Psalm 119:161-168; 1 Kings 2:39-3:28; John 12:20-36

Psalm 119:161-168: This penultimate section begins to summarize the themes of this long, long psalm. It is a love song to God’s precepts and the consequences of that love and discipline: “Lies I have hated, despised. / Your teaching I have loved.” (163) That love of God’s lessons leads to a action: “Seven times daily I praised You / because of Your righteous laws.” (164) That action is rewarded with a well-lived life: “Great well-being to the lovers of Your teaching, / and no stumbling-block for them.” (165)

This love expresses itself as longing that leads to discipline: “I yearned for Your rescue, O LORD, / and Your commands I performed.” (166) Which circles back again to love: “I observed Your precepts / and loved them very much.” (167)

But the question remains: Is this love of God or is oit love of God’s teaching? Or are the two one and the same to our psalmist? I don;t think they are for me.

1 Kings 2:39-3:28: We all know about Solomon’s wisdom, which is clearly expressed in his prayer, “ Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” (3:9) And God gives Solomon the wisdom he has prayed for because, as God says, ““Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right.” (3:11). But I think we too easily skip over the context in which Solomon prays this prayer: “O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” (3:7)

Solomon prays in deep humility–quite frankly a humility we only get a brief glimpse of in his father, David.  Solomon doesn’t [pray for wisdom because that’s the politically correct thing to do; nor does he pray in false humility. Solomon instead acknowledges his inexperience before God. How much better that I would acknowledge my own inexperience rather than pretending I know and then trying to bluff my way through my ignorance.

The proof of Solomon’s answered prayer lays, of course, in the famous story of the two mothers and the single child. One of the things I had not noticed before is that the women were both prostitutes. (3:16). Which is of course the only was this fatherless situation could have arisen. But that fact gives us the briefest glimpse into the underside of Israel society–not so very unlike our own.

John 12:20-36: Again we read things not recorded in the Synoptics. Some Greeks wish to meet Jesus and politely ask Philip, who goes up the chain of command to Andrew. Philip and Andrew go to Jesus, who replies with what basically seems to be a non sequitir. John doesn’t tell us if the Greeks were present or not to hear Jesus’ soliloquy, which seems to be a summary theological treatise. Only in his last sentence, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” (26) suggests that Jesus may have spoken in the hearing of the Greeks because he says “Whoever,” which seems quite inclusive.

Then another bizarre incident. With the crowd gathered round, Jesus asks, “Father, glorify your name.” (28) And God replies! Although many hear God’s voice only as thunder. Jesus then says, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (31) To the crowd he seemed to be speaking treason against the Romans, but he must be speaking of Satan. In one sense this is John’s version of the wilderness confrontation between Jesus and Satan. And without Jesus, darkness / Satan / death will indeed overtake them all. John resorts to his favorite image as Jesus doesn’t just compare himself to light, but asserts he is the light. 

So, here in just a few verses, we hear the voice of God, Jesus’ most direct statement yet about how he will die and his assertion that he is the light of the world. The crowd’s brains must have been exploding at this point. And while John doesn’t say, any member of the inner circle had to be convinced that Jesus was insane and best and dangerous at worst. No wonder “After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.” (36)

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