Psalm 54; Job 30; 1 Corinthians 6:9–20

Originally published 4/25/2017. Revised and updated 4/24/2019.

Psalm 54: This psalm refers to the incident recounted in 1 Samuel 23 when David, on the run from Saul, hides among the Ziphites, who promptly betray his whereabouts. Thus, David is in pretty desperate straits. In this psalm of supplication, he prays to the only one who can rescue him:
God, through Your name rescue me,
and through Your might take up my cause. (3)

That David prays for rescue via God’s name reminds us of the power of names, and especially in Israel, where the name of God could not be uttered. Even today, Jews acknowledge the power of God’s name by writing ‘G_d.’

David makes it clear that he is being pursued by those who would do him harm. Moreover, they are God-haters, which he believes is the major reason for their relentless pursuit:
For strangers have risen against me,
and oppressors have sought my life.
They did not set God before them. selah. (5)

The puzzling thing here is that the psalmist has David say ‘strangers’ are pursuing him, when it was Saul, who obviously was no stranger to David. Poetic license, I guess.

As almost always the case in psalms of supplication, David prays with confidence, knowing that God will indeed rescue him:
Look, God is about to help me,
my Master—among those who support me. (6)

As is also almost always the case, the psalmist, still speaking in David’s voice, seeks God’s vengeance on his enemies—remembering always it is God alone who carries out vengeance:
Let Him pay back evil to my assailants.
Demolish then through Your truth. (7)

What a great concept! That enemies would basically self-destruct in the harsh light of God’s truth. This is vengeance I think we can honestly pray for when grievous wrongs have been committed against us or against others: that in the light of God’s truth the wrongdoer would receive his just desserts.

As for David—and for any of us who pray in times of great need—we pray with confidence and recall how many times God has come to our rescue in the past:
From every strait He saved me,
and my eyes see my enemies’ defeat. (9)

I think Jesus has changed the rules when he tells us to love our enemies, but we need to remember that it is in the Psalms where we find deep emotion expressed so freely.

Job 30: Job’s lament continues as he shifts from the fondly nostalgic recollections of his previous life to a stark description of his present state. His world has been turned inside out by forces beyond his control. And because his previous wealth and power has been reduced to rubble, he is mocked by those who once respected him—even those younger than he, which in a patriarchal society is the ultimate sign of disrespect:
But now they make sport of me,
    those who are younger than I,” (1)

Job has been brought so low that even those who are themselves despicable and driven out of respectable society now stand higher in ranking than Job. They, too, mock him. Job is now even less than they:
They are driven out from society;
    people shout after them as after a thief.
A senseless, disreputable brood,
    they have been whipped out of the land.
And now they mock me in song;
    I am a byword to them.
They abhor me, they keep aloof from me;
    they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me. (5, 8-10)

Job certainly knows the cause of his present circumstance. It is God’s fault (which of course it is):
Because God has loosed my bowstring and humbled me,
    they have cast off restraint in my presence. (11)

Even worse than mockery, these worthless people physically attack him with impunity:
On my right hand the rabble rise up;
    they send me sprawling,
    and build roads for my ruin.
They break up my path,
    they promote my calamity;
    no one restrains them. (12, 13)

Job’s desperation and the sense that he has been utterly abandoned by God leaps off the page:
I cry to you and you do not answer me;
    I stand, and you merely look at me.
You have turned cruel to me;
    with the might of your hand you persecute me.
You lift me up on the wind, you make me ride on it,
    and you toss me about in the roar of the storm. (20-22)

If we ever wanted a template for an angry prayer that shakes our fist at a cruel God, it is right here. Many Christians are afraid to shake their fists at God’s seeming indifference and yes, cruelty, fearing that they would somehow offend God and bring even greater woe crashing down around them. But when God seems to turn his back on us I think Job proves that we can express our anger and desperation with complete freedom. With Job, we can rail at God’s seeming unfairness that reverses everything we know and love:
But when I looked for good, evil came;
    and when I waited for light, darkness came. (26)

1 Corinthians 6:9–20: It seems to me that Paul took some pleasure in his list-making, especially when referring to sins and sinners. Here, he warns the Corinthians that “wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God” (9a) and then proceeds to inventory the many forms of wrongdoing: “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” (9b,10)

But there is always Paul’s observation that these sins are in the past. Now we have been “washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (11) we must abandon them. The logical outcome of this washed and sanctified state we should be paying far closer attention to our personal habits.

However, it is facile to assert that now that we have been justified we can go about our former practices and then, post hoc, just ask for God’s forgiveness. Rather, as Christians, we are to be pure for the simple reason that “your bodies are members of Christ.” (15) If we consort with prostitutes, then “whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her.” (16) [Although Paul here cites the scripture in Genesis,“The two shall be one flesh,” which I always thought referred to marriage.]

In any event, the new reality is that “anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (17) Therefore, Paul argues—pretty persuasively, I think—that we need to always bear in mind that “that [our] body is a temple  of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own.” (19) Our bodies are a wonderful gift from God, but “you are not your own” implies more that we are renting them from God rather than owning them outright. As ‘renters,’ then, we should treat God’s possession with thoughtful care. Say what you will about our culture’s obsession with health. It is at least a tacit acknowledgement of Paul’s assertion that our bodies are precious gifts.

Nevertheless, I steadfastly refuse to consume kale.

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