Psalm 119:169–176; Ezekiel 43:22–44:27; 2 Peter 3:14–1 John 1:4

Originally published 11/8/2017. Revised and updated November 7, 2019.

Psalm 119:169–176: At long last this interminable psalm reaches its conclusion as our psalmist proves he can indeed come up with an 8-verse stanza for each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Following an invocation [“Let my song of prayer come before You, Lord.“] each verse is  a two-line summary of what of what has already been stated many times.

First, there is supplication to God to rescue him:
Let my supplication come before You
as befits Your utterance, save me. (170)

Next, gratitude for the teachings he has received from God by studying the law:
Let my lips utter praise,
for You taught me Your statutes. (171)

Then, that he will communicate his insights to others:
Let my tongue speak out Your utterance,
for all Your commands are just. (172)

The remaining verses are pretty much a reprise of supplication, gratitude and a little humble-brag that he is following God’s precepts/statutes/commands/law:
I desired Your rescue, O Lord,
and Your teaching is my delight. (174)

The psalm concludes on a note of worship as he reflects on how God suffuses his entire being:
Let my being live on and praise You,
and may Your laws help me.
I have wandered like a lost sheep.
Seek Your servant, for Your commands I did not forget. (175, 176)

None of my comments are to denigrate our psalmist, (other than to complain about his verbosity and repetitiveness…) I admire him greatly because he seems to be able to be faithful through the law without requiring grace. I know that I could never be as diligent as he at hewing to every jot and tittle of the Torah on my own.

I am deeply grateful for the grace that Jesus Christ has given me. I can certainly follow God’s law but I also know that I will stumble and fall all the time. But though confession (I John 1:9) I am restored and unlike our psalmist, I need never be in doubt as to my salvation.

Ezekiel 43:22–44:27: Ezekiel’s vision continues as God gives highly detailed instructions about making sacrifices at the new temple.

In the next chapter God announces that the eastern gate of the sanctuary will be permanently closed because “the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut.” (44:2) Only a prince may eat at it vestibule and then “shall go out by the same way.” (44:3) This is clearly a messianic prophecy. As I recall, the eastern gate of Jerusalem, the one facing the mount of Olives, remains shut to this day.

Instructions about who can enter the temple follow. God is quite clear that there needs to “be an end to all your abominations in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood.” (44:6, 7) Further, the majority of Levites—the ones commissioned to conduct temple rites—will be punished because “they ministered to them before their idols and made the house of Israel stumble into iniquity.” (44:12) They are forbidden to offer sacrifices but basically become the administrators (and custodians!) of the temple, “to do all its chores, all that is to be done in it.” (44:14)

Only the priestly clan of Zadok will be allowed to offer sacrifices. (44:15). A detailed inventory of what is to be worn while performing their duties follows. I’m especially intrigued by the command that the priests “shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments on their loins; they shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat.” (44:18) Which given that a lot of fire and heat is involved in offering burn sacrifices seems like a tall order.

Other priestly duties include religious education: “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” (44:23) as well as judges in cases of controversy and administrators of the religious calendar.

As far as I can figure out, this section of Ezekiel is basically a “mini-Leviticus” for establishing religious order in the temple restored by Nehemiah. It’s also a reminder that the Bible is not just history and theology, but also a religious user’s manual. If we needed proof that not every word of the Bible is theologically relevant to us today we find it  right here.

2 Peter 3:14–1 John 1:4: Once again the Moravians cross the epistle boundary as we leave Peter and arrive at John.

Peter again admonishes his flock to be patient about the Second Coming, setting aside their anxieties: “while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (3:14, 15)

What’s particularly interesting here is the cross reference to Paul and a letter he has written. Peter acknowledges that Paul’s letter is full of wisdom but that “There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” (3:16) Which leads me to conclude that Peter must have been writing to the church at Rome because as far as I’m concerned, Paul’s epistle to the Romans is his most difficult and theologically dense letter. It’s also clear from Peter’s comment that some leaders in the church were greatly misinterpreting it.

Peter’s letter concludes with a justly famous verse, which I think is the mission statement for every Christian: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (3:18) It really is that simple, folks. Being a Christian is all about growing and maturing.

John’s first epistle opens with an apostolic testimony that it is about “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” (1:1) John is adamant regarding his eyewitness bona fides as he repeats himself, “we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.” (1:2)

And then to make sure we get his point, he says it a third time: “we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us.” (1;3)

Methinks he doth make his point about being an eyewitness a little too strongly—even to the point of defensiveness. Given that this letter was written sometime toward the end of the first century, I personally think it’s a stretch to assert that our author  here is the same John who was Jesus’ beloved disciple. Then again perhaps an amanuensis has finally written what was orally transmitted down through the years by the actual John.

Be that as it may, John sets the overall tone of the letter to follow with one of the most beautifully straightforward sentences in the New Testament: “We are writing these things so that our  joy may be complete.” (1:4)

Would that I could write with such joy as well.

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