Psalm 107:10-16; 1 Samuel 5:1-7:1; Luke 24:28-35

Originally published 9/17/2014 Revised and updated 9/15/2018

Psalm 107:10–16: This section of the psalm seems to be a close parallel to the current readings in I Samuel where Israel is constantly rebelling against God because they do not like the rules God has laid down:
For they rebelled against God’s sayings,
the Most High’s counsel they despised. (11)

This is one of those verses that is completely applicable to today’s cultural reality: we are a society that believes either God is superfluous or that there is no God at all. Needless to say, there are consequences of their rebellion—as I believe there will be consequences of our own culture’s rebellion:
And He brought their heart low in troubles,
they stumbled with none to help. (12)

Israel figures our that abandoning God has dire consequences and they finally repent and turn back to God, who unsurprisingly, rescues them:
And they cried out to the Lord from their straits,
from their distress He rescued them.
He brought them out from the dark and death’s shadow
and their bonds He sundered. (13, 14)

Will we as individuals and as a culture ever turn back and cry out to God for rescue? What dreadful circumstances will exist to cause American culture to do that? Or are we too far gone?

As for their rescued Israel, its response is worshipping the God who set them free from both real and metaphorical prison:
Let them acclaim to the Lord His kindness
and His wonders to humankind.
For He shattered the doors of bronze
and the iron bars he hacked off. (15, 16)

Into what prison have we placed ourselves in our efforts to place our own ego at the center of our lives? All we need to do (hah!) is realize and then accept that God is at the center of our lives, and abandon our own delusion that we control our destiny. It’s a worn out cliche because it’s true: “Let go and let God.”  But that is far more difficult than just mouthing it. The doing it is the hard part and it’s why we need to abandon our self-centeredness again and again: every morning when we wake up.

1 Samuel 5:1-7:1: The Philistines quickly discover that their great war trophy, the Ark of the Covenant, brings disaster, not triumph. They set it up in their temple next to their idol, Dagon. In an almost humorous note, Dagon is found the next morning, fallen from its shelf onto its face. Then the next morning, the idol has been msteriously cut in pieces. The Philistines wisely conclude that they will be better off without the Ark and pass it off to the willing inhabitants of Gath. Disaster ensues –something like the black plague–as they plead, “let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” (5:11).  It’s clear the Ark belongs only to one tribe: Israel.

Now the problem is how to get it back to Israel. After consulting the priests, the Ark is placed on a wooden cart together with a guilt offering, gold shaped as mice and as the tumors. The whole affair is pulled by two milk cows(!) The cows wander off and come back to Israel at Beth-shemesh.  The people recognize the Ark, and “When they looked up and saw the ark, they went with rejoicing to meet it.” (6:13). After seven months, the Ark is finally back in its rightful land.

The lesson here is not only that God is more powerful than the false Gods, but God will not be mocked. Had the Philistines realized that the God of Israel was more powerful than their own, and that the Ark was something far greater than a war trophy, there may have been a very different outcome for them. So too, today, where God has been determined to be a delusion by those who claim to be wise, what fate awaits them?

 Luke 24:28-35: We owe much to the unnamed walkers on the road to Emmaus. Even though they had not recognized Jesus, and as the reach Emmaus, Jesus “walked ahead as if he were going on.” (28) Notice Luke’s “as if.” Jesus seems to be performing a little test. Will these two men invite him, a stranger, to dinner? They do, and they recognize Jesus as he breaks bread with them.

I think Luke’s message is, even though we may not recognize Jesus as he walks along side us, will we invite the stranger in? This incident in Emmaus seems to be an acting out of Jesus’ all-important words in Matthew 25 (“I was hungry and you fed me…”) By offering kindness to this seeming stranger, the Emmaens offered kindness to Jesus himself. As we, too, should offer kindness to those who are hungry and in need. For we may also find we are indeed supping with Jesus.

As well, like the Emmaens, we have that same opportunity to recognize anew who Jesus is each and every time we come to the altar rail to join him in supper. It is not a ritual; it is a cause of rejoicing and to realize that our hearts are also burning in the passionate joy that the risen Jesus brings to us.

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