Archive for the ‘Exodus 10’ Category

Divine Judgment Against Egypt, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Ezekiel, the Biblical Prophet, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XIV

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Ezekiel 29:1-32:32

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I have read and written about the oracles against Egypt in Isaiah 18:1-20:6 and Jeremiah 46:2-28.

We read seven oracles against Egypt.  The arrangement is not chronological.

The first oracle (29:1-16) dates to 588-587 B.C.E.  The context is Pharoah Hophra’s failed attempt to rescue Jerusalem from the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.)  Hophra’s sin, we read, is arrogance–specifically, boasting that he had created the Nile River, therefore, the world.  The prophecy of the fall of Egypt holds up if one interprets the Persian conquest (525 B.C.E.).  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt, historical records tell us.  We also read that, in time, God will restore Egypt, but as a minor kingdom, not a major empire.

The second oracle (29:17-21) dates to 571-570 B.C.E.).  It accurately predicts the fall of Egypt to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Other inaccurate prophecies of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt occur in Jeremiah 43:8-13 and 46:2-28.

The third oracle (30:1-19), undated, uses the imagery of the Day of the LORD in a lament for conquered Egypt.

The fourth oracle (30:20-26) dates to 587-586 B.C.E.–specifically, about four months before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  Pharoah Hophra’s broken arm refers to the failed Egyptian effort to lift the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

The fifth oracle (31:1-18) dates to 587-586 B.C.E.–specifically, about two months before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This oracle predicts the the downfall of Egypt.  Egypt is, metaphorically, a fallen cedar of Lebanon.

The sixth oracle (32:1-16) dates to 585 B.C.E., one year or so after the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (586 B.C.E.).  This oracle cites mythology–specifically, the divine defeat of the sea dragon Leviathan at creation (Exodus 15; Isaiah 11-15; Psalm 74:12-17; Psalm 104:7-9; Job 38:8-11).  The oozing blood in verse 6 recalls the plague of blood (Exodus 7:19-24).  The theme of darkness recalls the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-29) and the Day of the LORD (Joel 2:1-2; Joel 3:15; Zephaniah 1:15).  God really does not like Pharoah Hophra (r. 589-570 B.C.E.), we read:

I will drench the earth 

With your oozing blood upon the hills

And the watercourses shall be filled with your [gore].

When you are snuffed out,

I will cover the sky

And darken its stars;

I will cover the sun with clouds

And the moon shall not give its light.

All the lights that shine in the sky

I will darken above you;

And I will bring darkness upon your land

–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 32:6-78, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Ezekiel 32:11 repeats the inaccurate prophecy of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt.

The seventh oracle (32:17-32) dates to 585 B.C.E.  This oracle depicts Egypt and the other enemies of Judah as being in Sheol, the underworld.  Once-great nations, having fallen, are in the dustbin of history in the slimy, mucky, shadowy Pit.  The use of Sheol, a pre-Persian period Jewish concept of the afterlife, in this way intrigues me.  My reading tells me that Sheol was an afterlife without reward or punishment.  Yet the text in Ezekiel 32:17-32 brims over with divine judgment.

Nations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires rise and fall.  Many last for a long time.  Yet God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WASHINGTON GLADDEN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR HENRY MESSITER, EPISCOPAL MUSICIAN AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FERDINAND QUINCY BLANCHARD, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JACQUES FERMIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

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Announcement of Judgment, with Confidence in God’s Future   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART VII

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Micah 6:1-7:20

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A motif in Hebrew prophetic literature in God making a legal case against a group of people.  That motif recurs at the beginning of Chapter 6.

Another motif in the Hebrew Bible is that God is like what God has done.  In other words, divine deeds reveal God’s character.  Likewise, human deeds reveal human character.  We read reminders of divine deliverance in Micah 6:4-5.  These verses call back to Exodus 1:1-15:21; Numbers 22:1-24:25; and Joshua 3:1-5:12.  God, who is just, expects and demands human justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God.

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

–Micah 6:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Not surprisingly, no English-language translation captures the full meaning of the Hebrew text.  For example, to walk humbly or modestly with God is to walk wisely or completely with God.  Doing this–along with loving goodness and doing justice–is more important than ritual sacrifices, even those mandated in the Law of Moses.  This theme occurs also in Hosea 6:4-6.  One may also recall the moral and ethical violations of the Law of Moses condemned throughout the Book of Amos.  Micah 6 and 7 contain condemnations of such sins, too.  The people will reap what they have sown.

To whom can they turn when surrounded by corruption and depravity?  One can turn to and trust God.  In the fullest Biblical and creedal sense, this is what belief in God means.  In the Apostles’ Creed we say:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth….

In the Nicene Creed, we say:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

Sometimes belief–trust–is individual.  Sometimes it is collective.  So are sin, confession, remorse for sins, repentance, judgment, and mercy.  In Micah 7:7-13, belief–trust–is collective.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the case of Jerusalem, personified.  The figure is Jerusalem, at least in the later reading of Micah.  The reference to Assyria (7:12) comes from the time of the prophet.

“Micah” (1:1) is the abbreviated form of “Micaiah,” or “Who is like YHWH?”  That is germane to the final hymn of praise (7:18-20).  It begins:

Who is a God like You….

–Micah 7:18a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born and raised in exile, within the borders of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Imagine that you had heard that the Babylonian Exile will end soon, and that you will have the opportunity to go to the homeland of which you have only heard.  Imagine that you have started to pray:

Who is a God like you, who removes guilt

and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;

Who does not persist in anger forever,

but instead delights in mercy,

And will again have compassion on us,

treading underfoot our iniquities?

You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;

You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and loyalty to Abraham,

As you have sworn to our ancestors from days of old.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Imagine, O reader, how exuberant you would have been.

As R. B. Y. Scott wrote regarding the Book of Hosea:

[The prophet] speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final word remains with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Micah.  I invite you to join me as I read and write about First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL GERHARDT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATINALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AMELIA BLOOMER, U.S. SUFFRAGETTE

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHARLES ROPER, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF OTTAWA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOJZE GROZDE, SLOVENIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1943

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The Superscription and First Epigram of the Book of Amos   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel during the Reigns of Kings Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART I

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Amos 1:1-2

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The superscription (1:1) provides information useful in dating the original version of the Book of Amos.  Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) was the King of Israel.  Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:1-17; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  In a seismically-active region, the “big one” of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. was apparently a memorable natural disaster.  (Ironing out wrinkles in the chronology of the era from Uzziah to Hezekiah has long been difficult, as many Biblical commentaries have noted.  For example, reputable sources I have consulted have provided different years, ranging from 742 to 733 B.C.E., for the death of King Uzziah.)  Centuries later, after the Babylonian Exile, Second Zechariah recalled that cataclysm in the context of earth-shaking events predicted to precede the Day of the Lord–in Christian terms, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God:

And the valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.–And the LORD my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.

–Zechariah 14:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original version of the Book of Amos, then, dates to circa 772 or 762 or 752 B.C.E.

The final version of the Book of Amos, however, dates to the period after the Babylonian Exile.  The prophecies of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, in their final forms, all do.  So do the final versions of much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to the two Books of Kings.  The final version of the Book of Amos indicates a pro-Judean bias, evident first in the listing of Kings of Judah before King Jeroboam II of Israel.

“Amos,” the shorter version of “Amasiah,” derives from the Hebrew verb for “to carry” and means “borne by God.”

Amos was a Judean who prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  He was, by profession, a breeder of sheep and cattle, as well as a tender of sycamore figs (1:1, 7:14).  The prophet was wealthy.  In 2 Kings 3:4, King Mesha of Moab was also a sheep breeder.  Amos hailed from the village of Tekoa, about eight kilometers, or five miles, south of Bethlehem, and within distant sight of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:2; Jeremiah 6:1).  King Rehoboam of Judah (r. 928-911 B.C.E.; 1 Kings 12:1-33; 1 Kings 15:21-31; 2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23) had ordered the fortification of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 11:6).  Although Amos prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, “Israel” (Amos 1:1) was a vague reference.

Since the prophetic office as manifested in Amos was a function of Yahweh’s lordship over his people, the political boundary that had been set up between Judah and Israel was utterly irrelevant.  Amos was concerned with Israel in their identity as the people of the Lord; the sphere of his activity was the realm of the old tribal league, all Israel under Yahweh, and not the state cult with its orientation to the current king and his kingdom.

–James Luther Mays, Amos:  A Commentary (1969), 19

I wonder if the vagueness of “Israel” in Amos 1:1 is original or if it is a product of subsequent amendment and editing.  The later editing and amendment do present questions about how to interpret the edited and amended texts.  Anyhow, I recognize that the message of God, via Amos of Tekoa, received and transmitted faithfully in a particular geographical and temporal context, remains relevant.  That message remains germane because human nature is a constant force, often negatively so.

The reference to the cataclysmic earthquake (Amos 1:) may do more than help to date the composition of the first version of the book.  One may, for example, detect references to that earthquake in Amos 2:13, 3;14f, 6:11, and 9:1.  One may reasonably speculate that the Book of Amos, in its final form, at least, may understand the earthquake of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. as divine punishment for rampant, collective, persistent, disregard for the moral demands of the Law of Moses.  This presentation of natural disasters as the wrath of God exists also in Joel 1 and 2 (in reference to a plague of locusts) and in Exodus 7-11 (in reference to the plagues on Egypt).  This perspective disturbs me.  I recall certain conservative evangelists describing Hurricane Katrina (2005) as the wrath of God on New Orleans, Louisiana, allegedly in retribution for sexual moral laxity.  I wish that more people would be more careful regarding what they claim about the divine character.  I also know that earthquakes occur because of plate tectonics, swarms of locusts go where they will, and laws of nature dictate where hurricanes make landfall.

Amos seems to have prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel briefly, perhaps for only one festival and certainly for less than a year, at Bethel, a cultic site.  Then officialdom saw to it that he returned to Tekoa, his livestock and sycamore figs, and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

[Amos] proclaimed:

The LORD roars from Zion,

Shouts aloud from Jerusalem;

And the pastures of the shepherds shall languish,

And the summit of Carmel shall wither.

–Amos 2:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theological understanding in Amos 2:2 holds that God was resident in Zion.  The reference to Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean coast and in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel makes plain that the message was, immediately, at least, for the Northern Kingdom.  Looking at a map, one can see the geographical setting.  For the divine voice, shouted in Jerusalem, to make the summit of Mount Carmel writhe, poetically, God really is a force with which to reckon.

God is near, but he is also far–immeasurably exalted, inexpressively different.  He is the king who does not die.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 121

How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God depends largely on our theological and social contexts–how well we understand science, how we define moral parameters, and how wide or narrow our theological imagination may be.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God must also include much poetry, even prose poetry.  If we are theologically, spiritually, and intellectually honest, we will acknowledge this.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God may or may not age well and/or translate well to other cultures.

Despite certain major differences from the pre-scientific worldview of the eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos and the world of 2021 B.C.E., the social, economic, and political context of the Book of Amos bears an unfortunate similarity to the world of 2021.  Economic inequality is increasing.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the numbers of poor people while a relative few already extremely wealthy people have become richer.  God still cares deeply about how people treat each other.  God continues to condemn institutionalized inequality.  Many conventionally pious people–religious leaders, especially–are complicit in maintaining this inequality.

Amos of Tekoa continues to speak the words of God to the world of 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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The Philistine Army Captures the Ark of the Covenant   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant, by James Tissot

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 V

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1 Samuel 4:1b-22

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O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

–Psalm 60:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Military defeat (which God allowed, according to the text) of the Israelite forces did not constitute the defeat of God.  Philistine capture of the Ark of the Covenant (in lieu of the statue of a deity, the conventional booty) did not constitute the defeat of God.  Military defeat of Israelite forces did, however, constitute a crisis.

The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence of God.  The Ark’s unprecedented presence on the battlefield indicated the belief that the Ark was a talisman.

The deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (per 1 Samuel 2:24) and of Eli (once he heard of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, not the deaths of his wayward sons) added to the seriousness of the situation.  Had the glory of God departed from Israel?  The mother of Ichabod thought so.

I wonder how Ichabod felt going through life with a name meaning “no glory.”

This story, in context, contains no hint of pervasive national wickedness for which God punished Israel via the Philistines.  One must, therefore, wonder why the defeat occurred.  A prosaic answer would entail an explanation of military strategies, of course.  That, however, is not the point of this story.  No, the point relates to the sovereignty of God.

The defeat was ironic.  The Philistines were polytheists who misquoted the history of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-11:10), placing them in the wilderness, oddly.  Yet, according to 1 Samuel 4, these Philistines were agents of God.  They were about to learn how little they understood about the God of the Israelites.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part IV: The Word of God   1 comment

christ-in-majesty-chartres-cathedral

Above:  Christ in Majesty, Chartres Cathedral

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 10:21-11:10

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 27 and 51 (Evening)

Hebrews 4:1-16

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

Hebrews 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/proper-23-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-wednesday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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For the word of God is living and active….

–Hebrews 4:12a, The Anchor Bible

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For the word of God is instinct with life….

–Hebrews 4:12a, translated by William Barclay

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The “word of God” in Hebrews 4:12a, as the note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), explains,

is not Scripture but the living voice of God…. (page 2158)

And, as William Barclay commented in his (revised) volume on the Letter to the Hebrews,

…the word of God is something that every man must face, its offer something he must accept or reject.  (page 39)

The word of God comes through various media, including and not restricted to the Bible, nature, and other people.  In Exodus we read of the word of God coming directly to Moses, then going from there.  As a Christian I recognize the word of God, Jesus of Nazareth, whom I encounter in the Gospels.  That Word–that Logos–is the great high priest due to whom I can approach the throne of grace boldly.

One might wonder how to distinguish the voice of God from another–perhaps one’s own.  One’s God concept is far too small if it resembles what one sees when one looks into a mirror.  The best test I can determine is that of compassion, especially for the vulnerable members of society.  The Hebrew Prophets testified to this standard.  Love–sometimes the kind which leads to self-sacrifice (This is Holy Week)–yet which always seeks the best for others is another way of stating the case.  There is no divine law against such things.  Or, to use a concrete image, would Jesus do it, whatever “it” is?  Yes, the living exemplar is Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part III: The Supremacy of Christ Jesus   1 comment

christ-pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image Source = Edal Anton Lefterov

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jesus-Christ-from-Hagia-Sophia.jpg)

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 9:29-10:20

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Some Related Posts:

Hebrews 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-tuesday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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It is true that Moses was trustworthy in the household of God, as a servant is, acting as witness to the things which were yet to be revealed, but Christ is trustworthy as a son is, over his household.  And we are his household, as long as we maintain the hope in which we glory.

–Hebrews 3:5-6, The New Jerusalem Bible

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[Aaron and Miriam] came forward; and [the LORD] said, “Hear these My words:  When a prophet of the LORD arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the LORD.  How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses?”  Still incensed with them, the LORD departed.

–Numbers 12:5b-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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In Exodus 10 we find a new wrinkle in the narrative:  Courtiers of the Pharaoh criticize him for his obstinancy.  They understood what he ought to do.  Confronting such a monarch was no small risk, and this was no sympathetic king.

Moses, meanwhile, was faithful to God’s instructions.  This is a point the author (probably the Elohist–E) wanted the audience to understand.  It was a point the author of the Letter to the Hebrews grasped.  In Hebrews Jesus was greater than the prophets (1:1-4), the angels (1:5-2:18), and Moses (3:1-6), who was very close to God.  Moses was great, but he was only a servant in the household of faith, a household with Jesus built (3:2, 3, and 5).

We who have read the Bible know the outline of the rest of the story.  Yes, God will liberate the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  (The name of the book isExodus!)  But almost immediately afterward the troubles will start.  Grumbling will ensue.  People will express nostalgia for Egypt.  And the next generation will be the one to enter the Promised Land.  The liberated generation will not enter the Promised Land because it will not believe and will not abandon its slave mentality.  It will not enter the Promised Land because it will insist on hardening its collective heart.

Likewise, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, Christians ought not to harden their hearts.  Our Promised Land is spiritual, not geographical.  And Jesus, whose Hebrews name translated directly into English is Joshua, will lead us there.  The parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament are beautiful, are they not?

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Holy Week.  This day has meaning only in relation to subsequent days, namely Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  Most of all it derives meaning from its position relative to Easter Sunday, for that Sunday gives us a Resurrected Jesus, not a dead one.  As scholars of the New Testament observe accurately, the point of perspective in the canonical Gospels is a post-Resurrection one.  And that is appropriate.  We Christians follow a Resurrected Lord and Savior, not a dead Messiah.  We follow him, who is superior wo even the greatest figure of the Hebrew Scriptures.  We follow the one of whom St. Paul the Apostle wrote

But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses.  Yes, I will go further:  because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything as loss.  For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them as filth if only I can gain Christ and be given a place in him….

(Sorry for the ellipses, but the text is a run-on sentence in The New Jerusalem Bible.  The citation is Philippians 3:7-9a.)

St. Paul summarized the case well; I cannot do better.  So I encourage you, O reader, to ponder the supremacy of Christ during all weeks, but especially during Holy Week, and to do so while remembering St. Paul’s words from Philippians 3.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Metropolis (1927)   Leave a comment

metropolis-1927-shift-change

Above:  Shift Change from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture I Took

METROPOLIS (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea von Harbou

To say that Metropolis is a classic and influential film is to understate reality greatly; immediately I recognize echoes of it in the works of James Whale (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), George Lucas (Star Wars, sequels, and prequels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).  Scholars of cinema can and do create long lists of influences and subsequent homages.  And to state that those who butchered the movie (even destroying cut scenes) shortly after the movie’s debut were blooming idiots is to claim the obvious as true.  Fortunately, a nearly complete restored version (finished in 2010) is available.

There are versions of the movie available for home viewing.  I have the 2001 restored version (with about 3/4 of the movie present) and the 2010 restored version (with 99% of the footage included).  Alas, two scenes are, to the best of current knowledge, beyond salvage, so intertitles summarizing them will have to suffice.  Each of these versions–the Restored Authorized Version of 2001 and the Complete Metropolis of 2010–has different and helpful special features, so I recommend owning both if one is a cinephile.  The commentary track on the 2001 version is quite informative, for example, as is the documentary included with the 2010 edition.

This is a religious blog, so I choose to leave most aspects of the movie to already extant websites (such as http://www.metropolis1927.com/ and http://www.filmsite.org/metr.html ), which cover that ground quite well as I ponder some of the movie’s spiritual connections.  A film in which a city leader rules from the New Tower of Babel (a reference to Genesis 11:1-9), people read from the Book of Revelation (with references to the Whore of Babylon from chapters 17 and 19), and the leader’s son must serve as the mediator between the head (the ruler) and the hands (the oppressed workers) calls out for theological analysis.

Thea von Harbou’s story is set in an unnamed European city in 2026.  Urban elites live in skyscraper penthouses and play in the Eternal Gardens.  Meanwhile, those who built the city and who keep it functioning live hard lives, work ten-hour shifts, and occupy subterranean homes.  Joh Fredersen, the ruthless industrialist who governs the city, considers this arrangement just; the workers are, he says,

Where they belong.

His son, Freder, is naively unaware of the plight of the “other half” until Maria, the prophet of the working class, brings some of the workers’ barefoot children, clad in rags, to the Eternal Gardens and shows them their

brothers and sisters.

The butler shoos them away, of course.  But Freder begins to search the city in search of the woman with whom he has just fallen in love.  He does find her eventually, but not before he witnesses and experiences the harsh industrial conditions.  And he begins to realize his destiny to function as the mediator who will avert the violent overthrow of his father’s regime and who will create justice for the workers.

Some characters are inexact analogs for biblical figures.

Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure.  Not only is he the mediator, but he is crucified on a clock in one scene in which he takes a worker’s place.

If Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure, his father Joh is the YHWH figure.  If one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one realizes that YHWH is not always nice.  Joh does approve of the workers’ rebellion so that he can crush it, eliminate troublemakers, and rule with an even more iron fist; he is an unsympathetic character.  Meanwhile, back in the Old Testament, depictions of YHWH are sometimes unpleasant; YHWH does send plagues and pestilences upon innocent populations more than once.  (See Exodus 7:14-12:32 and 2 Samuel 24:10-17, for example.)

Above:  Rotwang shows Joh Frederson the “Machine Man”

Rotwang, the inventor and prototypical cinematic mad scientist, is the Satan figure.  He pursues his own agenda and desires to undermine Joh.  Rotwang almost succeeds.

The movie portrays inhumane industrial conditions as idolatry.  In one scene Freder witnesses an industrial accident which claims human casualties.   He imagines the machine as Moloch/Molech, the Ammonite deity mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7 and 2 Kings 23:10, and experiences a hallucination of the machine consuming willing and unwilling human sacrifices.

Alas, the film’s conclusion does seem like a too-convenient deus ex machina, one which leaves the oppressive Joh Fredersen in charge.  But perhaps he will change his ways; nobody is beyond repentance and redemption, right?

Metropolis, despite its inconsistencies, is a staggering achievement and a masterpiece, one worthy of thoughtful appreciation and analysis beyond its obvious technical excellence.  This is not a story of the violent overthrow of the dictatorial and insensitive regime. Rather, the aborted uprising is the work of Rotwang, the Satan analog, who seeks to overthrow Joh, and of Joh, who wants to use the opportunity for his own purposes, only to find that they backfire on him.  So the politics of the film are inconsistent.  One might guess, based on the early scenes, that the ending might be different:  Freder and Maria overthrow Joh, with the screenwriter’s approval.  But no!

Yet the movie is what it is.  And the theme of social justice, especially that of the economic variety, is consistent with the ethos of the Hebrew prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA