Psalm 68:1–7; Proverbs 14; 1 Corinthians 16:1–11

Psalm 68:1–7: The author makes it clear that this longish psalm is a hymn of praise to a triumphant God, perhaps written following a particularly satisfying military victory:
Let God arise, let His enemies scatter,
and let His foes flee before Him.” (2)

As always, there’s the what I’ll call the Great Dichotomy: the followers of God versus the enemies of God, who are by definition wicked. Needless to say, the psalm wishes for God to do bad things to their enemies, here with similes of smoke and and especially creative image of melting wax:
As smoke disperses may they disperse,
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.” (3)

While on the other hand, the God-followers, who are by definition comprise the righteous will have a celebration:
And may the righteous rejoice and exult
before God, and be gladdened in joy.” (4)

The psalm then moves into full worship mode as the image of God riding the clouds makes it clear that he is above all creation:
Sing to God, hymn His name.
Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds,
For Yah is His name, and exult before Him.” (5)

But God is not just “up there” riding some cloud chariot far from humanity. God is active among his people and this hymn reminds us that God intervenes not only on behalf of armies and the powerful, but also among the orphans and widows—an overriding theme of the OT. But perhaps most significantly (for me, anyway) God comforts the  lonely:
Father of orphans and widows’ judge,
God in His holy abode.
God brings the lonely back to their homes,
Sets free captives in jubilation.” (6, 7a)

Nor will our psalmist will ever let us forget that God punishes those who do not follow him: “But the wayward abide in parched land.” (7b)

As is always the case in the Psalms, God acts on behalf of the righteous, among whom the widows, orphans, and now the lonely are always included. God cares for the weak and powerless. As should we…

Proverbs 14: The endless aphorisms continues without our author taking a breath. This chapter appears to focus on the behavioral contrast between the wise and the foolish. I’ll just point out the verses that resonate with me.

As always, there is the issue of speech, here focusing on those fools who try to impress others with their empty pride. Those who are wise are not conned into believing them:
A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
    but the lips of the wise protect them.” (3)

Fools denigrate those who seek forgiveness for their sins, believing they are above all that silliness. This attitude is certainly endemic today where we are surrounded by non-believers think religion is just a psychological crutch.
Fools mock at making amends for sin,
    but goodwill is found among the upright.” (9)

We  should never be  fooled by something that is seemingly good, but is actually rotten at its core. We must investigate first. That failure to investigate thoroughly is why con men get rich:
There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death.” (12)

And then here is deep psychological insight in the statement that an outward appearance of joy may disguise inward grieving:
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
    and rejoicing may end in grief.” (13)

While there is certainly economic reward for hard work, there is also the deeper insight that merely talking about doing something but never starting to actually work is a fool’s errand:
All hard work brings a profit,
    but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (23)

I remember my good childhood friend, Terry, who talked about his ambitions to become a concert pianist but never got around to taking piano lessons.

As in the Psalms, no list of proverbs would be complete without addressing the obligation of the rich to take care of the poor:
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
    but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (31)

And then what I think is a clear tocsin for us American right here in 2017:
Righteousness exalts a nation,
    but sin condemns any people.” (34)

My sense is that righteousness—at least as it’s defined in the Judeo-Christian tradition—is very much in retreat these days.

1 Corinthians 16:1–11: When it comes to tithes and offerings, Paul is always very clear. It’s an obligation of any member of a Christian community to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up.” (2) In fact, Paul has big plans for Corinth for them to will some men with him to bring their offering to the church at Jerusalem. However, I think it’s doubtful that ever happened. In any event, no Corinthians were noted in the book of Acts as accompanying Paul on his fateful trip to Jerusalem.

The final section of this letter is mostly about logistics. Paul promises that “After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.” (6) Paul wants to spend some time in Corinth, but he postpones the trip and remain in Ephesus until Pentecost “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” (9)  Again, per Acts, it appears Paul never made it back to Corinth.

Paul is sending his close associate Timothy to Corinth instead. He attests to Timothy’s bona fides and instructs the Corinthian church to treat him as they would Paul himself: “When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should treat him with contempt.” (10, 11a) But just as they must welcome Timothy, the Corinthians don’t get to keep him. Paul expects Timothy to rejoin him: “Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.” (11b) 

There’s a lesson there for us. When we receive guests or someone on behalf of another, or a substitute comes instead of the person we were expecting, we are to treat them well and with love.

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