Psalm 118:15–21; 2 Samuel 2; John 6:52–59

Psalm 118:15–21: This section appears to the hymn that our rescued psalmist (or David) sings when he arrives at the temple: “A voice of glad song and rescue/ in the tents of the just.” (15) As we know from the questions posed by his disciples to Jesus, the right hand of God is the place of honor. Here, God’s right hand has been the instrument of rescue, as our poet sings,
The Lord’s right hand does valiantly.
The Lord’s right hand is raised,
the Lord’s right hand does valiantly.” (16)

God’s right hand has rescued him from death and his response is—as it always is in the Psalms—worship: “I shall not die but live/ and recount the deeds of Yah.” (17) He acknowledges that he has been tested severely, but in the end there was God’s rescue: “Yah harshly chastised me/ but to death did not deliver me.” (18)

As God has been just to him in this rescue, he will celebrate that justice for him and all people in the metaphor of entering the temple: “Open for me the gates of justice—/I would enter them, I would acclim Yah.” (19) To ensure that we get his point about God’s justice, he reiterates the idea that to worship, we ourselves must be justified before God: “This is the gate of the Lord—/ the just will enter it.” (20)

In the end, rescue becomes worship: “I acclaim You for You have answered me,/ and You have become my rescue.” (21) The question for me is, do I give God full credit for the rescues he’s effected in my own life? My healing from cancer was not strictly supernatural. There was lots of medicine and technology involved. But I think the point here is that humans cannot take sole credit for the technologies that heal. After all, it is God who has given humankind knowledge and understanding in order to effect my rescue. My logical response, then, should be worship to God “who has become my rescue.”

2 Samuel 2: As he always does, David asks God what he should do next: “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” (1) As always, God answer, telling David he should go to Hebron. When he arrives, “the people of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.” (4) Notice that at this point, David is king only over one tribe—albeit an important one—not over all Israel.

However, Abner, who commanded Saul’s army, has set up Ishbaal, Saul’s surviving son as king “over Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and over all Israel.” (9) while David reigns over Judah. Israel is a divided nation at this point. This goes on for several years until civil war breaks out.

The standoff comes to a head at the pool of Gibeon. Abner’s men sit on one side of the pool while Joab “and the servants of David” sit on the other side. Each side chooses twelve men to fight to the death as “each grasped his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together.” (16) If we ever needed a metaphor for the self-destructiveness of civil war, this is it. Joab’s men defeat Abner’s, who immediately turns and runs.

Joab’s brother, Ashael, who “was as swift of foot as a wild gazelle” (18) pursues Abner, and ends up stalking him. Abner challenges him to “seize one of the young men, and take his spoil” (21) but to stop following him. Ashael refuses and Abner turns around and runs him through with his sword.

Joab and his other brother, Abishai, pursue Abner. As a battle is about to commence, “Abner called to Joab, “Is the sword to keep devouring forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you order your people to turn from the pursuit of their kinsmen?” (26) Joab replies that his men “would have continued to pursue their kinsmen, not stopping until morning.” (27). Joab calls off the battle and “they no longer pursued Israel or engaged in battle any further.” (28) the internecine warfare finally comes to an end. Nineteen of David’s men, besides Ashael have been killed, while 360 of Abner’s men have died.

What’s remarkable about this story is that two men—Abner and Joab—realize the futility of continued civil warfare that will ultimately destroy everybody on both sides. Would that this same wisdom would obtain in the unending battle between Israel and Palestine.

John 6:52–59: Those who heard Jesus are understandably confused by his sermon and his assertion that he is the “bread of life” and that his flesh will be eaten: “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (52)

But typically, rather than try to explain his point further, Jesus seems to expand the confusion by saying, “I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (53) And then in what must have sounded like cannibalism to some, he goes on to elaborate: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (54, 55)

As if that wasn’t enough, he goes on to tell his listeners, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (56)

Of course this becomes the core of the Eucharist, and these verses must certainly be be at the foundation of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

But I’m forced to ask myself, did Jesus really say it this way in the synagogue of Capernaum? Or is our author building on simpler words and concepts that Jesus said to create this complex theology of Christ’s incarnation becoming the sacred food and wine of the early church? Yes, I know this is a heretical thought, and I certainly accept the reality of the Eucharist in that Christ is somehow present. But as to whether Jesus actually uttered this complex theology as it’s written by the author some 100 years after the fact leaves me skeptical.


Speak Your Mind