Psalm 13 • Genesis 22:1-14 • Jeremiah 28:5-9 • Romans 6:12-23 • Matthew 10:40-42
Psalm 13 is most likely words from King David to ‘the Song Leader’. Some think this ‘Song Leader’ is a direct reference to God, most, however, think he is directing his actual ‘Song Leader’ to write, or sing, a song with these words. These words are David’s very honest and real words/emotions regarding his desperation at that moment. A is very human moment which is, most likely, very relatable to us all. David is speaking out of desperation where it feels like God is absent and darkness has invaded his life. He describes himself as being ‘shaken’ and an easy target for his enemies. Within a breath, however, David describes his method of handling times such as this – he takes a moment to remember all that God has done for him. David completes this reflection of his own dismal state by deciding that he will ‘sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.’
Our context for this passage is simple, the words of this passage are not so simple. The context is everything we have seen for the past two weeks in Matthew 9:35-10:40 (up to these three verses that conclude chapter 10).
- Jesus is deeply concerned about the state of life, and living, among the people he has ministered to.
- His concern prompts him to the action of sending his disciples out to help these people. Help – free them from oppression, heal sickness, cure disease, comfort through compassion and love. After, or as, they do this they are also to share that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is near.
- This journey for the disciples, now called apostles, will be difficult, painful, humiliating, and dangerous.
Our passage for this week closes out Jesus’ ‘sending out’ talk to his disciples. You can also envision, after he has finished speaking, Jesus gathering up the apostles in a huddle with arms around each other, saying an ‘I love you guys’ and then shouting ‘One, Two, Three, GO!’, followed by an enthusiastic yell of all the men with arms in the air then, turning away heading off excitedly to their calling.
While this may have been what happened, it is more likely that as Jesus finished speaking, they hesitantly arose, looked cautiously at each other and walked away, toward their journey, with fear and trepidation.
There are a few words/phrases in this short passage to be ready for:
- ‘Welcome’ – this passage is often used in reference to immigrants, and that is not a false usage, but it does call for a deeper understanding of this word. It is a challenge to our casual use of the word ‘Welcome’. This welcome comes on the heels of his warning about all the rejection they will encounter. ‘Welcome’ in this context become much larger than a quick warm word and handshake. This welcome is a message of life and safety, it is a message of hope and acceptance. Such a greeting will come at a moment of great vulnerability and fear, at a time when the expected message will be rejection and hostility. This form of the word ‘welcome’ is only found in one other place in the new testament, in chapter 18 where the meaning is the same. It is an important and deep use of the world ‘welcome’. One question to ponder – with an understanding of the depth of the word ‘welcome’, along with our current environment of pandemic and distancing, plus protests, how has your view of this greeting changed?
- ‘In the name of…’ Although this is the best interpretation that the greek can offer, this is still a strange greeting. The explanation requires a bit of deep thinking as well. Jesus is specifically saying that the welcome that they are to receive is a very definite welcome, they are being welcomed because they are a prophet, and welcomed to be a prophet; they are welcomed because they are righteous and welcomed to be righteous. Their message of life and transformation is recognized as risky but hoped for. The third greeting, word/phrases, ‘give a cold drink’ and ‘little one’ and may be turning it around and speaking about the mission of the disciples themselves – that they are the givers who will be rewarded (or it may still be speaking about those seekers that they are welcomed by).
As you read this, do not speed through it due to the shortness of the passage, take a moment and read it again. Put yourself on both sides of the story, the welcomer as well as the welcomed. Imagine how these three verses play out in the midst of Jesus call to you, his call to compassion, empathy, peace, and love. Consider this in the midst of our call to act.
Our Jeremiah passage comes from a much larger, and significant story. If you have the time, read chapters 27 and 28 for a full context. We have spoken of this time period many times before in the past twelve months about these prophesies leading up to the invasion by Babylon. Jeremiah, along with the prophet Isaiah, and other prophets, have been called by God to warn the people who have turned away from God as their religion has become heartless. The people have consistently refused the warning of the true prophets of God and, instead, have chosen to listen to, believe and follow the words of false prophets. These false prophets have been named to be ‘prophets’ by the politicians and religious officials. These false prophets are proclaiming very rosy and pleasant views of the future and therefore the people are remaining content and satisfied with the religious and political officials.
This passage comes in the middle of a confrontation between God’s prophet Jeremiah and the false prophet Hananiah. The time period is shortly before Judah is conquered by the Babylonians, a time when the people are past the ability to avoid this fate. Jeremiah has been sent to the leaders wearing an oxen yoke that symbolizes the burden that is about to be placed on the people as they are conquered and exiled to slavery. God’s message, given through Jeremiah, is that God has already Judah and Jerusalem to Babylon and that they will now come and take the people away. God’s instruction is that they are to accept the yoke and serve Babylon rather than die – resistance is futile and will result in death. It is doubtful that God could have given Jeremiah anything more miserable to say (remember our Jeremiah passage last week when the prophet was ‘chewing out God’ for making his be so hated). However, it is actually a message of life – to surrender and wear the symbolic yoke, is the only way they will live and, in the eventual end, to return to their land and to God.
As Jeremiah finishes speaking before the leaders, the false prophet, Hananiah, disputes Jeremiah’s message from God. Hananiah says that they are to resist the Babylonians and that, in the end, Judah will be victorious. Hananiah even physically breaks the yoke which Jeremiah has brought in a very dramatic fashion to emphasize his point.
Jeremiah’s response should probably be read in a sarcastic tone, he is mocking Hananiah and the false message of Hananiah. Within a month, Hananiah is dead and the Bablyonian troops are on the doorstep.
Interestingly, after chapter 28, the message of God, through Jeremiah, turns to words of hope given to the now exiled and enslaved Israelites.
This passage is an enormous dread by most preachers. I will be using this text for the message this Sunday, and even now, as I am in study today, I am beginning to question my own wisdom in this choice.
Let’s begin with the basic context. Abraham was called to take his wife, nephew, servants, and belongings, and leave his, most likely, idol worshipping family of origin and go to an undisclosed land. He is repeatedly promised, by God, to have a son, to have a land, to father a nation, and to be a blessing on all peoples. Sarai/Sarah is old and barren when this story begins so the idea of any children, not to mention many descendants, is a ridiculous thought. Abraham is faithful to God except for when he isn’t. He has a very human on/off faith. Eventually, he has a son by the maidservant of his wife and then Sarah actually gives birth to a son. This creates drama within the household and the life of Abraham. Ishmael, the son by the maidservant, is ultimately sent away with his mother and Isaac is left as the only son of Sarah and Abraham.
Also, in context, it is important that many, if not all, nations around practice child sacrifice to ‘appease’ the gods.
Now, in this passage, we find the odd request from God to Abraham, that he make Isaac a sacrifice. This is not a metaphorical act, God is calling on Abraham to kill his ‘only’ son who he dearly loves.
If we are honest, in reading and considering this story, we will ask the question – ‘Is this the revelation that God is a monstrous God who is challenging Abraham to a brutal game of chicken?!’
In addition to this we have the question of Isaac’s age at this time. How old was the boy who helped carry to wood for his own death?
Make the reading of this passage a bit more challenging by reading two or three times, each time thinking of Isaac being a different age (young child, adolescent, grown teenager).
In our passage Romans passage, Paul continues on the topic of sin. He, himself, says that he is using terminology that we humans can understand because the truth about sin is so very difficult to explain and grasp. This is probably the reason that we, as humans, have attempted to simplify and maybe even diminish the concept of ‘sin’. We are prone to define ‘sin’ simply as an action, a ‘bad’ action. We usually have our own list of sins which we have allowed ourselves to become comfortable with, in as far as they are existent in our own life – or we have become comfortable with the uncomfortable nature of those sins being a part of our choices. Plus, we have our list of sins that we are very quick to judgmentally define, and condemn, in the lives of others. Often all three of these lists overlap. We have made sin, something that you do that you should not be doing.
Paul’s teaching on sin is much more complex and intricate. Paul sees sin as an act of voluntary enslavement. Sin enslaves and holds us while withholding our ability to live in freedom and peace. Sin is the presenting symptom of a life not obediently trusting God, a life not experiencing freedom, light, peace, hope, and love. It is a willful choice to live separately and apart from God.
Paul’s message point here is to move us from the reign of Adam to the reign of Christ, the reign of sin to the reign of grace – from being a slave to the things that enslave us (sin, fear, chaos, hatred), instead, to the things of freedom which (oddly) are the willful choice to be a ‘slave’ to Jesus (peace, love, hope).
There is a good chance that you have sat through a teaching, or sermon, on this passage – it is probable that you will begin reading, with half attention, because of your past hearing from, and understanding of, this teaching. This time, take a moment, as you read, to let yourself look at it fresh as if it is the first time you have read it – as you read, ask yourself, how does this change my own condemnation of others; and how does this alter my own view of my relationship with God?