Archive for the ‘Ezra 6’ Category

Divine Warnings to the Restored Community   Leave a comment

Above:  Illustration of a Spider Web (Isaiah 59:5)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 56:1-59:21

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Third Isaiah, First Zechariah, and Haggai had to explain why previous prophecies of heaven on earth after the end of the Babylonian Exile had not come to pass.  (I have already covered Haggai-First Zechariah.)  Third Isaiah spoke of sinful and rebellious people within Israel opposing God’s righteous rule.  According to Third Isaiah, the end of the Babylonian Exile was not the inauguration of heaven on earth.  No, it was a foretaste of heaven on earth.

Isaiah 56;1-59:21 comes from a time when many Jewish exiles remained in Babylonia (then part of the Persian Empire) and the situation in Judah was difficult.  The economy was bad and the drought was severe.  The material in Isaiah 56:1-59:21 emphasizes keeping the divine covenant in the context of community.  This covenant requires justice.  This covenant excludes corruption, idolatry, faithlessness, and superficial piety.  This covenant includes all who keep it–even foreigners and eunuchs (see Ezra 9; Ezra 6:21; Deuteronomy 23:2; Leviticus 21:16-23).  This covenant, therefore, moves beyond some of the exclusionary parts of the Law of Moses and welcomes the conversion of Gentiles.  This covenant entails keeping the Sabbath, by which one emulates God.

The Sabbath, in this context, had a particular meaning.  Keeping it indicated commitment to the ancestral faith, the faith to which the society was supposed to be returning.  Keeping the Sabbath was part of a just society, as well as a mark of freedom.  People were free to be their best in God.  Many did not want to pursue that goal.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of necessary compromises regarding Sabbath-keeping in Judaism in antiquity and the present day, I point out that some people have to perform certain work on the day designated in their tradition as the Sabbath.  I also affirm that keeping Sabbath, whichever day a tradition or an adherent to it does so, is necessary, proper, and beneficial.  Keeping Sabbath is not being productive.  Being productive should not be the greatest value or one of the greatest values in a society.  It is, actually, a form of idolatry when raised to that high a priority.  My worth as a human being comes from bearing the image of God, not in how productive I am (or can be) and how much I purchase (or can afford to buy).

God judges unrepentant sinners and helps the righteous and penitent, we read.  God balances judgment and mercy.  God could not ignore what the society of Judah was doing to itself, we read.  When Judahites oppressed each other, God could not pretend this was not occurring, we read.  Divine judgment and mercy are inseparable.  They are like sides of a coin.

Sadly, the warnings in Isaiah 56:1-59:59:21 remain relevant in 2021.   What we mere mortals do–collectively and individually–matters.  God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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The Coronation of Joshua, the High Priest   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua, High Priest

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XIII

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Zechariah 6:9-15

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

Zechariah 6:9-15 depicts the making of two crowns yet the coronation of just one man–the high priest, Joshua ben Jehozadak.  We read another reference to “the Branch,” Zerubbabel, supposedly due to wear a royal crown and restore the Davidic Dynasty.  We know that he did neither.  We read an affirmation of the dual leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 6:15 predicts the completion of the Second Temple, under one condition:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That is almost a quote from Deuteronomy 28:1, at the beginning of a chapter about blessings, curses, and the consequences of disobedience to God.  Deuteronomy 28, placed in the mouth of Moses, comes from a time long after him.  The chapter benefits from centuries’ worth of hindsight.

Hindsight is the context from which people tell stories and weave interpretations.  Hindsight is useful and crucial during transitional periods, such as the temporal context of Haggai-First Zechariah.  Those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are not destined to repeat them.  Time does not play on a loop.  No, those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are destined to commit variations of those errors in new contexts.

Zechariah 6:15b states the overriding theme of Haggai 1-2 and Zechariah 1-8:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

This is also a theme that repeats, as if on a loop, throughout the Old and New Testaments.  This theme remains germane in 2021.  However, knowing the details of how to obey God can prove challenging.  Applying timeless principles in circumstances introduces a degree of relativism.  I know, for example, that God commands me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  But how I should do that in a particular time, place, and cultural setting, as opposed to another time, place, and cultural setting?

One may have to do one’s best, trust in God, hope to get it right, and pray for forgiveness if one errs.  The desire to please God is a good start, at least.  It is more than many people want to do.  And, by grace, one can forgive oneself for trying and failing, just as God has forgiven one.

The rest of the story comes from Ezra 6:1-22 and 1 Esdras 7:-15.  We read that the construction of the Second Temple was complete in 516 B.C.E., and that a celebration of Passover followed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Fourth Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VI

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Haggai 2:20-23

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

The fourth oracle of Haggai (2:20-23) indicates that Haggai believed that Zerubbabel, grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah (r. 597 B.C.E.), to be a future monarch.  The reference to a signet ring (Haggai 2:23) echoes Jeremiah 22:24, a reference to Jehoiachin.  Likewise, Zechariah 3:8 refers to Zerubbabel as “the Branch”–a royal, Davidic label.  Historical records tell us that Zerubbabel never reigned as a king.

Zerubbabel was a satrap (governor) of the Persian Empire.  After he left office, someone else succeeded him.  The next Jew to govern as a king was Simon, starting in 142 B.C.E. (1 Maccabees 13:41).  He was a Hasmonean priest-king, both monarch, and high priest, and not of the House of David.

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The prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem, rebuking them in the name of the God of Israel.

–Ezra 5:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Good progress was made with the sacred works, as the result of the prophesies of Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they finished the rebuilding as commanded by the God of Israel and according to the decrees of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

–Ezra 6:14b-15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That is, in March 516 B.C.E.

We also find references to Haggai and Zechariah in 1 Esdras 6:1 and 7:3, in language nearly identical to that in the quotes above.

Haggai ceased to prophesy after December 18, 520 B.C.E.  Why did he stop?  Did many people become disillusioned because of precise prophecies that never came true, so that the lost credibility?  I do not know; no texts provide answers to those questions.  Yet the completion of the Second Temple stands in the historical record as part of his legacy.

We–you, O reader, and I–leave the Book of Haggai behind and return to First Zechariah; we have completed the Book of Haggai.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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The Tears of the Christ   1 comment

Above:  Jesus, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964)

A Screen Capture

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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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Genesis 13:1-16 or Ezra 1:1-7; 3:8-13

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Revelation 7:9-17

John 11:1-3. 16-44

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Jesus wept.

–John 11:35, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears like their eyes.

–Revelation 7:16-17, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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I could take so many paths through the assigned readings for this week.  These readings are rich texts.  I will take just one path, however.

Before I do, here are a few notes:

  1. Abraham waited for God to tell him which land to claim.  Abraham chose well.
  2. Lot chose land on his own.  He chose poorly.  However, at the time he seemed to have chosen wisely; he selected fertile land.
  3. I agree with Psalm 136.  Divine mercy does endure forever.
  4. The chronology of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah weaves in and out of those books.  I know, for I blogged my way through them in chronological order at BLOGA THEOLOGICA last year.

For the record, the chronological reading order of Ezra-Nehemiah follows:

  1. Ezra 1:1-2:70; Nehemiah 7:6-73a;
  2. Ezra 3:1-4:5;
  3. Ezra 5:1-6:22;
  4. Ezra 4:6-24;
  5. Nehemiah 1:1-2:20;
  6. Nehemiah 3:1-4:17;
  7. Nehemiah 5:1-19;
  8. Nehemiah 6:1-7:5;
  9. Nehemiah 11:1-12:47;
  10. Nehemiah 13:1-31;
  11. Nehemiah 9:38-10:39;
  12. Ezra 7:1-10:44; and
  13. Nehemiah 7:73b-9:38.

I take my lead in this post from the New Testament readings.  Tears are prominent in both of them.  Tears are on my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They are also on my mind as I continue to mourn the violent death of my beloved.  Her departure from this side of the veil of tears has left me shaken and as forever changed me.

The full divinity and full humanity of Jesus are on display in John 11.  We read that Jesus wept over the death of his friend, St. Lazarus of Bethany.  We also read of other people mourning and weeping in the immediate area.  We may not pay much attention to that.  We may tell ourselves, “Of course, they grieved and wept.”  But two words–“Jesus wept”–remain prominent.

There is a scene in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964) that fits this theme.  At the time, Hollywood studios had recently released technicolor movies about a Jesus who had no tear ducts yet had an impressive command of Elizabethan English while resembling a Northern European.  Yet Pier Paolo Pasolini, who committed about half of the Gospel of Matthew to film, presented a Jesus who had tear ducts.  Immediately after the off-camera decapitation of St. John the Baptist, the next shot was a focus on Christ’s face.  He was crying.  So were the men standing in front of him.

Jesus wept.

We weep.  Jesus weeps with us until the day God will wipe away all tears of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-19-year-d-humes/

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The Continuation of the Rebuilding and the Completion of the Second Temple   2 comments

Above:  Reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XIII

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1 Esdras 6:1-7:15

Ezra 5:1-6:22

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I have written in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizational principle in Ezra.  Consider, O reader, the following examples:

  1. Ezra 4:5 establishes the range of Persian kings during the delay in rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem as spanning Cyrus II (r. 559-530 B.C.E.), Cambyses (r. 530-522 B.C.E.), and Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).
  2. Ezra 4:6 names the king as Ahasuerus–in this case, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 B.C.E.)
  3. Ezra 4:7 names the king as Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 B.C.E.), with Xerxes I, one of the models for Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther.
  4. Ezra 5:1 names the king as Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).

In U.S. presidential terms, that would be like establishing the range as the administrations of George Washington (1789-1797), John Adams (1797-1801), and Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) then mentioning the administrations of James Madison (1809-1817) and James Monroe (1817-1825) before returning to the Jefferson Administration.  If one is not well-versed in the chronology, one can easily become confused.

To add to the confusion, Ezra 4:7-24 belongs to the next topic–rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  I am still writing about the rebuilding of the Temple.  I resume, therefore, at Ezra 5:1.

Darius I took the rebuilding of the Temple seriously (Ezra 6:11-12; 1 Esdras 6:32-33).  The completion of the Second Temple happened on his watch, to use an anachronistic figure of speech.  A celebration of the Passover followed.

Passover was the annual celebration of God liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  Passover was a great national holiday and a religious festival.  Jewish independence was in the past at that Passover, but the Persian monarch was friendly toward the Jews, at least.  Being subjects of Darius I was far better for Jews than being subjects of Nebuchadnezzar II.  Those Jews who had chosen to return to the ancestral homeland, part of the satrapy Beyond the River, had participated in an exodus from Babylon.  They had many reasons to be thankful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Cyrus II Allows Exiles to Return   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART X

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2 Chronicles 36:22-23

1 Esdras 2:1-15 and 5:7-46

Ezra 1:1-11 and 2:1-70

Nehemiah 7:6-73a

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Sit silent, retire into darkness,

O Fair Chaldea;

Nevermore shall they call you

Mistress of Kingdoms.

–Isaiah 47:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C.E.  He, a tolerant ruler, reversed the Babylonian Exile and launched another Jewish exodus.  Cyrus earned his nickname, “the Great.”

Biblical authors were understandably sympathetic to Cyrus II.  Isaiah 44:24-45:25 went so far as to apply “Messiah” to him.  (Aside:  As scholarly books about Messiahship attest, that term has had a variety of meanings over time.)  Coverage and mentions of Cyrus the Great in 2 Chronicles 36, Ezra 1, Ezra 3-6, 1 Esdras 2, and 1 Esdras 4-7 was also positive.  Why not?

Walter Brueggemann, a great scholar of the Old Testament and a minister in the United Church of Christ, tells us that the main themes in the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in the readings for this post.  Related to those themes is the hand of God acting through people, including Gentiles, good or bad.  Cyrus II (who was a Zoroastrian, by the way) occupies space on the list of good Gentiles.  Related to that theme is another one:  anyone may function as a prophet of God, however briefly or not.  If God chooses to speak through someone, that person is a prophet for as long as he or she speaks for God.  All of these themes are consistent with a fifth one:  the sovereignty of God.

I, as a Christian (therefore, a Trinitarian), accept the the concept of the Holy Spirit speaking through people.  I have experienced it.  I have also experienced people functioning as agents of grace.  The identities of God’s agents have surprised me sometimes.  Often they have been people I have expected, however.

God speaks to us and acts in a variety of ways, including via human beings.  God may speak and act through you, O reader, and through me.  When we fail to recognize any agent or prophet of God, we miss something important.  We need to reorient our expectations.  I am chief among those who need to heed this advice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Moral Renewal   Leave a comment

Above:   Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, in a world of change you have placed eternity in our hearts

and have given us power to discern good from evil:

Grant us sincerity that we may persistently seek the things that endure,

refusing those which perish, and that, amid things vanishing and deceptive,

we may see the truth steadily, follow the light faithfully,

and grow ever richer in that love which is the life of the people;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Ezra 1:2-4; 3:10-13

Psalm 51

Jude 17-21, 24-25

Luke 13:22-24, 34-35

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The readings from Mark 13 and Jude share the warning to avoid following false teachers and to remain in eternal life, which, according to John 17:3, is knowing God via Jesus.  In Mark 13 and Jude this warning comes in the context of apocalyptic expectations.  Mark 13 also occurs in the context of the imminent crucifixion of Jesus.  The question of how to identify false teachers is an important one.  This is frequently a difficult matter, given the reality of the existence of theological blind spots.  If one backs up just one verse to Jude 16, however, we read a description of false teachers:

They are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts.  Bombast comes rolling from their lips, and they court favour to gain their ends.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That helps somewhat.

False teachers distract us from God, in whom we can have new beginnings.  The new beginning in Ezra 1 and 3 (Chapter 2 is a list of returning exiles.) culminates in the laying and dedication of the foundation of the Second Temple at Jerusalem.  The narrative of the construction of that Temple continues through Chapter 6.  In The Episcopal Church we read Psalm 51, a prayer for healing and moral renewal, on Ash Wednesday.  Moral renewal is of the essence.

That is also a frequently disputed project.  What constitutes moral renewal?  I know enough about history to be able to speak or write extemporaneously about “moral” defenses of offenses including serfdom, chattel slavery, Apartheid, Jim Crow laws, and the economic exploitation of industrial workers.  Anyone who defends any of those sins in any circumstance needs moral renewal.  All of those sins violate the law of love, which is a helpful guide for determining what is moral.

The truth is that all of us need moral renewal.  The most pious and kind-hearted person has the need of moral renewal in some parts of his or her life.  We can find that renewal by turning to God and avoiding false teachers, many of whom offer easy answers to difficult questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Psalms 30 and 31   1 comment

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POST XI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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The theme of calling out to God amidst severe illness unites these two texts.  The author of Psalm 30 fears that he might be near death, actually.  Psalm 31 indicates a human, external source of the affliction in question in that prayer.  In each case the author concludes by blessing God.  In Psalm 30 yet not in Psalm 31 is a superscription noting the dedication of the Temple and reinterpreting the text to indicate national sickness and recovery from it.  Traditions point to the rebuilding of the Temple (520-516 B.C.E.; see Ezra 6:15-18) and the rededication of the Second Temple in 164 B.C.E. (see 1 Maccabees 4:36-59).  Thus Psalm 30 is a reading for Hanukkah.

The link between the individual and the collective interests me.  My North American culture, with its emphasis on rugged individualism, does not handle matters of the collective as well as it should.  Furthermore, rugged individualism is incompatible with the ethics of Judaism and Christianity.  We all depend on God and each other.  As John Donne expressed so eloquently,

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Whatever we do, we affect the lives of others.  We are responsible to and for each other.

We let each other down routinely, but we can trust in the fidelity of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Posted August 8, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 Maccabees, Ezra 6, Psalm 30, Psalm 31

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Faults of the Temple   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  Temple of Solomon

I scanned the image from a Bible salesman’s sample book from the late 1800s.  The volume is falling apart, unfortunately, but it is quite nice to have nevertheless.

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The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 6:1-4, 21-22 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 16-19 (Tuesday)

Ezra 6:1-6 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 (Monday)

Hebrews 9:23-28 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:15-19 (Wednesday)

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How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing to enter the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was the heart of Judaism for a long time.  There, for centuries, was the Ark of the Covenant.  The Temple was where one had an especially palpable sense of the presence of God, although God dwelt everywhere.  King Solomon, using forced labor (see 1 Kings 5:27-30), oversaw the construction of the first Temple, an elaborate structure.  Forces of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 587 B.C.E., but the Persian Empire provided support for the construction of the Second Temple.  King Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire, expanded the Second Temple greatly, creating the Temple of which we read in the Gospels.  That Temple was the seat of Judean collaboration with the Roman occupiers.  It was also the site of the sacrifices of animals which poor people had purchased with currency they had exchanged for a fee; Roman currency was technically idolatrous.  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer in the name of piety.  The Temple system was corrupt.

This was why our Lord and Savior criticized that system and competed with it.  Thus many of his staunchest opponents benefited from that system.  Regardless of the number of purifications and rededications of the Temple, the flaw therein remained, for the upkeep of the Temple depended greatly upon money from people who could not afford to pay.

Thus Jesus, in the New Testament, replaces the Temple and the accompanying system.  In him are no political conflicts of interest related to collaboration with an occupying power.  In him are no demands for fees the poor cannot afford to pay.  In him there is no corruption.  He is the Passover lamb, whose blood, death, and Resurrection have atoned for sins.  (The Passover lambs in the Book of Exodus protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, not themselves, by the way.)  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is, in the words of 1 Corinthians 3, the foundation of the Church, God’s building.

And Judaism has done quite well without a Temple since 70 C.E., not that one should celebrate the Roman destruction of Jerusalem during the First Jewish War.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Hearing and Doing   1 comment

Above:  Darius I of Persia

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezra 6:1-8, 12-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written:

Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of God in Jerusalem:  ’Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high.  Let it be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone.  The expenses shall be paid by the palace.  And the gold and the silver vessels of the House of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Jerusalem where it belongs; you shall deposit in in the House of God.’

“Now you, Tannenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.  Allow the work of this House of God to go on; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this House of God:  the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped….And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem.  I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.  So the elders of the Jews progressed with the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lamps, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They appointed the priests in their courses and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to the prescription in the Book of Moses.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some dates will prove useful in comprehending the material from Ezra.  So, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), here they are:

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

“Artaxerxes” is Artaxerxes I, in case you were wondering.

Cyrus II had authorized the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem, but politics stopped the process.  The Assyrians had settled other peoples in Judea, and some of the descendants of these ethnic groups obstructed the effort.  The logjam ended during the reign of Darius I.  Thank goodness for archivists!

There is a plethora of Christian theological writing regarding the will(s) of God and the ability of humans to interfere with it/them.  One of the more accessible works on this subject is The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead.  As I have lived, read, and pondered, I have concluded that Weatherhead is correct:  the ultimate will of God will come to pass, regardless of what we mere mortals do.  That said, we have the power, through the abuse of our free will, to derail more than one divine path to fulfilling that ultimate will.  In other words, we can stand in the way of God’s Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C.  Yet, sooner or later, one way or another, God’s ultimate will is going to come to pass.

We function as obstructions when we fail to be both hearers and doers of God’s word and ultimate will.  Yet, when we hear then do, we act as faithful members of the household of God.  Is not that much better than being stubborn, spiteful, and petty?

So, why are we stubborn, spiteful, and petty?  Some of us might not realize what we are doing.  These are those who are so caught up in themselves that they cannot see the detrimental effects of their actions upon others.  Still others of us, if we do know what we are doing, might have distorted values systems which glorify stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness.  Then there are those who try to do the right thing, as they understand it, but get it wrong.  These are not bad people who wake up each day and plot their disobedience.  But perhaps cultural blinders prevent them from seeing clearly.  And, of course, all of us are prone to stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness from time to time.  Stubbornness, in the service of a good cause, is persistence, a virtue.  So context matters here.

Sometimes, then, we hear and try to do,  but fail.  Other times we hear and do not try to obey.  Still other times he hear but misunderstand.  And sometimes we do not hear at all, so we cannot obey in such circumstances.  Sometimes instructions from God seem quite clear with the aid of hindsight and tradition.  Yet other times traditions distort those instructions.  What are to do?  How can we know how to discern between correct and distorted messages?

This is not a simple matter, and I have not encountered a burning bush in my life.  I have opinions, many of which I voice on this weblog and others within my blog network.  Yet I try to maintain proper theological humility; I can be wrong.  I stand by my opinions today, but I might change some of them by next year.  I am fallible.

So I try to remain open to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit, to confirm when I am correct and tell me when I am not.  The best I can do is the best I can do.  It is not enough, but it does not have to be, for God is all-powerful.  And, even in my worst moments, the worst I can do is delay the fulfillment of the ultimate will of God.  At best, however, I will be part of the fulfillment of that will.  But God will’s is going to come to fruition, with or without me.  I prefer to be part of the solution, not the problem.  By grace, I will succeed more often than not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF GRAHAM GREENE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/week-of-proper-20-tuesday-year-1/

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