1Kgs 11:29-32; 12:19; Ps 81:10,11ab,12-15; Mk 7:31-37
In every generation the LORD God cries out in the words of Psalm 81, “If only my people would hear me!” Yet, they never do. Indeed, Israel obeyed him not; they did not hear his voice. We do the same thing, and the LORD, in his permissive will, gives us up to the hardness of our hearts. We walk according to our own counsels, and again the blind lead the blind. We, his New Israel, are deaf and we have no words to express our urgent petition. If only we would turn back to him and walk in his ways, quickly would he humble our enemies; against our foes he would turn his hand. In every generation we are as stubborn and stiff-necked as were our ancestors in the faith. We hear his command spoken clearly—“There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship any alien god. I, the LORD, am your God who led you forth from the land of Egypt.” Indeed, the LORD has led us forth from the many lands of our slavery to sin and evil. Now, we are not ignoring his messenger, but we are painfully aware that our deafness has been the source of our division—we hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest. Like Jeroboam we hear a pagan prophet proclaim a truth we do not want to hear. In this liturgy we ask the Lord Jesus to take us aside and enable us to listen so that we might shout for joy in his victory.
Even today, the Jews do not buy into the messages of the pagan nations around them. This was even more true back in the days of King Jeroboam. Any Shilonite, even a prophet, was not accorded the time of day. However, Jeroboam is startled—stopped in his tracks—because this pagan prophet takes off his new cloak and tares it into twelve pieces as a prophetic action to make his point. A cloak is an expensive item and tarring it up makes it worthless. So Ahijah is serious about his message, serious enough to sacrifice his new cloak. This pagan prophet delivers the Word of God to the king of Israel. Such an arrangement embarrasses the Israelites and their king into listening and responding to the Word of God. After all this communication between the Prophet Ahijah and the King Jeroboam, the Israelites were ready to go into rebellion against David’s house. What more do we want? Even the cloak of the Lord Jesus is stripped away and it was about to be torn in half and given away to the soldieries. However, it provides for shelter from the rain. His whole garment points beyond the darkness and pain of the present into the glorious reign of the future coming of the perfect and obedient son of David, son of Solomon, the truly wise and gracious Savior of all the nations.
Again the Lord travels through a predominately pagan district. With his reputation the crowds brought him a deaf man with a speech impediment. They begged him to perform a miracle. He took the man off by himself away from the crowd. He did not want to entertain the curious or wow the sightseer. Nor did he want to reinforce a false notion of who he was as the messiah. He is not the powerful one who will lead an army to conquer not only disease but the deaf and mute emperor and his minions. The Lord Jesus wanted to give the full benefit of his attention and tenderness to the deaf mute. Perhaps in some ways this man was a symbolic representation for the whole crowd. Coming from a pagan world he had never heard the Word of God; he had never spoken the praises of God. Like our ancestor Adam he was silent, unable to speak, perhaps under the influence of an evil spirit, who had all the cunning of the serpent. The Lord Jesus gave his full love and attention to the deaf mute. After he touched, spit, and groaned the Lord commanded, “Be opened!” Immediately the man could hear clearly and speak plainly. The Lord commanded his silence, but the healed man could not hold back the good news. His disobedience brought the Lord Jesus greater fame. The crowds were astonished and filled with his praises. Perhaps the LORD God was beginning again, a whole new creation—without deafness or muteness. Perhaps now even the pagans will hear his word and sing his praises. Perhaps these signs and wonders will summon all of the descendants of Adam and Eve to obedience.