Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 • Genesis 32:22-31 • Isaiah 55:1-5 • Matthew 14:13-21 • Romans 9:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
Psalm 145 is used in more Jewish prayers than any other Psalm. It is best described as a mini-summary of the Jewish faith – ‘God is to be praised from the beginning to the end’ everyday, good days and bad days. Whereas, in Christianity we often look at the concept of ‘blessing’ as being a ‘me thing’ – ‘I will get….’ Or ‘I will…..’, but Psalm 145 defines ‘blessing’ as being for others.
‘We praise God, for God has chosen you, to bless, not you, but all others.’Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology
As I said last week, it is difficult to enjoy, and even to find redemption in any biblical story of Jacob. He has been horrible to his brother, deceived his dad, abused his mother’s favor, has been a horrible husband, and therefore a horrible example to his kids, now we see Jacob, for the second time 20 years after his first cowardice, running away to avoid the serious physical conflict. It is also difficult not to paint Jacob as a scoundrel in this story as well. However, it is in this story that the Jewish faith sees a pivotal moment in which Jacob becomes a role model for the faithful – they would say that Jacob becomes an example of the practices of Judaism.
We will be diving into the intricacies of this passage on Sunday but, in the meantime, after you have chapter 32 and considered it, it will be helpful to read what happens next for Jacob in chapter 33.
As we approach these five verses it will help to understand these things:
- The Israelites are living in a brutal time that is difficult for us to fully understand. They (in Judah) have been militarily attacked by the surrounding nations (even attacked by Israel), often defeated and dominated by imperial powers.
- They lived an agrarian lifestyle, made more difficult by the fact that cultivating the land was difficult due to the climate of low rainfall, crazy heat and cold, and mediocre soil. Making matter worse, they used a barter system, in a time when the imperial powers were implementing a system of silver (money).
- The words of Isaiah are on behalf of God warning the people of the coming Babylonian exile (still over a century away) – he is also speaking to their ultimate deliverance and hope. This passage is largely an effort to raise morale of a longing community, They may not be listening to his message of ‘return to God’ but they are longing for hope during their immediate existence.
- The reference to ‘thirst’ and ‘water’ is probably a call to all (we all thirst – not just in desperate times). The metaphor, and reality, is that water is the solution.
- Reference to David is much larger than just the King, it is the entire community of the Israelites.
- Feast is the way wealth was revealed and shared. Few actually had money, but a feast was a sharing (usually with everyone’s participation). It was a mark of a recognition of abundance even when it seems to be a time of desperation.
- Money, wealth, and labor are privileges that should not be wasted on something other than bread. Bread is a major part of feasts. Wealth and labor are a waste if they are not used to provide the essential things
- Much of what Isaiah says in these first five verses, especially the beginning image, is of a Utopia which is an eschatological reference – it is still relevant to their current state.
In the previous chapter we saw Jesus tell 8 parables – the final 6 of which were parables describing the Kingdom of heaven. The first two of those parables, the wild sower of seed and the wicked sower of weeds among the wheat told how to live with a strong & growing faith, then, the final 6 parables Jesus reminds us where we live. This week, in chapter 14 we could easily say that it is Jesus giving us a real life demonstration of both of those themes.
‘Jesus is living between the darkest moment and the dawn of a new movement of God’s healing work.’Joy J. Moore, professor of biblical preaching, Luther seminary
In addition to the understanding of chapter 13, the first 12 verses of chapter 14 set up the immediate context of the story in our passage. John finds out that his relative who could possibly be described as a mentor, has just been brutally executed by King Herod. John was killed not because Herod chose to kill him but because Herod stupidly backed himself into a corner while attempting to impress others – the only way to avoid humiliation was to kill John. As Jesus hears this devastating news, he decides a brief time of rest is required and withdraws to a ‘deserted place’. This escape last only a short moment as the crowds find him and, once again, he is in the midst of addressing the physical needs of the people.
One note as you read: In verse 14 of this reading we see:
‘When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
This phrase ‘he had compassion’, in the greek is splagchnizomai, meaning ‘to be moved in the inward parts’. This word, in verse 14 is a verb – meaning this is an action word, it involves more than emotions, it is a gut reaction that moves a person to do something in regard to that feeling.
Romans 9-11 are often used by those who are anti-Semitic (hateful and condemning towards Jews) to affirm their hateful rhetoric. However, their interpretation and understanding of what Paul is saying in these three chapters could not be more egregiously wrong. Our passage for this week is a prayer, prayed by Paul, questioning God. He is passionate about the Israelites, who are his people, and crushed by their rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. His despondency is not an attack, or even criticism, of the those who come from his own heritage of faith – it is a question to God. He is not asking ‘What is wrong with these people?’ instead, he is asking, ‘God, what are you doing about this situation?. His question is about the past promises to the Israelites, ‘what happens to those promises and all that has taken place with their journey with God?’ Basically, he knows of the reliability of God but wondering how this will all work out now that most of the Jews have rejected Jesus. He is not accusing God of abandoning the Jews but intensely wanting to understand how this all fits together. This is a prayer of great passion and love for his own people.