Psalm 25 – A to Z plus one

Psalm 25 is an Acrostic – each verse in Hebrew begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.  This literary device is used throughout the book of Lamentations, in Psalm 119 and some other locations.  It provides a structure for reflection, and for memory. 

Psalm 25 is personal psalm of trust from a person in some distress – see verses 16-20 where troubles, enemies, affliction and distress are mentioned.

Then we have verse 22 – this last verse does two things. It breaks the acrostic structure.  So it would appear that verse 1-21 is a complete thought.  Then it applies what has been said to the nation – “redeem Israel from all their troubles…”

This is an interesting link of the individual to the group.  While we are part of a family or a church, a culture and a nation which form us, we are also individuals.  Faith then is individually held but also held together. 

Derek Kidner writes, “Right outside of the alphabetic scheme, the final verse claims for Israel what David had petitioned for himself, so making of a personal plea a hymn for the whole congregation.”  (Psalm 1-72, Tyndale O.T. Commentaries, p. 115)

Earn it?

Did Jesus really say that you have to earn eternal life by giving your money to the poor?  Matthew 19:16-27 contains the story.  It would appear that is the thing for the man in question.  So is eternal life earned? and Do we all have to become monks?

I think we can see that it is not a question of earning, but of entering.  If life is available, but something stands in the way, that obstacle needs to be removed.  The obstacle for this man, and reading the following verses would suggest for many more, is attachment to wealth. 

Abraham was asked for his son in Genesis 22.  That after he left land and family.  Peter, James and John left their fishing, and Matthew/Levi his tax collecting business.

The message of John to “repent” was to turn away from rebellion and greed – soldiers should live on their salary, not on graft, for example.

Jesus own message was summarized as “repent and believe”. 

So is that not similar?

Give away your wealth = repent of the love of money

Follow me = believe.

To enter eternal life, we have to renounce our false sources of life.

Since there are wealthy followers in the New Testament, it would appear to this reader, that the problem is not that we all have the same obstacle, but that we all have to renounce whatever obstacles we have.

Show Me!

They asked for a sign from heaven in Matthew 16:1.  What did they think the Feeding of the 4,000 was, or the healings near the sea of Galilee, or the healing of the daugter of Canaanite woman, or the feeding of the 5,000, or….. (in the preceding verses)   Well, you get the point.

It appears to be a mistake to ask the Almighty to jump to your particular commands.

Repetion? Mathew 14,15

I once had a mentor who said, “A good teacher repeats basic lessons….let me say that a gain, a good teacher repeats basic lessons.”  We had a good laugh at that, every time he said it.  And you can tell that the quote is firmly carved into memory.

Why is there a feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14 and a feeding of the 4,000 in Matthew 15?  Many scholars suggest that this incident stemmed from the same event in Jesus life, and through time the story details changed.  Matthew did not know that and so he included both.  These same scholars also suggest other alternatives to the miraculous aspect of the story – maybe when Jesus gave thanks for the loaves and fish, embarrassed people who had hoarded food in their pockets began to share….

Well, if we allow that God might exist and that God who created the world could be capable of miracle, then is there another explanation?

If we read the two passages there are similarities and differences.  The first miracle is on the West side of the sea of Galilee, and reflects some Old Testament themes – it is reminiscent of how Moses divided the people into groups, and how the Lord gave bread to feed them.  Hence Jesus is a kind of new Moses – leader and liberator of the people.

The second miracle is on the East side of the Sea of Galilee and it is among gentile or Jewish and gentile mixed population.  It follows an series of miracles for which this group gives praise to “the God of Israel.”  and it seems to be a sign for inclusion of the non-Jewish people.

Other differences are the number, the names and number of the baskets, the number of loaves and so forth.

The big similarity and problem is that the Disciples ask the same question the second time as they did the first.  why did not they remember the first feeding and extrapolate that Jesus could do it again?  Could they be that dense?

If we are reading what it does say, the difference between a Jewish audience and a Gentile audience is significant.  the first has to to with Jesus fulfilling a role in the history of Israel (i.e. Messiah).  the second has to do with the ability of the “God of Israel” to meet the needs of the people, for the feeding of the 4,000 follows a passage on healings.

The meaning also has to do with seeing.  The disciples as well as the Sadducees and Pharisees seemed to be blind to the meaning of Jesus’ works among them.  It would have to be the Lord who would give “insight”, or sight to the spiritually blind.

This is reinforced by the difference in order of those healed in Mt 15:30-31

v. 30 : Lame, Blind, Crippled, Mute

v. 31:  Mute, Crippled, Lame, Blind.

Notice that the order is reversed AND the blind are pulled out and made last.  this is a way to point on that the theme here is blindness.  And that the problem of spiritual blindness is greater than the problem of physical blindness.

Before we think the text is stupid, because it seems repetitive, we should ask if it might be we who are stupid.

Fresh Read

Say What? Exodus 4

Several have asked about Exodus 4:23-26.   What is going on?  the Lord sends Moses down to Egypt and then almost kills him on the way? 

There are some textual issues about where the quotation marks should lie – there are no quotation marks in the original Hebrew – so the translators have to make a decision.

The larger question has to do with the institution of circumcision in Genesis 17.  Since Abraham all the male descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were circumcised as a mark of the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen 12, 15, etc).  So then Moses got intro trouble with the Lord because he had not done this for his own sons.  And his Midianite (i.e. Gentile) wife Zipporah solves the issue for him. 

One commentator imagined a whole previous scene between Moses and Zipporah and her supposed reluctance to have it done, that that is solely in the imagination of that reader.  All the text says is that Moses, despite his high calling, almost paid a high price for ignoring the command.

It is harsh to our ears, however it does remind us that leaders are not exempt from the rules.  What if Moses did not keep the law that he was to teach to the people?  What if his family and friends were exempt? 

No, in the New Testament it is clear that leaders are called to a more exacting standard.  That seems to be what is going on here.


Reading History

What could be more unforgivable than to sell a brother into slavery?  Yet Joseph interprets his life from another point of view. 

Genesis 45:4-7   ESV
    So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. [5] And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. [6] For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. [7] And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.

The Joseph account makes it clear several times that the events of their lives were orchestrated by God, for a larger purpose than what they ever had in mind.  This makes a high theology of “providence”, that God is ordering the events of this world, including our freely made and even evil choices, into a good outcome.

See what Paul said on this in Acts 17:24-28

february readings

Fresh Read – 2008 February Readings  (check the one year bible webiste link in right column)

1 Exodus 13:17-15:18Matthew 21:23-46Psalm 26:1-12Proverbs 6:16-19        

02 Exodus 15:19-17:7Matthew 22:1-33Psalm 27:1-6Proverbs 6:20-26  

03 Exodus 17:8-19:15Matthew 22:34-23:12Psalm 27:7-14Proverbs 6:27-35       

04 Exodus 19:16-21:21Matthew 23:13-39Psalm 28:1-9Proverbs 7:1-5 

 05 Exodus 21:22-23:13Matthew 24:1-28Psalm 29:1-11Proverbs 7:6-23       

06 Exodus 23:14-25:40Matthew 24:29-51Psalm 30:1-12Proverbs 7:24-27 

 07 Exodus 26:1-27:21Matthew 25:1-30Psalm 31:1-8Proverbs 8:1-11       

08 Exodus 28:1-43Matthew 25:31-26:13Psalm 31:9-18Proverbs 8:12-13 

 09 Exodus 29:1-30:10Matthew 26:14-46Psalm 31:19-24Proverbs 8:14-26     

  10 Exodus 30:11-31:18Matthew 26:47-68Psalm 32:1-11Proverbs 8:27-32  

11 Exodus 32:1-33:23Matthew 26:69-27:14Psalm 33:1-11Proverbs 8:33-36        

12 Exodus 34:1-35:9Matthew 27:15-31Psalm 33:12-22Proverbs 9:1-6  

13 Exodus 35:10-36:38Matthew 27:32-66Psalm 34:1-10Proverbs 9:7-8        

14 Exodus 37:1-38:31Matthew 28:1-20Psalm 34:11-22Proverbs 9:9-10  

15 Exodus 39:1-40:38Mark 1:1-28Psalm 35:1-16Proverbs 9:11-12        

16 Leviticus 1:1-3:17Mark 1:29-2:12Psalm 35:17-28Proverbs 9:13-18  

17 Leviticus 4:1-5:19Mark 2:13-3:6Psalm 36:1-12Proverbs 10:1-2       

18 Leviticus 6:1-7:27Mark 3:7-30Psalm 37:1-11Proverbs 10:3-4  

19 Leviticus 7:28-9:6Mark 3:31-4:25Psalm 37:12-29Proverbs 10:5        

20 Leviticus 9:7-10:20Mark 4:26-5:20Psalm 37:30-40Proverbs 10:6-7  

21 Leviticus 11:1-12:8Mark 5:21-43Psalm 38:1-22Proverbs 10:8-9       

22 Leviticus 13:1-59Mark 6:1-29Psalm 39:1-13Proverbs 10:10  

23 Leviticus 14:1-57Mark 6:30-56Psalm 40:1-10Proverbs 10:11-12       

24 Leviticus 15:1-16:28Mark 7:1-23Psalm 40:11-17Proverbs 10:13-14  

25 Leviticus 16:29-18:30Mark 7:24-8:10Psalm 41:1-13Proverbs 10:15-16       

26 Leviticus 19:1-20:21Mark 8:11-38Psalm 42:1-11Proverbs 10:17  

27 Leviticus 20:22-22:16Mark 9:1-29Psalm 43:1-5Proverbs 10:18       

28 Leviticus 22:17-23:44Mark 9:30-10:12Psalm 44:1-8Proverbs 10:19  

29 – “Leap Day” read anything you like, or catch up!


Matthew 13:24-29 contains the parable of the weeds, and it’s explanation is found in v. 36-43.  A classic interpretation since St. Augustine (late 4th C) is that the church will always contain unbelievers – and that it is a fools errand to try to rid the church of unbelievers as it will do more harm than good. 

Is that a reasonable read? 

Jacob the Prodigal Son

An observation can lead to a question and a fruitful search.  Upon reading Genesis 33:4, where “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around him and kissed him.  And they wept.”  My mind went to the coming home scene in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (v.20)

Jacob prepared gifts and a speech for Esau to ensure his acceptance, just as the Prodigal planned a speech he would give to win his father. But neither Esau nor the Father needed the persuasion.

There is even the echo of the brothers not being close after the return.

There are many differences, so we are not dealing with the same story, but it does seem less than accidental that the Lord used the idea of a return from a far off land, an embrace and a welcome.

What caused Esau to welcome his brother so openly – when he had been breathing threats of murder years before.  Why had the Father forgotten the wasted inheritance and the insulting behavior of his son?   Why is Esau more like the Father than the Prodigal’s bitter brother?  What does all of this say about forgivness?