Archives for February 2018

Psalm 18:30-36; Genesis 31:22-55; Matthew 11:25-12:8

Originally posted 1/31/2014—revised and updated 1/31/2018

Psalm 18:30-36  In these verses our psalmist segues the previous verses of David’s virtue into military imagery, reenforcing the reality for David that it is
The God who girds me with might
and keeps my way blameless.”  (31)

There is almost a sense of basic training for combat beginning with physical training,
…makes my legs like a gazelle’s
stands me on the heights,
trains my hands for combat,
makes my arms bend a bow of bronze.”

(Boy, does that bring back memories of OCS!) Now fully trained, David is equipped by God: “You gave me Your shield of rescue.”

I think we should be careful and avoid turning these verses into metaphor such as the “whole armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6.  There is a magnificent physicality here. God certainly prepares us for spiritual battle, but he helps us prepare physically, as well.  Having just come from my morning workout at the gym, this is not something God just showers on us; building physical strength is hard work.  For me, physical exercise is a crucial element in keeping cancer at bay.  So, with David I need to remember that in the end my strength comes from God, but I am deeply involved in the workout.

Genesis 31:22-55  Before Jacob fled with his wives, “Rachel stole the household god’s that were her father’s.” (31:19).  Now that Laban has caught up with Jacob, his family and his flocks, Laban, above all else, wants those gods back. Jacob, not knowing that it was Rachel who took them, puts his wife in great peril by almost casually responding to Laban, “With whomever you find your gods, that person shall not live.” (31:32).  In one of the most cinematic scenes in Genesis, the author combines tension with humor as Laban desperately searches Rachel’s tent while she sits on the cushion in which the gods are hidden.  No dummy, Rachel refuses to get up because she claims to be having her period, and Laban leaves without the gods.  I imagine a lot of couples who’ve gone through divorce, dividing property have felt the same outrage that Laban did.

But this is serious business, and Laban’s search of Rachel’s and Leah’s tents is the last straw.  Even though Jacob has deceived Laban in a variety of ways, he now accuses Laban of cheating him out of his wages “ten times over,” and states that God has decided in Jacob’s favor (32:42)  Starting with the assertion that God is on his side, Jacob once again conducts a successful negotiation and Laban and he come to terms.  This time, though, the vow is sacred between them, as Laban states, “God is witness between you and me.” (31:50).  After establishing a boundary stone that neither will cross, they sit down together and eat bread together.  I had always thought of Passover as the first sacred meal establishing a vow, but here is an earlier one.  The roots of Eucharist are deeper than we can ever imagine.  And this meal with Jacob and Laban reminds us that we do not come to communion casually, but it is a sacred vow that we are honoring.

Matthew 11:25-12:8  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (11:28) are among the most comforting words in the Gospels. That comfort is all the more remarkable when we consider that just moments earlier Jesus has said some extremely uncomfortable things, as e.g. “But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” (11:24).  It seems almost contradictory until we reflect on Jesus’ prayer between those two statements, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;” (11:25).  It is the “infants” not the “wise and intelligent” to whom Jesus offers his comforting words.

This passage presages what Paul says about foolishness and wisdom in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians.  Matthew makes it clear right here that God the father is speaking to us in a new, unanticipated way.  Not through the religious authorities as the Pharisees and others would have it, but through his Son, who has been sent to earth as a revolutionary.  For me, Jesus’ message is terribly clear:  we cannot intellectualize our way to God, but we can come only as innocent—as infants—realizing that comfort in the Father—being “God’s kids”—comes only through Jesus because “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  All we need to do is take on that easy yoke and light burden.  Which often seems to be neither,…unless we compare them to the alternative.