Psalm 66:1–7 Proverbs 9:7–10:32; 1 Corinthians 15:3–16

Psalm 66:1–7: One thing we can say about thanksgiving psalms is that they are not quietly introspective. There are no suggestions for meditation or prayer. Rather, our psalmist commands, “Shout out to God.” It’s all about worshipping God in fulsome joy:
Hymn His name’s glory.
Make His praise glory.
Say to God, ‘How awesome Your deeds.
Before Your great strength Your enemies quail.” (2,3)

Nor is worship confined to the Jews alone or to a single location. The joy that God brings overflows to all creation and all people:
All the earth bows down to You,
and they hymn to You, hymn Your name.” (4)

Admittedly, there’s some poetic hyperbole here. I believe that all the earth will bow down to God only at the end of history. But this verse is indicative of the sheer joy that worship can bring. The question of course is when has worship brought those same feelings of untrammeled joy to me? I can think of a few occasions, but they have been rare.

Our poet provides a sound reason for this joyful worship in the next verse:
Come and see the acts of God,
awesome in works over humankind.” (5)

The lesson here is that while there seems to be unchecked evil running over the earth, there is also ample evidence that God is still very much in charge of his creation—and of us humans.  The uncounted acts of kindness that people do for others may not make the evening news, but if people were indifferent to God’s goodness the world would be a far harsher, far more evil place.

Our poet recalls how the escape from Egypt and crossing the Jordan river into the promised land—compressed here into a single verse—was a stunning example of God’s intervening goodness:
He turned the sea into dry land,
the torrent they crossed on foot.
There we rejoiced in Him.” (6)

This stanza ends with a reminder that God is fully in charge and is well aware of the evil that humans do:
He rules in His might forever.
His eyes probe the nations.
Let the wayward not rise up.” (7)

So when we lose hope that humans have irrevocably mucked things up, this psalm is a healthy reminder of who is really in charge of creation.

Proverbs 9:7–10:32: The speech by wisdom having ended, our author turns to a compilation of what the NRSV heads as “General Maxims.” Nevertheless, the benefits of wisdom are still very much on our author’s mind as he reminds us of its ongoing impact on our lives. In short, we must never stop learning:
Give instruction  to the wise, and they will become wiser still;
    teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.” (9:11)

Once again we detect the author’s latent misogyny. Earlier, it was the adulteress who led men astray. Here, his negative example of folly is also female:
The foolish woman is loud;
    she is ignorant and knows nothing.

“You who are simple, turn in here!”
    And to those without sense she says,
 “Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 

Regardless of its gender, folly inevitably brings on a grim fate:
But they do not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” (9:14)

In the next chapter our author provides a compilation of Solomonic sayings—and there’s probably no reason to doubt that many of them did indeed emanate from Solomon himself. Children are at the top of Solomon’s list:
A wise child makes a glad father,
    but a foolish child is a mother’s grief.” (10:1) 

(Notice that once again, folly is associated with the female.)

The sayings continue, reminding us that hard work is required to achieve anything worthwhile:
A slack hand causes poverty,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” (10:4)

There are so many aphorisms in this chapter that we can only highlight a few. But they all pretty much remain as true today as they were several millennia ago. Their inherent truth is a stark reminder that human nature has not evolved one whit since Solomon’s time. One in particular applies nicely to current events in Washington DC and the curse of the Age of Twitter:
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
    but the prudent are restrained in speech.” (10:19)

There’s also a happy reminder that for evildoers the chickens eventually come home to roost:
The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.
The hope of the righteous ends in gladness,
    but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.” (27, 28)

Although I confess that in the short term it too often seems like the wicked and the stupid seem to be winning. But at least we can take some comfort in these verses about the long run.

1 Corinthians 15:3–16: Before he launches into the theological complexity of the resurrection of the dead, Paul summarizes the core message of the Good News, reminding the Corinthians of his own bona fides as a first-hand witness to the historical actuality of Christ’s resurrection: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (4-8)

Paul also provides an excellent template for how we are to live as Christians. We have been saved by grace, but that same free gift should induce us to work hard for the cause of Christ: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (10) (Paul was certainly no shrinking violet when he asserts “I worked harder than any of them”…)

Having pretty firmly established that he is fully competent to speak on behalf of Christ, Paul launches into an explanation that Christ’s resurrection is a “foretaste of the feast to come for every believer: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” (13, 14) To underscore his point, Paul repeats himself: “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.” (16)

Even though it’s a part of the Apostle’s Creed, I confess to having difficulty with the whole idea of the resurrection of the dead. This concept may have seemed perfectly clear to Paul as he writes just a few years after Christ’s own resurrection.  As we’ve observed elsewhere, Paul firmly believed he and his contemporaries were living near the end of history and the Christ’s return was imminent, even during their own lifetimes.

But now some 2000 years later this becomes a more difficult idea to accept at face value. My own feeling is that the whole theology of the resurrection of the dead is attempting to describe an event that regardless of Paul’s and others’ efforts at explanation remains beyond human comprehension.


Speak Your Mind