Psalm 119:49-57; 2 Samuel 13:1-33; John 8:31-41

Originally published 10/21/2014. Revise and updated 10/20/2018

Psalm 119:49-57: In this section our psalmist describes the pain of faithfulness in the face of severe opposition as he prays:
Recall the word to Your servant
for which You made me hope.
This is my consolation in my affliction,
that Your utterance gave me life. (49, 50)

He clearly has faced opposition from others who doubtless perceived his loyalty to God as hypocrisy:
The arrogant mocked me terribly—
from Your teaching I did not turn. (52)

But he makes usre that God (and we) know that he has remained steadfast in his dedication to God’s law:
I recalled Your laws forever,
O Lord and I was consoled. (52)

This sort of dedication makes his enemies—those who have abandoned God— even angrier:
Rage from the wicked seized me,
from those who forsake Your teaching. (53)

The contrast between the rage of his enemies and his inner peace is striking and one has the feeling his relationship with God and the Law is all that he has left:
Songs were Your statutes to me,
in the house of my sojourning.
I recalled in the night Your name, O Lord,
and I observed Your teaching.
This did I possess,
for Your decrees I kept. (54-56)

Ho grateful  am that I live under the terms of the New Covenant and God’s grace through Jesus.

2 Samuel 13:1-33: The author of this book makes sure we understand the implications of Nathan’s prediction after David took Bathsheba from Uriah: “I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house” (12:11) by following immediately with the disturbing story of Ammon’s rape of his half-sister, Tamar.

Ammon becomes obsessed with Tamar, and his desire to have sex with her is enabled by his devious friend, Jonadab. A ruse that Ammon is ill brings his sister Tamar to him. He invites her to feed him and despite Tamar’s protests that “such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!” (13:12) he rapes her and she flees in shame, her life ruined.

Ammon’s reaction to the incestuous rape is proof that human nature has not changed one whit in the thousands of years that have passed. Having raped her, he now detests Tamar, the living symbol of his evil act, and banishes her. Tamar’s brother Absalom hides Tamar, now “a desolate woman” in his house. David hears of the rape, but refuses to punish Ammon “because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.” (13:21)

Absalom waits two years and finally has his revenge on Ammon by having him killed. Tragedy has surely visited David and his family. The consequences of David’s inaction in punishing Ammon are not only ruined lives of his children, but losing the son he loves most.

Did God carry out this punishment? No. David’s punishment arises strictly from consequences of evil acts and failure to act on those evil acts at the earliest possible moment. Ignoring evil and just hoping it will somehow “go away” is a fool’s errand. And David has been enormously foolish here. Yet, variations of this tragic story echo down through the centuries.

John 8:31-41: This section includes a phrase famously taken out of context: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (32). As usual, the disciples do not exactly grasp what Jesus is saying, and as good Jews, the proclaim, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” (33),  Jesus goes on to say much more than “the truth will make you free” (as the motto of many universities would have it.)

There are three conditions that precede Jesus’ assertion about truth and freedom.

One: We are to continue in “my word,” i.e., believe what Jesus is telling us; a tall order indeed. And “continue” is important here. Belief is not just a one-time event, but a lifelong process.

Two: if we believe, then we are Jesus’ disciples, an obligation to follow Jesus, which is a challenging task indeed.

Three: we will then know God’s truth, the Truth that is Jesus Christ. And it is that singular truth—not some abstract “truthiness”—that sets us free from the consequences of our sinful nature.

Jesus goes on to elaborate on how he is at the center of this intimate relationship of truth and freedom in his disquisition on slavery and freedom. There is only one way to freedom through truth and that is via Jesus, the Son of God the Father: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (36) This is certainly a very different Truth than the “truth” that the world believes—or at least says— it is seeking.

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