Psalm 105:37–45; Jeremiah 36; Titus 1:10–2:5

Psalm 105:37–45: This historical narrative continues with Israel’s escape from Egypt with two interesting observations that I don;t recall in the Exodus story: “And He brought them [Israel] out with silver and gold,/ and none in His tribes did falter.” (37) God provides (in ways the psalmist doesn’t reveal) with ample wealth and there was complete unanimity in that all of Isreal escapes; none were left or remained behind.  Moreover, “Egypt rejoiced when they went out,/ for their fear had fallen upon them.” (38) Egypt was glad to be rid of them–at least until Pharaoh (and others, I suspect) had second thoughts, realizing just how valuable the Jews were to the Egyptian economy.

The poet escapes over the crossing of the sea adventure and brings them into the wilderness, where “He spread a cloud as a curtain/ and fire to light up the night.” (39) I had not thought before of the cloud as a “curtain,” which doubtless protected the people in the intense heat of the desert. God provides shelter, light, and food: “They asked, and He brought the quail/ and with bread from the heavens he sated them” (40) –“sated” reminds us of their complaining. There is water (41) but the poet skips over the dramatic events at Mount Sinai with only a cryptic reference to the Covenant: “For He recalled His holy word/ with Abraham His servant.” (42).  Again and again, the emphasis here is on God’s gifts to Israel–a vivid demonstration of grace.

The history ends by describing both sides of the Covenant. The book of Joshua is summarized in a single verse: “And He gave them the lands of nations,/ they took hold of the wealth of peoples,” (44) And the other side, the response and responsibility of the people, which is what this entire psalm has been leading up to: “so that they should keep His statutes,/ and His teachings they should observe./ Hallelujah!”

The psalm reminds us that God has done great things for us, but that we have a responsibility to respond appropriately to these tremendous gifts. Israel was to keep God’s law. For us, we respond to the gift of God’s grace with faith in Jesus Christ. Covenants are not one-way streets.

Jeremiah 36: This historical chapter recounts God’s command to Jeremiah, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today.” (2) Pointing out that “I am prevented from entering the house of the Lord” (5) Jeremiah asks his secretary, Baruch, to read the scroll in the Temple and elsewhere in the hope that “ It may be that their plea will come before the Lord, and that all of them will turn from their evil ways, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” (7)

Baruch does so, and ends up reading the scroll in the king’s palace. But the court officials are alarmed and exclaim, “We certainly must report all these words to the king.” (17) Baruch reveals that Jeremiah “dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” (18) The scroll is brought to King Jehoiakim, who is sitting before his fireplace. Despite pleas to preserve the scroll, “As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king  would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier.” We can almost see the king’s yawns of indifference to the contents of the scroll as he orders Jeremiah and Baruch to be arrested. However, “the Lord hid them.” (26)

God tells Jeremiah, “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which King Jehoiakim of Judah has burned.” (28) But now God dictates an addendum concerning the king: “He shall have no one to sit upon the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity; I will bring on them, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the people of Judah, all the disasters with which I have threatened them—but they would not listen.” (30, 31).

There we have it: “He would not listen” to God. How often are we like this arrogant king? We do not listen to God. Even when like the rewritten scroll, God repeats himself.

Titus 1:10–2:5:  There are “many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,” i.e., Jews, who “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach.” (1:10, 11) And one prophet from Crete has apparently castigated his own people, “their very own prophet, who said, ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.'” (12) The diatribe is not yet complete as we read, “that they may become sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth.” (13, 14)

These verses is an extraordinarily harsh rebuke.  So harsh that I have difficulty accepting Paul’s authorship. Yes, the Jews have caused him tremendous woes, but Paul was always proud of his Jewish roots and knowledge. I cannot believe that Paul would ever utter the phrase “Jewish myths.”

And when the author goes on to say, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” (16) I hear only human anger. Paul would be disappointed; he would be stern, but I don’t think he would exhibit the ungracious meanness so dramatically on display in this passage.

The passage continues in its harsh, didactic vein: “Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good…” (2:3)  We then encounter one of those difficult relational passages that mix the noble [ “so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind,”] with what in our age is the socially questionable: “being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.” (2:4,5) 

What are to make of Titus? I can see its practical application in the church, but it is certainly among the least graceful books in the NT.

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