Psalm 57:8–12; Job 39; 1 Corinthians 10:11–22

Psalm 57:8–12: Despite the depredations of his enemies, our psalmist—speaking in David’s voice—exudes the serene confidence that a deep and abiding faith in God brings. And out of that serenity arises worship:
My heart is firm, O God,
my heart is firm.
Let me sing and hymn.” (8)

This confident peace engenders the overwhelming desire to make music—and is one of the places that has cemented the popular image of David’s musicianship:
Awake, O lyre,
awake, O lute and lyre.
I would waken the dawn.” (9)

The question hangs. Have I placed my fears and trust in God such that the confident hope would cause me to “waken the dawn?” This is one of those places where we see the pure joy that comes from our relationship with a loving Father.

The remainder of the psalm is, I think, the song that David sings—one of untrammeled joy:
Let me acclaim You among the peoples, Master.
Let me hymn You among the nations.
For Your kindness is great to the heavens,
and to the skies Your steadfast truth.
Loom over the heavens, O God.
Over all the earth Your glory.” (10-12)

For me, this psalm is a beautiful reminder that God’s kindness and God’s truth go hand in hand. We cannot experience God’s kindness and generosity without completely open honesty and truth before him. No relationship with God is possible when it is founded on anything but absolute truth.

Job 39: The seemingly endless list of rhetorical questions that set God apart from Job (and all other humans) shifts from the forces of nature that were the theme of the previous chapter to the animal kingdom.

The opening question describes the wild animals giving birth and how this miracle of natural birth is God’s alone:
Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you observe the calving of the deer?
Can you number the months that they fulfill,
    and do you know the time when they give birth?” (1,2)

Most animals live free of man’s efforts to domesticate them. And yet without human intervention they flourish:
Who has let the wild ass go free?
    Who has loosed the bonds of the swift ass,
to which I have given the steppe for its home,
    the salt land for its dwelling place?” (5, 6)

Likewise, animals such as oxen serve humankind because God has ordained it to be so:
Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
    Will it spend the night at your crib?

Do you have faith in it that it will return,
    and bring your grain to your threshing floor?” (9, 12)

God even looks after apparently stupid and even cruel animals:
The ostrich’s wings flap wildly,
    though its pinions lack plumage.
For it leaves its eggs to the earth,
    and lets them be warmed on the ground,
forgetting that a foot may crush them,
    and that a wild animal may trample them.
It deals cruelly with its young, as if they were not its own;” (13-16a)

The poet reminds us that animals behave the way they do because God has willed it so, not because they have human capabilities of reasoned thought, “because God has made it forget wisdom,/ and given it no share in understanding.” (17)

In the same way, the behavior of noble animals that we employ is not due to our efforts but because it is God-created:
Do you give the horse its might?
    Do you clothe its neck with mane?
Do you make it leap like the locust?

It laughs at fear, and is not dismayed;
    it does not turn back from the sword.” (19, 20a, 22)

And finally, the soaring freedom of the birds in the air has nothing to do with humankind’s efforts:
Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars,
    and spreads its wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
    and makes its nest on high?” (26, 27)

These verses are a profound and wonderful description of the incredible variety and behavior of animals that God has placed on the earth. As before, the rhetorical questions answer themselves. Absolutely none of the wonders on earth is the result of mankind’s doing. It is all God’s.

So, why do we take all this for granted today and assume that this panoply of life is a random evolutionary accident? Compared to God’s creative power that we see so eloquently on display here, we humans are nothing.

1 Corinthians 10:11–22: Paul, still in full remonstration mode, makes a statement that I have always questioned:
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (13)

Really? God will not test us via the trials and tribulations that come our way beyond our strength? Will we always be brave and stand up courageously through whatever life throws at us? Will there always be a way out as Paul asserts here? Can we always endure the pain that comes our way? The answer seems to be ‘yes’ as long as we are steadfast in our faith.

I assume this verse is the root of the saying—and one that I truly loathed— that I heard a few times when I was first diagnosed with cancer: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Frankly, Paul, I’m just not so sure about that. If we give into despair does that mean our faith is weak?

Paul does not elaborate beyond this assertion. Rather, he changes the subject and starts discussing the problems of eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. He first points out that what we eat as Christians links straight back to Jesus Christ himself: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” (16) Which should surely cause us to pause and reflect. Today, of course, this is symbolism inherent in the Eucharist.

Paul comes right out and says “that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.” (20) His simple rule is that “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (21) In other words, we cannot serve two gods.

Yet, we’re guilty of this bifurcated faith whenever we place something —money, power, dominance over others, and especially our own will—in a position of higher in priority than our faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it seems like our entire lives have become some sort of schizophrenia as we try to balance our own desire for control with desire to be faithful to Jesus Christ.

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