Psalm 40: 13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. 14 Let all those be put to shame and confusion who seek to snatch away my life let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire my hurt. 15 Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!” 16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
This morning I’m struck by an important paradigm we see in the Old Testament, and even some in the New Testament. What do I mean?
God plays favorites.
The Israelites were God’s people, so we regularly see God protect Israel and destroy other peoples. In this psalm, we see God protect his beloved David while punishing the enemies of David – be they Israelite or not.
How about this passage from another of today’s readings in Esther:
Esther 9:1 Now in the twelfth month…on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain power over them, but which had been changed to a day when the Jews would gain power over their foes, 2 the Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who had sought their ruin; and no one could withstand them, because the fear of them had fallen upon all peoples… 5 So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering, and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them.
See what I mean? In the book of Esther, a man named Haman had plotted to kill all the Jews in his kingdom. God used Esther to turn things around – so all the enemies of the Jews were wiped out instead.
Or, how about another passage from today’s reading in Romans:
Romans 10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Most of you who read this blog are from the Western world – North America and Europe. I think you’ll agree we live in a time in which “equality” is a very high value. We try to create society in which everyone is the same. No one has an inherent advantage/disadvantage in life. People are supposed to be treated the same as everyone else. Of course, this reality doesn’t exist, but it is a goal of our culture.
As I read the passages for today I cannot help but think “equality”, in the way we interpret that in modern secular culture, does not hold the same value for God:
1. The psalms tell us of many occassions in which God supports his people and destroys their enemies.
2. The Jews take deadly revenge on their enemies in the final chapters of Esther.
3. In the passage from Romans, the apostle Paul makes clear those who confess Jesus as Christ are to be saved. Those who do NOT confess Jesus as Christ? Out of luck.
This is not how I WANT God to be, but I am not God. Particularly as a pastor, I am obliged to interpret scripture as it is written, not as I would like it to be written. And, this morning, I’m struggling with that.
Lord God, have mercy on me. Give me understanding. Amen.