Psalm 119:153–160; 1 Kings 1:28-53; John 12:1-11

Originally published 11/5/2014. Revised and updated 11/5/2018.

Psalm 119:153–160: Once again, the stanza opens with supplication:
See my affliction and free me,
for Your teaching I have not forgotten.” (153)

And again, there is the confidence that God will save him because our psalmist has a thorough personal knowledge of God’s teaching.  This time, though, we are in a courtroom and God is his attorney:
Argue my cause and redeem me,
through Your utterance  give me life. (154).

Which raises the question: if God is his attorney, who is the judge? I think the only candidate is God, who is at once defender and judge. By drawing this distinction between advocate and judge, I think we get a hint of what is to come for us under the terms of the New  Covenant, where it is Jesus Christ as our intercessor, who argues our case before God.

Even though the psalmist has asked God to argue his case, our psalmist soon returns to arguing his own case, asserting as usual he has not strayed from God’s teachings whereas his enemies certainly have:
Many are my pursuers and foes,
yet from Your decrees I have not swerved. (157)

Then, in almost a role reversal between defendant and advocate, he argues that he has defended God’s law before those who have become God’s enemies:
I have seen traitors and quarreled with them,
who did not observe Your utterance. (158)

Thus we have the clear implication by the psalmist that “I’ve defended You, God, so now please defend me.” On the other hand, we have assurance of Jesus’ defense. In his closing argument our psalmist reminds us that in the end only one things matters: the truth:
O Lord, as befits Your kindness give me life.
The chief of Your words is truth
and forever all Your righteous laws. (159b, 160)

Like the psalmist, I think we have an obligation to argue God’s case before those who reject him. Not just with words, but with our actions, as well.  The key here is that eventually truth will out.

1 Kings 1:28-53: On this day before the midterm elections, this story resonates: the transfer of power from King David to King Solomon. After being reminded by Bathsheba and Nathan, David utters the all-important words, “as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ so will I do this day.” (30) The author gives us a hint of great things to come as Benaiah prophesies, “As the Lord has been with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.” (37), which is repeated by other servants (47). Solomon is crowned and “the city is in a (joyous) uproar,” which the pretender, Adonaijah, hears in the distance. Jonathan, son of the priest Abiathar delivers the bad news to the would-be king: “our lord King David has made Solomon king.” (43)

An interesting side note: “The king has sent with him the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada,…and they had him ride on the king’s mule.” (44) The obvious significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey on that Palm Sunday would not have been lost on the Pharisees or temple priests.

Adonaijah knows that his attempt to gain the throne has failed because David himself has anointed Solomon his successor. The guests of Adonaijah, knowing they are at great risk for having supported the usurper, “got up trembling and went their own ways.” So much for loyalty. (49). Adonaijah knows that the sure penalty for his rashness is death and he runs to the altar, grabbing its horns, which gives him sanctuary. Solomon has Adonaijah brought to him after Solomon swears not to kill him. We get a preview of how Solomon will rule when he grants mercy to Adonaijah with his first act as king: “If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” (52) Whereupon Solomon sends Adonaijah home.

Unlike the blood and battles that characterized David’s succession over Saul, we witness the first peaceful succession of power in Israel. What’s interesting here is that unlike David, who always consults with God before any major act, Solomon seems to grant mercy solely on the basis of his own wisdom. What will be the relationship between God and Solomon? Will God now recede into the background as a speaking character in this history of Israel?

John 12:1-11:  Sometime after the astounding resuscitation of Lazarus, we find  Jesus relaxing at Lazarus’ home in Bethany. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil. In a breathtaking act of false charity, Judas protests, giving his lengthiest speech in the Gospels: “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (5) Which of course as John points out is a lie to cover the fact he’s been stealing from the common purse.

Never missing the opportunity to make it clear what’s about to happen, Jesus says, “She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.” (7). That doesn’t faze the disciples, who of course think Jesus’ burial will come years in the future, not in a bit more than a week.

Since he brought Lazarus back to life, Jesus’ popularity is growing by leaps and bounds. So, “the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well” (10) in their increasingly desperate attempts to quash this Jesus movement.

The dramatic story of Lazarus and its aftermath occurs only in John. Yet, it is one of the seminal points in the story, and Jesus’ greatest miracle. So, I have to wonder, why is it not in the Synoptics? As John tells us, “many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.” (12) and that will help explain the large and enthusiastic crowds that greet Jesus when he enters Jerusalem. But the silence in Matthew, Mark and Luke about this seminal event is remarkable.

 

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