Psalm 119:65–72; 2 Samuel 15:1–29; John 9:1–12

Psalm reflection originally published 10/24/2017. OT & NT reflections published 10/22/2016. Revised and updated 10/23/2018.

Psalm 119:65–72: The psalmist continues to affirm how God’s good teaching put his life on the straight and narrow path:
Good You have done for Your servant,
O Lord, as befits Your word.
 (65)

His trust now resides in only one place:
Good insight and knowledge teach me,
for in Your commands I trust.
 (66)

How much better it is for us, under the terms of the New Covenant, to be able to place our trust not only in God’s commands, but in Jesus Christ as well.

It’s clear that our psalmist has endured some sort of severe illness which has caused him to reflect on his life and the direction he was going. Before his illness he was definitely headed down the wrong path and doubtless consorting with the ne’er-do-wells he now calls arrogant. Now that he has experienced what was probably a near-death experience he has turned back to following God’s law:
Before I was afflicted, I went astray,
but now Your utterance I observe.” (67)

I well know whereof the psalmist speaks. There was nothing like hearing the words, “You have a nasty cancer, Craig” to suddenly stop drifting through life, acknowledge my mortality, and begin serious reflection on the direction my life and my relationships—especially my relationship with God—were taking.

Our psalmist realizes that God is the source of all that is good:
You are good and do good.” (68a)

He abandons his erstwhile friends when he realizes they are up to no good as he compares their falsehoods with God’s eternal truths. As always, he lets us know that he has chosen the righteous path:
The arrogant plaster me with lies—
I with whole heart keep Your decrees.
Their heart grows dull like fat—
as for me, in Your teaching I delight.” (69, 70)

Those who do not follow God’s teachings become indolent: “Their heart grows dull like fat—

Looking back, he realizes that the reflection and then the repentance that arose from his sickness was a beneficial because it turned him back to God:
It was good for me that I was afflicted,
so that I might learn Your statutes.” (71)

I have to agree. The reality of illness forced me to think about more serious matters—matters of life and death. Unlike the psalmist though, I was not surrounded by people spewing lies. Rather, it was the love of God expressed through the deeds and words of those around me that helped me realize that God was very near.

2 Samuel 15:1–29: History is littered with examples of the children of great men being scoundrels.Absalom is no exception. Now that he has been forgiven by his father, he sees the way clear to seize power and become a tyrant. Turning those who came to Jerusalem to bring their business to King David are turned away, as Absalom announces “there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.” (3) Instead, behaves as if he is the arbiter and usurps David’s role as judge and king. “Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.” (4) Thus, “Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.” (6)

After doing this for four years, he tells his father he is going to Hebron to offer sacrifices, when in reality he is planning a coup d’etat, sending messengers throughout Israel to announce Absalom is king when the people hear the trumpet: “The conspiracy grew in strength, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.” (12)

David realizes that Absalom is now far more popular than he, and the king flees Jerusalem. While the Israelites may have forsaken David, the resident aliens in Israel have not.  Ittai the Gittite, promises undying loyalty to David, but David advises Ittai and his retinue to leave him.

In the meantime, Zadok and the Levites, “carrying the ark of the covenant of God” appear. David instructs Zadok to carry the ark back to Jerusalem, and seek what God has to say about David remaining king, stating that “if I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and the place where it stays.” (25) But if David is no longer right before God, then “let him do to me what seems good to him.” (26) Zadok complies and we await the outcome.

The point of this story is that currying favor among the people and building a personality cult is not the same as being a man of God. [And we’ve seen plenty of examples in the church, e.g., many televangelists.] As always, David consults God before taking action or in this case, seeking with all his heart whether or not he should remain king. When we examine our current celebrity-obsessed culture, we see little Absaloms all around us, including those in political office. The lesson here is crystalline: popularity and being in fashion lead many astray but they are ultimately foundations built on sand.

John 9:1–12: The story of the blind man given sight by Jesus operates on several levels. There is the incident itself: a man born blind is given sight by Jesus. What’s most intriguing at this level is that Jesus did not just heal him instantly as he could have. Rather by placing saliva-based mud on the man’s eyes and asking the man to wash at the pool of Siloam, the man participated in his own healing. He had to take action himself in order to be healed.

At the sociological level, those around Jesus ask if the man is blind from birth because of his own sin or the sin of his parents. This is a perfectly natural question in a culture that believed physical disability was the direct result of sin. Jesus is not trapped into answering this two-alternative forced choice question, but offers the third unexpected answer: neither. Rather than expounding on this, Jesus changes the subject, pointing out that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (3) In short, it seems the man was born blind just so Jesus could demonstrate his power to heal.

As usual with John, there is the overlay of urgency. Jesus will be here only a short time before the end of history: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (4). Clearly, John is telling his community that time is short and they need to get on with working to advance the Kingdom of God.

The third level of this story is of course theological: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (5) And just as Jesus has given the blind man sight, it is light that will give all believers sight—and insight. All of us are blind to God’s reality and benevolence until we are healed, given sight, by Jesus.

The fourth level is that Jesus tends to sow confusion wherever he goes—one of the symptoms of blindness. The man’s acquaintances are confused: “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” (9) Even though the formerly blind man tells them, “I am the man” (10) they remain skeptical. They ask incredulously how he was given sight and he replies by simply describing what happened. But even then they don’t believe him. (Here’s John’s overarching theme of belief once again) and they try to find Jesus. But Jesus has left the building. Unless we believe we will remain confused by Jesus’ claims, as well as the claims of the people who have experienced Jesus’ healing powers.

 

 

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