Psalm 50:16-23; Leviticus 13:9-46; Mark 4:21-29

God’s Friday.  The darkness before the light.

Psalm 50:16-23  In this inventory of wrongdoing, there is one common source: words, voices, that which is spoken.  First there is hypocrisy: “Why do you recount My statutes and bear My pact in your mouth, when you have despised chastisement and flung My words behind you?” (16, 17). Then there is evil speech: “You let loose your mouth in evil” (19a) and falsehood, “and your tongue clings fast to deceit.” (19b).  There is false testimony and outright slander–even to those closest to us: “You sit, against your brother you speak, your mother’s son you slander.” (20)

God hears all this, and because “I was silent,” we wrongdoers assume we will get away with it, “You imagined I could indeed be like you.” (21)  But that is delusion: “Understand this, you who forget God,  lest I tear you apart, with no one to save you.”  God is the roaring lion in the wilderness.  But for the righteous, “who set out on the proper way, I will show him God’s rescue.” (22)

While the image of God tearing evildoers apart seems awfully stark, I think it is fair to read this as there will be bad consequences to these various sins of the mouth.  Again and again, the psalms remind us that what we say is the root of so much evil.  And still, I seem to be unable to learn this simple truth…

Leviticus 13:9-46  The priest/ doctor examines the patient’s skin to observe any number of abnormalities: skin blanch, shiny spots, multiple white shiny spots, multiple white dull spots, lack of black hair, yellow hair, inflammation.  As doctors even today note, keen observation is key to diagnosis, and it is certainly set out in great detail in this hygiene medical manual.  Quarantine (“Unclean!”) in the crowded environment of the wandering Israelites was certainly one effective way that the cohort was able to avoid decimation by disease.   And the sophistication of the instructions here is striking.

Unfortunately, for better or worse, the separation of clean from unclean led directly to the plight of the lepers that Jesus encounters.  But it’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t suggest that their separation was unfair.  He was well aware of the Levitical rules.  It was only after being healed that the lepers were in a position to rejoin the community.

We could take this separation of clean versus unclean in the theological direction of our sinful state before and after Jesus’ work on the cross.  Roger Dill’s image of God taking a hypodermic and withdrawing sin from all of us and injecting it into the Savior on the cross seems especially apt here.  Like the lepers, we have been made clean before God.

Mark 4:21-29  Like the psalmist above, Jesus is making it clear that what we think is secret or hidden will eventually be revealed: “For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” (22)

Too often, we read verse 24 (“For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”) while ignoring the crucial verse that precedes it: “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.”  First, we must pay attention.  And then we must make a decision about how much we will give while working in the Kingdom.

We give some and then receive that plus a dividend (“still more will be given”).  This is not works righteousness, it is simply God’s economy.  If we give generously and without strings, be it our time, talent or treasure, our lives will be all the richer and we will receive more than we ever dreamed possible. Just ask anyone who works with shut-ins, prisoners, the homeless: They will invariably say they have received far more than they gave.  But if we refuse to work or to give, then it really is nothing. Jesus is simply saying:  “Zero in.  Zero out.”

Finally, Jesus is telling us that there is not necessarily a direct correlation between what we do in the Kingdom and exactly how the Kingdom grows.  It is like a seed sprouting while we sleep.  Too often, we are cause and effect people. We want to see the results of our labor and our gifts.  But Jesus did not say what you gave you will receive.  He says it’s the measure, the amount.  In mathematical terms he’s saying we receive the first derivative of what we have given.  Another reminder that the Kingdom is not about us. It is about Jesus Christ, who is indeed the Measure and who indeed has given us more than we could ever imagine.

Speak Your Mind