A Meditation on Psalm 25:14

Kevin J Youngblood

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,

and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14)

The biblical concept of “the fear of the LORD” has long fascinated and often confused me. I was reminded of this fascination this morning as I read Psalm 25:14. What kind of foundation for friendship is fear? At first blush, this sounds like the beginning of a very unhealthy relationship. Of course, the problem is that we cannot seem to overcome our own cultural understanding of the word “fear.” I like to think of it this way. The term “the fear of the LORD” is an irreducible concept. That is to say that it cannot be understood by simply adding up the sum of its parts. The fear of the LORD is not simply fear + of + the + LORD. It is very much like the word “butterfly.” “Butterfly” cannot be understood in terms of butter + fly. Such an approach would be entirely misleading. Yet, those for whom English is a second language must surely think “butterfly” an odd designation for the particular insect so designated in English.
The fear of the LORD has nothing to do with the kind of terror, dread, and avoidance associated with the English word “fear.”


Meditation on Matthew 28:16

Kevin J Youngblood

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. Matthew 28:16

Eleven is an odd number in more ways than one. By this point in Matthew’s gospel, we have become so accustomed to the number twelve that it is truly jarring to be confronted with the number eleven (10:1-2, 5; 11:1; 14:20; 19:28; 20:17; 26:14, 20, 47, 53). Something isn’t right. Someone is missing. There are supposed to be twelve, but there are only eleven.

I was really impacted this morning by this unassuming verse and its mere mention of “the eleven.” The number hit my ear like the shrill screech on a violin when the bow goes astray interrupting what was otherwise a mesmerizing concerto. For all of Judas’ faults and for his inexcusable betrayal of the Lord, I cannot help but miss him when I read this verse.


The Pleasure of Prayer

Kevin J Youngblood

I read something this morning that really stimulated my thinking about prayer. Sir Roger Scruton’s excellent book “Beauty: A Very Short Introduction” notes a distinction in the philosophy of aesthetics between various kinds of pleasure. He labels these “pleasure from,” “pleasure that,” and “pleasure in.” “Pleasure from” he defines as the pleasing sensation one derives from an interaction with someone, or from the consumption of something. He uses the example of snorting cocaine. One’s pleasure of cocaine is pleasure from the high that the drug induces and not pleasure in the cocaine itself. Similarly, “pleasure that” is the sense of accomplishment one derives from the completion of a duty, especially, though not necessarily, an unpleasant duty. For example, I am paying my tax bill today, and while I do not enjoy paying taxes per se, I do derive a pleasing kind of relief from paying it and being out from under this obligation to my government. “Pleasure in,” however, is quite distinct from the previous two in that its focus is purely the beauty and enjoyment of the person or object itself, for his/her/its own sake, apart from any benefit or utility the person or object may have.


Meditation on Psalm 66

Kevin J Youngblood

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened.

19 But truly God has listened;

he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,

because he has not rejected my prayer

or removed his steadfast love from me!

Psalm 66:18-20 alerts us to a serious impediment to our prayers – cherishing iniquity in our hearts. When we hold on to secret sins, allowing them to compete with God for our affections, we drive a wedge between ourselves and God that makes prayer difficult. This verse reminds me of an old debate I remembered hearing growing up in church. It centered on the question of whether God hears a sinner’s prayers. Some insisted that he does not, others argued just as forcefully that he does. Various biblical texts were marshalled in defense of each position.


Meditation on Exodus 3 and 1 Corinthians 13

Kevin J. Youngblood
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The call of Moses recorded in Exodus 3 revolves around two questions Moses asks. The first is the question he asks of YHWH: Who are you? The second question he also asks of YHWH, but it is less of a genuine question, like the first, than it is a polite refusal of YHWH’s invitation that he be God’s agent of Israel’s deliverance.

On another level, however, the two questions confront the reader with a profound reality. Who is God and who am I. These two questions are inextricably intertwined just as much for us as they were for Moses. We cannot really know who we are until we know who God is. At the center of the human quest for identity is a vicious circle: knowing ourselves is impossible without knowing God, and knowing God seems inevitably to require us to know ourselves. Calvin captured this circularity perfectly in the opening line of Book One of his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

The First Book treats of the knowledge of God the Creator. But as it is in the creation of man that the divine perfections are best displayed, so man also is made the subject of discourse. Thus the whole book divides itself into two principal heads—the former relating to the knowledge of God, and the latter to the knowledge of man.


Meditation on Mark 5

Kevin J. Youngblood

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

The story of Jesus’ raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is the interruption of this urgent, extremely time-sensitive request for healing to deal with a much older woman’s long-term (and therefore far less urgent) condition. It is in fact during this interruption that Jairus’ servants inform him that Jesus is too late. His daughter is already dead and there is no point in troubling the master further.

Something, I had never noticed before, however, is the significance of Jesus’ calling the woman with the issue of blood “daughter.” First of all, it is exceedingly rare for Jesus to refer to women by the designation “daughter.” The only other occasion when Jesus does this is when he addresses the “Daughters of Jerusalem” on his way to Golgotha in Luke 23:28. Mark 5:34 (and its parallels in Matthew and Luke), therefore, is the only occasion when Jesus thus addresses an individual. What struck me this evening as I read this story again is how Jesus’ identification with this woman as daughter parallels Jairus’ request for Jesus to come and heal his daughter.