Psalm 94:12-23; Joshua 13:8-14:5; Luke 14:7-24

Originally published 8/9/2014. Revised and updated 8/8/2018.

Psalm 94:12–23: At verse 12 the psalmist turns his attention to the individual who is suffering and can enjoy a respite by coming close to God and learning his teachings while awaiting the ultimate punishment of the wicked:
Happy the man whom Yah chastises
and whom from His teaching He instructs
to make him quiet in evil days
until a pit is dug for the wicked. (12, 13).

For despite the pain of the present day there is always hope because
the Lord will not abandon His people,
and His estate He will not forsake. (14)

Given the fact that God is always with us, the psalmist then asks rhetorically,
Who will rise for me against evildoers?
who will take a stand against the wrongdoers? (16)

The answer comes immediately with a reflection on how God rescues him–and us. And not just rescue, but God’s love comes as well:
Were not the Lord a help to me,
I would have almost dwelled in the silent realm.
When I thought my foot had stumbled,
Your kindness, Lord, sustained me. (17, 18)

These many centuries later we have the assurance that God will do the same in our hearts as he did for the psalmist:
With my many cares within me,
Your consolations delighted me. (19)

Every one of us carries a heavy burden of worries and cares. Jesus addresses this reality when he says that each day has sufficient worries of its own and not to fret about tomorrow.

But laying our worries aside is more than just an act of will. It is a reliance on the love and consolation that God brings—especially when, like the psalmist, we look out into the world and see so much hatred, strife, and trouble. God is indeed our ultimate hope when it appears that the wicked will triumph. And while we wait for the defeat of the wicked, we are protected:
The Lord became my fortress,
and my God, my sheltering Rock. (22)

Meanwhile, the wicked will ultimately receive their comeuppance by having them experience their won malfeasance:
“He will turn back against them their wickedness,
through their evil He will destroy them,
the Lord our God will destroy them. (23)

One suspects there is more fond hope and intense feeling on the part of the psalmist than there is theological truth here. But as we have said many times, the Psalms are where intense emotion is freely expressed. And here we see the psalmist’s anger and frustration up close.

Joshua 12-14:5: These final chapters of Joshua turn away form the exciting battles and victories and become an outright historical catalog much like the appendix at the end of a history book. First, of the numerous kings that have been conquered by Moses and Joshua (chapter 12). But perhaps the most ominous list is the description is at the beginning of chapter 13 of the parts of Canaan that Israel had not conquered. (13: 1-7). God reminds Joshua that “I will myself drive them out from before the Israelites;” (13:7a).  Much land has been conquered and one of Joshua’s final duties is to “allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you.” (13:7b)

Now, Scripture becomes a surveyor’s record much as we would see in the record books at any county clerk’s office. Again, like the detail we encounter in the descriptions of the layout and furnishings of the Temple that come later, I’m struck by the importance of details in the story of Israel—and indeed, of all God’s creation.

As well, the definite boundaries that are laid out here is a tangible reminder that God is a God of boundaries, and that there are limits—not only physical ones such as those described here, but of our behavior and God’s expectations. Boundaries are definite. As the today’s psalm observes, there is good and there is evil. There are those who align with God and those who do not. I tend to prefer a squishier, more ambivalent view of life and like others, would prefer to think that at everyone’s core there is goodness—even if only a spark. But the evidence of the Bible indicates otherwise. Jesus makes it perfectly clear that we can be on one side of God’s boundary or the other; we cannot straddle it.

Luke 14:7-24: Jesus’ advice about banquet seating—to start low and be asked to move higher, rather than the other way around—is so sensible, so logical. Why does he even have to give it? For the simple reason that we are prideful creatures and that our logic is that we are rightfully #1. This is Oswald Chambers’ persistent theme: unless we abandon our egos and replace them with Jesus Christ, we will always wrongly take the place of honor that only Christ can occupy.

The parable of the wedding feast is one of the most remarkable in Luke’s gospel. At first it seems that Jesus is referring to the Jews as the invited guests and Gentiles as the ones brought in from the streets. That’s certainly a fair interpretation, but I think there’s a deeper meaning that follows logically from Jesus’ high-low disquisition a few verses earlier.

Notice that there is never an outright rejection to the master’s invitation, but each invited guest offers excuses, citing other distractions that have a higher priority. That’s all of us, I think. We have an infinite number of plausible excuses to keep ourown selves and our priorities ahead of those of Jesus’.  The poor on the streets are those without pretension. They have already abandoned themselves; their egos are not the center of the universe and they happily accept Jesus’ invitation, finding themselves at a banquet whose riches they could never have imagined.

While not stated directly, Jesus’ message is also one of opportunity cost. By checking out our new piece of land or by trying out our new oxen (I’m tempted to say “BMW” here in lieu of “oxen”) or focusing on the size of our bank accounts and stock portfolios, we have foregone a party whose true joy we cannot even comprehend.

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