Today’s Roots, Tomorrow’s Fruit

Scripture Focus: Psalm 74. 7-9
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. 
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” 
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land. 
9 We are given no signs from God; 
no prophets are left, 
and none of us knows how long this will be. 

Reflection: Today’s Roots, Tomorrow’s Fruit
By John Tillman

Asaph was a prophet, a poet, and a creative leader living in the golden age of the kingdom of Israel and of the worship of God in the Temple. He is often noted as playing the cymbals, and was appointed chief over all the Temple musicians.

David’s psalms are largely autobiographical. Asaph’s seem focused on the fate and faith of the country in times ahead. Despite living in Israel’s best years, many of Asaph’s works contain laments about the destruction of Israel or the Temple. 

During the lifespan of Asaph, The Temple was never under any threat similar to his description. It would be hundreds of years before the Babylonians laid waste to Solomon’s Temple and hundreds more before the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jesus’ day.

For this reason, some think this psalm was likely written later by a descendant of Asaph or merely in his style. Some think it could be looking back to the battle at Shiloh and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant. 

However, psalms were often considered to be prophecies. Jesus described David’s psalmody as being written, “by the Spirit.” When we know many psalms are prophetic, perhaps we need not doubt the prophetic nature of this psalm.

Christians often idealize (even idolize) David and his time as king. However, the roots of the sins that would eventually destroy the kingdom were present in David’s reign. Perhaps, Asaph saw that.

Prophecy seems to run in Asaph’s family. One of Asaph’s descendants speaks up before King Josiah in a moment of crisis with a prophecy from the Lord about salvation from invading armies. Prophecies can tell of coming salvation or warn of coming disaster. There’s no question which we prefer to listen to.

We need prophetic warnings no matter what our circumstances. It doesn’t matter if we live in a golden age or in one we wish could be restored to its former state, the warnings of the prophets are for us. Even in times of blessing, prophets speak to the roots of sins that will bear bitter fruit in the future. Today’s roots grow tomorrow’s fruit.

May we never shrug off the messages of prophets, especially when they tell us something that we don’t want to hear. Heeding dire warnings of the prophets during a golden age, may be the best way to ensure a flourishing, rather than a failing, future.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Numbers 30 (Listen – 2:20)
Psalm 74 (Listen – 2:34)

This Weekend’s Readings

Numbers 31 (Listen – 5:52), Psalm 75-76 (Listen – 2:33)
Numbers 32 (Listen – 5:22), Psalm 77 (Listen – 2:12)

Read more about How to Read Prophetic Judgment
Judgment-filled prophecy is one case in scripture where it is safer to assume it’s about you than others. 

Read more about Sufferings and False Prophets
Some [faithful prophets] were maligned for being unpatriotic or hating their country. Some were arrested, killed, or accused of conspiracy against the king.


The Poisonous Merry-Go-Round of Mockery

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 26.2-3
Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,’ 3 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.

Psalm 74.18-19
18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, LORD, 
how foolish people have reviled your name. 
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; 
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever. 

Reflection: The Poisonous Merry-Go-Round of Mockery
By John Tillman

Mocking is not looked on favorably by God in scripture. 

While his punishment for the sins of Jerusalem was being carried out, God had harsh responses to nations surrounding Israel and Judah who would mock, cheer, celebrate, or participate in the destruction. Tyre is just one example. 

There are long lists of countries and kings falling under God’s judgement for mockery and scorn. God’s people, however, should not be among them. When Jerusalem is being mocked, Ezekiel is instructed to lament the fall of the mockers. Mockers will be brought to justice. We are instructed to lament.

Tyre was powerful, not because of its land mass but because of its economic influence. The economy of the Mediterranean ran on Tyrian ships. Tyre’s glee at the fall of Israel was due to the newly opened opportunities for profit.

Comedy and satire have a fitting role in entertainment and the arts, but it is the vitriol that passes for political rhetoric and news coverage that is the most profitable form of mockery today. Individuals, institutions, and industries are built upon the monetization of mockery.

When someone or something crashes and burns, jeers and mockery rise with the smoke. The more savage the headline, the better it will sell. They aren’t making beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61.3) They are making money from it. 

Meanness makes the world go ‘round, mockery is a media moneymaker, and Christians have been hopping on this poisonous merry-go-round. As Tim Keller said recently, “The demonization and dehumanization of the other side must stop. When professing Christians do it, it is triply wrong.” We help monetize mockery with our retweets, likes, shares, and passing on the derisive and divisive rhetoric that we intake.

Every time we click and share, the scornful cash in. Scorn is on the menu as we scroll through tweets, headlines, and memes. Far too many of Christ’s people lap up the disdain which drips from the lips of politicians and reporters and then spew it back out like so much bile. Disciples sound like their teachers. Some Christians sound more like these heartless mockers than like their rabbi-in-name-only, Jesus.

Although God tells Ezekiel of Tyre’s fate, is it not for Ezekiel to gloat or celebrate. God instructs him to lament. (Ezekiel 27.1-2) God deals with mockers. We need not return fire.

Judgment will come for mockers. May God’s people not be among them.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you. — Psalm 25.19-20

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 26  (Listen – 3:45)
Psalm 74 (Listen – 2:34)

Read more about Responding to Political Violence
Our political rancor has reached the point of normalizing violence…Christians not excluded.

Read more about Abandoning Human Vengeance
We must be the first to break the chain of retaliatory and violent rhetoric.
We must abandon human vengeance before we can see divine justice.

A Prophet in a Golden Age

Psalm 74. 7-8
They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
   they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
   They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.

Reflection: A Prophet in a Golden Age
By John Tillman

Asaph was a contemporary of David and was writing psalms for worship both during David’s reign and afterward, under Solomon.

Asaph was not only a poet. Asaph performed music as well. He was a percussionist, often noted as playing the cymbals and it is likely he played multiple instruments as was appointed chief over all the musicians creating and performing for worship in the Temple.

Asaph is also a prophet. Psalms were often considered to be written as prophecy. Jesus described David’s psalmody as being written, “by the Spirit.”

The prophecy of destruction that this psalm describes would have seemed highly unlikely when it was written. During the lifespan of Asaph, The Temple was never remotely close to being under any threat similar to the ones mentioned in verses four through eight. It would be hundreds of years before the Babylonians laid waste to Solomon’s Temple and hundreds more before the Romans destroyed the Temple Jesus visited in Jerusalem.

Some, for this reason have questioned the authorship, saying that likely it was written later by a descendant or merely “in the style of” Asaph. But when we already ascribe prophetic power to the psalms in general, there is no specific reason to doubt the prophetic nature of this psalm.

Prophecy seems to run in Asaph’s family. It is one of Asaph’s descendants who speaks up to King Josiah in a moment of crisis with a prophecy from the Lord about invading armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites.

Asaph was a prophet, a poet, and a creative leader living in the golden age of the kingdom Israel and a golden age of the worship of God in the Temple. David’s works are largely autobiographical. Asaph’s seem to be focused on the fate and faith of the entire country in times ahead.

Despite living in some of Israel’s best years, many of Asaph’s works contain laments about the destruction of Israel or the Temple. Even in times of blessing, prophets can see the roots of sins that will bear bitter fruit in the future.

We need the warnings of the prophets no matter what our circumstances. It doesn’t matter if we live in a golden age or in one we wish could be restored to its former state, the warnings of the prophets are for us.

May we never trust in the power of a king. Even the greatest kings of Israel were sinners, guilty of great injustices.
May we never groan at the messages of prophets. Especially when they tell us something that we don’t want to hear.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 30 (Listen – 2:20) 
Psalm 74 (Listen – 2:34)

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Read more about How to Read Prophetic Judgment
We blunt the point of prophecy’s spurs when we avoid the probability that we are the ones a prophecy is about. We miss the point of prophecy entirely when we weaponize it to attack others.

Read more about Lamenting Our Detestable Things
Idols are an expression of our desire for control and self-reliance. They are fueled by our selfishness and self-importance.

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