Bible Tuesday for Sunday, August 3, 2014
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
God speaks to the Israelites, and to all people, as Israel is preparing to leave Babylon and return to Judah. According to the Jewish Study Bible, the water and food of verse one are to be understood metaphorically. God invites all who crave guidance and wisdom to come drink the water of Torah and feast on the wisdom of God. The admonition for buying and consuming that which does not satisfy is a reference to Israel following other pursuits and other gods, while ignoring Yahweh and the Torah.
Various rabbis have interpreted verse 3 as a shift in the covenant with David. God promised David that he and his descendants would be on the throne of Israel forever, but during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, that promise ended. Here God is shifting that promise from David’s progeny only to all of Israel. “The restored Judean commonwealth will have no one human king, for all its members will have royal status. Thus Deutero-Isaiah transforms the older Davidic covenant by democratizing it.” (Jewish Study Bible)
Verses 4-5 have been understood by Christians as the promise of Israel and Jesus to us, and all people. However, after the first generation of Jewish disciples and the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, Christians have tended to run to the Jewish scriptures, that is, the Old Testament, and leave the Jews behind, even persecuting them generation after generation.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
Psalm 145 is an acrostic psalm, meaning that each verse begins with each subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This style of psalmody and poetry was common in ancient literature. To sing God’s praise with every letter of the alphabet is the same as saying “God is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.” It symbolizes that God’s wonders and glory are found everywhere and that everything in creation praises God.
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people,* my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah,* who is over all, God blessed for ever.* Amen.
Paul reminds his readers in the church in Rome, and all who ever read this book of Romans, that God’s covenant was first given to Adam and Eve, and then to Abraham and his progeny: Isaac, Jacob, Judah, etc., etc., etc. While we believe that this covenant was fulfilled and culminated in Jesus, God promised it to the Jews, of whom Jesus was one. To be a Christian is to be grafted onto the family tree of Abraham, and the whole Hebrew covenant. To despise Jews or forsake them in any way, is to despise and forsake God’s covenant and our own heritage and family tree.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
While this story happens mid-way through the gospel of Matthew, it is quite early on in Jesus’ ministry. He has just gone home to Capernaum and been disrespected. [“We know you. We know your parents. Where do you get off saying things like that
about Yahweh and us? You little punk!” Matthew 13:54-57 paraphrased] While Jesus was there, John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas. Such an event meant that Jesus was in danger, himself. As he had much teaching and preaching to do before his execution, the gospel writers tell us that when Jesus heard of John’s beheading, the realization of how threatened he was became clear and he “withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” I am sure time for grieving, prayer, and evaluation was also needed. However, I think the term “no rest for the weary” was first coined referring to Jesus, because that is an apt description of his entire ministry.
No sooner does Jesus get out of the boat than he is surrounded by people who desperately need his attention. While Jesus Christ Superstar has a claustrophobic, exasperated Jesus scream, “Heal yourselves!”, the biblical Jesus compassionately resumes right where he left off, healing, loving, teaching, serving.
When the disciples finally catch up with Jesus and the crowds, he gives them a command, “You feed them.” Now, was Jesus being metaphoric, in the same manner as the above Isaiah passage? If he was, the disciples didn’t take it metaphorically. Regardless of how Jesus meant it, the disciples felt inadequate to obey. The disciples scrounged around for what food they could find and hand over to Jesus what little they had. With that, Jesus fed the crowds: five thousand men, plus the women and children.
There were twelve baskets full of leftovers, an amazing fete since we started out with two little perch and five small dinner rolls. But this whole meal is literal and metaphorical. Jesus came to feed the hungry with the bread of life, and to teach the disciples to do the same. There are not just some leftovers. There are twelve baskets of leftovers. How many tribes of Israel? 12 How many disciples? 12 The 12 tribes symbolize the old Israel. The 12 disciples symbolize the new Israel. Those twelves baskets of leftovers are for the Israel yet to come…the non-Israelite Israel.
The gospel of Matthew is particularly focused on the question of “To whom was the Son of God sent?” To his home town? Yes, but they dissed him. To the Jewish authorities? Yes, but they for the most part hated him and helped execute him. To the Jewish peasants? Yes, some of whom became disciples but many misunderstood him. To the non-Jews? Yes, for those who are willing to listen and become disciples. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go make disciples of all nations…”