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God for God's Own Sake

Psalm 27; Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18; Philippians 3:2-12

There are some cool things in all three of these scriptures. One is an answer from a previous post, maybe. On Monday we read in Chronicles that Joab thought it was a bad thing for David to conduct a census and count the people. We didn't know why and my commentary said the text doesn't say why. Here's an answer in Genesis: "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted." Perhaps Joab thought that the intent of God was for Abram's offspring to be uncountable, and counting proves God hasn't yet delivered on that promise. Perhaps, based on this idea, we shouldn't "Count our blessings," but just enjoy them and trust that they are overflowing and uncountable.

What I love most about the scripture today, though--what makes me want to sing praises for the lectionary--is a couple of moments in Psalm 27. Earlier this week we were looking at Psalm 17, and in Psalm 17 there is a strong sense of petition for vindication: I (the first person of the psalm, David according to the superscription) am righteous and "my feet have not slipped," yet there are enemies who surround me; I have "lips free from deceit," but "with their mouths, they speak arrogantly." The Psalm closes with a positive couplet: "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness." I like this last couplet, but it seems that it's all about me (the first person) being right, calling on God for vindication, and being confident that God will provide refuge.

Today's psalm, Psalm 27, has moments, though where all that conditionality is transcended. In spots, there's no connection between the psalmist (also David, by the superscription) and the vindication, between the righteousness of the psalmist and God providing refuge. Like in verse 4: "One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Again, in verses 8 & 9: "'Come,' my heart says, 'seek his face!' Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me." I love these moments of pure adoration of God for God's own sake. I love that the thing the psalmist wants is the beauty of the Lord, to see God's face. I love that the pure experience (visual, in this case) of God is the only motivation.

Paul does this a little in Philippians, too: "I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Jesus, only Jesus. No call for reward, no requirement of keeping myself righteous--all that follows ("Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own"), but the goal itself is just Jesus. The rest is grateful response because, as Paul says, "Christ Jesus has made me his own."