JOSHUA 22:21-23:16 | LUKE 20:27-47 | PSALM 89:14-37 | PROVERBS 13:17-19
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29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.”
That is what the Reubenites and Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh said to Phineas, the priest, and the heads of the other ten tribes that came out to meet them when they learned that an altar had been built on the banks of the Jordan.
It had been wrongly presumed that the altar was for the worship of other gods, and when they are confronted about it, it turns out that these three tribes have actually done no wrong. On the contrary, they have exercised much forethought to build a legacy that would ensure goodwill between themselves and their descendants in Gilead and their brethren across the Jordan in Canaan.
Let it not be said that these three tribes are no longer the children of Israel. Let it instead be said that these three tribes did indeed choose to inhabit the other side of the Jordan, and yet they worshiped the very same God of Israel, and this altar that is built is a replica of the one that the larger group of their brethren also have amongst them.
These were wise people indeed, and when all is examined by Phineas and the others, peace and understanding prevails among all, and the new altar is given a name by its builders: A Witness Between Us—that the LORD is God.
And so the text tells us that the children of Israel populate these new lands on either side of the Jordan, and with time, Joshua gets old and prepares to bid his farewells to the people. He says to them, 9 “The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the LORD your God.
A simple exhortation it is: be careful to love the LORD your God.
And to this day, I daresay that many in the modern nation of Israel still hold true to this claim that Joshua made to the children of Israel more than three thousand years ago: to this day no one has been able to withstand you.
It is still indeed the Lord their God that fights on their behalf even as they are surrounded on all sides by nations today that do not even recognize their existence as a nation-state. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…
Turning to our reading in the book of Luke, we encounter still more entrapment-type questions posed by the leaders of the Temple to Jesus. Legalistic as they are, they come up with hypothetical scenarios and quote Moses’ Law in asking how this, what about that, why thus, and sundry such questions. Jesus patiently hears them out and always provides an answer which usually leaves them speechless.
Today, they want to know whose wife would this woman really be when she meets all seven of her husbands in heaven? How does this even matter? Of what relevance is it to the way in which you conduct yourself while on this earth? Well, regardless, Jesus goes on to indulge them by answering in a most straightforward manner: there will be no marriage-like relationships in heaven; we will recognize each other, but we will not be given in marriage to one another or resume our relationships over there.
Is that clear enough? So, that woman that you’re wondering about, she’s going to be nobody’s wife; case closed!
Later, Jesus pauses to tell his disciples this: 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” No mincing of words there either—Jesus is telling it like it is!
David’s Psalm for the day is one filled with great praise for the covenant that the Lord has established with his forefathers, and the faithfulness by which it has been honored so far, and the great confidence that it will last for all the ages to come. David is recounting his own role in this majestic scheme of things in how he has been chosen to serve as king of Israel.
He is not a firstborn and yet he is chosen despite being the youngest of Jesse’s sons; it is a mere shepherd boy who is chosen to be eventually anointed as king, and it is David’s line that is directly traced to the earthly parents of God incarnate, Joseph and Mary. David recounts this in a style that reflects a dialog between God and himself:
20 I have found David my servant;
with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not get the better of him;
the wicked will not oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
and through my name his horn will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.’
27 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
28 I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.
29 I will establish his line forever,
his throne as long as the heavens endure.
There are three verses for today from the book of Proverbs. Each might seem quite obvious in meaning, and yet it is usually the obvious that bears repeating:
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.
18 Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
but whoever heeds correction is honored.
19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but fools detest turning from evil.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.