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.


Psalm 90

Meditations on the Psalms by Kevin Youngblood

Teach us how to apportion our days that we might gain a wise heart. Psalm 90:12

Psalm 90 is a sobering reflection on the brevity of human life from the perspective of divine eternity. With the reality of death firmly fixed before the psalmist, he proceeds to marvel at the speed with which the days evaporate. Nothing quite focuses our attention on the present, on our priorities, as does the contemplation of our deaths, especially the fact that we are not guaranteed another day on this earth. There is simply no time to waste on sin and self from this perspective. Perhaps this is why the Rule of St. Benedict advises us “To desire eternal life with all of the passion of the spirit. To keep death daily before one’s eyes.”

This I think captures well what the psalmist is saying: “Teach us to keep death daily before our eyes.” When I practice this discipline of contemplating my death, of imagining that today is the last day of my life, I am immediately ashamed at how much time I have wasted on foolish, shallow pleasures, on sin and selfishness. I would get stuck in this downward spiral of shame were it not for the assurance of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Lamentations 3:23 comes into razor sharp focus – YHWH’s compassionate acts are renewed every morning. In the light of Psalm 90 and in the light of the discipline of “keeping death daily before my eyes” I come to see that time itself is a grace of God. The fact that God has given me one more day to make things right, to live with the correct priorities, to give sin no place, and to waste no time on selfishness and shallow pleasures is itself evidence that he graciously woke me up this morning to further his work in my mind and heart and to extend his healing love in and through me for the betterment of the world.


Mark 3:13-15

Meditations in Mark by Kevin Youngblood

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. Mark 3:13-15

The gospel reading for yesterday’s evening office caught my attention and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. The words “and he went up on the mountain” stood out to me as never before as I read about Jesus’ selection of the twelve apostles. This is such an important moment in Jesus’ ministry that I doubt anything about is accidental or insignificant, including his choice of venue. Why did Jesus ascend a mountain before summoning the twelve he had chosen as apostles?

I think the reason may be that Jesus is recreating the scene from Exodus 19 – 20 where the twelve tribes of Israel first arrive at Sinai and enter into covenant with YHWH. YHWH was very insistent that no one even touch, much less climb, the mountain he had chosen for his first formal address to Israel as his new holy people. Indeed, the prohibition was reinforced with the threat of death by stoning whether human or beast. YHWH’s point in making this strict prohibition, I think, was to emphasize that he must take the initiative in establishing a relationship with Israel. He does not want a repeat of Babel where human beings took it upon themselves to construct their own sacred mountain and to climb their way up it to reach God on their own terms. Rather, YHWH will descend the mountain and dwell among the people in a tent non unlike the ones in which they live during their desert sojourn. Furthermore, Sinai was a prototype of sacred space and was therefore divided into three zones (corresponding to the tabernacle’s three sections: the court, the holy place, and the most holy place). Thus Israel who was clean but not holy as were the priests had to remain at the foot of the mountain. Moses (and only Moses), however, as prototypical high priest, could ascend to the peak of Sinai which corresponds to the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies.


Psalm 118

Meditations on the Psalms: Kevin Youngblood


 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.

What can man do to me?

The Lord is on my side as my helper;

I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord

than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord

than to trust in princes.

I have never felt entirely comfortable with the psalmist’s assertion in Psalm 118:6. The psalmist says “YHWH is on my side.” The Hebrew here is a little more ambiguous (יְהוָ֣ה לִ֭י) “YHWH is for me” or “YHWH is mine,” but the discomfort remains. I suppose this is because I have been warned all of my life of reducing God to the level of a human companion, a sidekick, a groupie, a cheerleader, someone who is unconditionally committed to supporting and advancing whatever cause I happen to be championing at the time.


Psalm 46

Meditations on the Psalms: Kevin Youngblood

Come, behold the works of the Lord,

how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

These closing lines of Psalm 46 are somewhat surprising. On the one hand, they invite us to behold YHWH’s “works.” We expect to see the unveiling of some great masterpiece, some breathtakingly beautiful work of art, but what we see instead are the desolations that he has brought on the earth. Can this be right? In what sense can it be said that desolations are the work of God? Surely this cannot be the goal or objective of God’s work. Indeed it isn’t.

This leads to the next surprise in the closing of Psalm 46. These desolations are further defined as the cessation of wars. The ground is littered with broken bows, shattered spears, the charred remains of chariots. The desolations of verse 8 are in reality an expose of the emptiness and ugliness of the world we have built on the foundation of violence, division, warfare and bloodshed. The desolation is the divine disarmament of the unsustainable world at war with itself. God has entered the fray as the divine warrior to forever disarm the opposing sides of every conflict. The weapons of our warfare cannot simply be put away, they must be disabled – made incapable of ever shedding blood and taking life again. Thus the desolation. But even this is not God’s ultimate goal. This is still just ground clearing.