3rd Sunday in Lent

March 23, 2003
Reading 1: 
Exodus 20:1-17
Reading 2: 
Psalm 19
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Reading 4: 
John 2:13-22
By Keith McPaul

Over the past three weeks we have read how God created a covenant with his people through Elisha, Noah and Abraham. God promised to look after them both as individuals and as a community. The covenant became the distinguishing mark of that community, giving its members a particular identity in a world of many tribes and nations. Today it is the people’s turn. The people of Israel have to accept that they have responsibilities under the covenant. Their part in the covenant is outlined in the Law, which brings every part of Israel’s life, personal and public, under the will and purpose of Yahweh. Their responsibility under the covenant is to be obedient to an unrivalled God, and to accept demanding and uncompromising rules for living as a community. Rather than being an aloof deity, their relational God chose to give the law to their leader, Moses, ‘in person’, and Moses was shown to be an active participant in the process. Moses would continue to have personal contact with Yahweh and would act as a mediator and conduit between Yahweh and his people. In Deuteronomy, Yahweh is described as the one who loves Israel and it is through the full commitment of Yahweh’s self that causes Israel to be. The Law was given in love, and is an example of God’s love for his people. Breuggemann uses the saying, The God who commands is the God who delivers, to show that the Ten Commandments were policies designed to create a society that practices Yahweh’s justice instead of pharaoh’s injustice, and to establish neighborly wellbeing instead of coercion, fear, and exploitation. As strange as it may seem to us today, the Ten Commandments came from a relational God establishing rules needed for a community to live in a continuing and loving relationship with each other and with their God.

Psalm 19 is regarded as one of the great Torah Psalms (with 1 and 119). There is thought that Psalm 19 may have been originally two psalms, with vs.1-6 being part of a hymn of praise to the creator God, and vs. 7-14 a prayer to Yahweh for wisdom and the giving of the Law. However, reading the Psalm as a whole we see the link between the two great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures, creation and law. The Psalm recognizes that it is the Creator God who has rescued them from ‘the insolent’ and has given them a future and an identity. The Torah, given by God, was crucial for the whole life of Israel, and was not seen as in imposition, but was their ‘joy’. “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.” The final sentence of the Psalm is a wonderful way to finish a song of praise to the Creator God: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you.” Listen to what God is saying to us and then accept our responsibility and obligation to do something about it.