Psalm 30:6–12; Exodus 2:11–3:22; Matthew 19:1–12

Originally posted 2/25/2016—revised and updated 2/24/2018

Psalm 30:6–12: One of the greatest gifts form God that every creature enjoys is the diurnal rhythm of life. No matter what happens in a given day, the day comes to an end and we begin afresh in the morning with a new day and a fresh perspective. Our psalmist puts it beautifully:
At evening one beds down weeping,
and in morning, glad song. (6b)

We may not always wake up in “glad song,” but as we awaken it’s worth reflecting on the new day’s opportunities rather than yesterday’s trials.

There is another underlying rhythm here: the apparent presence and absence of God. When we feel God’s presence, we sing with the poet’s confidence in God’s sustaining power:
Lord, in Your pleasure
You made me stand mountain-strong. (8a)

But when we feel abandoned by God, then, “—When You hid Your face, I was stricken. (8b)

Even so, the psalmist has a good lesson here for us. Even when he felt abandoned, he continued to pray:
To You, O lord, I call,
and to the Master I plead. (9)

I know this is where I personally go astray. When I feel I’m in a spiritual desert and God is nowhere to be seen, I stop praying. Which only makes me feel more abandoned.

On the contrary, our psalmist is prayerfully persistent and asks God the same question that is asked in many psalms of supplication:
What profit in my blood,
in my going down deathward? [Great word!]
Will dust acclaim You,
will it tell Your truth? (9)

In other words, what’s your logic, God, in allowing us to die, or even feel abandoned? Dead people do not worship or acclaim God.

This raises the eternal question of theodicy, if God loves us, why does he allow bad things to happen to us? So we ask with the psalmist,
Hear Lord, and grant me grace.
Lord become a helper to me. (11)

I don’t think of God as my helper very often, but God is indeed the powerful help at the center of our lives, especially when we realize that God expresses his love through the kind actions of other people.

We come to realize that even if God does not directly answer the question, we are nevertheless able to reflect each new morning. Which means we’re still alive! And if we are alive in God, we rejoice at his transformative power:
You have turned my dirge into a dance for me
untie my sackcloth and bound me for joy. (12)

And with the psalmist, we rise and dance and sing: “O, let my heart hymn You and not be still.” (13a) May each new day be a dance rather than a dirge.

Exodus 2:11–3:22: This reading covers a lot of territory. We encounter the troubling passage where Moses, angered by the harsh beating of a fellow Hebrew, kills the Egyptian and hides the body thinking no one has seen his act. But the next day, he’s found out, not by an Egyptian but a fellow Hebrew and he flees to Midian, where he helps the daughters of the priest of Midian scare off marauding shepherds at the water trough. He’s invited to dinner, takes up residence, and shortly marries the priest’s daughter Zipporah, who bears him a son. I’m sure that at this point Moses he intended to live out his days in Midian.

Moses is living proof that you cannot escape God. Conditions in Egypt have gone from bad to worse for the Hebrews, and “Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God.” (2:23), whom they had obviously forgotten about since the time of Joseph. God, who has apparently been silent for the past 400 years, “heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (24). Really? Did God forget about the Israelites all this time? Or had the Israelites forgotten about him until their circumstances were so desperate that “their cry for help rose up to God?” I suspect the latter, since we tend to come to God only in dark times. But God is loving and “God took notice of them.” (2:24b)

As usual, God has an improbable rescue plan and he chooses an equally improbable leader to help carry it out. It’s this murdering shepherd who’s been hiding for some years off in Midian. God makes himself known in the form of a burning bush and identifies himself: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (3:6). Moses, aware he is experiencing a theophany hides his face in terror “for he was afraid to look at God.”

Moses’s terror does not faze God in the least, who proceeds to tell him that he’s now God’s chosen leader who will lead the Israelites out of Egypt “to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (3:8) Moses, having overcome his initial fear, understandably asks why God chose him to go to Pharaoh. God speaks the words all of us facing a difficult or impossible situation wish to hear: “I will be with you.” (3:12)

This comforting answer seems to reassure him because Moses asks a question that no one in the Bible has thus far asked: “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (13). God answers in what I have always felt is pretty cryptic: “I am who I am.” Nevertheless, this seems to satisfy Moses since he continues to listen as God gives him instructions of what to do.

But I’m sure God’s plan felt quite impossible to Moses. He is to suddenly reappear in Egypt, convince the Hebrew leaders that he’s not the escaped murderer they think he is, but has come directly from God and they had better listen to him. Even worse, he has to go to Pharaoh and demand that he allow Egyptian society to be ripped apart by freeing its slaves. Here, however, God promises to help him, telling Moses, “I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go.” (3:20) This is a good reminder that God is with us when he asks us to do the impossible. The question of course is even though God is with us are we willing to take a risk to carry out God’s work?

God certainly seems to have a sense of irony when he says “ I will bring this people into such favor with the Egyptians that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed.” (3:21) ‘Favor’ toward the Hebrews was not exactly what the Egyptians were feeling when they allowed the Hebrews to depart. But then again, God promises, they’ll be free to plunder the Egyptians as they leave.

Matthew 19:1–12: We come to one of Jesus’ truly hard sayings: the question of divorce, which arises, as usual, from the Pharisees, relentless in their quest to trip him up. Jesus refers them to Genesis, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’” (4) and therefore, children leave their parents and marry because it is God’s will as Creator that the natural order of all living creation be observed: “they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (6).

The Pharisees counter that the Law allows a certificate of divorce, which allows an ‘out.’ Jesus retorts, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,” (8a) but he emphasizes that it violates God’s natural created order: “from the beginning it was not so.” (8b) Which is what I think divorce is today: It is not God’s good created order, but it is allowed. And I suppose we could appy that rule to all of the other gender weirdness taking place today.

Then comes the hard part: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” (9) The disciples probably know people who have divorced and they logically conclude, it is better not to marry in the first place. Jesus cuts them off by saying not everyone, e.g., eunuchs, can marry, and that his words apply only to those who can.

The Catholic church has remained steadfast on the issue of divorce and among the consequences of that steadfastness, the Anglican church came into being. Jesus knows divorce will happen, but he is also telling us that divorce (and the newly flexible gender roles) corrupts the natural order. In his words about eunuchs [welcome to my world…] I think the underlying message is that divorce will always be part of a society of fallen humans, but also that it always corrupts us further.

We have to ask ourselves what has been the consequence of divorce in American society. I think there is no question that widespread divorce has corrupted the definition of marriage itself. Just look at the growing rates of cohabitation without marriage—which in effect is exactly an answer to the disciples’ question— as well as the expanding definition of what marriage even means in terms of gender. No matter how we justify divorce, same sex marriage, and further redefinitions of marriage now occuring, there can be no argument that Jesus is right: divorce and its consequences have corrupted God’s natural created order. One more evidence of our fallenness as human beings. No matter its justification, it goes against what God had in mind for us.

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