Archive for the ‘1 Chronicles 21-29’ Category

The Wrath of God and the Ruin of Zion   Leave a comment

Above:  Lamentations in Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART III

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Lamentation 2:1-22

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Two voices speak in Lamentations 2.  The Poet speaks in verses 1-19, followed by Fair Zion in verses 20-22.

The text requires some explanation:

  1. The Temple is the “majesty of Israel” and the footstool of God in verse 1.  We read that God has made the Temple an abomination because of idolatry.
  2. The imagery of the Temple as God’s footstool occurs also in Isaiah 60:13; Ezekiel 43:7; Psalm 132:7; and 1 Chronicles 28:2.
  3. The “might of Israel” (verse 3) is literally the “horn of Israel.”  It signals power and pride (Jeremiah 48:25; Psalm 75:11; et cetera).
  4. The right hand of God (verse 4) is a symbol of divine power in Exodus 15:6, 12.  We read that God intentionally withheld that right hand, thereby permitting the Fall of Jerusalem and the despoilment of the Temple.
  5. The Temple is the “booth,” “shrine,” “shelter,” or “tabernacle” in verse 6.
  6. We read in vers 8 that God used a plumbline to calculate how to destroy the walls of Jerusalem.  One may recall the imagery of a plumbline in Amos 7:7-9, but for a different purpose.
  7. Cannibalism, an extreme result of famine during a siege, is a topic in verse 20.  It is a punishment for violating the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:53-57).

The disturbing imagery in Lamentations 2 portrays devastation and destruction.  Fair Zion concludes the chapter by begging God to see the terrible state of affairs and to consider it.  This anger at God is understandable.

Those who deny that anger at God has a legitimate place in the faith life of individuals and communities are wrong.  The place of Lamentations 2 in the canon of scripture testifies that such anger has a proper role in faith life.  Honest anger is better than dishonest denial.  Honest anger is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND CONVERT IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1896

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Superscription of the Book of Jeremiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART I

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Jeremiah 1:1-3

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The first three verses of the Book of Jeremiah identify the prophet, his father, the prophet’s hometown, and the timeframe of his prophetic ministry.

Jeremiah (“YHWH will exalt”) ben Hilkiah hailed from Anathoth, about three and a half miles northeast of Jerusalem.  The father, Hilkiah, was a priest.  Hilkiah and Jeremiah were outside of the priestly establishment in Jerusalem.  Therefore, this Hilkiah was not the high priest Hilkiah (2 Kings 22:3-23:37) who found the scroll of Deuteronomy in the Temple, brought that scroll to King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.), and participated in Josiah’s religious reformation.

Hailing from Anathoth was significant.  Anathoth was one of the cities assigned to Levitical priests in Joshua 21:18.  After the death of King David, King Solomon had exiled the priest Abiathar (1 Samuel 22:20-22; 1 Samuel 23:6, 9; 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24, 27, 29, 35; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:11; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 1:7, 19, 25, 42; 1 Kings 2:35; 1 Kings 4:4; 1 Chronicles 15:11; 1 Chronicles 18:16; 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 27:34; Mark 2:26) to Anathoth for supporting Adonijah in the struggle for succession (1 Kings 2:26-27).  Jeremiah, therefore, was also a member of a priestly family.  He understood the ancient traditions of Israel, as well as the foundational character of the covenant in the life of Israel.

The superscription also defines the period during which Jeremiah prophesied:  from the thirteenth year (627 B.C.E.) of the reign (640-609 B.C.E.) of King Josiah of Judah through “the eleventh year of King Zedekiah,” “when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month” (586 B.C.E.).  We read in Chapters 39-44 that Jeremiah prophesied after the Fall of Jerusalem, too.  The list of kings names Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.  That list omits Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum and Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah.  Yet, as the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), points out, few of the prophecies in the Book of Jeremiah date to the reign of King Josiah.

Jeremiah prophesied during a turbulent and difficult period of decline–mostly after the fall of the Assyrian Empire (612 B.C.E. and before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.). In the wake of King Josiah’s death, Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Pharaoh Neco II had chosen the next two Kings of Judah.  Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38) had reigned for about three months before becoming a prisoner in Egypt.  Then Neco II had appointed Eliakim and renamed him Jehoiakim (r. 608-598 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42).  Jehoiakim was always a vassal while King of Judah.  After being the vassal of Neco II of Egypt for about three years, he became a vassal of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 605 B.C.E.  He died a prisoner in that empire.

Two more Kings of Judah reigned; both were vassals of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46) reigned for about three months before going into exile in that empire.  The last King of Judah was Zedekiah, born Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58).  He reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  The last events he saw before Chaldean soldiers blinded him were the executions of his sons.

The Book of Jeremiah is one of the longest books in the Hebrew Bible; it contains 52 chapters.  The final draft is the product of augmentation and editing subsequent to the time of Jeremiah himself.  In fact, Jeremiah 52 is mostly verbatim from 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.  Also Jeremiah 52:4-16 occur also in Jeremiah 39:1-2, 4-10.  Chronology is not the organizing principle of material in the Book of Jeremiah; jumping around the timeline is commonplace.  For example, the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) occurs between Chapters 32 and 33, as well as in Chapters 39 and 52.  Some ancient copies are longer than other ancient copies.  None of the subsequent augmentation and editing, complete with some material being absent from certain ancient copies of the book surprises me, based on my reading about the development of certain Biblical texts.  I do not pretend that divinely-inspired authors were mere secretaries for God.

Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel made a germane and wonderful point in The Prophets, Volume I (1962), viii:

The prophet is a person, not a microphone.  He is endowed with a mission, with the power of a word not his own that accounts for his greatness–but also with temperament, concern, character, and individuality.  As there was no resisting the impact of divine inspiration, so at times there was no resisting the vortex of his own temperament.  The word of God reverberated in the voice of man.

The prophet’s task is to convey a divine view, yet as a person he is a point of view.  He speaks from the perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation.  We must seek to understand not only the views he expounded but also the attitudes he embodied:  his own position, feeling response–not only what he said but also what he lived; the private, the intimate dimension of the word, the subjective side of the message.

Those paragraphs applied to all the Hebrew prophets.  They applied to Jeremiah with greater poignancy than to the others, though.

I invite you, O reader, to remain with me as I blog my way through the book of the “weeping prophet.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 5:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Trusting in God, Part XIII   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter, Sinking

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants:

and, that they may obtain their petitions,

make them to ask such things as shall please thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 199

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1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Psalm 91

Acts 10:24-28

Matthew 14:22-34

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God calls Jews and Gentiles alike.  God says, 

Follow me.  Obey my commandments.  Trust me.  Love me.

The God of the Bible is not under any human control.  Nobody can manipulate God.  Yet much of Christian practice has consisted of attempts to manipulate God.  Human psychology is not always of spiritual benefit.  I know this about myself; I have to check to see if I am attempting to manipulate God daily.  I am like St. Paul the Apostle in one way, at least; I know what I should do yet do not do it much of the time.  

Psalm 91 and Matthew 14:22-34, in particular, hammer home the imperative of trusting God.  If we mere mortals rely on ourselves, we will fail.  We will sink.  If we trust God, we still may not succeed, by human standards.  (Read the Book of Jeremiah, O reader.)  Yet we will accomplish what God has in mind for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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The Death and Legacy of King David   Leave a comment

Above:  David and Solomon with the Madonna and Baby Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LIII

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2 Samuel 23:1-7

1 Kings 2:1-12

1 Chronicles 29:26-30

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 47:2-11

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In all his activities he gave thanks

to the Holy One Most High in words of glory;

he put all his heart into his songs

out of love for his Creator.

–Ecclesiasticus 47:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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After reigning for about forty years and six months, David died.  His record was mixed–more mixed than some Biblical authors admitted.  Other Biblical sources, however, were honest about David’s moral failings as a man and a monarch.

David’s final advice to Solomon in 1 Kings 2 combines piety with orders for executions.  One reads of plans to punish (by killing) Joab and Shimei, both of whom David had spared in 2 Samuel–Shimei in Chapters 16 and 19, and Joab in Chapters 2, 18, 19, and 20.  The Corleone family–er, Davidic Dynasty–was about to settle accounts.

To repeat myself from a previous post, I do not like David.  I even have strong sympathies for Saul.  I perceive unduly negative press regarding the first King of Israel.  I perceive a pro-Davidic filter in accounts of Saul.  I conclude that Saul was not as bad as we are supposed to think, and that David was much worse than we are supposed to think, according to the texts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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King David Names Solomon His Successor   Leave a comment

Above:  He Charged Solomon His Son

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LII

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1 Kings 1:1-53

1 Chronicles 22:1-23:1

1 Chronicles 28:1-29:25

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For the king puts his trust in the LORD;

 

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The arrangement of material regarding the final days of King David and the accession of King Solomon differs in 1 Kings 1-2 and 1 Chronicles 22, 23, 28, and 29.  The account of the Chronicler adds material about plans for the First Temple.  The version from 1 Kings 1-2 does not.  Likewise, 1 Chronicles omits King David’s Corleone-like counsel and the plot of son Adonijah to succeed to the throne.  This omission is consistent with the Chronicler’s approach.

My keynote for this post comes from 1 Chronicles 22 and 28.  The exhortations to keep the Law of God and govern wisely, therefore rule successfully, comes with bitter hindsight.  We who read these stories closely remember what Solomon became and how certain policies damaged the kingdom and paved the way for its division.  We know that Solomon left the united Kingdom of Israel worse than he inherited it.

Solomon had much wasted potential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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David Organizes Military and Civil Affairs   Leave a comment

Above:  King David

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LI

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1 Chronicles 27:1-24

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For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–were all made to drink of one Spirit.

–1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (Revised Standard Version)

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This chapter contains the kind of material one expects to find in an appendix.  Names and exaggerated numbers populate the chapter.  The material flows from the lists of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, treasurers, and magistrates in Chapters 23-26.  To that set of categories we add army commanders, tribal heads, overseers, and members of King David’s court.

Taking these lists together, the Chronicler’s theological agenda becomes clear.  All of these groups were necessary for the society to function.  King David needed good advisors; he depended on other people.  The land was essential’ the created order was good.  It required proper stewardship.  And everybody depended on God for everything.

Mutuality in the context of complete human dependence on God is a theme prominent in the Old and New Testaments.  There is no such person as a self-made man or woman.  Rugged individualism is not a Biblical virtue.  And we all rely on each other, just as we are all responsible to and for each other.  What one person does affects others.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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Planning for the Temple   Leave a comment

Above:  David’s Love for God’s House

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART L

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1 Chronicles 22:2-26:32

1 Chronicles 28:1-21

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The LORD is the strength of his people,

a safe refuge for his anointed.

Save your people and bless your inheritance;

shepherd them and carry them for ever.

–Psalm 28:10-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This long reading relates thematically to the end of 2 Samuel 24, in which King David built an altar to the LORD on a threshing floor the monarch purchased from Araunah.  This threshing floor became the site of the First Temple.  In the version from 1 Chronicles 21, Ornan owned the threshing floor.  Even if one accepts that Araunah and Ornan were the same man, one cannot reconcile the differing monetary amounts in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21:  50 shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24) versus 600 shekels of gold (1 Chronicles 21).

The account from 1 Chronicles also overlaps with 1 Kings 1:1-2:12.  I will return to 1 Chronicles 22:1-23:2; 28:1-21 shortly.

King David, of course, was not to oversee the construction of the First Temple. (Read 2 Samuel 7, O reader. )  That task fell to Solomon, né Yedediah.  Yet David played some role in making plans for the Temple.

Nothing was too good for the Temple.  No price was too high for the threshing floor. Only the best materials were suitable for the Temple.  Only the most devout service was acceptable from the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, treasurers, and magistrates.

God deserves our best in everything, individually and collectively.  We ought to love God most of all.  Our love for our fellow human beings flows from our love for God.  Our love for the natural world flows from our love for God.  Our attention to liturgical details flows from our love for God.  That is why it should be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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The Census, the Plague, and the Altar   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of King David

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XLIX

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2 Samuel 24:1-25

1 Chronicles 21:1-22:1

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Whenever I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

–Psalm 56:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Theology changes.  A careful reading of the Bible reveals theological evolution in the Bible.  This is the reason I cannot be a fundamentalist.  Inconsistencies exist in the texts.  For example, did God or “a satan”(“adversary,” literally) persuade King David to conduct the census for which God punished the kingdom for years?  The answer depends on whether one accepts 2 Samuel 24:1 or 1 Chronicles 21:1.

This discrepancy exists because of theological evolution.  As a serious student of the history of Jewish theology ought to know, Satan as a free agent (rather than as one of God’s employees, as the tester of loyalty to God, as in the Book of Job as in Numbers 22:21-40) is a relatively late development.  The understanding of Satan as a free agent and an opponent of God dates to the postexilic period, when Zoroastrianism was influencing Judaism.  The Persians may have been correct.  That is a separate matter for another post.  In terms of the history of religion, Satan as the chief rebel against God in Judaism and, by extension, in Christianity, is a legacy of Zoroastrian influence, objectively.

The question of God and evil interests me, an intellectually honest monotheist.  Saints, theologians, and philosophers have tackled the thorny problem.  I harbor no delusion that I settle it in this post.  I do, however, refer to C. S. Lewis, who acknowledged that God is in the dock.  Ultimately, I, as a monotheist, cannot honestly blame anyone except God for evil–for permitting it to exist, at least.  The author of 2 Samuel 24 accepted this perspective.  The author of 1 Chronicles 21, writing during the Persian Period, did not.

If, however, one accepts the pre-Persian Period concept of “the Satan” as one of God’s employees–the loyalty tester, as in the Book of Job, God remains responsible for evil, too.  God is still in the dock.  If one accepts “the Satan” as one of God’s employees, then one must accept that “the Satan” cannot function or exist apart from God.  In Genesis, the language in certain passages uses “God” and “angel” interchangeably.  This is not a difficulty if one accepts that angels can exist and function only in the context of God, that, whatever they do or say, they do on divine orders.  Therefore, the words and actions of an angel are those of God, practically.  Therefore, if one accepts the pre-Persian Jewish understanding of “the Satan,” one must accept that “the Satan” acts and speaks only when following divine orders.  God is still in the dock.

Or maybe the ancient Zoroastrians were correct regarding the existence of independent agents of evil.

If I preferred easy answers, I would not wrestle with God.  If I did not prefer wresting with God, this great monotheistic conundrum of the problem of God and evil would perturb me more than it does.  Ultimately, though, I must agree with David and Job.  God is God.  God refuses to fit into our boxes, regardless of how piously we define them.  And we have no feasible alternative to turning to God, do we?  Part of the life of spiritual growth is learning to distinguish between our biases and God’s thoughts.

Nevertheless, may we exercise caution in how we think, speak, and write of God.  May we refrain from portraying God as a celestial gangster.  I hear some people speak of God in terms that should lead one to recoil in terror from God.  An Episcopal priest I know has a wonderful strategy for engaging with people who profess not to believe in God.  He asks them to describe the God in whom they do not believe.  Inevitably, he hears a description of God he rejects.  “I don’t believe in that God either,” the priest replies.

I, as an Episcopalian, seek moderation.  I follow the Anglican Via Media, after all.  I am neither fully Protestant nor fully Roman Catholic.  I am not a Biblical literalist.  I reject, however, the excesses of John Dominic Crossan and that ilk.  My intellect is always in gear; it constitutes one-third of my faith.  Nobody who tells me I should think less often gets far with me theologically.  I accept the primacy of scripture without shutting down my brain’s higher functions and advocating for scriptural inerrancy and infallibility.  A frontal lobotomy and willful ignorance are not prerequisites for salvation.  And I affirm that God is trustworthy while admitting that no human being can fully understand God.  The image one sees when looking into one’s mirror may be the most alluring idol of all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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King David, the Temple, and the Dynasty   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Kings David and Solomon with the Madonna and Child

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXXIV

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2 Samuel 7:1-29

1 Chronicles 17:1-27

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The LORD has sworn an oath to David,

in truth, he will not break it:

“A son, the fruit of your body,

will I set upon your throne.

If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

–Psalm 132:11-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a familiar story.  When reading a familiar story, one ought to read it closely, for one may not know it as well as one imagines.

I like wordplay, for I am a notorious punster.  Imagine my delight, O reader, in the wordplay regarding bayit, or house.  We read that King David dwelt in a bayit (palace), but God had no bayit (temple).  Extremely attentive readers of the Hebrew Bible may recall the references to the House of the LORD in 1 Samuel 1.  Nevertheless, 2 Samuel 7:6 has God deny ever having had a house.  This is a minor matter, but one worth mentioning, for the sake of thoroughness.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible points out that God had a house as well as a tent (Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 2:22), the tent indicating that

the LORD is not restricted to one fixed place.

The wordplay with bayit continues with God establishing a covenant and making David the founder of a house (dynasty).  The texts allude to King Solomon presiding over the construction and dedication of the first Temple (See 1 Kings 6:1-8:66; 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:9; 2 Chronicles 2:1-7:22).  One ought to know that hindsight is the lens through which people recall the past.

God changes the divine mind sometimes, according to scripture.  One example is 1 Samuel 2:30-31.  Keep the divine tendency to change the divine mind in your mind, O reader, when reading David’s prayer (2 Samuel 7:25-29; 1 Chronicles 17:23-27).

What am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far?

–2 Samuel 7:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Covenants are not contracts.  Covenants do not entail quid pro quos.  Covenants do entail grace, which, in turn, imposes obligations.  Many people are comfortable with quid pro quos and uncomfortable with grace.  Perhaps grace reminds them of this unworthiness.  Perhaps they prefer to have earned something.  Perhaps the obligations that accompany grace put them ill at ease.  Grace is free, not cheap.

I, having read the rest of the story of David and his dynasty, cannot reread these two versions of this portion of the narrative without feeling sadness over the wasted potential.  I know the rest of the story.  I know of the abuses of David and Solomon.  I know that scripture gives most of their successors negative reviews.  I know about the division of the kingdom and the fall of both successor kingdoms.  I know that David’s lineage continued, but that the dynasty ended.  And I, as a Christian, link this portion of the narrative (in two versions) with Jesus, not Just Solomon and the other Davidic kings.

We are all unworthy.  Grace is our only hope.  This realization may threaten our egos.  On the other hand, this realization may prompt us to live gratefully and to seek to honor God in our own lives, as we relate to God and other human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEANNE JUGAN, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LEARY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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The Kingdom of God and the Law of Love   Leave a comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly:

Grant us, in all doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask for what you would have us to do,

that the spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices,

and that in your light we may see light and in your straight path may not stumble;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 153

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1 Chronicles 29:10-18

Psalm 27

Revelation 19:1, 4, 6-8

Matthew 25:31-40

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In Jewish and Christian theology, when they are what they ought to be, one of the great overreaching commandments of God is to love God fully.  A second is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  So said Rabbi Hillel.  The rest of the Torah is commentary, he continued; go and learn it.  Many people have repeated the first part of the quote (“the rest is commentary”) but not the second (“go and learn it”).  Jesus obviously knew teachings of Hillel, as Matthew 22:34-40 demonstrates.

The term “Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the canonical Gospels.  On occasion it refers to Heaven, as in afterlife with God.  Sometimes the translation more accurate than “kingdom” is “reign,” without a realm.  On other occasions, however, the reference is to a realm, so “kingdom” is a fine translation from the Greek.  This is the case of “Kingdom of Heaven,” which the Gospel of Matthew uses all but four times.  As Jonathan Pennington argues convincingly, “Kingdom of Heaven” is not a reverential circumlocution–a way of not saying God, out of reverence–but rather a reference to God’s rule on the Earth.  Thus the Kingdom of Heaven and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22) have much in common.  Furthermore, frequently the language of the Kingdom of God in the canonical Gospels indicates that the kingdom belongs simultaneously in the present and future tenses; the kingdom is here, but not in its fullness.

The commandment to love is essential.  The historical record is replete with shameful examples of professing Christians defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible and tying themselves into logical knots while giving lip service to the law of love.  There is never a bad time to live according to the law of love, as difficult as doing so might be sometimes.  The commandment is concrete, not abstract.  It is to meet the needs of others as one is able.  The list in Matthew 25:31-46 is partial yet sufficient to make the point plainly.  A modern-day expanded list might include such tasks as mowing an elderly person’s lawn and washing, drying, and putting away a disabled person’s dishes.  When we help each other, we do it for Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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