Psalm 119:153–160; Ezekiel 41:1–42:9; 2 Peter 2:11–22

Originally published 11/5/2015. Revised and updated 11/5/2019.

Psalm 119:153–160: Once again, a supplication opens the stanza:
See my affliction and free me,
for Your teaching I have forgotten. (153)

And again, the conviction that God will save him because the psalmist relies on his personal knowledge of God’s teaching.  This time, though, we are in a metaphorical courtroom and God is his attorney:
Argue my cause and redeem me,
through Your utterance  give me life. (154).

Which raises the question: if God is his attorney, who is the judge? I think the only candidate is God, who is at once defender and judge.

By drawing this distinction between advocate and judge, we get a hint of what is to come for us under the terms of the New  Covenant, where it is Jesus Christ who argues our case before God. Which when we think about the Trinity is at once as clear and as confusing as God the attorney arguing before God the judge…

Even though our psalmist has asked God to argue his case, the poet soon returns to arguing his own case:
Many are my pursuers and foes,
yet from Your decrees I have not swerved. (157)

Then, in almost a role reversal between defendant and advocate, he argues that he has defended God’s law before those who have become God’s enemies:
I have seen traitors and quarreled with them,
who did not observe Your utterance. (158)

Thus the implication that “I’ve defended You, God, so now please defend me.” We have assurance of Jesus’ defense, and therefore I think we have an obligation to argue God’s case before those who reject him. Not just with words, but with our actions, as well.  The question of course is, do I have the courage of the psalmist to do that?

Ezekiel 41:1–42:9: Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple is at once almost dream-like yet so incredibly tangible as he records dimension after dimension made by the man/ angel with the measuring stick: “He measured the length of the nave, forty cubits, and its width, twenty cubits. Then he went into the inner room and measured the pilasters of the entrance, two cubits; and the width of the entrance, six cubits; and the sidewalls  of the entrance, seven cubits.” (41:2,3)

There is the remarkable pattern that decorates the walls of the temple: “It was formed of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces: a human face turned toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion turned toward the palm tree on the other side.”  (18, 19) My urge for finding symbolic meaning here suggests that the palms represent nature and the two-faced cherubs represent both the animal kingdom—the lion is after all king of beasts—and humankind. In other words, the temple is in some ways a “recreation of Creation,”—the apotheosis and symbol of God’s participation in his creation.  And that in the end, our greatest response to God is to worship him.

The final impression I receive is the sheer enormity and creativity of this building.  I have to believe that this structure reminds us—or at least the architects among us—that God’s creation trumps any and all human creation.

2 Peter 2:11–22: Peter’s diatribe against those who corrupt the gospel continues unabated: “These people, however, are like irrational animals, mere creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed. They slander what they do not understand.” (12) Once again, it is speech that corrupts. Not just the speaker, but tragically, his listeners. Which seems even more true today in this era of social media and assertions not based on fact but on a desire to denigrate.

I would love to know the backstory that led to these remarkably angry verses: “They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (13b, 14)

Peter cites the famous story of Balaam in Numbers 22, the false prophet hired by the Moabite king to curse Israel, reminding us,that Balaam “loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.” (15b, 16) It would appear that Peter is playing the role of the donkey here, reminding the corrupt people—particularly those within the church—of their hypocrisy and their sins.

Once again, Peter reminds us of their dangerous speech: “For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just[f] escaped from those who live in error.” (18) I can think of any number of preachers—not to mention politicians—who speak bombastic nonsense. Today, these people are all over the various Christian cable channels and on Twitter.

But without question, the greatest tragedy is that the people who follow these corrupters, those who once knew the freedom in Jesus Christ, have been influenced to return to their former ways. But this time they are entangled in even greater corruption: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” (20) And in what is almost a curse, we can almost hear Peter shouting, “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them.” (21)

I’m forced to ask, so what of children raised in the faith, who have rejected it as adults? I’d like to think that they never had their own faith to begin with, but out of obedience or perhaps even self-preservation mimicked that of their parents. And therefore they are not cursed as these adults who once professed but now actively reject. Which, alas, seems to be a growing percentage of the population as the “nones” increases. Are they “nones” because of behavior within the church that Peter excoriates here?

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