s work. But in either case there is the reality of a vast gulf between what God can do and what we, as God’s creatures, can do.

Our efforts to control nature are puny indeed. Which is why efforts to halt global warming or climate change will eventually come to naught. We and our technology are just not that powerful. This is a fact known to the ancient author of Job. But we keep having to learn the same things over and over with each successive generation. Which is also why God’s speech here at the end of this book retains such relevance and power today.

1 Corinthians 10:1–10: Paul now issues a pretty dire warning to the folks at Corinth, pointing out that “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.” (2-4) Even though they were all baptized and all had the same spiritual leadership, and even drank form the same rock, which Paul rather unexpectedly identifies as Christ, “God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.” (5)

Paul does not really have to explain why God was not pleased with many (most?) of the Israelites. Rather than following God they followed their own desires. So too at Corinth. Paul warns that “these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.” (6)

Paul, being Paul, cannot resist providing specific examples of the fate of idolators and specially those who “sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” (7) ‘Play’ of course is sexual immorality and Paul reminds his listeners that because of their sexual sins “twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.” (8) Again, he makes it clear that Christ was as present with Israel as he is with the people at Corinth, and “we must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.” (9)

So far this all seems pretty obvious. I’m not personally given to idolatry or sexual immorality, but then Paul adds a sin at the very end— a sin of which I’m truly guilty—and so are a lot of us: “And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” (10) That complaining (especially about church) as a sin would be conflated with sexual immorality is a tough thing to accept, but there it is. Difficult to ignore.

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