Friday, December 21, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 68-69 and Matthew 8

Psalm 68 – “Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies. Let those who hate God run for their lives. Blow them away like smoke. Melt them like wax in a fire. Let the wicked perish in the presence of God. But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy” (68:1-3).

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy” (68:5-6).

The Lord brought his people out of slavery in Egypt, through a wasteland, to a land where they prospered. “The Almighty scattered the enemy kings like a blowing snowstorm on Mount Zalmon. Why do you look with envy, O rugged mountains, at Mount Zion, where God has chosen to live, where the Lord himself will live forever” (69:14-16)

Psalm 69 – “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me” (69:1-3).

“Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. When I weep and fast, they scoff at me. When I dress in burlap to show sorrow, they make fun of me. I am the favorite topic of town gossip, and all the drunks sing about me” (69:9-12).

“In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper!” (69:13-14).

“Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me” (69:20).

“The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged. For the Lord hears the cries of the needy; he does not despise him imprisoned people. Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. For God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the towns of Judah” (69:33-35).

Matthew 8 – When Jesus comes down from the mountain, he is followed by great crowds.  He heals a leper and tells him to keep it quiet.  He goes to Capernaum and a centurion approaches him to say that his servant is paralyzed at home.  Jesus offers to come and cure him but the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed” (8:8).

The difference here between the way the story is told in Luke, is that here the centurion approaches Jesus in person.  In Luke, the centurion never even meets Jesus—all the communication is through others—Jewish elders or other friends of his (see Luke 7: 1). Jesus uses the occasion to praise the faith of a non-Jew in Luke, but here in Matthew, a more, he elaborates to say that foreigners from east and west will come and “’eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (8:11-12). Luke certainly has this last sentiment or warning in his gospel—many times but not in connection with this story.

Then Jesus goes and cures Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever and “that evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick” (8:16). Matthew uses this to relate Jesus' work with the prophecy if Isaiah that says “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases”(8:17) from Isaiah 53:4.

A “teacher of religious law” (8:19) comes before Jesus and offers to follow him, but Jesus tells him “’Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head” (8:20).

They cross the sea in a boat, and a fierce storm hits them. Jesus is sleeping below deck.  The disciples panic and go to Jesus to save them. He responds, “’Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’” (8:26-27).

When they come to the other side, they meet “two men who were possessed by demons” (8:28). Here, instead of a “legion” of spirits inhabiting one demoniac (Mark 15), there are two demoniacs living among the tombs. The demons beg him to send them into the swine and Jesus does this.  The pigs rush down the bank into the sea.  Interesting reading this the same day I read psalm 73 where it says, “I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction” (73:18). When the swineherds tell people in town what happen, they come and beg Jesus to leave (8:34).

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