Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whitewashed Tombs!

(Adapted from the Moravian Daily Texts)

Psalm 35:19-28

19 Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it.”
22 LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
23 Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.

Exodus 19:10-20:21
The Ten Commandments

1 And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.13 “You shall not murder.14 “You shall not commit adultery.15 “You shall not steal.16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” 18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” 21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Matthew 23:23-32
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. 29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

Reflections: There is an interesting juxtaposition (cool word that means comparison of two seemingly opposite ideas whose interplay gives new meaning!) between our Old Testament and Gospel readings for today. As God descends upon Mt. Sinai, He gives Moses stipulations on who can approach Him due to His holiness. The smoke, thunder and lightning are signs of the holiness of God and create a healthy fear with the Israelites of God’s power and otherness. Moses sets boundaries on who can approach God and marks off His territory.

Then God proceeds to speak the words of the Ten Commandments, which are to be a guide, the laws for how to approach God properly (commandments 1-3) and then how to treat each other properly (laws 4-10). The Ten Commandments will set apart Israel and make them different than the nations around them as they obey them and show off their God!

In our lesson in Matthew, Jesus continues his diatribe against the Jewish leaders for the way they administer these laws God gave Israel. They practice the “letter of the law” by tithing on their mints and spices; yet neglect the Spirit of the Law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus tells them that they should practice both. In probably his harshest words in the bible he says, “27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

As we seek to follow God, His laws are still relevant today. If you look at the world most of the chaos and calamity comes from not adhering to these basic laws God has revealed through Moses. Every break down in our society can be traced back to not listening to God’s way of relating to him and our fellow man. On the flipside the Ten Commandments can be used to Lord it over others like a stick. We see the leaders of the Jewish people obeying the Laws on a surface level but their hearts were black as coal and like whitewashed tombs (what a metaphor!).

Only God can transform a human heart through His grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. God’s love for us transforms us and God gives us the Holy Spirit so we can live out not only the letter of the Law but more importantly the Spirit of the Law as we are led by him and not our sinful nature!

O Lord our God - we set our hope on you. Jeremiah 14:22

We wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13


Almighty God, we lift our hearts to you; and our eyes are fixed upon your unchanging glory. We rejoice in the promises of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and majesty. Amen. (from Reign of Christ Liturgy, MBW p109)

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