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February 2020

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Books for the Journey:

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On the run, David asks a priest for a weapon and temple food and then act as if mad (which was assumed at the time to signify demonic possession) to escape after foolishly taking Goliath’s sword with him to hide in Goliath’s home town. Jesus will later commend the priest’s actions as an illustration of the principle underlying His own healing on the Sabbath (Matt 12:3-4, Mark 2:23-28) that the moral obligation to preserve and enrich human life supersedes ceremonial obligations. David lied to Ahimelech about being on a secret mission for the king (and perhaps about his men not having been with women for 3 days) – this lie (and the foolishness in thinking that Deog would not tell the king) will precipitate a great tragedy for all the priest of Nob (22:6-19). The Talmud explains away the apparent breach of the law of eating the holy bread, however, on the basis that the preservation of life takes precedent over nearly all other commandments in the Law (see Leviticus 24:9). We have seen many negative consequences of Saul’s poor behavior. Today he tries to get his own son to help in killing David and ends up being violent towards Jonathan himself.

We can always see spiritual truth if we are strong enough to accept it. Jesus heals a blind man that the Pharisees badger while refusing Christ as a messenger of God. The ex-blind man asks them directly what the Pharisees are trying to hide, how could Jesus do such miracles if He were not from God? Jesus summarizes that only the blind are innocent – but the Pharisees are not blind. The miracle and attitude is replicated in every spiritual birth: “though I was blind, now I see.” The Pharisees’ sin was not ignorance of what Christ was saying or of whom He was, but that of seeing and knowing Christ and still hating Him. Their rejection of Jesus was deliberate, so they were guilty of the most terrible of all sins.

Sodom and Gomorrah were not even Jewish towns and Christ said in Matthew 10:15, “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” Not only does this suggest that the punishment for unbelievers (such as those who didn’t believe Noah that Christ visited in death) might be tolerable but that there is a worse sin with a less tolerable punishment than theirs. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.” And since the only people that can know the Holy Spirit to speak blasphemy against Him are Judo-Christians, are they the only ones who can fail to be forgiven with a guaranteed trip to Hell (and not simple God-blasphemying atheists or Jesus-blasphemying cultists)? The greatest punishment “in this world and the next” is for the greatest sin of having eyes but refusing to see. As Spiderman’s dad tells him, with greater power comes greater responsibility (and greater consequences).

Popular wisdom of the time was that sickness was always a punishment for sin, perhaps for those one will commit or even ancestral sins, but Jesus says that the blind man’s disability was so that the works of God could be known (see Romans 8:28). This is something to remember the next time we’re asking, “Why is this happening to me?” Christ’s disciples, though, seemed more moved by theological curiosity that by concern over the man’s condition. Christ answers that we should use every opportunity to help others. We should not just come to Christ to see reality but to experience it as well (just as the “happy mother of children” in Psalm 113:9 knows both the value of fruitfulness as well as the simple joy of having children). Schnarch (the most respected marriage counselor of the past few decades) has shown that failed communications, missing empathy, and even sexual perversions are not the causes of relationship gridlocks. Everyone most certainly knows what everyone else wants (for one thing, because we all essentially want the same things). The problem is that we simply refuse to accommodate win-win outcomes because of a fear of being powerless and the need to use others as validation. The root of failing spiritual maturity is never about seeing better but in unhealthy behavior and insufficient remorse.

Celebrants of the Passover today normally read or sing Psalms 113-114 before the meal as part of the retelling of the story of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Psalm 113 focuses the worshiper on the grace of the merciful redeemer who bends down from heaven to meet the needs of his people and Psalm 114 recalls the reason for the Passover celebration – Israel’s deliverance from Egypt in specific and the earth trembling before the almighty Lord in general. They are a wonderful companion to the songs of Moses and Miriam in Exodus 15. After the Passover meal, Psalms 115-118, and 136 are sung.

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