Psalm 61; Proverbs 2:9–3:20; 1 Corinthians 12:12–26

Originally published 5/10/2017. Revised and updated 5/9/2019.

Psalm 61: This psalm of supplication is far gentler and more reflective than some of the others that call upon God to listen up and to destroy enemies. The opening verse even suggests it is sung rather than spoken:
Hear, God, my song,
listen close to my prayer. (2)

Unlike others that that are full of anger and affirming about God’s rescue only at the last few lines, our psalmist here knows that God is reliable no matter in what circumstances the poet may find himself:
From the end of the earth I call You.
When my heart faints, You lead me to a rock high above me.(3)

God is not only rescuer, he is also shelter from tribulation as our psalmist plans to remain close to God throughout his life. For me, this is a beautiful expression of a life lived in confident faith—a faith wrapped in gratitude that God will never abandon us.
For You have been a shelter to me,
a tower of strength in the face of the foe.
Let me dwell in Your tent for all time,
let me shelter in Your wings’ hiding-place.“(4, 5)

Again, there is confidence not only that God has heard his prayer but that he will act:
For You, God, have heard my vows,
You have granted the plea of those who fear Your name. (6)

Suddenly the focus shifts from the psalmist’s own needs to a concluding plea that God increase the longevity of the king:
Days may You add to the days of the king,
his years be like those of generations untold.
May he ever abide in the presence of God.
Steadfast kindness ordain to preserve him. (7,8)

While at first glance this petition on behalf of the king seems to be a non-sequitur, it is really just a desire on the part of a subject that the king enjoy the same protection in God as the psalmist has found for himself. We do much the same thing today when we pray for the well-being of our political leaders (even though this is increasingly difficult). Paul also advises somewhere that we are to pray for our secular leaders.

Proverbs 2:9–3:20: The Moravians seem intent on zipping quickly through Proverbs.

The author continues to assert that the man who follows God will receove innumerable benefits:
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; (2:9,10)

Wisdom as a gift from God is also the key to avoiding the enticements of sexual immorality with an adulteress. That it is the woman who is the temptress may be case sometimes, but in today’s culture it is more often the man exercising the power:
You will be saved from the loose woman,
    from the adulteress with her smooth words,
who forsakes the partner of her youth
    and forgets her sacred covenant; (2:16, 17)

Again we are reminded to trust in God’s wisdom, not our own wits, in these famous verses (which I recall memorizing many years ago):
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.” (3: 5,6)

But our personal responsibilities extend beyond just trusting God. We must also endure his correction when we stray or sin. This is what will strengthen us in the long run:
My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves the one he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights. (3:11, 12)

I tend to recoil from the idea of a God who would allow bad things to happen to me. (This is why the book of Job is in the Bible, I think.) But there’s little question that at least in my own experience that it has been the difficult times that have not only brought me closer to God, but I think have also increased whatever wisdom I may possess.

Then, there is the idea of “true wealth” that is found in wisdom rather than pecuniary gain:
Happy are those who find wisdom,
    and those who get understanding,
for her income is better than silver,
    and her revenue better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her. (3:13-15)

As I have grown older I see the truth of this statement. The true life is not about acquiring wealth or power. It is about being closer to family, to friends, and to God. And for me, there is no greater truth expressed in this reading than right here:
[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called happy. (3:18)

Wisdom that grows as a result of following God is truly the source of the true happiness and contentment in life.

1 Corinthians 12:12–26: Paul continues his essay on spiritual gifts by addressing the issue within the Corinthian church that some people with “greater gifts” have been lording it over others seemingly less blessed. He uses the famous metaphor of the body, stating that “as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (12) In short, everyone plays a vital role in the well-being of the church.

Paul then famously goes on to point out that a living body has many ‘members’ —what I would call components or sub-systems—each with a different function but all working together harmoniously: “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (14) He makes the logical argument that even if the foot and ear were to call themselves something else that would seem to have a higher status—here, a  hand and eye respectively—they nevertheless remain a foot and an ear. I take this to mean we have been given specific gifts and functions and that ambition to be something other than who we are is an ultimately futile undertaking. I know this personally when Susan and I taught a kindergarten Sunday school class so many years ago.

This is all to the good because Paul is making it clear that the foot and ear are just as essential to the functioning of the body as its more popular members: “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” (17)

The crucial issue here is that  it is “God [who] arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (18) In other words, our gifts are God-given. And God insists on a variety of gifts for the church to be a healthy body: “If all were a single member, where would the body be?” (19)

Paul gets to the nub of the Corinthian conflict by noting that because each part of the physical and metaphorical body is God-given, one part cannot reject the other: “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (21) In fact, Paul continues, some of these parts of the body that “we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect.” (23) This seems a clear reference to sexual organs and while they may be hidden form view they are just as honorable—and necessary.

So too, in church where many may labor without visibility or public acknowledgement. These folks hidden from view deserve even greater respect than the more visible leadership. Alas, there are too many church leaders who think it’s all about them and the church body suffers for their self-centeredness. We can be sure that whatever was going on at Corinth is still going on today and we need the constant reminder that “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (26) And I fear there are a lot of suffering churches out there.

 

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