Psalm 123; 1 Kings 7:34-8:16; John 14:1-14

Psalm 123: Slaves keep their eyes down except when they raise them to the Master: “To You I lift up my eyes, / O dweller in the heavens.” God is clearly in the heavens, up above, although this may be more indicative of God’s superior position than to his geographical location.

We–men and women–are like supplicating slaves: “like the eyes of slaves to their masters, / like the eyes of a slavegirl to her mistress,” (2). And we are asking for one thing only: grace, which is repeated three times: “until He grants us grace. / Grant us grace, LORD, grant us grace.” (3)

In this case, I take “grace” to me “relief from,” as the psalmist prays for relief from being “sated with scorn” (3b). Unlike many psalms that are asking for relief from more specific oppression, this one is more general, because “our being [has] been sated with the contempt of the smug, the scorn of the haughty.” (4)

There is always this great divide: those who follow God and acknowledge our slave-like status (as Paul makes clear elsewhere) or those who live in their own self -sufficiency, believing that makes them better that those people who need the “crutch” of belief in God. Many of us know this scorn and haughtiness personally.

1 Kings 7:34-8:16: Hiram the bronze maker casts an amazing number of furnishings for the temple: basins, pillars, stands, 400 pomegranates. So much, that “Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because there were so many of them; the weight of the bronze was not determined.” This must have distressed our author, who seems to be an accountant by nature, as he turns to describing the golden altar, golden table, lamp stands, and “the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs, of gold; the cups, snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, and firepans, of pure gold; the sockets for the doors of the innermost part of the house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the nave of the temple, of gold. (7:50)

The Temple is finally complete and the Ark of the Covenant is installed at last. Amidst all this splendor, the ark is splendid in its simplicity: “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb,” (8:9) God is pleased and “a cloud filled the house of the Lord,…for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (11) Solomon makes a speech, making it clear that because God “chose David to be over my people Israel” (8:16), Jerusalem is where God will now be residing.

It’s difficult for us, who think of God being omnipresent, “omni-everywhere,” to consider that as far as Israel was concerned, the presence of God was in just one spot. Yet, that is exactly what the Temple was all about. And with the Temple, more so than ever since up to this point, the Ark had been portable. Jerusalem may have great symbolic meaning for us Christians, since that’s where Jesus was crucified and rose. But now we think of Jesus as being everywhere among us. But for Jews, Jerusalem has even deeper meaning: this is where God dwells.

John 14:1-14: Supper is over; Judas has departed and we come to the centerpiece of John’s already highly theological Gospel: the Upper Room Discourse. But it is so much more than theology: it is Jesus giving us promise after promise.

We tend to get so hung up on 14:6 ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” that we lose it’s context. First, there is the wonderful promise that although jesus is going, he will return: “I will come again” But more than that, he returns and “will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (3). Thomas, ever blunt, ever honest, admits the truth that each and every one of us must admit: ““Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” If we fail to admit we do not know where we are going, Jesus’ answer makes no sense at all.

Here is where John’s opening sentence back in John 1:1, “and the Word was with God,” comes down off the theological mountain and is expressed in human terms: Jesus is not somehow blocking the way to God (which was how I thought about it for many years) but Jesus is opening the way to God because he is the human expression of God. There’s a good reason why the early church called itself “The Way.” And it’s right here.

And again, 14:6 does not hang in splendid isolation; it is the introduction to Jesus’ disquisition of his connection with the Father. Which ends with another promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me  for anything, I will do it.” (14)

I have pretty much ignored that promise most of my life. Like the “smug and haughty” of the psalm above, I’ve been pretty convinced I can do it all myself. But as I think about it, Jesus’ promise is the operating principle of grace.


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