Psalm 34:1-7; Exodus 13:1-14:18; Matthew 22:1-14

Psalm 34:1-7   The superscription of this psalm, “For David, when he altered his good sense before Abimelech, who banished him, and he went away” refers to the story recounted in I Samuel 21 when David, who with his army is surrounded completely, plays the madman in front of the Philistine king.  The king decides he doesn’t want to deal with a crazy man and allows David and his men to escape.  Understandably, then, this psalm begins with thanksgiving, “Let me bless the LORD at all times, always His praise in my mouth.”  Notice how verbal his praise is, “praise in my mouth,” and later, “Let the lowly hear and rejoice.”

This verbal quality is important because it is a direct answer to what can only be a spoken prayer, “I sought the LORD and He answered me.”  One senses that David actually heard God’s answer.  And a reminder to us that we are not just filling a room with our voice when we pray aloud and that although the sound waves themselves do not travel far physically, our expression always finds its way to God, who also possesses senses, as He listens.

There is another, more unexpected sensory aspect farther down: “Taste and see that the LORD is good, happy the man who shelters in Him.”  God impacts all our senses: sight, hearing, touch and taste.  And other psalms speak of “God’s sweet fragrance.”  If I ever needed proof that God is more than mere intellectual abstraction, it is right here.  Our relationship with God has sight, hearing and all the senses; God is visceral: we feel His presence with all our senses.

Exodus 13:1-14:18   Even as our author recapitulates the ordinance of Passover already described in the previous chapter,  we read again exactly what has happened and what has been promised that must be (and has been) remembered and carried down through the generations: “…should your son ask you tomorrow, saying, ‘What is this?’, you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slaves. And it happened, when Pharaoh was hard about sending us off, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt from the firstborn of man to the firstborn of beast.” (13:14-15)

In a discussion at Hubcaps this morning, someone remarked on how as we grow older we become more aware of our forebears and the importance of remembering the generations who came ahead of us.  We are not here isolated and alone, but are the product of all that has gone before.  Which is exactly as God has ordained it–and keeps emphasizing over and over in Genesis and here in Exodus.  We independent-minded Americans, who think what we are is the product of our work alone, would do well to remember this truth.  We are not the ultimate master of our destiny.   And our genes have much to say about who we become.  This is, I think, key to understanding the great connectedness we have to each other and to God, as well.  

Egypt is not all that far from Canaan and a direct route back through Philistia would have gotten the Israelites to the promised land in a matter of months.  The trek through the desert was not a navigational error, but God’s will: “God thought, “Lest the people regret when they see battle and go back to Egypt.” And God turned the people round by way of the wilderness of the Sea of Reeds… (13:18).  God sends them by an indirect and more difficult route so that Israel does not lose heart and want to go back.  God knows the human heart well: we set out on a journey or take a new risk and as soon as we hit an obstacle we want to go right back to where we came from.

But there is not turning back.  We cannot grow and mature as Christians if we are unwilling to leave base camp.  And as with the Israelites, we may end up on an unplanned path that comes to us unexpectedly because to do otherwise would make it too easy to turn around and go back.  As we all know, there are many Christians who once embarked excitedly, but upon encountering difficulty came back to the campground or worse, quit altogether.

Matthew 22:1-14   With the parable of the wedding banquet we are again reminded of how Jesus turns things upside down and inside out, continuing Matthew’s subtext on “the first shall be last and vice versa.”  Here, however, Jesus issues a stern warning.  You can’t just remain dissolute and show up at the wedding banquet in your street clothes–the clothes of our old lives.  But we must put on the wedding clothes (which for those of us who rarely wear formal suits and ties, we still do for weddings.)  Jesus’ meaning is crystalline, unless we are willing to be transformed by covering over our old clothes–our old life–and put on an entire new life as a worker in the Kingdom it would be better not to even show up.

Jesus’ implicit meaning is even scarier than that: those who pretend to be disciples but are not truly transformed will pay for their arrogance in pretending to be something they are not.  One has to wonder what Judas thought when he heard Jesus say this.

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