A Meditation on Psalm 99: 8

Kevin J Youngblood

O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them,

but an avenger of their wrongdoings. (Psalm 99:8 ESV)

O YHWH, our god, you personally answered them. You were a forgiving God to them,

and one who exempted them from punishment. (Psalm 99:8 My translation)

I stumbled upon, or perhaps I should say I stumbled OVER, Psalm 99:8 in my devotional reading this morning. In context, the verse is referring to the intimate relationship that Moses, Aaron, and Samuel all enjoyed as YHWH’s priests. I was deeply bothered however by the psalmist’s twin assertions that YHWH was a forgiving God to them but also an avenger of their wrongdoings. I could not for the life of me understand how YHWH could both forgive and avenge the same person for the same sins. Afterall, biblical forgiveness precludes revenge, even for God. If God avenges our wrongdoing, then there is nothing to forgive. He has imposed the penalty due to our sin, and exacted from us payment in full for the debt. Nothing is forgiven.

These were my thoughts upon reading the English translation, in this case, the ESV. This inner conflict made me suspicious and so I looked up Psalm 99:8 in my Hebrew Bible and translated the verse for myself. That is when I discovered a fascinating and extremely significant ambiguity in the text.


A meditation on Psalm 89: 9

Kevin J Youngblood
O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? 
9 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. (Psalm 89:8-10)


YHWH’s unique ability to calm the raging sea is a recurring motif in the psalms (Pss. 65:7; 89:9; 93:4; 107:23-29). Often it is associated with the mythic theme of the primordial battle with chaos characteristic of numerous ancient Near Eastern creation stories as it is in Psalm 89:8-10. In most contexts in the Psalter, the raging sea is a metaphor for overwhelming trouble and/or sorrows – the countless enemies who relentlessly pursue or the mounting and growing anxious thoughts that refuse to be silenced and constantly rob us of peace (e.g. Ps. 65:7 where the stilling of the sea is parallel to the quieting of the nations’ tumult).

The psalmists find it immensely comforting that YHWH engages and mitigates what no one else can – the chaos of life.


A Meditation on Judges 11: 1-3

Kevin J Youngblood

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.

The first three verses of Judges 11 sum up succinctly yet thoroughly the tragic beginning of Jepthah’s life and establish the tragic trajectory of his story – a story that is all too familiar and that is shared by far too many. We first learn that he was a mighty warrior, full of strength, passion, and potential if only it could be harnessed. Unfortunately, his scandalous origins haunt him and are thrown back in his face by his half brothers as their excuse for excluding him from the family and the inheritance. Even though the text refuses to psychologize Jephthah and says nothing explicitly about his emotional response, I cannot help but feel the pain of rejection that shot through him. What the text does reveal is his physical response – he flees the painful parentage and brutal brotherhood of home in search of an alternative community, one that will accept him as he is, one that will not shame him for a parentage that he did not choose and has no choice but to live with.


A Meditation on Judges 6: 12-14

Kevin J Youngblood

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”  (Judges 6:12-14)

God sees in us what we cannot see in ourselves, and he sees in our situations possibilities and purposes to which we are completely blind. I was reminded of this encouraging truth as I read the beginning of Gideon’s story in the book of Judges. It is striking to me how casually heaven intersects with earth at crucial moments in redemptive history. The text states that the angel of YHWH came and sat under a tree next to Gideon’s winepress as if this were an everyday occurrence. Maybe it is! Maybe heaven is intersecting with earth all around us everyday and we just don’t have eyes to see it, at least not until we are desperate enough to have eyes to see it.


A Meditation on Psalm 71

Kevin J Youngblood

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

forsake me not when my strength is spent.

10 For my enemies speak concerning me;

those who watch for my life consult together

11 and say, “God has forsaken him;

pursue and seize him,

for there is none to deliver him.” (Psalm 71:9-11)

So even to old age and gray hairs,

O God, do not forsake me,

until I proclaim your might to another generation,

your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)

I’ve been getting a lot of mail from AARP lately. What a lovely reminder of how old I am! As I reflect on my own aging and the future prospect of retirement, I am tempted to get depressed. Our cultural myths about aging have already sunk deep into my psyche. Fears of being sidelined, becoming outdated and passe, replaced with a younger model, “sent out to pasture” as it were fill my head. This is when I realized that, along with the rest of my culture, I have been bowing down before the idol of youth.

Psalm 71 is a helpful corrective to my misgivings about aging.


A Meditation on Judges 2: 1-3

Kevin J Youngblood

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:1-3)

The opening paragraph of Judges 2 fascinates for several reasons. Who is this “angel of YHWH”? What was he doing in Gilgal to begin with? Why is he delivering a prophetic oracle? Shouldn’t a prophet be doing that instead of this “angel of YHWH”? Let’s start with the curious detail that “the angel of YHWH went up from Gilgal to Bochim.”