Psalm 119:161–168; 1 Kings 2:1-38; John 12:12-19

Psalm originally published 11/6/2015; NT & OT originally published 11/6/2014. Revised and updated 11/6/2018

Psalm 119:161–168: In this penultimate section of this seemingly endless psalm, our psalmist seems to be wrapping things up by recapitulating its key themes.

  • He’s been/is being pursued by his enemies; “Princes pursued me without cause.” (161a).
  • God’s word is his highest calling and his greatest joy:
    I rejoice over Your utterance
    as one who finds great spoils.
    ” (162)
  • He rejects the temptation to do evil in the pursuit of the good:
    Lies I have hated, despised.
    Your teaching I have loved.
    ” (163)
  • He reminds God how diligently (obsessively?) he has worshipped him:
    Seven times daily I praised You
    because of Your righteous laws. (164)
  • Those who follow God’s law lead the best possible life:
    Great well-being to the lovers of Your teaching,
    and no stumbling block for them. (165)
  • He asks God to deliver him from his enemies because he has been so diligent in obeying God’s law:
    I yearned for Your rescue, O Lord,
    and Your commands I performed. (166)
  • In the end it is out of his love for the law that he follows the law:
    I observed Your precepts
    and loved them very much. (167)
  • And to emphasize that love, he repeats himself in the next verse:
    I observed Your decrees and Your precepts,
    for all my ways are before You. (168)

But we dare not mock the psalmist’s sincerity nor his example of following God and God’s laws. If one were to precisely follow the Law, he lays out a clear path. As I have mentioned before, I’m sure the Pharisees of Jesus’ time knew every aspect of this psalm and attempted to follow it sincerely as best they could. And even though we live in the grace of Jesus Christ, this is a pretty good example of what obedience looks like. But in the end, as we well know, a relationship cannot be built on following laws; it must be founded in love. Not love of the law, but the all-encompassing love of Jesus Christ.

1 Kings 2:1-38: It’s important to remember that these histories were written while Israel was in exile in Babylon and the author is looking back over the history of Israel and Judah and the succession of kings who were less successful in their rule than David or Solomon.

On his deathbed, David utters the definition of kingship: “Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” (3) In short, as our psalmist would have it, “Follow God’s law and all will be well.”

Then following immediately, David utters the fateful words that retrospectively define everything that went wrong after him: “Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’” (4) Of course, with only a few exceptions, Solomon’s successors failed to “heed to their way”—and to God’s way.

David issues some final instructions about what to do about various loose ends and Israel’s greatest warrior king dies. Solomon then deals with the various conspirators: some are killed; some are banished. David’s general, Joab, has committed many treacherous acts, not least killing Absalom and his time for rough justice has come as well as “two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah.” (32)

Joab hears they are coming for him, and runs to the altar inside the Tabernacle for sanctuary. Solomon’s chief of staff, Benaiah says to Joab, “The king commands, ‘Come out.’” But he said, “No, I will die here.”” (30).  Benaiah goes back to Solomon, who replies, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.” (31) The blood guilt of Joab is satisfied, reminding us that while Solomon will create one of the most sophisticated reigns the world had ever seen, the roots of tribal blood killing and revenge, albeit done in the name of God, are not far removed from the grandeur and justice that characterized Solomon’s reign.

John 12:12-19: Decamping form Bethany, Jesus  triumphantly enters Jerusalem. John leaves out all the details about the donkey, saying only rather cryptically, “Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it;” (14) in order to make sure we know that Zechariah’s prophecy has been fulfilled. The disciples finally begin to “understand these things” and John makes it clear that the crowd is the same one “that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.” (17) John makes it clear that it is the Lazarus event has been the catalyst that allows Jesus to enter Jerusalem safely and triumphantly.

The Pharisees observe nervously, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (19) At this moment it appears to them, anyway, that this rough-hewn rabbi from the outback of Galilee is taking over. We can only imagine their intellectual despair.

But the Pharisees do not understand crowd psychology and for once they were not in charge–and to a certain extent, I think John correctly lets them off the hook here with regard to the plot that leads to the cross. There are more powerful men—the chief priest and his accomplices—who are not afraid of the crowd that surrounds Jesus. And they will ultimately have their way.

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