They swarmed around me like bees;Psalm 118:12
they blazed against me like a crackling fire.
But I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord.
From it very beginning, Abundance Reconstructed has argued that there are two ways to be in the world, the way of love and the way of power. It is a dichotomy that reframed my understanding of myself and the world almost three years ago when I read Henri Nouwen’s essay, “The Challenge to Love.”
I have written about it as the way of Caesar vs. the way of Jesus, the two definitions of nothing, and the rule and reign of God vs. the way of this age. However you might want to describe it, the conclusion of Psalm 118 is that through the cross and empty tomb, love wins.
Originally, the nation of Israel would use Psalm 118 as part of a service conducted after a decisive military victory. The words harken back to the victory hymn of Exodus 15, where the people of Israel celebrated the Red Sea crashing down upon Pharaoh and his army, an act that assured the people that they were truly free from slavery in Egypt.
At the center piece of the Psalm is a declaration from the king, nine verses where he talks about the Lord’s faithfulness in the midst of battle where, even though surrounded on all sides by the enemy, and despite the enemies best attempt to kill he, he came forward triumphant. In Egypt, Moses would have spoken these words. In later years, I’m sure kings like David and Josiah embodied this role. On Resurrection Sunday, they are the words of Jesus.
So who was it that surrounded him? What did Jesus defeat through his resurrection? While it is tempting to spiritualize the answer or bring something extra to the text, the answer is quite simple. Just as Moses stood against Pharaoh and the Egyptians and David fought the Philistines, Jesus’ enemies were the Roman political powers and Jewish religious establishment. In each case, those are the bodies who use power to accomplish their agenda.
Who Uses Power Today?
How about today? Who in our world uses power? Who do we stand against when declaring, “He is risen!”
Any body that operates according to power over love.
This includes a church that seeks to accomplish its mission through legislation. Politicians who are more concerned with maintaining their own power rather than serving the people who elected them. Corporations and wealthy donors who buy off politicians to assure the passage of legislation that benefits them at the expense of the majority. Business professionals fixated on elevation of the bottom line at any cost. And the list goes on.
But when we believe in the resurrection, when we proclaim, “He is risen!” we oppose these powers knowing they did far worse to Jesus than they can do to any of us, and yet he rose victorious. So when oppression comes, we can boldly join the song of Israel and proclaim:
You are my God, and I will praise you!Psalm 118:28-29
You are my God, and I will exalt you!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.