Psalm 97:7-12; Joshua 19:10-39; Luke 16:16-31

Psalm 97:7-12: The eschatological tone of the psalm continues with a description of the effect of God’s glory on those who do not worship Him: “All idol-worshippers are shamed, / who boast of the ungods. / All gods bow down to Him.” (7) While the worshipers of the idols of our age may appear to be on the ascendant, and while they make bold claims that not only is belief in God needlessly stupid but even barbaric, this psalm makes it clear that they will one day be apprised of their arrogant stupidity.

We “who love the LORD, [and] hate evil,” on the other hand, can hold onto the bold promise that “He guards the lives of His faithful. From the hand of the wicked He saves them,” (10) because “Light is sown for the just, / and for the upright of heart there is joy.”  (11) The image of light being sewn into the earth as if it is seed is striking. For those of us living under the terms of the New Covenant, the light of Jesus has been sewn into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we take seriously what the psalmist is saying–that we are now bearers of God’s light, then we will both worship joyfully and testify: “Rejoice, O you just, in the LORD, / and acclaim His holy name.” (12) The light we bear also means it is our responsibility to do all we can to bring justice, which is after all the underlying theme of this psalm.

Joshua 19:10-39: The territories of Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali are laid out in detail. What’s interesting here in this otherwise fairly dull passage is that the territories of these last six tribes have been assigned by lot. This is God’s fairness at work: that he does not hold certain tribes or families above others.

We are all equal before God.  A message that Jesus preached again and again, but that those who saw themselves as being above others could not stand and conspired to kill this rabble-rouser who was only following what God had already laid out. How quickly we forget the fairness of God as our self-centered pride replaces the simple simple fact that we are each created equal at the moment of our birth.  And death.

Luke 16:16-31: At first, Jesus’ comment that people try to enter the Kingdom “by force” is puzzling. But then we see the context of his statement, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.” (17) I think Jesus is saying that entering the Kingdom is actually more difficult than obeying every “jot and tittle” of the Law. There is only One Way to enter the Kingdom, and while that may transcend the Law, it does not abrogate it.  (As I recall this is a topic that Paul delves into in detail in Romans.)

As an example of this greater difficulty, he lays out the terms of divorce, whcih are far stricter than those laid out in Moses’ law where divorce was more easily obtained. Since he is speaking to scribes and Pharisees it’s not unreasonable to assume that many of them had divorced their previous wives and married anew. Here, I think, Jesus is stating God’s law in the clearest possible terms to those who claimed they followed every aspect of the Law. It’s interesting to note that Jesus does not elaborate or explain further. He seems to be saying, ‘It’s a law, guys. Deal with it. If you weren’t so hypocritical, you’d realize you’ve broken the Law in important ways.’

Unfortunately, I think Jesus’ example has been over-interpreted to the extent of punishing people who divorce for very good reason. Yes, it may be adultery, but as Jesus points out again and again, each of us breaks the Law even when we think we are being ‘good,’

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus tells us that in the end the those who claim to be better and above others, i.e., the scribes and Pharisees, do not in fact really follow the law. It is Lazarus, who makes no pretensions to superiority who is favored by God. (This picks up on the theme of justice in today’s Psalm and the theme of all of us being created equal before God discussed above.)

Those who live as if they are superior to others are not following the Law at all. And, “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Which is not only an indictment of human pride; it is of course a prophecy of exactly what happened. Right up to today.



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