Psalm 59:1-9; Leviticus 26:36-27:15; Mark 9:1-10

Originally published 5/62014. Revised and updated 5/5/2018

Psalm 59:1-9  David remains in mortal danger from Saul, who seeks to kill him. Not only does David open this psalm of supplication by getting directly to the point , emphasizing the irgency of God’s intervention:
Save me from my enemies, my God,  
over those who rise against me make me safe.
Save me from the wrongdoers,
from men of bloodshed rescue me.
For, look, they lie in wait for my life,
the powerful scheme against me. (2-4)

This is not paranoia as David pleads desperately for his life. He knows he is innocent: “For no misdeed they rush, aim their bows.” (5a) Having described his perilous situation, David begs God to “Rise toward me and see!” (5b) demanding action immediately:
You, LORD, God of armies, God of Israel,  
awake to make a reckoning with all the nations.
Do not pardon all wrongdoing traitors.
(6)

The progression in just a few verses from “Save me!” to “Awake”  to “Do not pardon the traitors” is striking.  Unlike so many of us who pray only timid prayers for fear of being irreverent or even of offending God, David is not being deferential here. He is pleading, begging, and ultimately, demanding no-holds-barred action.

In the psalm’s second stanza, as if God has already answered his desperate prayer, we see David’s courage return and with it, the deep connection he has with God as he suddenly begins mocking his enemies, who “mutter like dogs” and “prowl round the town.” (7) His enemies are impotent compared to the greatness of God, who will “laugh at them, You mock the nations.” (9)

As is typical in a psalm of supplication, he concludes with worship and assurance,
My steadfast God will come to meet me,
God will grant me sight of my foes’ defeat.” (11)

We see in this shift of tone within in just a few verses how his desperate prayer has been answered as he utters these words. We always tend to think there’s a time lag between praying and having the prayer answered.  But that’s to assume God is limited by time and space the way we are.  Clearly, David did not believe in that constraint—and this psalm is good evidence that prayer can be answered instantaneously.

Leviticus 26:36-27:15  Although it’s in this book’s penultimate chapter, God seems to wrap up the seemingly endless list of laws and rules by reiterating his covenant with Israel by naming the “founding fathers” with whom God sealed the covenant originally: “And I will remember My covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac and also My covenant with Abraham I will  remember,” (26:42)  The naming of names makes it clear that in God’s eyes, this covenant is no abstraction; it is based on his promises made to real people in real space in real time.

Then, after naming the patriarchs, God adds a surprising (to me, anyway) fourth aspect of the covenant: “and I will remember the land.”  (42b) The land is God’s creation and the land itself is an intrinsic part of the Covenant. God has granted his part of creation to Israel—valid for as long as they keep their side of the Covenant.

Notice also, how God frames the Covenant: each aspect is prefaced by the phrase, “I will remember.”  God never forgets.  And it is this phrase that convinces me that a fundamental aspect of humans being created imago deo is that God has given us the gift of memory.  That is why it is so tragic when people suffering from diseases like Alzheimers are robbed of their memory.  For to lose memory is to break a relationship.  And nowhere can a relationship be broken more severely than for Israel to forget God. Or for us to forget God. Both as individuals and collectively as a culture rushing as fast as it can away from God. Despite this, God always remembers us.

Mark 9:1-10 I have always assumed that Jesus’ prophecy, “I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power” (1) referred to a future event, such as Pentecost or Paul’s glimpse of heaven. But here in Mark it is the introductory verse to the Transfiguration, so the prophecy is fulfilled immediately–at least for Peter, James and John.  For what else can the Transfiguration be but a glimpse of the Kingdom and its power?

Peter seems to be one of those people who is uncomfortable with awed silence (or in this case a terrifying event) and attempts to deal with their terror by filling the air with speech. Lacking anything original to say, Peter states the obvious, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here,” (5) and talks about building “dwellings” or “booths.”  Mark’s laconic editorial remark following Peter’s statement, “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (6) makes it clear that Peter spoke in an attempt to ameliorate his fear.  

This is one of those places where the Gospels reveal their authenticity: a fictional document would never succeed in making the disciples so real and so human. And so much like us.

Once again, Jesus orders the disciples who have had this glimpse into the Kingdom not to talk about it, presumably including to the other disciples.  The conversation during the hike down the mountain includes Jesus talking about rising from the dead. At this point the disciples’ heads must have been ready to explode. By juxtaposing the terrifying yet awe-inspiring event atop the mountain followed immediately Jesus’ puzzling comments about resurrection Mark again underscores the disciples’ humanity. “They kept the matter to themselves,” (10) including not bugging Jesus with any more silly questions right at the moment.  Given what has just transpired, I’m pretty sure that at this point I would have kept my mouth shut, as well.

 

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