Psalm 100 • Exodus 19:2-8 • Matthew 9:35-10:25 • Romans 5:1-8
Psalm 100 is a familiar text regardless of the type of Christian faith tradition you may come from. All practices of the Christian faith, as seen throughout different denominations, various worship practices, and even in churches that carry labels (self assigned or given to them) that lead them toward or away from each other (conservative, liberal, fundamental, progressive, etc), they do, however, all in some form look to this Psalm as a template of what it means to worship and praise God. This is a ‘loud’ Psalm that leads the believer to proclaim God in a very personal, yet public, manner.
It is also a revelation of unity in the midst of separation. In the times that the Psalmist wrote this Psalm, the faith community had their divisions in the same way that the church does now, thousands of years later. Currently, the church (communities of Christian faith worldwide as well as in our communities) are possibly more fractured, and often more hostile towards each other, than every before.
As you read and reflect on this Psalm note two things that are very revealing and pertinent. First, the word ‘Know’ found in verse three. It is possible to read this English word used in this passage and interpret it is a very passive act of ‘knowing’ something. This understanding greatly minimizes the immense call that this ‘Know’ actually is referring to. The Hebrew word, intentionally used here by the Psalmist, is the same intentional word used in several other passages (including Genesis 4:1 and I Kings 1:4) to describe the intimacy of the sexual act of intercourse. It is a very purposeful which requires the parties involved to be totally connected, and fully vulnerable. While the aim of this Psalmist is not to compare the act of sexual intercourse with praising and worshipping God, it is meant to take us to a fully engaged and driven relationship with God and each other. Secondly, this word ‘Know’ is a very purposefully chosen activity. Praising God, worshipping God, is not a go through the motions activity, it is done with full intent and passion – not an emotional response or even an outward position such as raising your hands. The ‘loudness’ is not a call to actually be verbally loud, although that may be the way the Spirit sometimes leads, the Psalm is calling us to a very sincere form of worship in all of our life, a ‘loud and loving’ life through which the world can see our praise in the intentional way we live, how we strive for all to be treated with justice, how we exhibit kindness and mercy through all our interactions and engagements.
‘maximally responsive’Old Testament scholar Terence Fretheim’s description of the relationship between God and humans, as depicted in Exodus 19:2-8. It is the same call that the Psalmist writes about in our Psalm 100 reading this week. It is a call of a full and intimate following and obedience.
The Israelites, after their miraculous rescue from slavery and then the difficult time in the wilderness – a time when God met every need of the people, are now at Mount Sinai where they will soon receive the law, the ‘how to live’ instructions and covenant. Everything in the book of Exodus up to this point has brought the people to this moment, to this time of commitment. This short passage reveals a very essential moment in the life of the Israelites – an ‘are you ready for this, really ready for this?’ moment. God is requiring that the people are for certain they want to fully follow God, to completely trust God, to obey God. It is in this moment that they accept, not only the honor of being a ‘treasured people’, but even more, it is the moment they accept the full weight of this commitment, the full acceptance of this covenant, a covenant with God.
One thing to notice, God’s call in this Exodus passage is a call to commit to following God, it is not based on anything they have done, or even on their actions and belief up to this point. It is a commitment to follow based solely on God’s commitment to them throughout their journey. It is call to individual, and corporate, acceptance of their responsibility to follow. In the our Romans passage for this week (this is the fourth reading which is covered later in this primer) we see Paul make a statement that compares to this call made in Exodus. Paul tells the Christ followers that the commitment and sacrifice made of Christ for them was made before they had committed to God. The death of Christ came while the people were still in disobedience, before they truly made a commitment to follow God. God’s actions and faithfulness always come before we choose to follow him.
As a student at an ‘Agricultural/Mechanical’ State University, topics such as Philosophy/Religion were confined to one of the older, less maintained, buildings on campus. So, as a student at such an institution I was always surprised to find religious themed class offerings. I was first introduced to the writings, and life, of C.S. Lewis in an English class and I fulfilled a Humanities credit by taking a class focused entirely on comparing the four different gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.
While realizing that the four gospels do not always follow a strict and standard detailed account of the life of Jesus, sometimes the sameness/differences can give us a front row seat of, and to, the particular writers. Seeing these differences permits us to better understand the unique ways these four followers experienced their own personal, face to face, journey with ‘God in the flesh.’ For instance, the story of the wedding at Cana (water into wine), the Samaritan woman story, and the resurrection of Lazarus account is only told in the gospel of John; the story of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood is not in John but is in the other three gospels; the Beatitudes is only found in gospels of Matthew and Luke (although some claim that these are actually two different moments); however, the account of Peter cutting off the ear of the guard who came to arrest Jesus is documented in all four gospel narratives – all four writer are all males and males always have a little bit of middler school boy remaining, regardless of their age. These omissions and submissions in these four accounts of the life of Jesus can be frustrating but, even more, they can be enlightening.
For our particular context, let’s begin with an account of Matthew’s description of his experience with Jesus that precedes our passage for this week.
- Chapter three – John the Baptist proclaims that everyone needs to prepare for the coming Messiah, Jesus is Baptized by John, God’s voice is heard proclaiming that Jesus is his son and that he, God, is pleased that Jesus has, as proclaimed through the baptism, sacrificially accepted his mission from God.
- Chapter four – Jesus fasts for forty days leaving him famished and weak, then he is severely tempted and tested directly by Satan; Jesus returns to Galilee (home) as he hears of John’s arrest and imminent doom; Jesus takes up John’s message that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven is near’ (as prophesied in Isaiah 9); Jesus calls first four disciples; great crowds descend on Jesus as he proclaims Kingdom, he heals the sick and cures disease.
- Chapter five-seven – Jesus preaches the radical Beatitudes.
- Chapter eight – Jesus teaches about the ‘almost believers’; Jesus’ miracles add casting out demons to the healings; Jesus teaches his disciples about fear and peace.
- Chapter nine (through verse 34) – Jesus teaches about the ‘new’ of his mission and teaching; he continues to heal, plus, something new, Jesus brings a girl from death back to life;
As we arrive at our gospel passage for this week we are struck by the description of how Jesus felt upon seeing the needs of the people that came to him for help. Look, and consider, the different chosen wordings used in a few of the more popular versions of the Bible (consider the fact that these words describe what motivates Jesus to send out his twelve disciples as we see in the chapter ten verses of our gospel passage):
- NASV – distressed and dispirited
- KJV – fainted, and were scattered abroad
- NIV and NRSV – harassed and helpless
- Living Bible Paraphrase – their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help
- The Message Paraphrase – his heart broke. So confused and aimless
The context of our Romans passage, actually of the book of Romans, can be found in the three other readings for this week. All three call for a full following of God, all offer following as a choice and a gift, and all intimate and, at the same time, public.
Paul, uses two words to describe the life of following Christ, ‘Peace’ and ‘Boast’. A very strange collection of words, two words that seem to be contradictory to each other. Paul, however proclaims that they are as natural together as the idea of ‘loud worship’ seen in our Psalm passage.
Pauls’ argument is that once we have made the commitment to follow Christ we have peace – we no longer have to decide what, and who, we will follow, our decision has been made, our core belief and values have been determined and decided. This peace comes like the anchor of a boat which keeps the vessel from drifting away. This peace is one of stability and a freedom from the chaos that exists without this anchor.
Paul also uses the strange proclamation of the hope that comes from this peace as being something the we are to boast about. Paul loves to talk about hope, for him, ‘hope’ is a reflection of an ‘absolute certainty.’ The boast, is not a loud and obnoxious thing, it is, however, a shouting of our lives. A shout, or proclamation, of our lives seen in how we treat others, how we respond and love, the mercy we give and the justice for others that we seek. It is a boasting of a sound that may never be heard – but is more powerful in that it is consistently witnessed (remember glory – bearing witness to Jesus life through our own lives).
Paul sums it all up as he says:’ For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.Romans 5:6-8