Psalm 68:28–35; Proverbs 17; 2 Corinthians 1:12–22

Psalm 68:28–35: The final section of this psalm celebrates Israel’s triumph over a once-great nation. Alter notes that it is most likely Egypt. A brief catalog of tribes–Benjamin, Judah and Zebulon– are now ascendent. There’s irony in the phrase “little Benjamin holds sway over them” where “little” not only connotes Benjamin as the youngest of Jacob’s sons, but that “little” Israel is now triumphant.

The credit goes solely to God: “Ordain, O God, Your strength,/ strength, O God,that You showed for us.” (29) It is to God to whom “the kings bring gifts” (30) in tribute. Egypt is the metaphor here: “Rebuke the beast of the marsh,/ the herd of bulls among calves of the peoples.” (31) It is God who “Scattered peoples that delighted in battle.” and now the “notables come from Egypt,/ Cush raise its hands to God.”

The poet’s camera pulls back to reveal it is not only Egypt who comes in humility to God, but “Kingdoms of the earth, sing to God,/ hymn to the master.” We need to remark here that the poet gives all praise to God alone; there is no mention of the military prowess of the strength of the people of Israel. Instead, “Israel’s God–He gives strength and might to His people.” (36). Israel may rejoice in victory, but it basks in the reflected glory of God, who is the accomplisher of these great deeds.

The lesson for us: whatever victories we may enjoy in life belong to God who makes them possible. Like Israel, we must abandon ourselves to God, who is our deliverer.

Proverbs 17: It’s impossible not to have verse 6 jump out: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,/ and the glory of children is their parents.” There’s no question that the second generation is the crowning gift to grandparents, and I rejoice daily in the lives of my grandchildren.

But it’s the second half of this couplet that deserves greater examination. One’s children can only go on to have children of their own who will blossom and succeed only of they have parents (our own children!) who have raised them well. Note the plural: “parents.” One’s heart goes out to the numerous mothers and fathers, who are raising their children alone. While there are many circumstances that create that condition, the advent of easy divorce and the unnatural awkwardness of shared custody, or even outright abandonment by one parent has exacerbated the situation.  And we are suffering as a society because God’s good order of two-parent households continues to diminish in number.

Parenting emerges later at verse 21: “The one who begets a fool gets trouble;/ the parent of a fool has no joy.” And then, “Foolish children are a grief to their father/ and bitterness to her who bore them.” (25) So, are some children born to be inherently foolish? The writer seems to suggest this. I am more optimistic, although when children grow to become adults it is all too easy to see which have become fools. 

So, what are the qualities that characterize foolish children (or anyone else for that matter)? For the writer, it becomes evident when they open their mouths: “Even fools who keep silent are considered wise;/ when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.” (28) In our chattering society of cable “news analysis” and where social media allows every stupid thing to be uttered and then preserved, the truth of this last verse is all too evident. The foolish seem predisposed to expose their foolishness by their words. Alas, there are way too many ways now available in which to do this.

2 Corinthians 1:12–22: Paul is writing this second letter to Corinth letter because he has not been able to return in person. In fact, he wanted to visit them twice: “I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea.” (16) But plans did not work ot. But it seems clear that someone at Corinth has accused Paul of being insincere in his stated desire to revisit Corinth, and Paul is clearly angry–and even a little bit defensive: “Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?” (17) Clearly Paul is referring to the insincere statements of intention that are best summarized today in the phrase, “Let’s do lunch,” when the speaker has no such plan.

Paul protests, “ As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” (18) as he makes the all-important point that as Christians, when we make a promise we must have every intention of delivering on it because Jesus Christ would never do this: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” (19) Jesus never waffled nor beat around the bush nor said “yes” when he meant “no.” As followers of Christ, neither should we.

Unfortunately, I cannot claim the innocence that Paul does, for I have made insincere non-promises way too many times. My prayer today is to always make sure my “yes” means “Yes” and not “Maybe” or worse, “No.”

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