Psalm 16:1–6; Genesis 24:26–66; Matthew 9:1–13

Originally posted 1/22/2016—revised and updated 1/22/2018

Psalm 16:1–6: This “David psalm” appears to be a confession of faith by a person newly converted from a pagan religion—or perhaps from no religion at all. He opens with an appeal for the safety only God can provide, followed immediately by a bold statement about his relationship with God:
“Giard me, O God,
for I shelter in You.
“I said to the Lord,
‘My master You are.
My good is only through You.” (2)

The key point here is that true righteousness comes only through a relationship with God; it is not self-generated. I must respectfully disagree with those who say if we look deep enough within ourselves we will find righteousness.

Although idolatry was once the poet’s practice, this small-g gods (here called “the holy ones”) must find others who will worship them:
“As to the holy ones in the land
and the mighty who were all my desire,
let their sorrows abound–
another did they betroth.” (3,4)

It’s amusing to think about a wooden or carved stone idol having feelings and that their ostensible sorrows would “abound.”  But such is the depth of belief by people in their idols of choice. As for the idol he has rejected, he asserts it must find someone else to cling to (which is how I read “betroth.”)

ONce again, the poet restates his trust in God:
“The Lord is my portion and lot,
it is You who sustain my fate.” (5).

We get a glimpse of a father-son relationship between God and psalmist when he tells us,
“An inheritance fell to me with delight,
my estate, too, is lovely to me.” (6)

This verse is a signal to each of us to reflect on our own life estate–our life situation–as well.  It’s crucial to our faith and our well-being that we pause and thank God for all he has done and continues to do for us—or in the words of the first verse: to guard us.

Genesis 24:26–66: Rebekah’s big brother, Laban, sees Rebekah decked out in the nose ring and jewelry that Abraham’s still unnamed servant has given her and invites the servant to dinner. Dinner is placed before the servant, but “he said, “I will not eat until I have told my errand.” (33). laban invites him to speak and the servant tells the story that Abraham insists that his son Issac’s wife must come from the father’s native land—hence his errand. He recounts how Rebekah’s appearance exactly followed the script that the angel had given–down to Rebekah’s reply, “‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’” (46)

Laban and Rebekah’s father, Bethuel, agree to the deal because they, too, know God: The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good. Look, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” (50, 51)

Needless to say, Abraham’s servant is overjoyed and deposits the dowry with Laban and Bethuel. But then there’s a hiccup: Laban and Rebekah’s mother ask to “Let the girl remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” (55) The servant demurs, saying, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has made my journey successful.” (56) This is certainly an astute reply lest anyone change his or her mind. They call in Rebekah to ask her opinion and she replies with three words that I take to be our author’s message: “I will go.” (58) It also shows us that Rebekah, despite having no say in whom she is to marry, is going without coercion. Willingness to go—to follow God’s call— is a theme we see throughout the Bible from Abraham himself to Moses to Jesus, who went willingly to the cross.

Rebekah returns to Canaan with her maids. Seeing Isaac coming toward her in the distance, she quickly dismounts her camel and asks, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” (65a). The servant replies, “It is my master.” Rebekah, “took her veil and covered herself.” (66).  The major key violin music swells and the scene fades to black.

Without doubt, this is one of the most detailed and romantic stories in the OT. It’s also one of the few where we hear the woman speak so much.

Rebekah of course becomes the mother of Jacob and Esau, and later plays a major role in indeceiving old Isaac in bestowing his blessing on Jacob rather than the elder brother. I think it’s important for us to know that Rebekah truly loved Isaac and came to love Jacob. Inasmuch as Rebekah plays a major role in israel’s national story, I’m sure that this romantic interlude amidst all the sturm und drang made the story all the more appealing in the telling. And every Jewish woman could look to Rebekah as the romantic bride that they would be pleased to emulate. We certainly see that same “willingness to go” in Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Matthew 9:1–13: Jesus returns to Capernaum where Jesus pronounces that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven and heals him. This of course reflects the Jewish view that illness was the result of sin—either the individual’s own sin or those of his family. Matthew is informing his mostly Jewish audience that Jesus’ primary role is to forgive sins, with physical healing as a happy side effect.

That this is Matthew’s intent is underscored when he reports that scribes observing this think–but do not say aloud: “This man is blaspheming.” (3). Being the Messiah, Jesus of course perceives their thoughts and says, Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?” (5) And for the first time we hear Jesus identify himself as the “Son of Man,” which the Pharisees knew as one of the titles used in Hebrew Scriptures for the promised Messiah.

Matthew notes that the crowds “were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.” (8) In other words, Jesus was 100% human, which of course is what we believe, too.

It’s at this point that Matthew, the tax collecting author of this eponymous gospel appears on the scene. Jesus simply says, Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.”  (9) We then see another unexpected side of Jesus: party animal. He joins the festivities and eats in celebration, apparently at Matthew’s house with his new disciple’s friends. The hyper-religious Pharisees disapprove and Matthew sets out one of his major themes in Jesus’ reply: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (12) His point to The Pharisees: You guys are fine, but there are many others who need caring for.

This being the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is constantly referring to the Scriptures, quotes Hosea 6:6: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”—a passage surely known by the Pharisees, but I’m sure they never heard it in this context before. Once again, we have Jesus shining a completely new light on Scripture. Matthew doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure the Pharisees were left speechless for there is simply no rebuttal to Jesus’ statement. Jesus made it clear that by supping with “sinners” he was acting out exactly what Hosea meant when he uttered that famous line. 

 

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