A Meditation on Psalm 147: 8-11

Kevin J Youngblood
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
(Psalm 147:7-11)

YHWH’s activities in Psalm 147:8-11 are so mundane, so ordinary, one wonders why they are even mentioned much less so raucously celebrated by the psalmist. YHWH is described as a groundskeeper who waters the grass and the flowers so they grow. When is the last time I even noticed, much less praised a groundskeeper? YHWH is the caretaker at the zoo who makes his rounds at the crack of dawn ensuring that all of the animals are fed. When is the last time I ever even gave a thought to the person who rises early to care for the animals at my local zoo?

Yet, the psalmist reminds us, YHWH’s delight is not in what his creatures can do for him. He needs no cavalry (strength of the horse) or infantry (legs of a man) to advance his cause. What does bring YHWH pleasure is the pleasure we experience when we suddenly wake up to his presence in the monotony of living. That is to say that YHWH takes pleasure in those who fear him. Once again, this expression is so easy to misunderstand.


A Meditation on Acts 8: 1-4

Kevin J Youngblood
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1b – 4)

Sometimes the Spirit has to give us a shove in order to get us out into the world of pain and brokenness. We do not go voluntarily. The church never has. The pattern in the Book of Acts is that the Spirit scatters us, usually through some kind of hardship like persecution, in order to place us where we need to be for the sake of the world. This seems an odd strategy for one we call the “Comforter.”

The comfort that the Spirit gives, however, is not coddling. It is not the growth-restricting, maturity-inhibiting protectiveness of a helicopter parent. It is not the comfort of avoidance, not the reassurance that we will never have to do anything hard and painful, but comfort in the midst of the hard and painful things that God calls us to do. Words like “lamentation” and “ravaging” punctuate this text. The truth is we will never know just how powerful the Spirit’s comfort is until we’ve experienced it in the very midst of our most intense trials.


A Meditation on Psalm 123

Kevin J Youngblood
To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
(Psalm 123:1-2)

The emphasis on the psalmists’ eyes looking to YHWH in Psalm 123 is striking. I am reminded of the way each of my children have learned to look at me in such a way that just makes my heart melt. Any parent will immediately know what I am talking about. Whether this is an inborn or acquired skill, our children somehow always know how to look at us in such a way as to nearly always get what they want. I don’t mean to belittle as this some manipulative ploy. Far from it! I think this ability speaks to a profound connection. That pleading, helpless look that our children acquire when they really need or want something is, in reality, an appeal to the best aspects of our humanity – evidence of their confidence in our abiding love and empathy for them.

I thought of this as I read these words from Psalm 123 this morning.


A Meditation on Judges 15: 16-20

Kevin J Youngblood
When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”

17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi. 18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years. (Judges 15:14-20)

I could not help but be amused this morning as I read this episode from Samson’s life. In particular, I chuckled at his petulant and pushy insistence that YHWH slake his thirst after his remarkable performance in battle against the Philistines. Samson is a classic example of a type-cast character. He is a brutish caricature of masculinity found frequently in world literature alternately extoled for heroism and vilified for insensitive impetuousness (e.g. Gilgamesh, Gaston). These days, of course, Samson and his ilk are public enemy number one – the source of all that is wrong with the world which makes this episode and the Samson story in general all the more critical and urgent for our time.

The Samson cycle in the book of Judges is a reminder of the remarkable variety of types of characters with whom YHWH partners to advance his holy purposes.


A Meditation on John 4: 1-2

Kevin J Youngblood

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. (John 4:1-2)

I have never really paid much attention to the first two verses of John 4. Like most avid readers of John’s gospel I always just sped right past them to get to the engrossing story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. This morning, however, these verses stopped me in my tracks. Question after question tumbled in my mind as I tried to make sense of this odd segue into this significant story.

The first question that occurred to me was why Jesus even cared that the Pharisees had heard that his ministry was eclipsing John’s. Since when has Jesus ever shied away from conflict from this self-appointed “God-squad” much less let them determine his agenda?


A Meditation on John 3: 25-30

Kevin J Youngblood

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:25-30)

Why must everything be a competition? It must be human nature, or at least fallen human nature, to view life always as a zero-sum game, a win-lose proposition. I feel the impulse within myself to promote my brand, to insist on the superiority of my denomination, to seek the growth of my congregation even at the expense of the growth of the kingdom. Ultimately, it all boils down to my desire for recognition. I want so badly to achieve personal greatness that my ambition threatens to eclipse my calling to live to God’s glory alone.