Psalm 91:9-16; Joshua 8:1-29; Luke 12:35-48

Psalm 91:9-16: God’s protection is more than God just being there in the midst of danger, battle or plague.  God’s protection–His shelter– is where we come to live: “For you—the LORD is your refuge, the Most High you have made your abode.” (9) That is where we are completely safe: “No harm will befall you, nor affliction draw near to your tent.” (10)

One of the most famous verses in Psalms reminds us that God sends His angels to protect us, “On their palms they lift you up lest your foot be bruised by a stone.” (12)  This is an apt image because the mountainous paths of Israel and Judah were scattered with rocks and presented constant obstacles to the traveler.  So too, we face an ongoing path of obstacles, but God is not just a one-time God; we are rescued again and again.  As I know by personal experience…

God Himself speaks in the final verses of this psalm in one of the best descriptions we have of God’s protective actions beginning with freedom: “…I freed him. I raised him high, for he has known My name.” (14) And unlike those many psalms that cry out to an apparently absent God, “He calls Me and I answer him,” (15)  Not only are we protected, but we are rescued: “I am with him in his straits. I deliver him and grant him honor.” (15). Finally, we are granted long life, and again, the idea that we are continually rescued, “With length of days I shall sate him, and show him my rescue.” (16)

This is God’s promise. May we remember it in our darker days.

Joshua 8:1-29: (I mistakenly wrote on this passage a few days ago, and repeat my thoughts here.)

In a brilliant military stratagem, Joshua draws out the inhabitants of Ai, and when he sees they’ve all exited the fortified city, raises his sword, which is a signal to the ambush group to enter and burn the city. No matter which way the Ai-ites tried to flee they were surrounded and in accordance with God’s command, “Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped.” (22). The city of Ai was reduced to rubble, its king hung, and the victorious “and raised over [the remains of Ai] a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.” (29)

As much as we would like to think of God as a being strictly a God of peace, God also enables and here in this context anyway, even condones war.  Moreover, every inhabitant, including women and children, was annihilated. Is this really the will of a God of grace and mercy? Apparently so.

Had humankind not fallen, then there would have been no need for war. But our fallen state, alas, includes combat and battles. Was conquering Ai a “just war?” Who knows? This is an issue we are grappling with even this week in pretty much the same geographical territory.

Luke 12:35-48: (I wrote on this passage last week–did the Moravians send the wrong readings?  In any event, here are some further thoughts on the last portion of this passage.)

Jesus’ last sentences in the parable of the slaves have to do with with responsibility. If we think of the slaves as workers in the Kingdom, it is clear we have knowledge about what the Master expects of us.  The Gospel is Good News, but it is far more than that. Jesus gave us instructions to carry this Good News into the world.  Like the slaves here, we know “what his master wanted.” But while this knowledge is necessary, it is not sufficient because if we are like the slave, we must be prepared to carry out our duties. Which here would certainly include carrying the Good News to others. 

Will we “receive a severe beating” in the form of some punishment? Here, I think we need to be careful and not over-interpret the parable. After all, we are not God’s slaves and we live under the terms of grace. But by knowing but not working we pay what economists call an “opportunity cost.” We miss out. We could have had so much more by working more diligently in the Kingdom, by bringing the Good News to those we pass by every day.  I know that I have certainly been negligent and missed many opportunities which could have brought great joy.

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