This is the first of three days reading from Psalm 118. This song of praise for God’s deliverance is one of the more familiar Psalms, and has been much beloved in both Hebrew and Christian tradition. Martin Luther, for instance, called it, “My own beloved psalm.” It has been called “open-ended” for the mystery regarding its speaker. Many have read the speaker as a single individual, but evidence suggests that the speaker is the corporate people of Israel. Or perhaps the speaker is a king who is both an individual and the representation of Israel. In the Christian tradition, the speaker has often been identified as Jesus. This interpretation certainly aligns with Jesus’ roles as king, and as the representative of God’s people who faithfully fulfills the God’s covenant with His people.
The passage from Deuteronomy is a reminder to the people about the significance of Passover. The Hebrew scriptures (the Christian Old Testament) are filled with references to God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt. It is by his saving act of deliverance that the God of Israel is known to Israel. It is by the saving deliverance from bondage to sin and death that God continues to be known to His family.
The selection from Philippians contains the magnificent early Christian hymn regarding Jesus’ humility. This depiction is irreplaceable for understanding the essence of Christianity. In these words, human expectations of God are challenged and transformed. We naturally incline towards a view of God that emphasizes power. And yet, as the ultimate and decisive revelation of God, Christ reveals God’s power to be far more mysterious than we can imagine. Even the most accomplished theologians understand practically nothing about what it would mean for transcendent and omnipotent Being to be emptied into the “form of a slave.” We can barely glimpse that by this humbling Christ is exalted to ultimate authority.
We can only understand that it is an event of love and grace and mercy. To whatever degree we comprehend it, it compels our gratitude and love in response.