Psalm 95; Joshua 14:6-15:19; Luke 14:25-32

Originally published 8/11/2014. Revised and updated 8/9/2018.

Psalm 95: This is one of those psalms where singing becomes ecstatic shouting:
Come, let us sing gladly to the LORD, 
let us shout out to the Rock of our rescue. (1)

But it is more than mere shouting; it is singing enthusiastically:
Let us greet Him in acclaim, 
in songs let us shout out to Him. (2)

Perhaps a modern analogue would be Red Sox fans singing “Sweet Caroline” in Fenway Park. The point is, that God’s greatness transcends mere songs of praise, but is something that is to be sung in massed unison.

This psalm focuses on the greatness of God as Creator and king over all small-g gods:
For a great God is the Lord
and a great king over all the gods.
In Whose hand are the depths of the earth,
and the peaks of the mountains. are his.
His is the sea and He made it,
and the dry land His hands did fashion. (3-5)

As always, our natural response to so great a God is fervent worship:
Come, let us bow and kneel,
bend the knee before the LORD our maker. (6).

The phrase, “the LORD our maker,” reminds us that we are His creation, we are not those small-g gods that we (me, anyway) so often see ourselves as being. Nor are other objects such as wealth or power.

the Our poet reiterates the centrality of Creator/created relationship:
For He is our God
and we are the people He tends
and the flock of His hand. (7)

This is the proper order of creation, and we do well to remember that order, which is why worship is about praise and remembrance, not about being entertained or edified or even (as I heard my parents say so often) “getting something out of it.” Worship is the expression of joy that we are God’s creatures, saved through Jesus Christ.

When we corrupt that order and set ourselves above our Creator, as seems to be our natural bent, then sin—especially the sin of pride—arises with all its dreadful consequences. The psalmist reminds us that this is what happened at Meribah (8) and again in the wilderness when the people complained when the spies came back and were afraid of the Canaanites. The result is an angry God who cancels his plan to show this wayward generation the Promised Land:
Forty years I loathed a generation,
and I said, ‘They are a people of wayward heart.
And they do not know my ways.
Against them I swore my wrath,

They shall not come to My resting place. (10, 11)

Through the saving power of Jesus Christ we will never be loathed by God, but that does not absolve of of our responsibility to remember we are the Created and our natural singing/shouting response is gratitude and worship of our Creator.

Joshua 14:6-15:19: Caleb reappears and reminds Joshua that “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land; and I brought him an honest report.” (14:7) Because of that honest report, he tells, Joshua (who must surely have known about the promise since he was the other spy who gave an honest report) that “Moses swore [to me] on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’” (14:9)

If Joshua gives Caleb the land of Hebron, he promises that even though he is 85 years old, he is still strong and ready to do battle with Hebron’s current inhabitants, promising, “it may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out, as the Lord said.” (14:12) Joshua hands over the land to strong, assertive Caleb.

In chapter 15, following a county-record description of the boundaries of Judah, we encounter one of the odder bargains of the OT. Caleb says that whoever takes Kiriath-sepher will be awarded his daughter Achsah and in something edging toward incest, she becomes the wife of Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, her cousin.

Since the family is assigned to the desert, Caleb’s now-married daughter urges her new husband to ask for springs of water as part of their territory. However, he apparently says nothing. So being no slouch, Achsah takes it upon herself to ask her father, which request he grants. While the theological application may be as simple as “ask and you shall receive,” I’m amused that the father-daughter bond of the father granting a daughter’s request—something I have happily done many times myself—has deep historical roots!

Luke 14:25-32: This is another one of those disturbing passages about the cost of discipleship that rubs against our grain, especially when Jesus says, 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) Perhaps I’m softening the word “hate” too much to suggest that even the deepest of these human relationships cannot have greater precedence than the relationship between Jesus and ourselves as his disciples.

The latter half of this passage, which seems not to be preached on as much, is that discipleship requires preparation and planning, which point Jesus makes not once, but twice: once in building and once in military planning.  To me, Jesus is saying there is nothing random or particularly casual about working in the Kingdom. To be sure, Kingdom work requires vision, but it is vision that anticipates cost (the tower example) and potential consequences (the military example). This is not the short-lived enthusiasm that we too often mistake for vision. If the cost or consequences are too great, then the plan must be modified accordingly.

This is also a good example of what my father said distinguished Christianity from cults: You cannot “leave your brains at the door.” Being a worker in the Kingdom requires thought, insight, and yes, intelligence. We cannot mindlessly follow some charismatic but ultimately empty leader and expect to build something lasting or expand the territory of the Kingdom. Alas, there are too many charismatic preachers abroad today, especially on TV, that corrupt the strong message of Jesus.

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