Proper 14A

August 04, 2014

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 14: 22-33

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

    Author: Doug Bratt

    Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider

    Psalm 105 recounts Israel’s story from Abram’s wanderings to Israel’s settlement in Canaan, the land of promise.  That story begins, however, according to verses 8-11, not with Abram or any other human’s action, but with God’s promise.  That great promise of the land, and the way God acts to keep it, forms the basis of the praise that floods this psalm.  Israel’s memory of God’s dramatic acts in her history motivates this psalm’s effusive thanksgiving.

    “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,” it begins in verse 1.  “Make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.”  This, however, isn’t just the Israelites’ doxology.  It’s a song of praise that modern worshipers also seek to join them in living out, not just on Sundays, but throughout the week.  After all, at all times and in every part of our lives, Christians seek to give thanks to the Lord and call on God’s name.  Somehow, in every place, at every moment, we try to make tell of all God’s wonderful acts.  Like Israel, after all, we find our primary identity, not in what we’ve done, or ourselves, but in what God does.

                Now Psalm 105 may seem like nothing more than a long and not particularly exciting Israelite history lesson.  However, a closer inspection reveals that very few of its verbs actually refer to Israel.  So Psalm 105 is not primarily a story of Israel’s political, cultural or military accomplishments.  It’s not even mainly a story about remarkable people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

    No, Psalm 105 insists that Israel’s story is actually largely God’s story.  God, after all, is almost exclusively the actor in this psalm.  Psalm 105 dramatically and repeatedly describes God’s power persistently at work to both save and protect Israel.  God is the one who both “called down famine on the land” and “sent Joseph” ahead of the Israelites into Egypt.  God is the one who then made Joseph “master of his household, ruler over all he possessed” in Egypt.

    So what does this long history lesson have to do with the praise and thanksgiving that soaks this psalm?  Psalm 105 gives content to Israel’s praise and thanksgiving.  The Israelites aren’t, after all, just thankful in general.  They thank God for very specific things this psalm describes, for the very specific ways God saved and protected them.  The Israelites thank God for things like freeing them from Egyptian slavery, as well as providing food and protection while Israel wandered in the wilderness.

    In a similar way, Christians aren’t just generally thankful.  God’s children aren’t even just thankful to God in some generic ways.  God has done and continues to do very specific things in their lives.  So God’s people try to be very specific in our thanksgiving.  Christians give thanks to the Lord, most of all for the gracious gift of God’s Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit by whom we trust him for our salvation.  We give thanks to the Lord for the way God works in his church to spread the gospel of joy and peace to the nations.

    However, Christians also give thanks to the Lord for concrete things like friends and relatives, and like food and drink.  We give thanks to the Lord for specific things like the freedom to worship and vote as we see right.  People who forget what God has done easily forget to thank and praise God.  So Psalm 105 reminds of what God has done, partially so that we may properly praise and thank the Lord.

    Something more, however, is also at work in this remarkable history lesson that is Psalm 105.  This psalm also serves, by God’s Holy Spirit, to encourage God’s children to continue to trust in God’s good purposes.  Israel can, as verse 4 calls her “look to the Lord and his strength” precisely because she remembers the wonders the Lord has done throughout her history.  The Lord is the one who has done miracles and pronounced judgments.  By God’s Spirit, Israel’s memory of the wondrous things God did in the Exodus builds her confidence in God’s ongoing work.

    We too remember God’s faithfulness in order to cultivate confidence in God’s ongoing faithfulness in our lives.  You and I remember God’s work in our past in part so that we may believe in God’s good plans and purposes for our future.  Christians also talk to each other about what God has done in order to encourage trust in the Lord.

    So why did God graciously did all of the dramatic things Psalm 105 describes for Israel?  God did them, the poet insists in verse 45, “that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.”  So Psalm 105 isn’t just a call to praise and thanksgiving or a summons to ongoing trust in the Lord.  It is also an invitation to thankful obedience to the Lord.

    After Adam and Eve fell into sin, God wanted a people who would live in godly ways in the midst of the world’s ungodly people.  The Lord created, protected and cared for Israel so that she would publicly “keep his precepts.”  God carried Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the land of promise so that she would “observe his laws.”  So God, one biblical scholar eloquently writes, “quite literally moved heaven and earth not just to fix Israel up all nice and pretty in a land where the people could kick back and lead a rich, fat life of milk, honey, wine and cheese.  No, God had orchestrated cosmic events with the goal of establishing a little colony of heaven.”  In other words, God the King of the universe basically wanted to establish a group of obedient people in the midst of the world’s disobedience.  The Lord created, protected and cared for Israel so that she would publicly represent and display God’s reign over God’s creation.

    Psalm 105 doesn’t mention just how this heavenly colony fared.  It doesn’t describe Israel’s largely faithless response to God’s gracious care and protection.  The poet leaves it to Psalm 106 to mournfully detail Israel’s disobedient response to God’s wonders and miracles.  Yet the rest of the Scriptures show that God didn’t give up on our world or God’s idea of establishing a heavenly colony.  So God sent God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the New Israel.

    And where the old Israel fails miserably, God’s Son succeeds completely.  Jesus Christ is, in fact, a colony of heaven on earth.  In the midst of the world’s blatant disobedience, that eventually includes his own murder, he is perfectly obedient.  Jesus perfectly represents and displays his heavenly Father’s reign over his creation.

    Now, however, that Jesus Christ has returned, in body, to heaven, he leaves Christians with the task of being a colony of heaven.  God graciously saves God’s adopted children, in part so that we will be an enclave of obedience in the midst of the world’s depraved disobedience.  God lovingly created, protects and cares for God’s people in part so that we may represent and display God’s reign over God’s creation.  Quite simply, God calls you and me to be different and distinct.  God calls us to be holy.

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    Romans 10: 5-15

    Author: Stan Mast