Archive for the ‘1 Kings 21’ Category

Good and Evil   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twentieth 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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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace,

that they may be cleansed from all their sins,

and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 221

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1 Kings 21:17-25

Psalm 92

Acts 26:1-32

Matthew 21:28-44

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Your enemies, LORD, your enemies will perish;

all evildoers will be scattered.

–Psalm 92:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That was cold comfort for Naboth and his family.

We have evildoers in the readings this week.  Those of us who know the stories realize that justice eventually came for King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, that St. Paul the Apostle died as a martyr in Rome, and that the targets of Christ’s justifiably harsh words did not take those words well.

I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.

–Matthew 21:31b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Those are harsh words to direct at conventionally pious religious leaders.  After reading the four canonical Gospels many times, I conclude that our Lord and Savior, although capable of being very forgiving, had a low tolerance for malarkey.  Good for him!

Anyhow, punishment and reward in the afterlife are emotionally satisfying.  Given the injustice rife in this world, reversal of fortune in the hereafter (perhaps not the sweet hereafter) makes good the divine promise to punish the evil and to reward the righteous.

Evildoers come in three varieties:

  1. Those who know what they are doing is wrong,
  2. Those who think what they are doing is right, and
  3. Those who cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.

Circumstances are not always black-and-white.  Frequently, circumstances are gray.  Sometimes the choices are bad and worse.  In such cases, people need to do the best they can in a fallen world.

Yet evil remains evil, objectively.

May you, O reader, and I, by grace, pursue just and righteous courses in life.  May we do so regardless of the costs to us.  And, when we must choose between bad and worse, may we opt for God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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The Reign of King Ahaziah of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

PART LXXIX

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1 Kings 22:51-53

2 Kings 1:1-18

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Listen therefore, O kings, and understand;

learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.

Give ear, you that rule over multitudes,

and boast of many nations….

Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly,

nor keep the law,

nor walk according to the purpose of God,

he will come upon you terribly and swiftly,

because severe judgment falls on those in high places.

–Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-2, 4-5, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahaziah of Israel (Reigned 852-851 B.C.E.)

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Now seems like a good time to mention duplicate royal names in the dynasties of Judah (southern) and Israel (northern).  Even a cursory scan of the names of monarchs of those kingdoms reveals duplicate names.  Distinguishing between Jeroboam I and Jeroboam II of Israel is easy.  Yet consider, O reader, the use of the names Ahaziah, Jehoram/Joram, Jehoahaz, Shallum, and Jehoash/Joash by monarchs in both kingdoms.  Furthermore, consider that Jehoram/Joram of Israel and Jehoram/Joram of Judah were contemporaries.  And, to make matters more confusing, there were two Jehoahazes and two Shallums of Judah, without Roman numerals to distinguish them.

King Ahaziah of Israel, son of King Ahab of Israel, was a chip off the old block.  The apple did not fall far from the tree.  He was, after, all a scion of two evil people.  King Ahaziah, a practitioner of idolatry, died after falling through the lattice in the upper chamber of his palace at Samaria.  (There was no glass in the windows yet.)  The monarch consulted Baal-zebub, the pagan of god of Ekron, not God.  This final act of idolatry set up a confrontation with Elijah.

The text conveys the meaning that, had King Ahaziah of Israel turned to God, he would have lived and recovered.

The throne passed to a brother, Jehoram/Joram of Israel, with whom we will catch up in 2 Kings 3:1-27 and continue with through 2 Kings 9, in time for the end of the House of Omri, thereby fulfilling 1 Kings 21:20-29.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Accession of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and His Alliance with King Ahab of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Ahab

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 LXXVII

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1 Kings 22:1-50

2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34

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Sovereignty passes from nation to nation

on account of injustice and insolence and wealth.

How can he who is dust and ashes be proud?

for even in life his bowels decay.

A long illness baffles the physician;

the king of today will die tomorrow.

For when a man is dead,

he will inherit creeping things, and wild beasts, and worms.

The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord,

his heart has forsaken his Maker.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:8-12, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E)

King Jehoshaphat of Judah (Reigned 870-846 B.C.E.)

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After the interlude in 1 Kings 21, the narrative left hanging at the end of 1 Kings 20 resumes.

King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah had much in common.  King Jehoshaphat’s son and heir, Jehoram/Joram (reigned 851-843 B.C.E.) had married Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18).  (Athaliah reigned in Judah from 842 to 836 B.C.E.  Read 2 Kings 11:1-20, O reader.)  And Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat shared an enemy–King Ben-Hadad I of Aram.

The verdict on King Jehoshaphat on the Bible is mixed.  2 Chronicles 17 opens by explaining that he was a good ruler zealous for the Law of Moses.  One reads of the strong geopolitical position of Judah and of the monarch’s increasing wealth.  Yet one reads of the alliance (marital, political, and military) with King Ahab.  And one notes the Chronicler’s disapproval of that alliance.

As I have commented in other Biblical contexts, certain texts certain words without explicitly stating the speaker’s tone of voice.  This is unfortunate, for tone of voice is frequently crucial in determining meaning.  Sometimes, however, a text contains hints regarding tone of voice.  One may safely assume, in context, for example, that when the prophet Micaiah spoke in favor of attacking Ramoth-gilead, he did so sarcastically.  

As for the false prophets, according to Micaiah, God spoke through them to lie to King Ahab, to tell the King of Israel what he (Ahab) wanted to hear, to lead to his (Ahab’s) death.  And Ahab died in battle.

Meanwhile, King Jehoshaphat of Judah reigned for a few more years.  And Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became the King of Israel.

One of the recurring themes in the readings for this post is God deceiving people.  Whenever the Hebrew Bible mentions God lying, a text makes clear that somebody deserved it.  The context may be to deliver Hebrews from an enemy or to complete divine judgment previously pronounced.  One makes of these stories what one will.  These accounts are what they are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES A. WALSH AND THOMAS PRICE, COFOUNDERS OF THE MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS; AND MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and Naboth’s Vineyard   Leave a comment

Above:  The Stoning of Naboth

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 LXXVI

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1 Kings 21:1-29

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Do not give yourself to a woman

so that she gains mastery over your strength.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 9:2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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This is a story about perversion of justice, complete with forging evidence, making a false allegation, arranging for perjury, and having an innocent man executed–for a vineyard.  This is an account of the perfidy of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, both responsible for the death of Naboth and the seizing of his vineyard.  This is a tale of two very wealthy and powerful people not being content with what they had.

King Ahab’s offer to swap vineyards was legal, according to Leviticus 25:29-30.  Naboth, however, had no obligation to accept the proposal.  And he was attached to his inheritance.  That was Naboth’s right.  Besides, Naboth was no fool.  He, a man of independent means, had no desire to become a royal dependent and to reduce his status and that of his family.  Who would want to become a dependent of people of such bad character anyhow?

As one reads the Bible closely for a while, one notices recurring themes.  A few of them recur in this story.  The first theme I notice in 1 Kings 21 is using the letter of the law to cover up perfidy.

The dynamic in the royal marriage is also clear in this story.  Queen Jezebel’s domineering ways are plain.  I do not insist that a wife submit to her husband and that he lord over her.  No, I am too progressive to argue for that chauvinistic standard.  However, I note that Queen Jezebel’s domineering ways worked for injustice in I Kings 21, and that King Ahab was complicit.

On the surface, King Ahab’s offer to exchange vineyards seemed reasonable.  However, the plot to frame Naboth, convict him, execute him, and seize his land was never justifiable, not even superficially.  Nowhere did the Law of Moses forbid cursing a monarch.  Naboth’s sons also died (2 Kings 9:26).  King Ahab and Jezebel had the blood of more than one person on their hands in this case.

Looking ahead, 2 Kings 9 concludes much of the unfinished business in 1 Kings 21.  Perspective is essential when reading the Bible.  To use an anachronistic term, 1 Kings 21 leaves a few Chekhovian guns hanging on walls.  One of them fires in 1 Kings 22.

Another recurring theme in 1 Kings 21 is that we reap what we sow.  Repentance and remorse delay the timing of the sowing, but they do not prevent it.

One may also recognize a recurring theme regarding the falls of dynasties of the northern Kingdom of Israel, going back to the House of Jeroboam I and continuing with the House of Baasha.

The world is rife with injustice, much of official, therefore cloaked in institutional legitimacy.  Power often wears down those who do not have it.  When authority figures who should protect the rights of the people violate those rights, to whom can the people turn for justice?  The promise that God will depose a son of those who trample the people–or just some of the people–may seem like cold comfort indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES A. WALSH AND THOMAS PRICE, COFOUNDERS OF THE MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS; AND MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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King Ahab’s War Against the Arameans   Leave a comment

Above: Map of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

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 LXXV

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1 Kings 20:1-43

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God is the opposite of evil,

and life is the opposite of death;

so the sinner is the opposite of the godly.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 33:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

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Ben-Hadad I was the King of Aram from prior to 1 Kings 15:18 through 2 Kings 8:15.  His realm (roughly modern Syria) sat between Israel and Assyria.  Aram also contained precious trade routes.  In the name of protecting these commercial caravan routes, Ben-Hadad I attacked Israel sometimes.  Ben-Hadad I’s campaign in 1 Kings 20:1-22 was an attempt to force King Ahab of Israel to join an alliance against Assyria, forces of which attacked Aram annually.  Ahab also had closed Aramean bazaars (in Samaria since the days of King Omri of Israel, Ahab’s father).

Ben-Hadad I, not dissuaded by defeat at Samaria the first time, attacked again months later.  He lot again.  The text made clear that that God, not Ahab, therefore, had no right to spare the life of Ben-Hadad I, which he did.

A recurring theme repeats in 1 Kings 10:  Disobedience to God’s instructions leads to death.  This death may not occur immediately, but it will happen.

One acculturated to Reformation theology may consider this teaching too close to the works side of the faith-works debate.  We need to acknowledge an irrefutable historical fact:  Hebrews of the 800s B.C.E. were not Protestants.  Also, works matter, not that I object to King Ahab sparing the life of King Ben-Hadad I.

As Amy-Jill Levine says of the Hebrew Bible, people did things differently then.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES A. WALSH AND THOMAS PRICE, COFOUNDERS OF THE MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS; AND MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

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 LXXI

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1 Kings 17:1-24

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And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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The Reign of King Omri of Israel and the Beginning of the Reign of King Ahab of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  King Ahab of Israel

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 LXX

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1 Kings 16:21-34

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For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind….

–Hosea 8:7a, The Holy Scriptures (1917)

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King Omri of Israel (Reigned 882-871 B.C.E.)

King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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These verses bring us to the cusp of the stories of Elijah and Elisha, set against the backdrop of the House of Omri.

The account of the 12-year reign of King Omri is succinct and negative.  The author seems not to have had much interest in this monarch, rated as being worse than the five preceding Kings of Israel.  On a historical note, if anyone finds the lost Annals of the Kings of Israel, that person will recover a priceless historical resource.

King Ahab, son of King Omri, was worse than his father, according to 1 Kings 16:30.

The text unpacks that generalization somewhat.  It mentions idolatry and name drops Queen Jezebel.  Subsequent chapters (17-22) reveal more about King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

On a related issue, Psalm 45 may refer to the marriage of Jezebel to King Ahab.  If it does, the text drips with irony.  For example, the line,

he is your master,

rings hollow, given how much King Ahab did Queen Jezebel’s bidding.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP NICOLAI, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

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Ezra and More Exiles Arrive in Jerusalem   2 comments

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XXII

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1 Esdras 8:1-9:36

Ezra 7:1-10:44

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Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

–Baruch 5:5, The New American Bible (1991)

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Many Jewish exiles remained outside their ancestral homeland after Cyrus II permitted Jews to return (Ezra 1).  Many exiles never returned; they belonged to the diaspora.  Cyrus II permitted Jews to return, starting in 538 B.C.E..  Artaxerxes I reigned from 465 to 424 B.C.E., during which the events of 1 events of 1 Esdras 8:1-9:36 and Ezra 7:1-10:44 occurred.  Decades had passed between the times of Cyrus II and Ezra.

As I have written repeatedly in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  This is why Ezra 7-10 follow Nehemiah 9 and 10 chronologically.  One may notice that Ezra benefited from Nehemiah’s political maneuvering of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 1 and 6).  One man’s work made another man’s work possible.

The lists in 1 Esdras 8:24-40 and Ezra 8:1-14 are not identical.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.  One can identify other differences between the two versions.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.

According to Covenental Nomism, Jews received salvation via grace–birth really.  They, born into the covenant, had the obligation to keep the Law of Moses as best they could.  Nobody could keep the Law of Moses perfectly, but everybody could repent of having violated it.  The consistent failure to repent constituted self-exclusion from the covenant.  Following God meant doing, to the best of one’s ability, what God commanded.

This understanding was part of the theological context of Nehemiah and Ezra.  Ezra learned what Nehemiah knew already; mixed marriages with foreigners (with their own deities) was a serious problem and a national sin.  Nehemiah had begun to address the issue from his position as governor (Nehemiah 13).  Ezra the scribe and priest approached the issue from his position of religious power.

Intermarriage, as a moral problem, related to idolatry.  The Law of Moses forbade both.  The Law forbade intermarriage (Deuteronomy 7:3; 20:16-18).  Examples of monarchs whose foreign wives were negative influences upon them included Solomon (1 Kings 11) and Ahab (1 Kings 16, 19-22).  Malachi 2:11 repeated the prohibition against intermarriage.

Starting over properly is essential.  One may not know that x is wrong, and therefore commit x.  Yet when one learns that x is wrong, how does one respond?  One should respond by confessing and repenting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

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The Sins of the Fathers, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37

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The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

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Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Genesis 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-22-year-b-humes/

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God, the Only Proper Center   1 comment

Above:  Jezebel and Ahab, by Frederic Leighton

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 33:12-23 or 1 Kings 21:1-24

Psalm 61:1-5, 8

Hebrews 4:14-5:5, 7-9

Mark 9:14-29

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According to Psalms 14 and 53, the fool/benighted man, an amoral person, thinks incorrectly that God either does not care (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) or is absent (Mitchell J. Dahood, 1968).  The erroneous assumption of the fool/benighted man is that God either does not want to answer prayers or cannot do so.  Therefore, from that perspective, one must and can rely on one’s own powers and devices.  This is the root of evil.

God does care.  God is present.  God does answer prayers.  Sometimes the answer is “no,” which we may not like.  God loves us, but is not our vending machine.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

We pray that we may believe and believe that we may pray.

We can simultaneously have faith and doubts.  I know this spiritual state.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  We can have enough faith to pray yet not enough to assume that God will answer as we desire.  To anyone who knows this spiritual state, I say,

Welcome to the human race.  You stand in the company of the communion of saints.

When we cannot pray, or be mindful of God, yet want to do so, we are not bereft.  That desire is a solid beginning, a foundation on which God can build.

We err when we place ourselves–individually and/or collectively–in the center of theology and spirituality.  God is the only proper center.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-b-humes/

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