Psalm 119:57–64; 2 Samuel 13:34–14:33; John 8:42–59

Psalm 119:57-64: Although the theme of this long psalm is about learning and then adhering to God’s law, there are occasional glimpses of topics that speak more to the heart than to the mind. One of those instances is here at verse 58:
I entreated You with a whole heart,
grant me grace as befits Your utterance.

The psalmist asks for grace, raising the question that of grace is “unmerited favor” should we ask for it? The answer clearly is ‘yes,” because when we come to God with our entire being, God, whose language is grace, replies. And I think the meaning here is more about asking for God’s forgiveness.

Our psalmist has recognized the error of his ways and realizing that, he turns back to God and asks for grace “with a whole heart.” We talk a lot about “heart” and even “our whole heart.” But do we reflect on its true meaning? A “whole heart” implies the totality of one’s being. There are no small, unlit corners of ourselves that we have hidden and reserved for our own purposes. As Oswald Chambers always has it, we must abandon ourselves, our ego, and our desire for control in order to embrace Jesus fully.

We must remember that even with our whole heart turned toward God, we do not merit grace on our own. We cannot claim grace; it comes only in response. But I think it’s important to remember that as the psalmist reminds us here; grace comes from conversation–prayer–with God. We entreat; He replies.

We also see that it is not just about learning God’s law and God’s way, but as the psalmist notes, it is putting these precepts into practice in our relationships:
A friend I am to all who fear You,
and to those who observe your decrees. (63)

I am not particularly happy with how our psalmist has circumscribed his favor only to those who are like him and follow God’s laws. But there you have it..

2 Samuel 13:34–14:33: Realizing the enormity of his crime of murdering Ammon, Absalom fled and spends three years in exile. Nevertheless, “the heart of  the king [David] went out, yearning for Absalom; for he was now consoled over the death of Amnon. (13:39)e

In order to avoid internecine bloodshed, Joab concocts a plan to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.  He sends for a “wise woman” from Tekoa and tells her, “Pretend to be a mourner; put on mourning garments, do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead.” (14:2) Equipped with Joab’s story, the woman goes to the king and begs David not to allow vengeance to be taken out on “the servant” (Absalom) for murdering Ammon. David agrees, replying, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.” (14:10)

The woman cannot complete the ruse and speaks the truth to David, pointing out that “For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again.” (14:13) David  figures out the plot, asking, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” (14:19) The woman replies that is indeed the case, “it was he who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this.” (14:20)

Doubtless somewhat miffed by the subtrefuge, David tells Joab that he can bring Absalom back to Jerusalem but “he is not to come into my presence.” (14:24)

Absalom spends two years in Jerusalem, siring three sons and a daughter. Somewhat frustrated, he asks for Joab to come to him, but Joab ignores him twice. Absalom finally gets Joab’s attention by setting one of his fields on fire. Joab agrees to ask David if Absalom can come into the presence of his father seeking forgiveness. David agrees, “So [Absalom] came to the king and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.” (14:33)

This story has a happy ending because David found it possible to forgive his son. The lesson of forgiveness is here for all of us.

John 8:42–59: The war of words between the Pharisees and Jesus is getting intense. Jesus tells them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.” (42) Jesus goes on to accuse them of coming from the devil for the very logical reason that “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.” (47)

Deeply insulted, the Jews respond tit for tat, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (48) Jesus throws gasoline on the rhetorical fire by telling them, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (51) In turn, the pharisees accuse him, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” (53) To which Jesus responds that Abraham would be happy to learn that the messiah had finally come. Then comes one of Jesus’ most remarkable and to the Jews heretical statements, “Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” (58) Jesus barely escapes being stoned by hiding and escaping form the temple.

What can we make of this passage? My own sense is that Jesus wanted to make sure that the Jewish leaders would seek to kill him. Of course, this being the gospel of John there is also deep theology here since it is the most detailed explanation in the Gospels of the deep relationship between Jesus and God, whom Jesus always calls “Father.” This dialog underpins much of the theology of the Trinity.

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