Psalm 41; Exodus 35; Matthew 27:1-10

Psalm 41  David begins with general thanksgiving for God’s protection [“May he be called happy in the land. And do not deliver him to his enemies’ maw. (2)] moving quickly to a general prayer for healing: “May the LORD sustain him on the couch of pain. 4 —You transformed his whole bed of illness,” (3) and then to a specific request for his own healing:  “I said, ‘LORD, grant me grace, 5 heal me, though I offended You.'” (4)

It’s clear that David’s illness is severe and that his enemies eagerly await his passing, “My enemies said evil of me: ‘When will he die and his name be lost?'”  (5) Even their ostensibly kind visits to his bedside are not only insincere but have an evil agenda: “And should one come to visit, his heart spoke a lie.”  (6) Worse, this visitor is all too happy to spread the lie that David is near death: “He gathered up mischief, went out, spoke abroad…[saying] “evil of me, “Some nasty thing is lodged in him. As he lies down, he will not rise again.” (8).  David cannot even rely on the confidant he trusted.  In his illness David has been abandoned by everyone.  Worse, he is the focus of corrupt plots and public lies.  One can only imagine the hatchet job the modern media would be able to do here.

Happily, I have never been in this dire situation–and it’s doubtless more endemic to kings and leaders. (Shakespeare is chockablock with plotting around the king’s deathbed.)  But there’s still a lesson here for us: In the end, there is only One in whom we can place all our trust: “And I, in my innocence, You sustained me and made me stand before You forever.” (12). As the general prayer at the beginning of this psalm reminds us, [“Happy who looks to the poor.  On the day of evil may the LORD make him safe.” (1)] God’s steadfastness is for all of us: leader, king, or desperately poor.  Whether we are desperately ill or when all around us are inconstant or worse, God is constant; God will indeed sustain us through the valley of the shadow of death.

Exodus 35  The assembly of the community listening to Moses expound on his meeting with God–here instructions about observation of the Sabbath–is certainly different than the angry, rebellious crowd that goaded Aaron into creating the golden calf.  Contriteness abounds.  Moses the gives a stewardship sermon (proving that they have very deep roots!) that is not just a polite request, but that comes from God himself: ‘Take from what you have with  you a donation to the LORD. Whose heart urges him, let him bring it, a donation of the LORD,” (4,5)

And it’s not just an abstract request, Moses lists everything that needs to be donated: “gold and silver and bronze, and indigo and purple and crimson linen and goat hair, and reddened ram skins and ocher-dyed skins and acacia wood, and oil for the lamp and spices” right on down to “stones for setting in the ephod and in the breastplate.” (6,7)  Demonstrating it’s not unreasonable to be specific in articulating exactly what’s needed.

The centerpiece of this chapter for me is the people’s response to Moses’ request: “And every man whose heart moved him and everyone whose spirit urged him came, they brought a donation of the LORD for the task..” (21)   The response is not “because I should,”  or “I’ll look generous in front of my neighbors,”  or “I’ll get special favor from God.”  The response is “whose heart moved him and whose spirit urged him.”  That the response to what God has asked arises from the heart is repeated, “And the men came, besides the women, all whose heart urged them,” (22)

God is so different than the local gods of the time, who demanded the people’s treasure–no questions asked and certainly not because they were moved “from the heart.”.  What God asks of us is quite different from the many organizations with their hands out, appealing to our egos rather than our hearts. From universities who will name a professorship or even a building for a sizable donation down to free gifts for a PBS membership.  God only wants what we give because we are moved “from the heart as the spirit urges.”

Matthew 27:1-10  Implied, but not stated, is the reality that the priests and elders had not made their case for Jesus’ blasphemy, which would have allowed the to execute Jesus under Jewish law.   So more conspiracy is required, the leaders concluding that Roman law will be more efficacious in carrying out their plot.  Interesting how the Jews, who despised the Roman rulers, soldiers and their heathen laws, were more than willing to compromise their principles to achieve their ends. As are we.  Not in conspiracies and plots, but in our (my, anyway) willingness to buy right into what the culture has on offer.  The question obtains: am I selling out principle because it’s more convenient than taking a stand?

Judas has history’s most intense case of seller’s remorse when he finally realizes what he’s done.  He’s willing to give the priests a full refund. And then Judas, in his confession, states exactly what the priests themselves have done to Jesus: ““I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” (4).  But the leaders are blinded to their own sin, and reply harshly, “What’s that to us?”  Judas certainly deserves his opprobrium, but I think the hypocritical blindness of the priests is even greater than Judas’ crime.  For they are in complete denial of their monstrous undertaking, and return to business at hand, counting the money they themselves gave to Judas as tainted “blood money.”  Blood money indeed.  Hypocrisy is just another way of saying how we are blind to our own sins.  Even though our sins are as big as logs in our eyes.

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