Psalm 94:1–11; Joshua 14:6–15:19; Luke 14:25–32

Originally published 8/6/2016. Revised and updated 8/7/2018.

Psalm 94:1–11: Alter informs us that only here does the psalmist ascribe God as an aggressor, asking God to act against the wicked and to act now:
God of vengeance, O Lord,
God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth,
bring down on the proud requital.
” (1, 2)

Unsurprisingly, the primary sin of the wicked is pride as they lord it over the oppressed, causing our poet to plead,
How long the wicked, O Lord,
how long will the wicked exult?
 (3)

Of course the wicked believe they are beyond God’s reach and are pridefully boastful:
They utter arrogance, speak it,
all the wrongdoers bandy boasts
. (4)

These people are still among us today, believing they know it all, are above it all, and care not a whit about the impact of either their words or actions on other people. And unlike then, now they have social media to amplify their voices.

At this point our psalmist becomes more specific about the sins of the wicked. First, they care neither about other people nor the natural environment and take pains to oppress both:
Your people, O Lord, they crush,
and Your estate they abuse.
 (5)

The wicked have no qualms, even about killing others whether directly or indirectly, as the commit the most heinous crimes against the weakest among them:
Widow and sojourner they kill,
and orphans they murder.
 (6)

Even if they happen to believe in God, they nonetheless believe their actions will not be punished:
And they say, ‘Yah will not see,
and the God of Jacob will not heed.’
 (7)

In today’s world, where increasing numbers of people believe that God does not even exist, the idea of obeying God’s commands or experiencing the dire consequences of disobedience feels oddly quaint. Rather, it’s all about trumpeting and acting on individual rights, regardless of the impact on others. I’m pretty sure this psalmist would have written exactly these lines had he been writing in 21st century America.

The wicked among us may believe they are exempt from God’s punishment, but our psalmist knows better as he warns them:
Take heed, you brutes in the people,
and you fools, when will you be wise?
 (8)

God is on to to their tricks and their actions because he is Creator:
Who plants the ear, will He not hear?
Who fashions the eye, will he not look?
 (9)

What makes us think we can get away with it? Pride and a belief we are responsible to no one.

Above all, as our creator, knows all too well the wiles of the wicked:
The Lord knows human designs,
that they are mere breath.
 (11)

No matter how clever the wicked may think they are, their plans and conspiracies are “mere breath,” and will be blown apart when God turns his attention to them. In short, there are always consequences. But our perception and that of the poet’s as he asks “How long?” in verse 3, it sometimes it seems that God takes an awfully long time to act against the wicked. But act he will.

Joshua 14:6–15:19: Caleb, the other spy with Joshua 45 years previously, who reported that Canaan was ripe for invasion, resurfaces here as he reminds Joshua about the promise Moses made so many years ago: “I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever.” (14:8,9) He’s now 85 years old and asserts, “I am still as strong today as I was on the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war, and for going and coming.” (14:11). Caleb is certainly no wallflower, coming to Joshua and asking for an unspecified favor. Rather, he knows exactly what he wants and demands it: “So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day.” (12)

Joshua complies, and our authors, writing many years later, observe, “So Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.” (14:14). The lesson for us is clear: if we wholeheartedly follow God, we can ask directly for what we believe is ours. Jesus makes this point later when he says, “Ask and you will receive.”

An interlude of county hall-of-records description of the land given to the tribe of Judah follows. The territory that Judah appears to be quite extensive, stretching all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The parenthetical insertions giving the modern names as e.g., “the southern slope of the Jebusites (that is, Jerusalem)” (15:8) and “Mount Jearim (that is, Chesalon)” (15:10)  suggest that our authors were descendants of the tribe of Judah and they are certainly proof that they were writing many years later. I suppose it’s also worth noting that this land became the majority of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, aka Judea.

Following this textual interruption, we return to the story of Caleb occupying his territory and driving out its inhabitants. He’s successful in a couple of places, but is clearly having trouble with one city as he promises,“Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.” (15:16) Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, does so and is rewarded with Achsah as his new wife.

Clearly, Achsah has inherited her father’s forthrightness, and tells her husband to ask his father-in-law for a field. Then, separately, she encounters Caleb, who asks, “What do you wish?” (15:18) We sense her irritation at being forced to live in the Negev desert and she loses no time in demanding,“Give me a present; since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me springs of water as well.” (15:19) Caleb immediately complies. The daughter has certainly inherited her father’s forthrightness.

Luke 14:25–32: This is truly one of the hard sayings of Jesus: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” (26). And just to make sure we get the point, he reiterates, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (27) It’s difficult to rationalize around this obvious priority that Jesus is demanding of us. Attempts at part time or half-hearted discipleship is not discipleship at all. As one pastor once put it in her sermon, either we’re “all in” or we aren’t. Discipleship is a binary proposition.

However, it’s worth noting that Jesus is not asking for blind, unthinking discipleship. Rather, before deciding to become his disciple, we must sit down and evaluate the cost of that discipleship. Just as the man building a tower needs to be fully funded or a king going to war needs to determine “whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand.” (31)

When I sit down and think through discipleship and reflect on my own priorities it’s pretty clear that I’m not the disciple Jesus demands.

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