Psalm 119:9–16; 2 Samuel 5:17–6:23; John 7:14–24

Psalm reflection originally published 10/16/2014. Revised and updated 10/15/2018.

Psalm 119:9-16: This is where we find the verse that I memorized in fifth grade Sunday School atLake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena:
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you. (119:11)

Well, actually, it was the KJV version that I memorized:
I will hide your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

But now that I am old, it’s verse 9 that resonates:
How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word. (119:9)

Which is why implanting at least a casual acquaintance with Biblical truths should be a fundamental aspect of parenting–and of the church. It is one of the promises that parents make when their child is baptized in the Lutheran Church. But is there a guarantee that knowing,  understanding, and accepting the rules of virtue as laid out in the Bible will lead to proper moral behavior? Probably not, but the absence of knowledge of God’s truth does not create an auspicious beginning of adulthood—and it erodes the common moral virtues that underpin our civilization. Which alas, appears to be the trajectory of American society.

Our psalmist outlines his methods in the study of God’s word. First, he reads it aloud:
With my lips I recounted
all the laws You pronounced.” (13)

And he sees the immense value in this study:
I rejoiced in the way of Your precepts
as over all kinds of wealth. (14)

Then there is pure in focusing on God’s word:
Let me dwell on Your decrees
and let me look upon Your paths.
In Your statutes I delight,
I shall not forget Your word. (15, 16)

These verses certainly say that honest meditation on God’s law and truths should never be an onerous task, but a delight. I have to confess that I find real pleasure in reading and writing about God’s word six mornings a week.

2 Samuel 5:17-6:23: Upon hearing that David is now undisputed king of Israel, the Philistines see their chance and lose no time in seeking him out, doubtless to assassinate him. Realizing the threat, David asks God if he should preemptively strike the enemy, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” (5:19). God replies in the affirmative and David meets the Philistine army at “Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. He said, “The Lord has burst forth against[b]my enemies before me, like a bursting flood.” (5:20) But the Philistines didn’t give up and they “were spread out in the valley of Rephaim” (5:22) Once again, David inquired of God, who gave him very precise tactical instructions: “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come upon them opposite the balsam trees.” (5:23) And once again, David is victorious because he follows God’s instructions to the letter.

Now that peace has been secured, David arranges for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought up to Jerusalem. It’s placed on a new cart and on the journey, they stop at “the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill.” (6:3) There they have a loud and joyous party as “David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs[d] and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (6:5)

However, as they bring the Ark to the threshing floor, it appears that it’s about to tip over and “Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it.” (6:6) This makes God angry and Ussah is struck dead on the spot. This act on God’s part seems so patently unfair to a man that only wanted to help that “David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah…David was afraid of the Lord that day; he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?” (6:8-9) The seeming capriciousness of God’s act certainly justifies fear on David’s part.

David refuses to take the Ark into Jerusalem but leaves it at “the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months.” (6:11)  God blesses these temporary custodians and when David heard that he brought the Ark al the way to Jerusalem. Another party ensues and after offering the proper sacrifices, David “distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.” (6:19)

Apparently the party involved David dancing nude before God. “But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!” (20) David dismisses the accusation and boldly announces, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” (6:22)

For her apparently unwarranted accusation, Michal is rendered barren and “had no child to the day of her death.” (6:23)

All these events—the death of Uzzah and the barrenness of Michal—suggest a rather petulant, almost adolescent God. Personally, I think the authors are ascribing actions to God that surely had other root causes.

John 7:14-24: When Jesus shows up at the Temple in Jerusalem he begins to teach and “the Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning,[a] when he has never been taught?” (15) Jesus calmly replies that My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.” (16, 17) OK, but then he continues to twist the knife on the resident scholars, accusing them of blatant hypocrisy: “Those who speak on their own seek their own glory,” (18) contrasting them with himself who only “seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.” (18)

Then, he accuses them all of being lawbreakers: “Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” (19) Jesus’ unrelenting boldness causes some in the crowd to conclude that he is demon-possessed. To the accusation that he healed a man on the Sabbath, Jesus points out that men are circumcised on the Sabbath and that they have no right to be angry with him. Jesus famously states, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (24) Which of course we still fail to do, including recent accusations hurled at a Supreme Court nominee in Washington DC—a place certainly full of hypocritical Pharisees.

 

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