Psalm 140:7–14; Amos 8,9; Revelation 10

Psalm 140:7–14: Our psalmist continues his supplication to God—”Hearken, O Lord, to the sounds of my pleas” (7)—whom he addresses as “Lord, Master, my rescuing strength.”(8). Then he gets down to business with the specifics of his plea regarding the conspirator:
Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked,
do not fulfill his devising.” (9)

OK, so far not too extreme. He just wants the conspiracy to fail, which is eminently understandable. But then he prays for basically for their plot to explode in their faces and for it to do to them what they have planned against him:
May the mischief of their own lips
cover the heads of those who come round me.” (10)

Then it gets personal:
May He [God] rain coals of fire upon them,
make them fall into ravines, never to rise.
May no slanderer stand firm in the land,
may the violent evil man be trapped in pitfalls.” (11, 12)

One has to admit that falling off a cliff is a pretty original way to want to see one’s enemies perish. The psalm concludes with the assurance that God will act—and we learn that the psalmist considers himself “lowly” and “needy,” which kind of puts paid my earlier theory that the psalmist was speaking for David:
I know that the Lord will take up
the cause of the lowly, the case of the needy.” (13)

Once again we are confronted with a psalm full of wishes for bad things to happen to one’s enemies—wishes that Jesus has cancelled when he tells us to love our enemies. Nevertheless, when confronted by a conspiring enemy, I think we will still entertain similar thoughts to what our psalmist has expressed—but we also know God will probably not fulfill our wishes for bad things to happen to our enemies.

Amos 8,9: At this point, God’s anger against Israel is palpable:
The end has come upon my people Israel;
    I will never again pass them by.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
says the Lord God;
“the dead bodies shall be many,
    cast out in every place. Be silent!” (8:2, 3)

The reasons for God’s anger are numerous, but here it focuses on how the poor and needy have been cheated by greedy merchants:
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
    and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” (8:5, 6)

Clearly, some things never change. Amos then describes a fruitless seeking for spiritual sustenance that sounds very much like today:
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
    when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
    but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
    and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
    but they shall not find it.” (8:11, 12)

I wonder of the time has come here in America that like Israel we are enduring a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord?” With the current scandals around men using their power and prestige to intimidate and oppress women, we see that having set aside Judeo-Christian values to pursue hedonistic pleasure has resulted in a famine of morality. And we also see people around us seeking spiritual sustenance from places like the ersatz theology of the Oprah Winfrey’s of the land. But as Amos states, “they shall not find it.” There is only one place where the word of the Lord can be found and that is in the Word of Jesus Christ.

The first half of chapter 9 is a dramatic description of the destruction of Israel, which of course came to pass:
I saw the Lord standing besidethe altar, and he said:
Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
    and shatter them on the heads of all the people;
and those who are left I will kill with the sword;
    not one of them shall flee away,
    not one of them shall escape.” (9:1)

Amos goes on to describe how Israel will seek to hide from God’s wrath and all efforts will be of no avail. Even “though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, /  there I will command the sea-serpent, and it shall bite them.” (9:3)

But as always, God promises that not all of Israel will be destroyed:
The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom,
    and I will destroy it from the face of the earth
    —except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,
says the Lord.” (9:8)

The chapter ends with God’s promise to restore David’s kingdom, presumably at the end of history:
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
    and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
…I will plant them upon their land,
    and they shall never again be plucked up
    out of the land that I have given them,
says the Lord your God.” (9:14, 15)

As we have observed elsewhere, God seems almost tormented, swinging between a plan to destroy utterly and a plan for rescue. This is a quality of God that we do not see once Jesus has come into the world. It seems that Jesus’ incarnation not only saves us, but in some inexplicable way it also brought equanimity to God himself.

Revelation 10: Things seem to calm down a bit as John sees “another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.” (1) This angel is holding a “little scroll” and he shouts, causing seven peals of thunder. John was “was about to write, but [he] heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” (4) So, we don’t know what the meaning of the thunders is, which I have to admit, doesn’t particularly bother me.

If we’ve been paying attention we know that so far only six trumpets have been sounded and we await the seventh. The seventh trumpet holds a tantalizing promise: “in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants[a] the prophets.” (7)

But no trumpet yet. Instead, John tells us he is instructed by the voice from heaven to take the little scroll out of the angel’s hand and to eat it. Which he does: “So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.” (10)

Many fruitless efforts have been made to interpret what eating the scroll means. My own take is that it is a symbol of John receiving the authority to write additional prophecies, and he will spend the second half of the book describing to us. As the scroll tasted sweet but created a sour stomach, I’m pretty sure it means that there is both good news and bad news to come.

A random note on all the sevens: seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, etc. I think the sevens here in Revelation mirror the seven days of creation described in Genesis. Only that  these sevens describe God’s “uncreation,” if you will. In any event, I like the symmetry.

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