let us make a joyful noise
to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into God's presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise
with songs of praise!
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless God's name;
tell of God's salvation from day to day.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.
(from Psalm 96:1-2, 4a)
Things are going badly. Although they have made their home in Israel, they are sharing the land with powerful enemies who destroyed their crops and stole their animals. Israel cried out to the Lord who responded "I rescued you from Egypt and gave you this country. In return you have worshipped other gods."
The angel of the Lord then came to a farmer's son Gideon who was beating out wheat in a winepress. According to John Goldingay, "Everybody knows you beat out wheat in the most open place possible...so you can let the wind carry away the chaff, and you are left with a nice stack of pure wheat....The image shows how crushed and humiliated the Israelites themselves are." (from Joshua, Judges & Ruth for Everybody.)
The Lord is not like a football coach from a winning team that sends out scouts to find the fastest, strongest, most confident candidates.
The Lord commissions Gideon to deliver Israel from the enemy Midian. Not seeing how he could possibly be capable of doing so, Gideon asks for a sign. The Lord sent him a sign then told him to tear down the altar of Baal that belonged to his father and replace it with an altar to the Lord your God. Gideon followed these instructions but at night not during the day when anyone could see him.
When they got up the next day, the townspeople were ready to kill Gideon for what they considered a sacrilege. His father Joash intervened saying that if Baal were the god, he could defend himself.
Then all the Midianites, Amelaekits, and eastern tribes crossed the Jordan. The Lord took possession of Gideon who called out for others to join him and many did.
But Gideon still needed to be convinced that this dangerous venture could succeed. He gave a test to God, "I'm going to lay a fleece of wool on the floor and if in the morning there's dew on the fleece but not on the ground, then I'll believe you." The next morning as he wrung the dew out of the fleece, he asked God to do one more proof, "This time, let the fleece be dry and the ground wet." God did it.
Does Gideon doubt that God wants him to accept a task that seems to be beyond his capability or does he doubt that it is God who is asking him to do it?
As we read the gospel accounts of the condemnation of Jesus, we need to remember that they were written at a time of conflict within early Christianity and within Judaism between those who followed Jesus and those who did not.
Judas, one of the closest to him, one who has been entrusted with care of the money, betrays him. Peter, one even closer than Judas, out of fear for his own safety, denies that he even knows him.
An assembly of religious leaders try to get him to admit that he has claimed to be the Messiah, he responds "if I tell you, you will not believe and if I question you, you will not answer, but from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God. They then ask him if he was the Son of God. He again answers indirectly, "You say that I am." They take these comments to be an admission that he had in fact claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God.
They bring him before Pilate, the representative of Roman power in Judea. Pilate would have little interest in their theological disputes unless they had an impact on what he was interested in--keeping the peace. They make charges against Jesus that would be disturbing to Rome, "He told us not to pay taxes to Rome because he is the Messiah, a king."
Pilate asks Jesus if he claimed to be the King of the Jews. Jesus responds to him in a manner similar to the response he made to the religious authorities, "You say so." When Pilate can't find any threat to Roman power in this response, the religious authorities remind him that Jesus has been stirring up the crowds throughout Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Hearing Galilee, Herod determines that Jesus is under Herod's jurisdiction. Since Herod happens to be in Jerusalem at the time, Pilate turns him over. Herod is pleased because he has heard so much about him and hopes for a sign. But, Jesus is no more cooperative with him than he had been with Pilate.
Herod and his soldiers treat him with contempt dressing him up in a king costume and send him back to Pilate (Neither Matthew nor Mark mention Herod's involvement in the trial.)
Verses 7 and 8 of Psalm 96. in the Common English Bible say "Give to the Lord....". The New Revised Standard Version says "Ascribe to the Lord." When I read this passage in the NRSV, I wondered when was the last time that I heard the word "ascribe" in conversation. I don't think I use it often--or, ever. So, of course, I googled it. That's how I learned that ascribe is used as a company name. For example:
Our Ascribe™ Consumer Content Platform provides the ability to extract insight from unstructured data anywhere and transform it into actionable insights. ... www.languagelogic.info/products.htmlAlthough I'm not sure what a content platform is, I do see a powerful metaphor in their description of what it does--provide the ability to extract insight from unstructured data. I'm asking myself, "Where did I see God today?" That is, as I go through my normal day, as I meet people and events, how do I see God working through them, being present to me?
But not just noticing.
As I continue to read the description of the content platform, it promises not only to extract insight but also to transform it into actionable insights. That is, to do something with the awareness.
Psalm 96 promises that the Lord is coming to judge the world, to judge it with righteousness and with truth. May we live lives that make this news good.
A faithful witness does not lie,
but a false witness breathes out lies.
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for one who understands.
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.