Psalm 25:8–22; Genesis 45; Matthew 15:29–16:4

Psalm 25:8–22:  The latter half of this Psalm is strongly reminiscent of Psalm 23, but is more didactic, lacking the more famous tenderness and imagery of that Psalm as it describes how God leads. Here, those being led are those lacking social status: “He leads the lowly in justice/ and teaches the lowly His way.” (9)

This psalmist is clearer as to the requirements that those being led by God must possess: “All the Lord’s paths are kindness and truth/ for the keepers of His pact and His precepts.” (10) This of course is theologically true. We follow God because we wish to obey him.

In the midst of this theological discourse, the psalmist, who is definitely feeling deeply guilty, interjects his plea with some desperation: “For the sake of You name, O Lord,/ may You forgive my crime, which is great.” (11).

But he quickly returns to a more philosophical tone: “Whosoever the man who fears the Lord,/ He will guide him in the way he should choose.” (12) This is an interesting take on the nature of free will for those of us who follow God. We are free to choose, but because we are following God, we are much more likely to make a proper choice that keeps us on the path of God’s righteousness. And for the person who does so, “His life will repose in bounty,/ and his seed will inherit the earth.” (13) Once again, we encounter that Jewish theme of a man being remembered by his progeny.

The psalmist reinforces this general theology of following God’s law: “The Lord’s counsel is for those who fear Him” (14a) and reminds himself that “My eyes at all times are on the Lord,/ for He draws my feet from the net.” (15) Then once again, a personal supplication: “Turn to me and grant me grace/ for alone and afflicted am I.” (16) Now, the poet devotes the reminder of the psalm to his personal supplication as we discover more about his straits: “See my enemies who are many/ and with outrageous hatred despise me.” (19)

As always, the poet concludes by asserting his obedience to God and on a note of hope that God will indeed answer: “May uprightness, wholeness, preserve me,/ for in You I do hope.” (21) And it is indeed hope on which our faith is built: that assurance that God is indeed listening.

Genesis 45:  Joseph can remain silent no more. We come at last to Joseph’s Big Reveal. Even though he throws everyone but his brothers out of the room his weeping can be heard by the Egyptians and even Pharaoh. He says it with utter simplicity: “I am Joseph.” And without a breath asks in what must only be desperation: “Is my father still alive?” (3a)  His brothers cannot believe him, “so dismayed were they at his presence.” (3b).

Regaining his composure, Joseph asks them to come closer and gives them the details that only he would know. And he tells them, “do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (5) He elaborates, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.” (7) and again asserts, “ it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (8)

At this point we cannot help but notice the parallels between Joseph and Jesus Christ. The people of Israel may have condemned Jesus to death, but it was God who sent him. And of course, in the same way that Joseph ensures the survival of both the root of the Jewish race, he has also ensured the survival of the Egyptians—Gentiles all. Just as Jesus has come and given his life so that both Jew and Gentile may live.

Pharaoh soon learns who the brothers are, and who Joseph really is. The king generously invites the entire extended family to Egypt, “father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.’” (18) [Oh, that’s where that phrase comes from!] Which they do, although this ultimately leads to severe complications 400 years down the road.

This beautiful story concludes with two poignant scenes: Joseph and Benjamin—true blood brothers—embrace. And the final scene in Canaan, where we are allowed to witness Jacob’s reaction when he hears the good news from the returning brothers: “the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.’” (28)

Why do we love this story so much? Because it is a hero’s quest. Joseph has lost everything, and goes through significant trials but a greater thing arises from those trials, generosity ensues, and a happy reunion occurs. Which is a picture of Jesus Christ, who lost everything on our behalf, but has restored life to us just as Joseph restored life to his family. This is indeed grace in action.

Matthew 15:29–16:4:

After the story of the Gentile woman, Matthew provides us with a summary of Jesus’ many healing activities with a focus on the crowd’s reaction: “so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” (15:31) Notice that the crowd praises “the God of Israel,” not Jesus. This is Matthew’s assertion that the crowd saw what the Pharisees never did: Jesus is not some ordinary magician performing healing tricks, but the crowds came to understand that it was the power of God himself who acted through this extraordinary rabbi.

Meals are always important to Matthew, and now he writes of the second hungry crowd: the feeding of the 4000. This time there was no option of sending everyone into town to buy lunch. They are in a remote spot and the disciples, who apparently forgot what happened before at the feeding of the 5000, ask, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” (32) This time it’s seven loaves of bread and “a few fish.” “And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.” (37)

So why does Matthew essentially repeat this feeding story which occurs in pretty much the same way? I think it’s because Matthew is making the point that Jesus is sustenance at every level. After all, when the Canaanite woman came to Jesus, he says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (15:26) and she then refers to crumbs at the table. The clear message is that Jesus is the source of life—and for Matthew, both physically and spiritually.

Jesus is now a true celebrity and the Pharisees and Sadducees decide to test him to see if the reports about him are true or if he is just another miracle-working charlatan. They demand to see “a sign from heaven,” and in one of the more humorous interactions he has with them, Jesus tells them about how to forecast weather.

But they “cannot see the signs of the times,” which is exactly how it is today: American culture goes on its merry way, but just as Jesus adds the ominous note that “no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”—a clear reference to his death and resurrection—so, too, we are just like the Pharisees, blind to the implications of where our own culture is inexorably headed.

Speak Your Mind