Psalm 119:145-152; 1 Kings 1:1-27; John 11:45-57

Originally published 11/3/2014. Revised and updated 11/3/2018.

Psalm 119:145-152: Our psalmist is now in full supplication mode:
I called out with a whole heart.
Answer me, LORD. (145)

Unlike many other psalms of supplication, he has a unique reason that God should answer him. It’s not because he’s in danger or being assailed in battle. Rather, it’s a reprise of the overarching theme of this psalm: the ‘answer me so I can keep the law” theme:
I called to You—rescue me,
that I may observe Your precepts.
I greeted the dawn and cried out, 
for Your word did I hope. (146, 147)

In previous psalms the poet will cry to God and then await God’s answer. In this psalm, though, there’s a scholastic level of sophistication. The psalmist cries to God because he craves the voice of God as God speaks to him through the Scriptures, the Law, God’s precepts. Yes, God expresses His word through nature, as witness the many psalms that talk about God’s voice in the thunder and other acts of nature. But now, God speaks through His Law and through that which is written.

Which is how I fundamentally hear God speaking to me. The psalmist then says,
Hear my voice as befits Your kindness. 
O LORD, as befits Your law, give me life. (149)

The goos news is that we no longer need to seek life through God’s law. Instead he has given us His Word directly in the person of Jesus Christ. That is the great difference between the psalmist and me–and I am grateful for that.

1 Kings 1:1-27: This first chapter of opens with King David sick and advanced in age. He has not publicly announced who will succeed him. In the absence of word from David, Absalom’s ambitious younger brother, Adonijah, is positioning himself to succeed David’s throne.

The ever reliable prophet Nathan goes to Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and advises her “Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne?‘” (13). Then, as he has arranged, Nathan arrives while Bathsheba is talking to David, confirming Bathsheba’s news about Adonijah, noting that as the usurper prepares to take the throne with sacrifices and feasts, he has “invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest.” (25b) and they are toasting the usurper. Nathan continues, “he did not invite me, your servant, and the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon.” (26) Nathan then points out “this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not let your servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.” (27)

This ancient story is a reminder that no matter how great our leaders, they will age and eventually fail. Even those of us who are neither kings nor great leaders must remember that we are mortal and recognizing that reality–and preparing for a future that does not include ourselves–is our duty and responsibility.

John 11:45-57: The word about Jesus’ radical miracle gets out because some of the witnesses “went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.” (46) The Pharisees and chief priests convene a meeting where they are more than frustrated:“What are we accomplishing?” (47)  They go on to state (quite understandably, I think) that shortly, “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” (48) Caiaphas, leaps to the obvious conclusion: “it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” (50) John then says something I had never noticed before. First, he points out that Caiaphas “did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation,” (51). In short, it is a prophetic statement.

John then doubles down for his community and for us, his readers, on this surprising angle with serious, revolutionary theology by revealing that what the conspirators were about to do would change the world. This is about much more than Israel; it is about everyone on earth: “Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” (52) The phrase, “Dispersed children of God,” seems to be a clear reference to all of us, not just the Jews.

John thus makes it crystal clear that the evil act that Caiaphas and the others are plotting to accomplish is in fulfillment of something far greater than disgruntled leaders trying to get Jesus out of their way or to keep their Roman oppressors happy. This is about the salvation of humankind.

In that particular time and space, what Caiphus and the others did to Jesus was undeniably an evil act, but in the larger picture of salvation history, the evil act was an essential element of God’s plan.  Of course Caiaphas and his cohorts acted with malice and never realized they were part of God’s “big picture.” For that evil they deserve punishment—just as Judas did. But in a strange way, we must be grateful to them–they are essential to what has to happen, and John makes this point crystal clear to us.


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