A Meditation on Psalm 89

Kevin J Youngblood

Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,

who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,

16 who exult in your name all the day

and in your righteousness are exalted.

(Psalm 89:15-16)

I never cease to be amazed at what a profound impact the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 had on the Psalter. Dozens of these prayers and hymns allude to this benediction as they unpack its significance for Israel’s every-day life. Obviously, for the psalmists, this benediction was no mere liturgy, no mere formality. They took it very seriously and thought deeply about its implications. The psalms that allude to Numbers 6:24-26, therefore, may be thought of as a kind of commentary on this priestly blessing.


Meditations on Psalm 87 and 90

Kevin J Youngblood

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;

the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.

Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—

“This one was born there,” they say.

And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her.

The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah

(Psalm 87)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

(Psalm 90:1-2)

The hymns of the Psalter strike a remarkable theological balance seldom witnessed elsewhere within a single book. Psalms 87 and 90 are a perfect example. Psalm 87 is difficult for Christians to relate to due to its over-the-top enthusiasm for physical space, its unrelenting insistence that YHWH loves Zion best. Jerusalem is, after all, where YHWH chose to live among the tribes of Israel. The psalm makes YHWH sound like a devoted New Yorker (“Start spreading the news. I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.”) or any resident of the state of Texas (“The stars at night shine big and bright deep in the heart of Texas”). Such loyalty to a particular city and determination to reside there seems inappropriate for YHWH on at least two grounds: first YHWH is omnipresent and, therefore, supposedly not located in any particular place that can be found on a map; second, YHWH loves all of his creation, all nations and cities and therefore, supposedly, cannot favor one over the others. Thus, Psalm 87 smacks of the kind of ethnocentrism and tribalism that is roundly condemned elsewhere in Scripture, especially the NT.


A Meditation on Hebrews 12

Kevin J Youngblood

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.(Hebrews 12:18-24)

The author of Hebrews allegorizes Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion so that they represent two contrasting covenants: the Mosaic covenant (associated with Sinai) and the Davidic covenant (associated with Zion). Though both covenants are fulfilled in Christ, the Davidic covenant reaches a special climax in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as these constitute the coronation and enthronement of the Davidic descendent who will finally make good on God’s promise to have a descendent of David reign forever. Heb 12:22-24 proceeds to describe a royal courtroom scene with all of the royal attendants celebrating Jesus’ accession to the throne.


Meditation on Leviticus 19

Kevin J Youngblood

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 19:9-10)

Admittedly, Leviticus 19 is an odd collage of commandments. What exactly holds these miscellaneous laws together such that they have some kind of coherence is not at all clear upon a first (or maybe even a second or third) reading. The instructions offered here range from the sublime (You shall lover your neighbor as yourself, 19:18) to the mundane, bordering on the arbitrary and incomprehensible (Peace offerings MUST be eaten on the same day they are offered or at the latest, the day after. Nothing left of it is to be eaten on the third day, 19:5-7).
There is, however, a thread of continuity running throughout the chapter.


Meditation on Psalm 56

Kevin J Youngblood

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56)

I am often disarmed by the childlike faith of the psalmists. When I come across passages like the one above, I ask myself, can it really be that easy? The psalms make it sound so simple. When afraid, just trust in God. Then you will not be afraid any longer. After all what can mere flesh do to you? With regard to that last question, I can produce a long list of what flesh can do to me including my own.


Meditation on 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

Kevin J Youngblood

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.”

Paul’s words to his beloved brothers and sisters in 1 Thess 2:19-20 are striking. Elsewhere Paul suggests that nothing other than Christ is his hope, his glory, his cause for boasting (Col 1:27; Gal 6:14). Yet here Paul dares to suggest that he boasts in those whom he converted to Christ in Thessalonica. They, he asserts, are his glory and joy. How can both be true? Is Paul here stooping to counting heads, to tallying up the number of baptisms under his belt? This seems unlikely given his apparent lack of concern for such matters, a lack of concern underscored by his apparent forgetfulness of whom or how many he baptized in Corinth (1 Cor 1:14).