Psalm 119:129-136 • Genesis 29:15-29 • I Kings 3:5-12 • Romans 8:26-39 • Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Psalm 119 focuses largely on God’s Law – the Torah. While we, post Resurrection followers of Jesus Christ, often look at the Law as a thing of the past, a tool of legalism, an oppressive list that confuse the faith. We know Jesus fulfilled the Law, but seldom, do we really look at God’s generous act of giving the law. The first verse (v. 129) is a counter to our, often, dismissive attitude toward the law. The Psalmist proclaims the beauty and blessing of the law continuing through v. 31, then we see a transition to life lived in respect and observance of the law. It is a psalm of praise for God’s loving interjection into our lives.
Our Genesis passage for this week take us, again, to Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. Last week, I labeled Jacob as being ‘Shady’ at best – I hold to this description even more after this story of Genesis 29. Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and blessing, he ran away knowing that his brother Esau was angry and seeking revenge, he runs to Haran, the home city of Abraham, and the home of his mother Rebbekah and her ‘shady’ brother Laban. There, he falls in love and marries Rachel, or so he thought, but wakes up the next morning to realize that he had been tricked by her father, shady Laban, and was now married to Leah, Rachel’s older sister. Jacob begins plotting how to get Rachel for his wife – Jacob’s love for Rachel, and not Leah, is the constant for their marriage. Seven years later he marries Rachel, now two wives, sisters, bitter competitors for Jacob’s love and attention.
This is a horrible story, two horrible men who have a total disregard for the voice of these two women. It is a tale of a culture that has completely devalued and dehumanized the female population – a cultural reality that is not challenged until the actions, and embrace, of Jesus. It is an ironic story as we see the pain and misery inflicted on these two women because of these two men, yet it is these 2 unions, that provide the heads of the 12 tribes.
It is essential that we do not excuse this as just a cultural norm – it is not a norm from God. Women were created to come alongside the man, not to cower behind them. This cultural reality, that is still being challenged today was a result of life outside of the garden after we as humans chose to go it on our own, apart from God.
As you read this story, and probably all stories involving Jacob, do not let this cultural catastrophe distract you from this story, however, we must also not allow the unGodly nature of this ingrained misogynistic cultural affliction to be excused or ignored.
I Kings 3:5-12
King Solomon was the third King of the Israelites, he was also the last King before the Kingdom split into Israel and Judah. The first King, Saul, was given everything he needed to succeed by God. However, Saul eventually was overtaken by his own insecurity and doubt and resorted to rule by trying to keep everyone happy and his own rapidly growing paranoia. The second King was David, Solomon’s father. David is heralded for having a heart that truly loved and followed God. While most of David’s reign was done so under God’s direction and short stint of indiscretions tainted and cursed his family. In I Kings 2 we see the crown move from David to Solomon, now a young adult. As Solomon begins to rule, he reveals a great desire to know, and operate from, a depth of discernment and understanding which is his request of God in our focus passage.
Solomon has gone to Gibeon to offer a sacrifice to God. Gibeon is significant in many ways, in this story, it is important to realize that it is the center of cultic worship, it is where the ‘high places’ draw worshipers of false gods – but it is also where many worshippers of the true God, including Solomon, go to offer sacrifices. Solomon goes there to offer a sacrifice to God when God appears to Solomon.
Theopany is the term for this visitation of God to Solomon, an appearance in human form of God to a believer. God interrupts Solomon from making the sacrifice and Solomon asks for wisdom, discernment, and understanding. In the original Hebrew, verse 11 reveals that Solomon is primarily asking for the ability to make just and right decisions executing justice for all of the people. God is heartened by this request and promises that Solomon will receive this, and more.
Two things to notice. This Theopany results in a shift of Judaism’ holy city moving from Gibeon to Jerusalem. The second is that Solomon receives great and just understanding, yet we see later that he does not always use it.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
This is our third, and final, look at the parables crammed into this thirteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew. I cannot help but laugh a little, squirm a lot, and squint my eyes in doubt when I read the response of the disciples to Jesus question after he has finished the final parable.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”Jesus (Matthew 13:51)
Remember, this is the same group that seemed, in verse 10, to chastise Jesus for using the parables to teach and preach. We see, in Jesus’ response that he is using this form of teaching because the crowds have minds that have rejected the truth taught by Jesus. The parables allow this truth to be planted in their mind, something that will possibly gnaw at them as they attempt to break it down and figure it out. So, for the disciples to claim full understanding this quickly is suspect, at least to me…….I know I’ve had all of these stories gnawing at my mind for the past four weeks and am still dissecting them for better understanding.
Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”Jesus (Matthew 13:34-35
So, if you are unable to answer, ‘Yes,’ as quickly as the disciples did, or if you are still working on understanding these, don’t fret, you are normal. The fact that they are still bouncing around in our head is a good sign.
Remember the basic context as you read through these:
- Prior to chapter 13 we see Jesus, just returning from his own experience of seeing the pain and misery that existed among the Jewish people, send his disciples out to deliver, heal, cure, and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven is Near – telling them to expect rejection and opposition.
- Jesus confronts his own generation – addressing their complacency in seeking a searching for truth.
- He is attacked by the religious leaders for not sticking with the status quo – they go so far as to proclaim that Jesus is from the devil.
- We arrive at chapter 13 where Jesus tells 8 parables that must be read with this context to all of all that has led up to these teachings.
- The first 2 parables, so far, have touched on faith and personal growth, tending to our soil in which we are nurtured, growing strong roots, untangling our roots, remembering love rather than judgement and condemnation, the Kingdom of Heaven, Holy judgement, mercy and justice, God’s expansive and patient grace, and much more. Keep all of this in your mind as you read the conclusion of the 8 teachings.
As we have read through Romans the past weeks, Paul has spoken of the enslavement of sin on our lives, the impact of a death when we live in the flesh. Now, Paul has taken a turn to focus to the positive, the hope and freedom of a life lived in the Spirit. In this passage he talks at being more than even conquerors.
As you read this, remember that Paul has spent much of this letter addressing the destructive nature of sin in our life, and the deeper reality of the inner struggle that presents itself in our sinful actions. So, as you look at the idea that we are conquerors, focus on how that victory applies to the enslavement of sin. Also, keep in mind what we have seen recently in the parables of Matthew 13, the idea from this week of the power of the small mustard seed, and the resolve of good soil.
This passage will be our primary focus, combined with the Matthew passage, for this week’s message – More Than Survivors.