Psalm 89:20–29; Joshua 1,2; Luke 11:37–54

Originally posted 7/26/2016. Revised and updated 7/26/2018

Psalm 89:20–29: Turning to full encomium mode, our psalmist gives God all the credit in causing Israel to choose David as Israel’s king, now writing in God’s voice:
Then did You speak in a vision
to Your faithful and did say:
‘I set a crown upon the warrior,

I raised up one chosen from the people
I found David my servant,
with My holy oil anointed him. (20, 21)

There’s no question in the psalmist’s mind that David had been chosen by God, as God now announces how he will protect David from all comers—not just protection, but military victory as well:
No enemy shall cause him grief
and no vile person afflict him.

I will grind down his foes before him
and defeat those who hate him.
” (23, 24)

Our psalmist, doubtless writing retrospectively, describes the intimacy of God’s relationship with David, effectively bestowing God-like qualities on his chosen king:
My faithfulness and my kindness are with him,
and in My name his horn will be lifted.
 (25).

David’s kingdom will be extensive (again the poet writes with hindsight):
And I shall put his hand to the sea
and his right hand to the rivers.
 (26).

Perhaps most importantly, David reciprocates God’s faithfulness to him:
He will call me: ‘My father You are,
my God and the rock of my rescue.’ 
(27)

It is this faithfulness lies at the root of David becoming Israel’s greatest king, and in fact, the greatest king on the earth:
I, too, shall make him My firstborn,
most high among kings of the earth.
 (28)

It almost seems that the Covenant between God and Israel has been transmogrified into a personal covenant between God and David:
Forever I shall keep my kindness for him
and my pact will be faithful to him.
 (29)

This verse creates the clear sense that it is the righteousness and faithfulness of Israel’s king that will in large part determine how faithful God will be to Israel. And as we know from Israel’s history, it is unrighteous kings that hastened Israel’s demise.

Joshua 1,2: Upon the death of Moses, God commissions Joshua as undisputed leader of Israel, promising, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (1:5b) and tells Joshua (three times): “Be strong and courageous” (1:6, 7, 9) but always with the caveat: “being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.” (1:7) As long as Joshua is “strong and courageous” and obeys the law, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (1:9)

Preparations for battle commence, beginning with the reminder that the tribes that remained on the east side of the Jordan that “all the warriors among you shall cross over armed before your kindred and shall help them.” (1:14) The Reubenites and others tell Joshua they will be faithful and in a promise that resonates down through the ages, they respond, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” (1:16). This is also our command. The question is are we as faithful as these warriors?

Josuha shows great strategic wisdom, requiring intelligence before planning and commencing battle. He sends two spies to reconnoiter the land, “especially Jericho.” They enter Jericho on the pretense of seeking sexual satisfaction, and “entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). Somehow the king of Jericho finds out they’re there and demands that Rahab turn them over. Rahab has hidden them and concocts a story that they have already departed.

Rahab tells the men that fear has overcome Jericho since the fierce reputation of the Israelites has preceded them. She tells them that since “I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family.” (2:12) The spies agree, telling her that if she stays quiet, “then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.” (2:14). The spies tell her that she must hang a red cord out her window when they invade as a signal to spare her and her family or the deal is off.

Rahab lets the spies out by a back window and they escape Jericho. After hiding from the pursuers for 3 days, they return to Joshua bringing the good news that “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.” (2:24)

What’s fascinating about this classic story is that God uses not only a female, but a prostitute as the means of both providing information as well as escape. The lesson for us is of course that God does not work only through the mighty, but the very least of people. Which of course was exactly Jesus’ method as well, especially as we reflect on the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Luke 11:37–54: Itinerant that he was, Jesus was always willing to dine with anyone who invited him, and in this case, he sups with a Pharisee and his lawyer friends. Things start out badly as Jesus neglects to wash his hands. When this is called to his attention, he lectures them on their hypocrisy,  “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (39). Things go downhill from there and a lawyer responds, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” (45)

Far from being sympathetic or apologizing, Jesus accuses them of blatant hypocrisy and worse, of oppressing the people—which they should know that showing justice and mercy to the poor and widows is a key command of the Jewish scriptures: “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.” (46) He excoriates them further: “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.” (51)

Not surprisingly, following this rather disastrous dinner, “the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him…lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.” (53)

We can only conclude that Jesus intentionally created this hostile atmosphere, knowing where it would eventually lead. Obviously, everything he said about these folks was true, and he did nothing to sugar-coat it. The lesson here for us is that while the yoke may be easy, Jesus’ message is hard.

People aren’t going to like hearing their faults quite as explicitly as Jesus put it to these guys. Like them, we will respond defensively just as the lawyer did. We do a disservice to the church when we fail to speak about our intrinsic sinfulness (or perform the rite of confession at worship), creating the impression that Jesus is sort of this nice guy but kind of wimpy (which is what I hear in much praise music).

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