Psalm 7:1–9; Genesis 9; Matthew 4:12–25

Originally posted 1/8/2016—edited and updated 1/8/2018

Psalm 7:1–11: The author’s ostensible motivation for writing this psalm of supplication is a certain Cush the Benjaminite, who is mentioned only here in the BIble. Given the psalm’s somewhat military flavor, we presume he is writing about the period of conflict between David and Saul. Perhaps Cush was Saul’s ally.

Whoever he was, he was doubtless part of the army pursuing David after his break with Saul. Writing in David’s voice, our author makes it clear David’s straits are pretty desperate:
Rescue me from all my pursuers and save me.
Lest like a lion they tear up my life
rend me, with no one to save me. (2b,3)

David asserts his innocence by daring God to allow him be killed in battle if he has done any of the wrongs that his enemies are accusing him of:
Lord, my God, if I have done this,
if there be wrongdoing in my hands.
If I paid back my ally with evil,
if I oppressed my foes without reason–
may the enemy pursue and overtake me…” (4-6a).

To intensify his protest of innocence, he tells God he’s even willing to die for it:
…and trample to earth my life
and make my glory dwell in the dust.” (6b)

Having asserted his innocence by establishing his willingness to die if he has inadvertently wronged Cush, (we presume), he turns to God. Now, he basically demands divine justice (and probably retribution):
Rise up, O Lord, in Your anger,
Loom high against the wrath of my enemies.” (7)

What’s intriguing here is that by virtue of his righteousness, David believes God owes him justice: “Grant me justice, Lord, as befits my righteousness
and as befits my innocence that is in me.”(9)

Does this mean that we can pray to God and demand justice when we’ve been wronged? Needless to say, these sorts of prayers are made every day, I think it is perfectly acceptable to pray for justice, but Jesus changed the rules about praying for God to wreak vengeance on our enemies.

That said, our psalmist observes one very true thing about God to bear in mind whenever we pray: “He searches hearts and conscience,
God is righteous.” (10)

We may be able to deceive others and even deceive ourselves, but there is no lying to God.

Genesis 9: Now that Noah and his family have landed once again on dry earth, God establishes some basic rules. It is impossible to read this chapter without seeing it as the basis of God’s more elaborate Covenant established with Moses many centuries later. In some ways, it seems it is Noah’s rescue forecasts the rescue of Israel from Egypt and eventually from Babylon that establishes Israel as God’s most-favored nation.

The rules set by God are clear. First, God sets mankind at the top of the food chain: “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.” (2) The only prohibition is eating the blood of any animal.

God uses the rainbow as a sign of this covenant, which seems so much more pleasant than the bloody sacrifices that will follow in the Temple. One wonders why God needs to be reminded of his promise, but then again, God seems to realize he erred in flooding the earth: “I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (16) But we must note that this covenant is  between God and the natural world, of which humankind is but a part.  …A covenant which humankind has pretty well trashed by its depredations against nature down through the centuries.

We then have a further demonstration that the Noah story is a major part of Israel’s national story. Noah plants a vineyard and over-samples its products. He gets drunk (although we can hardly blame him for all he has gone through.) “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father,” (22), who goes and tells his brothers who cover their naked father without looking. But Ham, having inadvertently seen his father’s nakedness receives only a curse for his troubles: “Cursed be Canaan;/ lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” (25) Which of course provides a handy justification for God’s subsequent commands to wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan when Israel re-enters the promised land with Joshua.

I hadn’t realized that at 950 years, Noah almost outlives Methuselah…

Matthew 4:12–25: Jesus departs Nazareth and begins his ministry at Capernaum by the sea of Galilee. Unlike Luke, Matthew skips right over the nasty business at the Nazareth synagogue where the membership tries to throw Jesus off a cliff for his apparent heresy. As is always the case with Matthew, Jesus’ every move has a direct connection to Scripture and there is no exception with regard to the location where Jesus begins his public ministry. His appearance in Capernaum,  is noted by Matthew as a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
    on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
    light has dawned.” (14-16)

What I had not noticed before is that Jesus starts out by preaching exactly the same message as his mentor, John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (17)

Jesus, however, is certainly a more appealing character than his second cousin and his charisma is so strong is that all he has to do is say to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (19) They promptly abandon their livelihood for the uncertainty of becoming disciples of an as-yet unknown young preacher. Of course that turned out to be a world-changing decision for them–and for us.

It takes little time for Jesus’ fame to spread, and certainly healing the sick was a great attraction. But what’s different than John, is that Jesus’ fame spreads way beyond Israel and the Jews: “And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” (25) This is Matthew’s subtle way of reminding the Jewish community to which he is writing that  Jesus came for everyone, for all humankind, not just the Jews.

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