By Barbara Klugh
Deuteronomy 34 1-12; Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17; I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s reading, we say goodbye to Moses, Paul describes his ministry in Thessalonica, and Jesus gives us words to live by.
Deuteronomy: The Book of Deuteronomy records Moses’ farewell speeches to the Israelites as they are about to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. It sums up the events of the past 40 years and renews the covenant. This week’s reading is the last chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, which is the last of the five books of Moses, also known as the Torah or the Pentateuch.
Earlier (Num. 20), God told Moses and Aaron that they will not be permitted to lead the people into the Promised Land because Moses disobeyed God’s order to command the rock at Meribah to yield water. Instead, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff. He failed to honor God’s instructions and drew attention to himself. At the time of our reading, Aaron has already died on Mount Hur.
In this week’ reading, Moses went up to Mount Nebo, and the Lord showed Moses all the land he had promised to the Patriarchs and their descendants. Then Moses died “at the Lord’s command.” Before he died, Moses transferred his authority to Joshua through the laying on of hands and the Israelites obeyed Joshua as they had Moses.
The book concludes with a tribute to Moses: “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” Although Israel will again have prophets, none will have the intimate relationship with God as did Moses (until Jesus).
Psalm: The only psalm attributed to Moses, Psalm 90 is a community lament. It contrasts Divine eternity and the brevity of sinful human life. The second part of our selection appeals to God to be gracious and for a return to joy and gladness.
Hymn 680 in our hymnal, “O God our help in ages past” with lyrics by Isaac Watts paraphrases the first part of the psalm. Here it is sung by the choir and the congregation at Westminster Abbey—what tremendous acoustics!
1 Thessalonians: In last week’s reading, Paul praised the Thessalonians for their well-known faith and “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In our reading for this week, Paul tells about his past visit to Thessalonica. He recounts the mistreatment he, along with Timothy and Silvanus, endured in Philippi just before their trip to Thessalonica and the opposition to the gospel of God they encountered in Thessalonica. Paul reports that they taught the truth of the gospel because they had been approved by God to do so. He writes that their motive is to please God, not to win a popularity contest through deceit, flattery, and greed.
Paul said they might have made demands on the Thessalonians because of their stature as apostles of Christ, but instead they nurtured them like a nurse caring for her own children. He reminds them that they are determined to share not only the gospel but also their very own selves.
Matthew: This week’s lesson concludes the verbal exchanges in the temple between Jesus and the religious leaders. Last week they had a question about paying taxes, then (not in the lectionary) Jesus silenced the Sadducees when they questioned him about the resurrection. This week the Pharisees try again.
I almost get the idea that the Sadducees and the Pharisees are having a contest among themselves as to who can get the better of Jesus.
This week the Pharisees approach Jesus and ask: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Quoting Deuteronomy, he answered, “`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” Then Jesus quotes Leviticus 19:18: And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Jesus is brilliant. He joined these two commandments together, creating sort of a double helix of Christian behavior by which we can guide our lives.
Now Jesus has a question for the Pharisees:
“What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
`The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”‘?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Jesus cites Psalm 110, pointing out that the Messiah is not only David’s son, which affirms the Messiah’s humanity, but more than that, he is David’s Lord, the Son of God.