Psalm 69:30–36; Proverbs 21; 2 Corinthians 4:7–18

Psalm 69:30–36: After praying that God “add guilt upon their guilt” and that his enemies “have no part in Your bounty” (28) and to “be wiped out from the book of life” (29), our psalmist returns to his original supplication, reminding God of his low estate compared to that of his enemies: “But I am lowly and hurting./ Your rescue, O Lord, will protect me.” (30) And with that, the psalm becomes worship: “Let me praise God’s name in song,/ and let me extol Him with thanksgiving.” (31) and “The lowly have seen and rejoiced,/ those who seek God, let their hearts be strong.”

The concluding verses are not just worship but absolute assurance that God will rescue him–and others like him–because “the Lord listens to the needy,/ and His captives He has not despised.” (34). This psalm has progressed from the cries of man where “the waters have come up to my neck [and] I have sunk in the slime of the deep” (2) through imprecations against his enemies to worship that that expands outward to include all creation: “Let heaven and earth extol Him.” (35). The water that once threatened to consume the poet has become part of creation praising God: “the seas and all that stirs within them.” (35b).

This psalm takes us on a journey of one man’s evolution from helplessness and despair through hatred and finally to worship. This is a beautiful metaphor of the transformative power of Jesus Christ operating through the Holy Spirit within our lives. The psalms never end on darkness, but always on the light of God’s rescue and our consequent salvation, which leads to rejoicing. And why Paul said, ““Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:9)

Proverbs 21: Our writer notes how we are constantly in the mode of self-justification: “All deeds are right in the sight of the doer,/  but the Lord weighs the heart.” (2) We never see ourselves as doing wrong; it’s always the other guy’s fault. But God knows the interior of our heart–out innermost thoughts and motivations. That’s why “Haughty eyes and a proud heart—/the lamp of the wicked—are sin.” (4). It always boils down to who is at the center of our hearts: God or ourselves. Unfortunately, it is almost always the latter.

Our writer also counsels planning and patience rather than immediate consumption: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,/  but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.” (5), which is surely a good description of our consumer-obsessed society and out willingness to go into debt to gratify our wants sooner rather than waiting. The problem of course is in our hearts that seek gratification rather than God, as he observes, “Whoever loves pleasure will suffer want;/  whoever loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (17)

Finally, our author must have been having a rough day with his wife, since he addresses the issue twice in this chapter: “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop/ than in a house shared with a contentious wife.” (9) And then again, “It is better to live in a desert land/ than with a contentious and fretful wife.” (19) I think I will let these verses pass without further comment…

2 Corinthians 4:7–18: Paul is the exemplar of relying on the joy that the light of Jesus Christ brings into us via the Holy Spirit. Numerous bad things have happened to him, and although briefly discouraged, he never forgets that “we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (7) The metaphorical clay jars, of course, are us: temporary, breakable, but capable of storing great things. Paul, inveterate maker of lists, then goes on to give us one of his greatest, comparing our physical circumstances with the offsetting joy that Holy Spirit infuses in us: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (8,9)

For me, Paul’s greatest words in thus letter come just a few verses later: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (16).  This verse was always academically interesting before I was diagnosed with cancer. Now it is my watchword. Its power is amplified by Paul’s coda in the last verse of this chapter: “we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (18). This is not just pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye stuff, but as NT Wright makes clear in Surprised By Hope, the eternal is right here among us and one day the dark glass will be removed and we will see clearly.

Speak Your Mind