- Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67
After the death of Sarah and as Abraham nears his own death, he sends a servant to find a wife for their son, Isaac. He wants Isaac not to marry a Canaanite, but someone from his homeland. The servant prays to the Lord to guide him to the right woman for Isaac. The servant meets Rebekah at a town well and discovers she meets the requirements. Then the servant learns that she is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nabor. Isaac takes her and they are married. “So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Later, Rebekah will conspire with their younger son, Jacob, to deceive Isaac when he is old and blind, to cheat Esau out of his birthright blessing. And so through this marriage, which includes human treachery, God’s covenant continues.)
- Psalm 45
This psalm was written for a royal wedding. The bride’s beauty is enhanced by gold gowns and pearls. Their union will produce princes, continuing progeny for generations to come.
- “The Song of My Beloved” (Song of Solomon 2: 8-13)
Writing about the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs as he prefers in The Literary Guide to the Bible, Francis Landy observes that this lyric poem uses extravagant language and strange metaphors, which he calls “verbal magic,” to describe that which cannot be adequately described– the human capacity/need for love, desire, longing and the complex relationship between women and men. In this small excerpt, the woman being wooed by the man compares him to a “young stag or gazelle,” coyly spying on her. He calls to her to come to him, just at the time when the whole earth is awakening with lush bounty and beauty.
- Zechariah 9: 9-12
This excerpt from the Book of Zechariah appears to be inserted into the larger narrative. It celebrates a new king, who “shall bring peace to the nations.” This promise is “for prisoners of hope” who will receive even more than they hoped!
- Psalm 145: 8-15
Citing the divine attribute–“gracious and merciful to all” (Exodus 34:5)– the psalmist extends it to “all” God’s creatures. “All” creature and all humankind respond in praise, acknowledging God’s “mighty acts” and “grandeur.” God’s “kingship” is “for all time.” God’s “kingship” also supports any who “fall” and any who are bowed over under duress. “The eyes of all look in hope to you…”
- Romans 7: 15-25a
Paul acknowledges in himself a unique, universal human predicament: although I know what is right and want to do it, my own body and mind are “at war” within me. Is there no escape from this predicament? “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer: “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Only a grand innovation, literally an act of God, that is, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ can break this cycle of our always failing. Because of God’s limitless second-chances, we can always try to do what we ought to do.
- Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
Once again in Matthew’s narrative, Jesus confronts the strong, even violent, reactions to him in his own generation, which he notes also vilified John the Baptizer whom they criticized as too ascetic. Now they attack Jesus because he cavorts with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus offers a prayer to the Father: although his offer has been refused by the “wise and intelligent,” may it be accessible to “infants.” He issues an invitation to any and all who will accept it. “Take my yoke and learn from me; because I am humble and gentle, you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
From the beginning to the end of biblical texts, God promises over and over to be with us in all the ways that matter most. But every time God’s promise gets entangled in human deception, cowardice and duplicity. And so the promises must be made again and again so the story can continue. Otherwise, the story just peters out in futility and cynicism.
God leads Isaac to the right woman to marry so the covenant can continue for another generation, but later human duplicity twists the way God’s covenant is relayed to the next generation. Paul shakes his head in frustration that on his own he cannot escape the all-too-human predicament of knowing what is right but just not being able to do it. Then he blurts out thanksgiving to God for the spectacular gift of extravagant love– Jesus Christ– through whom Paul has finally found an escape from the conundrum of himself. Jesus, in word and example, breaks the despair and resignation caused by the cycle of our repetitive failures. Jrsus offers an open-ended invitation that requires response from every generation and each person who hears it: take up this relationship with me, it is a new kind of binding, “yoking.”
For whatever reasons, known to God alone, God’s capacity for forgiveness, which allows a second chance, is limitless. It is available to every person for all time. God provides these second chances no matter how messy our lives get.
At the end of “Literature in Secret,” Jacques Derrida writes:
“Forgiveness comes to pass as a covenant between God and God through the human. It comes to pass through the disobedience of man [sic], through man’s evil or fault…” “Saying that forgiveness is a history of God, an affair between God and God– and we humans are found from one end of it to the other end of it– provides neither a reason for nor a means for dispensing with it.” (p. 148)
There is no explanation for why God has chosen to behave this way toward those who persistently fail the relationship God initiated and nurtures, sometimes without our awareness. It is a paradox lost on “the wise and intelligent,” (while babies respond instinctively to such love!). This is the relationship which Jesus invites any and all to “yoke” or bind herself. Even more strange, this is the way God advances God’s agenda from generation to generation.