Matthew 10-18: In Chapter 10 we have the second of five Torah-like compendiums of Jesus’ teachings, this one on mission, ministry and discipleship. The third such collection is of parables, in chapter 13. Over the course of these chapters we see Jesus effectively reconstituting Israel in new ways, with new angles that fulfill even as they replace the old purity rules that divided Gentiles from Jews. Key to the new Israel is Peter’s confession of faith, in Chapter 16. Anabaptist Christians, like most Protestants, have understood “the rock” on which Jesus is building his church to be Peter’s confession of faith and allegiance, rather than Peter himself. “The Rule of Christ,” in chapter 18: 15-19, is the enforcement mechanism of the New Israel, confrontation, confession, reconciliation and forgiveness rather than the death penalties of the Law of Moses. In all the matters that come up, whether divorce, grudges or conflicts, the greatest threat to the new Israel is not pagan outsiders but our own “hardness of heart.” (19:8). This explains the difference between the Law of Moses and the “grace and truth” which came with Jesus Christ.
The reader may note that Matthew has used the material of Mark’s gospel for both substance and the general outline of events (with a few chronological re-arrangements). Mark was only one source. Anything common also to Luke’s gospel, but not Mark, is often ascribed to a source called “Q” for “Quelle,” or “source” in German. Then there are some teachings that are unique to Matthew, such as some of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, plus some details like the infancy narrative and the dreams.
PSALM 77 is a lament that registers the confusion of the psalmist and the people, when pondering the difference between what God did in the Exodus (verses 15-20) and what God appears not to be doing in the moment. This is where most of God’s people spend most of their history, “waiting upon the Lord,” in that in-between time, when we can look back to what God has done, and yet must look ahead to a time when God will act. It is hard then to remember that sustaining our faith, hope and longing during that in-between time is itself already a miraculous work of God’s Spirit.
PSALM 78 recounts the Exodus and the Sinai pilgrimage in such a way as to draw parallels to another act of deliverance, the choice of Zion as the place for God’s temple, and of David and his lineage for kingship. As Israel was rebellious and unreliable in Egypt and Sinai, in spite of the wondrous works of God on their behalf, so are his people yet. Thus the need for a king. As the monarchy and future events will prove, the choice of David and Zion will prove no complete answer to the riddle of human folly and unreliability, not until the Son of David brings to completion the New Zion.
PSALM 79 reads almost like a warning in response to the previous psalm. It is a lament for the destruction of Zion, the temple and the monarchy. It also contains an imprecation, a curse to the effect that those who destroyed Zion may receive of their evil sevenfold vengeance. While this may have come true for Babylon in the years that followed the Exile, the prayer of verse 13, that God’s people might ever praise him in peace, throughout all succeeding generations, comes to fulfillment with Jesus and the New Zion, after Rome destroyed the city and the temple again, in AD 70.