Bible Readings for Wednesday January 12th, 2011 – The Week of The Baptism of Our Lord
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.5. Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
6. For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
7. a God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and awesome above all that are around him?
8. O LORD God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O LORD? Your faithfulness surrounds you.
9. You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
10. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11. The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it– you have founded them.
12. The north and the south– you created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13. You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
15. Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;
16. they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.
17. For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.
18. For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.
19. Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said: “I have set the crown on one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20. I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him;
21. my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.
22. The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him.
23. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.
24. My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
25. I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.
26. He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’
27. I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.
28. Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm.
29. I will establish his line forever, and his throne as long as the heavens endure.
30. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances,
31. if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,
32. then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges;
33. but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness.
34. I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35. Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David.
36. His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun.
37. It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.” Selah1. Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.
2. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many.
3. For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
4. Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples.
5. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope.
6. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.
7. Listen to me, you who know righteousness, you people who have my teaching in your hearts; do not fear the reproach of others, and do not be dismayed when they revile you.
8. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my deliverance will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.
9. Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago! Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon?
10. Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to cross over?
11. So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
12. I, I am he who comforts you; why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die, a human being who fades like grass?
13. You have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. You fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction. But where is the fury of the oppressor?
14. The oppressed shall speedily be released; they shall not die and go down to the Pit, nor shall they lack bread.
15. For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name.
16. I have put my words in your mouth, and hidden you in the shadow of my hand, stretching out the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, “You are my people.”15. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them,
16. and he ordered them not to make him known.
17. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18. “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory.
21. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
“God pierced / defeated Rahab”, a reference in both passages today from Psalms and Isaiah. The name “Rahab” was representative of many things to ancient Hebrew listeners, from a great sea dragon, to the Leviathan, to a form of Tiamat, the Babyonian goddess of destruction and chaos. At times, “Rahab” is even used as a name for Egypt during the time of the Exodus. Regardless of which form the listener knew it as, the name “Rahab” carried one over-arching meaning that was clear to everyone: “Rahab” represented everything opposite of God. Where God brought safety and unity, Rahab brought chaos and fear. Where God brought confidence, justice and salvation, Rahab brought uncertainty, injustice and death. For the Psalmist and Isaiah to reveal that God has finally conquered over Rahab in our hearts is a tremendous claim. Why then, do we not see evidence of God’s victory today?
Perhaps, it is due to our tendency to focus on God’s language of “crushing enemies” and punishing with “rod and scourges”. This is confusing because, it honestly doesn’t sound much different from Rahab, and it promotes within our own hearts a sense of righteous scouging and crushing. Like that classic anti-drug PSA line, “I learned from watching you, Dad! I learned from watching you!”
“Oh, great!” you think, “we traded one evil for another, and this one we call ‘good’???”
However, the key to understanding the figurative difference between a divisive and chaotic Rahab and a loving, compassionate and salvific God is found in today’s Gospel reading. While God, like any good parent, is not going to let a child’s transgressions pass without consequence (I would not use a “rod”, personally), God is never going to turn away from us, no matter how many times we turn from God. And most importantly, as an active promise of God’s covenant, God is going to be conscious not to let his discipline of mankind “bend an already bruised reed” (a literal image of something explicitly fragile and weakened) or “quench a smoldering wick” (something in a uncertain but tantalizing state of potential to give off light, which is a constant metaphor for living in Christ). In other words, until God has brought the final victory of the Kingdom, where justice and righteousness are final and all crooked paths made straight, God’s actions in this world will never endanger those most vulnerable. And in that promise, that certainty, chaos and fear are pierced through and cut apart.
And now we see the loving character of God. He will always give us what we need, whether blessing or correction, but God’s actions will never endanger us. Don’t let lost pastors tell you that God wants to hurt you, that God is some perverted form of Rahab 2.0. That’s a true heresy against God, and a disservice to the covenant of Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
“… And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”