Psalm 107:10–16; Jeremiah 48:26–49:16; Hebrews 3:1–15

Originally published 9/16/2015. Revised and updated 9/16/2019.

Psalm 107:10–16: Unlike the previous psalm, this one omits the historic details of Israel’s history, concentrating instead on the cyclic relationship between God and the wandering nation. It always starts with rebellion:
For they rebelled against God’s sayings,
the MostHigh’s counsel they despised. (11)

And then the consequences of that rebellion:
And He brought their heart low in troubles.
They stumbled with none to help. (12)

That last line is perhaps the most frightening of all for it describes life without God. We, too, are stumbling around in the dark with no one there to help. I think stumbling pretty much characterizes most of our culture today. Wandering, stumbling, trying to do it all on our own in the vain hope we somehow will stumble into the light. The psalmist offers a simple solution to this aimless and hopeless stumbling:
And they cried to the Lord from their straits,
from their distress He rescued them.
He brought them out from the dark and of death’s shadow
and their bonds He sundered. (13, 14)

Notice how the rescue is effected: the people cry out. In that verbal society, speech is everything, Not writing for God for rescue, not thinking about God for rescue, not even praying for God’s rescue, but crying aloud. In that painful cry e acknowledge our aloneness and desperation by calling out to God. For when we speak aloud we are admitting our desperation to ourselves, to those around us, and finally to God.

And having called out, having acknowledged that we cannot find our way on our own, God comes to us and does something remarkable: “We are brought “out from the dark and death’s shadow.” The psalmist describes two types of darkness here. The first is the dark of our own futile attempts to find direction and purpose in life and ending up just going in circles. But that darkness is different than death’s shadow, which always hangs over us whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

God brought us out from death’s shadow by sending Jesus to conquer death. But we can be brought our from that shadow only by crying out to God and acknowledging we are helplessly lost on our own. And then in gratitude for our rescue from the prison we have created for ourselves, we can sing aloud with the psalmist:
Let them [us!] acclaim to the Lord His kindness
and His wonders to humankind.
For He shattered the doors of bronze
and the iron bars He hacked off. (15, 16)

Jeremiah 48:26–49:16: God judges three civilizations: the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Edomites. The section opens on an arresting image: “let Moab wallow in his vomit; he too shall become a laughingstock.” (48:26) The poem that follows describes once great Moab becoming a drunken victim of its own pride:
    We have heard of the pride of Moab—
        he is very proud—
    of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance,
        and the haughtiness of his heart.” (48:29)

But like a drunkard, Moab’s pride becomes its downfall as “Gladness and joy have been taken away/ from the fruitful land of Moab;” (48:33) and finally, Woe to you, O Moab!
for your sons have been taken captive,
and your daughters into captivity. (48:46).

So, too, the ultimate fate of every nation, every people who bask proudly in their own accomplishments. Inevitably, pride leads to downfall—the drunkard’s stumbling collapse.

But God, being God holds out a flickering flame of hope:
Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in the latter days, says the Lord. (48:47). 

People complain about how the OT is always about God’s wrath, and they are right. But the part we have to pay attention to is that no matter how hopeless the situation, no matter what judgement has come, there is always hope in God’s rescue.

So, too with the Ammonites—another prideful people:
   I am going to bring terror upon you,
        says the Lord God of hosts,
        from all your neighbors,
    and you will be scattered, each headlong,
        with no one to gather the fugitives. (49:5)

But once again, there is a glimmer of hope: “But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, says the Lord.” (49:6)

And so once again with the Edomites: “You shall not go unpunished; you must drink it. For by myself I have sworn, says the Lord, that Bozrah shall become an object of horror and ridicule, a waste, and an object of cursing; and all her towns shall be perpetual wastes.” (49:13) But unlike Moab and Ammon, here there seems to be no hope of rescue. Is God’s judgement immutably final? Is God being inconsistent here, or has Edom committed what is essentially an unforgivable sin? Or perhaps there is no underlying logic at all. Is God dispensing hope randomly? I certainly hope not.

Hebrews 3:1–15: These early chapters of Hebrews are all about establishing a clear structure of hierarchy and clarifying and essentially redefining the roles of Israel’s great leaders in light of Jesus Christ as Messiah. First up is Moses. I expect that for the Jews, Moses had evolved over the centuries into a mythical figure, almost god-like. Our author deflates that image. Moses is simply God’s faithful servant” “just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.”” (2) But now in the New Covenant, “Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (3) More than a servant, “Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son.” (6) For the Jews this was radical stuff. The itinerant rabbi they crucified was greater than Moses, who is now demoted to a mere servant?!?

As always, I’d love to know the back story that motivated our author to write this book. Like Paul, we presume he was facing a church of dissension as he quotes Psalm 95, comparing the rebels in the church to Israel rebelling against God in the wilderness:
    “Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
      as on the day of testing in the wilderness,
    where your ancestors put me to the test,” (8, 9a)

To make sure everyone understood the intent of the passage, the writer issues a stern warning: “Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (12) This is a reminder to us that we cannot take our faith casually. We are embarked on the most important journey of our lives: our journey of faith. It is not a hobby. More importantly, faith is not to be set aside when it’s inconvenient for us—or someone challenges us for our hopeless, “unscientific belief in a person we cannot see or hear.

And finally, there comes a reminder that our faith is acted out in community as we encourage each other: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (13) We who believe have remarkable status and responsibility, for “we have become partners of Christ” (14) Ponder that. We are not subordinates; we are members of the family. we are partners. And all that implies in terms of the great responsibilities that come with partnership.

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