Psalm 81 is a festival psalm, used at the autumn harvest (also known as the festival of Tents, or Booths). It encourages celebration, music and singing, on the feast day – together with a reminder that the call to do this is ancient, coming from the time of the Exodus from Egypt. This section of the psalm ends by reminding the people to be faithful to the God who redeemed them. The Psalm conveys the sense of life that God brings.
2nd Corinthians 4.5-12
Paul faced some challenges with the church at Corinth. He saw the way through as realising that we are to be truly Christ-centred. So it is that Paul is modest about his achievements and settles happily for being a “clay jar” which contains treasure. In antiquity it was sometimes the practice to contain treasure in such vessels. He was satisfied with being identified alongside what was fragile and disposable in order that God might be glorified.
The religious experts have criticised Jesus’ healing of a paralysed man (2.1-12), his calling of ‘tax collectors and sinners’ (2.13-17), and his disciples’ refusal to fast in his presence (2.18-22). Now in these two stories the experts are again keen to find fault by interpreting the prohibition of work on the sabbath almost impossibly strictly. Jesus responds with the story of David, who gave his followers five loaves of the bread of the Presence (1 Samuel 21.1-6), baked every sabbath and kept in the sanctuary for the priests, and only the priests, to eat (Leviticus 24.5-9). So Jesus, who is ‘Son of David’ (10.47) as well as ‘the Son of Man’, is ‘Lord even of the sabbath’ (v.28). This is a call to move beyond any legalistic pre-occupations that we may have and to embrace God’s compassion and grace.
- Why do you think that Paul describes us as clay jars?
- What does it feel like to have the treasure of knowing Jesus inside you?
- Who do you think is extraordinary? What makes them so?