Psalm 138:6–12, 2 Kings 2:19-3:27; John 21:1-14

Originally published 12/04/2016 and 12/04 2014. Revised and updated 12/04/2018.

Psalm 138:6–8: Even though God is omnipotent and our Creator, he does not forget even the most humble human being: “For high is the Lord yet the lowly he sees.” (6a) Likewise, here with the clear implication that their actions—whether good or bad—the powerful also will not escape God’s notice: “and the lofty, from a distance, He knows.” (6b) No human action can be hidden from God’s view, something the psalmist is asking us to remember when we face a decision or temptation, as well as sins of omission when we ignore the poor and the widows.

In an echo of Psalm 23, our poet knows that God will accompany him and protect him from the wiles of his foes:
Though I walk through the midst of straits,
You give me life in spite of my enemies’ wrath.

In other words, even when we are oppressed, God is beside us. Nor is God’s companionship merely passive:
You stretch out Your hand,
and Your right hand rescues me.

God’s right hand represents God’s salvific power. We see real assurance here. This is not a psalm that in times of trouble asks plaintively where God is hiding. Our psalmist knows that God is beside him and is active in his life.

That’s both a challenge and a comfort for me. Too often I tend to think of God as a passive abstraction, but this psalm reminds me that God will reach down and rescue me if I but ask. Of course God’s rescue may not be exactly what I have in mind, but the fact that I am still here 72years after my birth tells me that God is indeed who the psalmist says he is in the last verse:
The Lord will requite me.
O Lord, Your kindness is forever.

And even in assurance we can ask, as the psalmist does here, for his continued rescue because we are the creatures who he has created: “Do not let go of Your handiwork.” (8b) Something we can too easily forget.

2 Kings 2:19-3:27: As much as I would like to hold Elisha in high esteem, I have some trouble because of his response to boys who taunted him because of his bald head, “he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.” (2:24) Nevertheless, he is a prophet of God and when the king of Moab decides to declare war following the death of Ahab, Elisha is called in to consult with King Jehoram (who is does evil, but apparently not as much evil as his parents, Ahab and Jezebel) of Israel, King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom.

Elisha does not exactly welcome them with open arms, as he says mockingly to Jehoram,“What have I to do with you? Go to your father’s prophets or to your mother’s.” (3:13a). But the king responds that “No, it is the Lord who has summoned us, three kings, only to be handed over to Moab.” (3:13b) Elisha agrees (probably reluctantly) and soothed by music, prophesies that God will fill the local wadi with water, “which is only a trifle in the sight of God.” (3:18) [I like the part about music’s being the catalyst to bring the power of God upon Elisha.]

The Moabites are fooled by the sun reflecting off the water, deceived into thinking that it is the blood of the fallen Israelites and Judeans and that the three kings arrayed against them have killed each other. They attack unwisely with disastrous results, which our authors seem to relish in escribing: “The cities they overturned, and on every good piece of land everyone threw a stone, until it was covered; every spring of water they stopped up, and every good tree they felled.” (3:25)

What does this passage of warmongering say to us? That even though King Jehoram continued to worship other idols, he acknowledged God, and God showed incredible mercy via Elisha. It’s God who will respond to even the smallest acknowledgment–as if He wants nothing more than to have a relationship with Jehoram, even though Jehoram is 98% not with God. That 2% made all the difference. Unlike all the other idols who demand all and give nothing in return, God gives us all even when we have given Him very little.

John 21:1-14: Even though they had seen the resurrected Jesus in Jerusalem, seven disciples, probably figuring there was nothing else they could do at this point, return to Galilee and take up their old fishing jobs. Clearly, while it was a miracle, the implications of the Resurrection have not yet sunk in during this period before Pentecost. It’s been a rough and unsuccessful night and some guy on the beach advises them to try the other side of the boat. They do so and haul in 153 fish (gotta love the preciseness of this detail!), although the net miraculously didn’t break.

Suddenly, it is John himself who recognizes that it’s Jesus, who has miraculously appeared up here in Galilee.: “That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (7) In a very humorous detail, Peter, who has been working naked, modestly puts on some clothes and then jumps into the water. All the disciples drag in the fish and they go have breakfast with Jesus, whose appearance must be oddly changed but in ways they cannot describe. He’s still the same Jesus but somehow he isn’t. They recognize him, but “none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”” (12)

Although as far as the disciples were concerned it was a terrific catch of fish, the symbolism of this incident is clear to us, who know how the story turns out. These disciples will go on to found the Church at Pentecost and will haul in people to Jesus. Their numbers will be beyond imagining. But it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that this happens. Just as they could not find those fish on their own; they got the fish only after Jesus told them where to look. So too for us: we cannot grow the church on our own; it is only through the Holy Spirit’s power that we know where—and how— to fish.

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