Psalm 93; Joshua 13:8–14:5; Luke 14:7–24

Originally published 8/5/2016. Revised and updated 8/6/2018.

Psalm 93: This brief but beautifully evocative psalm celebrates God as king of all creation. The psalmist wastes no time in getting to his theme with the interesting image of what God wears metaphorically:
The Lord reigns, in triumph clothed,
clothed is the Lord, in strength He is girded.
 (1a)

God is eternal, older than even the earth itself:
Your throne stands firm from of old,
from forever You are.
 (2)

What a great way to describe eternity: “from forever You are.”

As occurs many times in the Psalms, flowing water represents the power of nature. It speaks in its rushing energy, growing ever louder:
The streams lifted up, O Lord,
the streams lifted their voice,
the streams lift up their roaring.
 (3)

But God is even greater than the powerful waves of the ocean:
More than the sound of many waters,
the sea’s majestic breakers,
majestic on high is the Lord.
” (4)

Following this introduction that celebrates God’s grandeur, our poet turns to the relationship between God and Israel. God, who is more majestic than all of creation, is the same God who has given Israel the Law, which is what gives the nation its moral order:
Your statutes are very faithful.” (5a).

Even better, God dwells among the people of Israel, specifically at the temple in Jerusalem as our poet returns to the theme of God’s eternality:
Holiness suits Your house.
The Lord is for all time.” (5b)

This psalm reminds me that the God who loves me, and with whom I have a relationship, is greater—far greater—than the power of nature and greater than anything I can imagine. He truly is “from forever”— pace infinitely beyond what my feeble imagination can even comprehend.

Joshua 13:8–14:5: The book turns from military narrative to county hall-of-records, as Joshua performs his final task: the detailed allocation of conquered lands to the 12 tribes of Israel. This record is valuable because it creates as firm sense that unlike many of the surrounding tribes and nations when this book was written, Israel’s roots are not mythical; they are grounded quite specifically in the land itself.

We are again reminded that the tribe of Levi is set apart: “To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance; the offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to them.” (13:14)

The authors then turn to describing the tribal land grants. First up are the tribes that elected to reside on the east side of the Jordan: Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe (always an amusing concept) of Manasseh.

Next up will be the allotment of conquered land west of the Jordan River to the remaining tribes. Once again, our authors—whom I’m presuming to be priests from the tribe of Levi—remind us: “but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them.” (14:3) I can’t quite figure out if they are angry about being left out or feel they are special in God’s eyes and therefore deserving of the respect due form the other tribes. Perhaps it is a mixture of both feelings.

IN any event, given these historical roots it’s easy to see why modern day Israel clings so fiercely to the land it conquered and the portions of the West Bank it still occupies. The present day tension between Israel and Palestine goes back more than three millennia and unlikely too be resolved by clever diplomacy.

Luke 14:7–24: Jesus provides sound social advice for guests who have been invited to dinner where there is a rigid hierarchy of seating: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host.” (8) Should someone of higher rank show up, both host and guest are placed in an embarrassing position. Therefore, Jesus advises, “But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.” (10)

As is always the case, Jesus’ point is much larger than the psychology of social convention as he reminds us in his famous statement, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (11) [This is advice that a certain president would do well to put into practice, but alas, we don’t see much evidence of that happening…]

Luke’s Jesus—perhaps more than in any other gospel—is concerned with the lower rungs of society: “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” (13) Aid to the less fortunate is of course a prominent running theme of the Old Testament, so even though Jesus’ words may appear radical, they are not. It’s great to know that some at Saint Matthew have put Jesus’ advice about banquet-giving into practice by offering a weekly banquet to the homeless of Walnut Creek and churches here in Madison provide food to those who have little.

As usual, Luke weaves in one of Jesus’ more famous parables: the story of the great banquet to whom many prominent people have been invited. Each invitee finds his excuse not to attend. Upon learning this news, the host is incensed and orders his slave to “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” (21) Even then, places at table are not filled, so the slave is ordered to go even further: “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.” (23)

The invited guests of the parable are Israel. The poor, crippled, and blind are Gentiles. And there’s a missionary sense here that we see expressed later in the Great Commission when Jesus’s host commands his slave to go far afield into the roads and lanes. The parable ends with Jesus’ rather chilling statement, “For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” (24) Which I take to be the Jews for whom Jesus came but who rejected him.

Once again we have a dramatic indication that the Kingdom of God is going to be rather different than the revolution Jesus’ followers, including even his disciples, are expecting. Of course this all seems obvious to us sitting here on the other side of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But I’m pretty sure that if I’d been listening to Jesus relate this parable alongside his followers I’d be just as clueless as they, thinking it was an interesting but rather weird story.

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