Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22

II Samuel 1:1-2:11; John 12:20-50; Psalm 118:19-29; Proverbs 15:27-28

I'm struck by the condemnations in today's reading.  In all our passages except the Psalms, sharp words are spoken against fools.

First we see David, confronting the man who brings news of Saul's death.  We know the man has spoken falsely (see I Sam. 31:4-5), likely because he thinks David will be pleased by his information.  His claim to have mercifully dispatched Saul backfires on him, though.  David is appalled and outraged that this man was "not afraid to life [his] hand against the Lord's anointed" (II Sam. 1:14).  David himself, on multiple occasions, had the opportunity (and perhaps justification) to kill Saul, but he always refrained.  His respect for the authority granted by God was clear and inviolate.  This man, who was not even an Israelite, felt no such compunction and earned death for his words.  "Your blood be on your own head.  Your own mouth testified against you" (II Sam. 1:16) - words of a judge and jury sentencing death.

Although their penalty was not physical death, the Jews in our New Testament reading also received a very strong rebuke.  "They loved praise from men more than praise from God" (Jn. 12:43).  Ouch!  These people, face to face with the Living God, are more concerned with acceptance by their community than with acceptance by God.  And not just acceptance, but accolades.  They want the acknowledgement of their peers.  They wanted to follow Jesus on their own terms, at no cost.  All the while, Jesus is preparing to pay the ultimate cost for each of them (and us).

Lastly, in Proverbs, benediction and malediction: "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil" (Pr. 15:28).  The contrast between the measured, careful, thoughtful response of the righteous heart and the foolish, spurting, destructive words of the wicked mouth is stark.  You can see how blessing results from the former and disaster from the latter.  This wicked mouth is characterized by an excess, a carelessness, a wanton disregard for others.

Part of the reason these condemnations are so powerful to me is that I have engaged in each of these behaviors.  I have raised my hand (or my thoughts or my mouth) against leaders in churches; I have certainly chosen praise from men over praise from God; and I seem to gush evil all over the place.  The condemnation spoken in each of these readings is against me, too.

Yet God is still good and great.  Isn't the psalm today a wonderful expression of that truth?  "You answered me" (Ps. 118:21); "it is marvelous in our eyes" (vs. 23); "he has made his light shine upon us" (vs. 27).  Even though we fail and deserve judgement, we receive his mercy.

"You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever" (Ps. 118:28-29).


- Sarah Marsh

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