Sometimes a line from Scripture sticks out like a sore thumb. Consider Psalm 104.

An inclusio frames the song: Bless the Lord, O my soul! (v 1, 35).

A cursory outline for Psalm 104:

vv1-9 Praise for the majestic Creator | vv10-30 God’s providential care/control over all creation | vv31-35 Praise for the glorious God who is greater than his creation

A song that begins an ends with blessing. Reveling in God’s power over creation. Nature flourishing under God’s care. You get the idea.

Observing these themes and features make the final verse all the more jarring:  Let sinners be consumed from the earth And let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD! {NAS}

It’s worth considering why an uplifting psalm should conclude with a vengeful hope.

The gospel paradigm on the lips of a prostitute

In a men’s Bible study we just finished Joshua 2 which records the encounter between Rahab (a prostitute) and two Israelite spies. One feature in particular really grabbed me.

Rahab’s confession to the spies in 2:9-11 forms a chiasm.[1] The structural center–and the focal point of the confession–becomes what “we have heard.”

A. the Lord has given this land to you

B. a great fear of you has fallen on us

B. all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you

C.  We have heard…

C’. …and so we have heard

B’. our hearts melted

B’. everyone’s courage failed because of you

A’. the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below

Rahab’s confession of faith is centered on the report of what God had done to save His people. Rahab had not seen the Red Sea crossing or the destruction of the Amorite kings. She had merely heard a word about God’s actions and that word generated a faith that led to a confession that would save her from a coming destruction.

Rahab’s faith paradigm (i.e. faith generated by hearing a report) is exactly what Paul articulates:

Romans 10:14-17 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

The “mere” word of God’s saving act was potent enough to make a believer out of a pagan prostitute. No additional signs were necessary. The potency of that word has increased in Christ. Speak it.

[1] Richard Hess, Joshua (TOTC), 99.

Non sequiturs

1) A kid is slapped in the face by his teacher. Your outrage is hypocritical since you don’t seem to care that numerous kids across the country are being punched by a school bully every day. An assault is an assault whether it comes from an authority figure or a peer. (see Isa 10:1-2; Jer 22:16-17)

2) Christians have suffered from systemic persecution, therefore when a Christian suffers it must be persecution. (See 1Pet 4:15-16)

N. T. Wright agrees with me

{file under “beating a dead horse”}

Well, this settles it–definitions matter. [watch 0:18-1:40 for the basic point or you can watch up to 4:20 to get the broader context]

The Christian ‘nowhere man’

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.  {Prov 18:1, ESV}

I wonder if this little proverb explains why some professing Christians decide that they don’t need church. Couple the first line with Paul’s claim that God displays His multifaceted wisdom to cosmic powers through the church (Eph 3:10) and the second line is thrown into sharp relief.

Nowhere Man, please listen
You don’t know what you’re missing
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command

He’s as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see . . .

I am Jonah

Jonah 4:2-3  [Jonah] prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.  3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”

My joyful obedience as an ambassador in the advance of God’s kingdom is directly proportional to my enjoyment of God, not as I would like Him to be, but as He is. (2Cor 5:18-20)

The story is always about God

The matter of first importance in the book of Jonah is not what kind of prophet Jonah is but what kind of God Jehovah is.