Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In My Distress (part 1 of 2)

In my distress, I cried out to the Lord and He answered me. – Psalm 120:1  (NET)

Because those that believe in Jesus properly read and interpret the message of Scripture through the lens of the Christ-event, in this Psalm, it is possible to see and hear Jesus.  The Psalm begins plaintively.  As these words are read in the searching light of the life of the one that is called both Lord and Savior, He can be heard saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you!  How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!  Look, your house is left to you desolate!” (Matthew 23:37-38)  Surely, these words that are presented as part of Matthew’s Gospel, and as part of his particular presentation of the Christ, can be heard as something of a cry of distress on the part of Jesus.

The Psalmist writes, “I said, ‘O Lord, rescue me from those who lie with their lips and those who deceive with their tongue’.” (120:2)  With that heard, a turning again to the Matthew will allow for Jesus to be heard saying “Hypocrites!  Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and they worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’.” (Matthew 15:7-9) With these words, not only is Jesus calling the prophecy of Isaiah to mind (not simply quoting Scripture to make a point), but it is quite possible that He is also, like Isaiah, drawing from the tradition of the Psalms as well.  

Looking a bit forward again to the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, Jesus can be heard repeatedly pronouncing “Woe to…experts in the law and you Pharisees,” doing so before reaching the words of that chapter that are quoted above (in the first paragraph).  Having uttered these cries of “woe” throughout chapter twenty-three of Matthew, the twenty-fourth chapter begins with Jesus’ declaration in regards to the Temple, that “not one stone will be left on another.  All will be torn down!” (24:2b).  With that, one could revert back to the Psalm, where the question is posed, in regards to those who lie and deceive, as to “How will He severely punish you, you deceptive talker?” (120:3) 

The answer given is “Here’s how!  With the sharp arrows of warriors, with arrowheads forged over the hot coals” (120:4).  The experts in the law and the Pharisees (really the Temple authorities when the sweep of Matthew’s presentation is taken into account)---the blind guides that continued to lead the people of Jerusalem and all of Israel astray as they ultimately stood against Jesus---would most certainly come to experience the arrows and the arrowheads of Rome’s re-subjugation of their land during the revolt of 66-70 A.D.  In that time, Jesus’ words of “All will be torn down” were certainly brought to pass.  As Jesus looked forward to these things (foreseeing the inevitable result of the path that Israel continued to travel), the Psalmist’s simple declaration of “How miserable I am” (120:5) can certainly ring true.  Matthew presents Jesus as one who mourned over Jerusalem, and as one who wept for His people.  He wanted His people to understand His message and the privileges of their covenant, but they did not.

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