Archive for the ‘Hosea Other’ Category

Divine Judgment Against Israel and Judah   Leave a comment

Above:  Clarke County Jail, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING AMOS, PART III

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Amos 2:4-16

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Introduction

The Books of Amos, Hosea, Micah, and First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33), in their final forms, bear the evidence of editing and updating as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  Isaiah 36-39, frequently classified as part of First Isaiah, is verbatim from 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, except for Isaiah 38:9-20 (King Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving).  One may reasonably argue that Amos 2:4-5 (the condemnation of Judah) is not original to the first draft of the Book of Amos, given that the prophet had a mandate to prophesy against the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

The words of Amos, a sheepherder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Israel….”

–Amos 1:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, we read the final draft of the Book of Amos, last updated to speak to exiles in Persian-occupied Judea.  Therefore, the final draft is the one we ponder and apply to today.

In Amos 1:3-2:3, God, through the prophet (and subsequent writers), had condemned Gentile neighbor nations of Israel and Judah for crimes that were anti-human or against nature.  The covenant did not apply to these nations, but certain standards did.  And God held these nations accountable.  The covenant did apply to Israel and Judah, though.

The motif from Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1 repeats in 2:4, 6:

For three crimes of _____, and now four–

I will not take it back-….

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Divine patience has its limits.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Judah (2:4-5)

The (southern) Kingdom of Judah had “spurned the instruction of the LORD, and did not keep his statutes….”

That kingdom fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C.E.

Israel (2:6-16)

The identity of Israel in Amos 2:6-16, in its final form, is ambiguous.  Israel seems to be the Northern Kingdom at first, given the prophet’s mandate.  Yet, in 2:10f, Israel refers to the Jewish people.  2:6-16, probably in this form since after the Babylonian Exile, applies the text to the Jews of that time.

The condemnations are timeless.  They include economic injustice, exploitation of human beings, slavery, judicial corruption, and other offenses against the common good.  Some details are specific to time and place.  For example, consider 2:7b:

Son and father sleep with the same girl,

profaning my holy name.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

She may be a cultic prostitute, as in Hosea 4:14, in violation of Deuteronomy 23:17.  Or she may be a bond-servant whose rights father and son trample by making her their concubine, in violation of Exodus 21:8.  Sexual promiscuity (in violation of Deuteronomy 27:20; Leviticus 18:8, 15, 17; and Leviticus 20:10f) is another matter in this verset.  This promiscuity violates an oath made in the name of YHWH.  One may recognize applications of Amos 2:7b in various contexts today.

Upon garments taken in pledge

they recline beside my altar.

Wine at treasury expense

they drink in their temple.

–Amos 2:8, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A debtor used a garment as collateral for a loan.  Exodus 22:26-27 protected the rights of debtors:

If you take your neighbour’s cloak in pawn, return it to him by sunset, because it is his only covering.  It is the cloak in which he wraps his body; in what else can he sleep?  If he appeals to me, I shall listen, for I am full of compassion.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The wine in Amos 2:8b was wine gained from fines debtors paid to creditors.  Exodus 21:22 and Deuteronomy 22:19 permitted imposing fines as a form of reparation for injury.  The rich were exploiting the poor and manipulating the rules at cultic festivals of YHWH.  They were making a mockery of sacred rituals.  Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, addressed such behavior in Hosea 6:4-6.

But they, to a man, have transgressed the covenant.

–Hosea 6:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.E.

Conclusion

The condemnations in Amos 2:6-8 remain relevant, unfortunately.

  1. Human trafficking is a major problem.  I live in Athens, Georgia, to the northeast of Atlanta, a hub of the slave trade, of a sort.
  2. In the United States of America, the federal minimum wage is not a living wage.
  3. Judicial corruption continues to exist.  Often, wealthy defendants fare better than impoverished ones.  “How much justice can you afford?” is frequently an honest and germane question.  Many innocent people bow to prosecutors’ pressure and plead guilty to lesser offenses to avoid certain conviction and a stiffer sentence for a greater legal charge.
  4. Bail, frequently not necessary, is a burden on impoverished defendants.
  5. The exploitation of human beings, as a matter of corporate and government policies, remains endemic.
  6. Sexual promiscuity, to which human nature is prone, remains ubiquitous.
  7. Women are frequently vulnerable to powerful men.
  8. Idolatry is another persistent problem.
  9. Injustice is individual, collective, and systemic.

If he appeals to me, I shall listen, for I am full of compassion.

–Exodus 22:27b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine mercy for the oppressed may take the form of judgment for the oppressors.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DE CHARGÉ AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS OF TIBHIRINE, ALGERIA, 1996

THE FEAST OF EUGENE DE MAZENOD, BISHOP OF MARSEILLES, AND FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSIONARIES, OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE

THE FEAST OF FRANZ JÄGGERSTÄTTER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH ADDISON AND ALEXANDER POPE, ENGLISH POETS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MANUEL GÓMEZ GONZÁLEZ, SPANISH-BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1924; AND SAINT ADILO DARONCH, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ALTAR BOY AND MARTYR, 1924

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Israel’s Punishment and Restoration, Part II: Parenting and Ingratitude   1 comment

Above:  Lion and Lioness

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART IX

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Hosea 11:1-13:16 (Anglican and Protestant)

Hosea 11:1-14:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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Hosea 11:5 and 12:1/12:2 are two verses in this book that refers to Egypt, with Egypt described as the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  “Egypt and Assyria” may be a motif in Hebrew prophetic literature, as some of the commentaries I consult suggest.  Egypt, as part of a motif, recalls slavery in a foreign land.  Returning to Egypt, metaphorically, is abandoning freedom in God and reversing the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17-14:31).  Perhaps the reference to King Hoshea of Israel (r. 732-722 B.C.E.) attempting a last-minute alliance with Egypt (2 Kings 17:4) offers a partial explanation for the motif of returning to Egypt in this portion of the Book of Hosea.  Otherwise, that motif makes no historical sense in the timeframe of the prophet Hosea, when Aram was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  If, however, one acknowledges subsequent Judean editing and updating of the Book of Hosea, this motif does make sense historically, assuming that one replaces “Assyria” with “Babylon.”  An astute student of the Bible may recall that, after the Fall of Jerusalem, some Judean fugitives went into exile in Egypt and took him with them (Jeremiah 42:1-44:30).  Anyway, the people, whether Israelite or Judean, were returning to Egypt, metaphorically, not to God.

Their one hope is the one possibility which they ignore.

–James Luther Mays, Hosea:  A Commentary (1969), 155

The main idea in these verses is that God loves the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, which he has refused to repent, to return to God and the covenant.  Israel has continued to surround God with deceit.  Israel has condemned itself, and God has pronounced sentence.  The people have no excuse and only themselves to blame.

Ephraim was bitterly vexing,

and his bloodguilt shall be set upon him,

and his Master shall pay him back for his shame.

–Hosea 12:15, Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019)

Alternatives to “shame” in other translations include scorn, blasphemy, insults, and mockery.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in both Testaments of the Bible.  This can be a difficult teaching to digest.  I struggle with it sometimes.  Yet I strive to be spiritually and intellectually honest.  God refuses to fit into human theological boxes and categories.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF CANTALICE, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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Israel’s Punishment and Restoration, Part I: The Fruits of Idolatry and Punishment for Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Small Waterfall, Poss Creek, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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…Like foam upon water.

–Hosea 10:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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READING HOSEA, PART VIII

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Hosea 10:1-15

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St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) defined sin as disordered love.  The great theologian and Bishop of Hippo Regius explained that God deserves the most love.  Furthermore, people, as well as certain items, ideas, institutions, and activities deserve less love than God.  Furthermore, some some ideas, items, institutions, and activities deserve no love.  The Bishop of Hippo Regius taught that to give God less love than proper and anything or anyone else more love than proper is to have disordered love–sin.  This sin is also idolatry, for it draws love away from God.

Hosea 10:1-15 employs metaphors for the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  10:1-10 describes Israel as a vine.  The vine’s days of economic prosperity and military security during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam II are over in the vision.  Also, we read, the golden calf at Bethel (“House of God”), or as Hosea called the place, Beth-aven (“House of Evil;” see 4:15 also), will become an object of tribute hauled off to the Assyrian Empire.  And

Samaria’s monarchy is vanishing

Like foam upon the water….”

–10:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers an alternative translation:

Samaria and her king will disappear,

like a twig upon the waters.

Israel is like a heifer in 10:11-15.  Israel, trained to sow righteousness and, therefore, to reap the fruits of goodness, instead plows wickedness.  Therefore, Israel reaps iniquity and eats the fruits of treachery.  Israel’s reliance on its way has led to its preventable fate.

I detect what may be evidence of subsequent Judean editing of 10:11:

I will make Ephraim do advance plowing;

Judah shall do [main] plowing!

Jacob shall do final plowing!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Hosea 10:13-14 refers to military threats.  The immediate threat was from either Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.), Shalmaneser V (r. 727-722 B.C.E.), or Sargon II (r. 722-705 B.C.E.) of the Assyrian Empire.  Shalmaneser V began the siege of Samaria; Sargon II finished it.  This detail seems to have been lost on the author of 2 Kings 17:1-6.  Perhaps Hosea 10:13-14, in referring to Shalman having destroyed Betharbel, means Shalmaneser III (r. 858-824 B.C.E.), from the time of King Jehu of Israel (r. 842-814 B.C.E.).  (See 2 Kings 9:1-10:30; 2 Chronicles 22:5-9.)  The reference to the battle at Betharbel is obscure, but the warning is plain.  The collective consequences of collectively forsaking the divine covenant are terrible, we read.

Perhaps James Luther Mays summarized the situation best:

Yahweh will be the one who acts in gruesome devastation against those whose faith makes them secure against his judgment and independent of his power.  Autonomy as a state of violation of their existence as the covenant people is the “evil of their evil.”  The king to whom the army belongs and who therefore incarnates their independence of Yahweh will be the first to fall.  In the dawn’s first light, when the battle has hardly begun, he shall be cut off.

Hosea:  A Commentary (1969), 150

After all, as R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

If the righteousness of Yahweh could not find realization in a social order, it must destroy the order of life men built in its defiance.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 188

The prophets Hosea and Amos were contemporaries with different foci.  As Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel wrote, Amos saw episodes yet Hosea saw a drama.  Also, Amos focused on social injustice (especially economic injustice), but Hosea focused on idolatry.  Injustice and idolatry were related to each other.  The people and their kings, by straying from God, strayed also from the divine covenant, of which social justice was an essential part.

That is a timeless message that should cause many people to tremble.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF CANTALICE, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part IV: Idolatry and Degeneration   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Neighbors

Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING HOSEA, PART VII

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Hosea 9:1-17

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I am convinced that references to Egypt in the Book of Amos may date to the Judean editing of the text.  History tells me that, in the days of the prophet Hosea, Aram, not Egypt, was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  History also tells me that, when the (southern) Kingdom of Judah was waning, Egypt was the main rival to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, successor to and conqueror of the Assyrian Empire.  I also recall 2 Kings 23:31f, in which the Pharaoh, having killed King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in battle, selected the next two Kings of Judah–Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Jeconiah and Shallum; reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E.) and Jehoiakim (born Eliakim; reigned 608-598 B.C.E.).  (See 2 Kings 23:31-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:1-8; and 1 Esdras 1:34-42.)  References to returning to Egypt make sense on a literal level after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, given the events of Jeremiah 42:1-44:31.  On a metaphorical level, “returning to Egypt” stands for abandoning freedom in God and returning to captivity, thereby reversing the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17-14:31).

As for eating unclean food in Assyria (9:3), just replace Assyria with Babylonia, and that statement applies to the late Judean reality, too.  2 Kings 24:1-25:30 tells of the fall of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  That portion of scripture also tells us that the last three Kings of Judah were Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassals.

Editing the original version of the Book of Hosea to describe the plight of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah required little effort.  For example, Hoshea (r. 732-723 B.C.E.), the last King of Israel, was a rebellious vassal of Assyria.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17).  Likewise, King Zedekiah (born Mattaniah; reigned 597-586 B.C.E.) was a rebellious vassal of Babylonia.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58)

A sense of divine sadness pervades Hosea 9:1-17.  One can feel it as one reads God, filtered through Hosea and perhaps subsequent editors, asking:

Why did my people make such terrible, destructive choices?

The chapter concludes on a somber note:

My God rejects them,

Because they have not obeyed Him….

–Hosea 9:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Cultures, societies, and individuals have the choice to obey or to disobey the moral mandates from God.  Well-intentioned people who seek to obey God may debate how to do so.  The situation in the Book of Hosea, however, is that the debate does not take place.  The Book of Hosea describes a society in which disregard for those moral mandates was endemic.  Judgment for trying and failing to fulfill these moral mandates differs from judgment for not caring enough to try.

My late beloved was mentally ill.  Immediately prior to the end of her life, I told her that I accepted that I had moral obligations to her, but that I did not know in the moment what they required me to do.  I was attempting, in a terminal crisis, to behave morally.  Perhaps I made the wrong choice.  Maybe I committed a sin of omission by avoiding the difficult and proper course of action.  Perhaps she would have done differently in a counterfactual scenario.  But I proceeded from a morally correct assumption, at least.

I live in a conflicted state.  I tell myself that I sinned by what I did not do, not what I did.  On the other hand, I tell myself that I could, at best, have delayed, not prevented her death by means other than natural causes.  I tell myself, too, that I had already delayed her death by means other than natural causes for years.  I tell myself that I carry survivor’s guilt, and that God has forgiven me for all sins of commission and omission vis-à-vis my late beloved.  I have yet to forgive myself, though.

I wonder what exiles from Israel and Judah felt as they began their captivity and that exile dragged on.  I wonder how many of them “saw the light” and repented.  I know that the Ten Lost Tribes (mostly) assimilated, and that their descendants spread out across the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa.  Knowing this adds poignancy to Hosea 9:14b:

And they shall go wandering

Among the nations.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We human beings condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST; HIS SON-IN-LAW, JOHN HENRY HOBART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW YORK; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM HOBART HARE, APOSTLE TO THE SIOUX AND EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF NIOBRARA THEN SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA VOLPICELLI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE SACRED HEART; SAINT LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, FOUNDER OF THE GRAY FRIARS OF CHARITY AND COFOUNDER OF THE GRAY SISTERS OF SAINT ELIZABETH; AND SAINT GIULIA SALZANO, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE CATECHETICAL SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AND THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEYS AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF DONALD COGGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN ZIATYK, POLISH UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1952

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part III: Israel’s Treachery   Leave a comment

Above:  Doves (Hosea 7:11)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART VI

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Hosea 6:7-8:14

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Understanding this reading in textual context requires backing up to at least Hosea 6:4.  For a refresher, I refer you, O reader, to the previous post in this series.

Hosea 6:7-8:14 contains some references from a later period, after the Fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.E.  These references to Judah (6:11, 8:14) relate to the text to the (southern) Kingdom of Judah when it was declining.

According to this and other prophetic texts, alliances with powerful and dubious neighbors constituted infidelity to and treason against God.  The references to the Egyptians were odd, given that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel entered into alliances with Aram and Assyria.  At the time of Hosea 1:1, the main regional conflict was Aram versus Assyria.  However, Judah did become a vassal of Egypt (2 Kings 23:31f).

That matter aside, divine chastisement, designed to bring about repentance, had not done so.  Therefore, the time for punishment had arrived.

Hosea 7:3-7 makes sense if one considers royal succession in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel during the final quarter-century of the that realm:

  1. Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.) had died.  (See 2 Kings 14:23-29.)
  2. Zechariah (r. 747 B.C.E.), his son, succeeded him.  Zechariah reigned for about six months.  (See 2 Kings 15:8-12.)
  3. Shallum (r. 747 B.C.E.) overthrew Zechariah then reigned for about a month.  (See 2 Kings 15:13-16.)
  4. Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.) overthrew Shallum.  (See 2 Kings 15:17-22.)
  5. Pekahiah (r. 737-735 B.C.E.), his son, succeeded him.  (See 2 Kings 15:23-26.)
  6. Pekah (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) overthrew Pekahiah.  (See 2 Kings 15:27-31.)
  7. Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.) overthrew Pekah and became the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1f.)

Two dynasties and four kings of Israel fell in twenty-five years.  Six Kings of Israel came and went.  Two kings without dynasties fell.  The (northern) Kingdom of Israel did not endure.

They sow wind,

And they shall reap the whirlwind–

Standing stalks devoid of ears

And yielding no flour.

If they did yield any,

Strangers shall devour it.

–Hosea 8:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Assyrians did devour it.

The two calves of Samaria, at Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:26-33), dated to the reign (928-907 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam I.  (See 1 Kings 11:26-14:20.)  King Jeroboam I, for political reasons, did not want any of his subjects making pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem, the capital of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  The two calves, therefore, were substitutes for the Temple in Jerusalem.

I reject your calf, Samaria!

I am furious with them!

Will they ever be capable of purity?

For it was Israel’s doing;

It was only made by a joiner,

It is not a god.

No, the calf of Samaria shall be

Reduced to splinters!

–Hosea 8:5-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Hosea 8:1-14 may, in its final form, be the product of Judean editing of an extant text.  One feasible interpretation of 8:3-6 is that all the kings of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel (from Jeroboam I to Hoshea) were as illegitimate as the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.  One who has read of the northern monarchs may recognize the pattern of dynasties rising and falling.  I hold open the possibility that the original version of the Book of Hosea included at least some of this material.  The final version of 8:14, bearing the stamp of Judean editing, updated for a new (now ancient) context, provided no comfort.

Israel has ignored his Maker

And built temples

(And Judah has fortified many cities).

So I will set fire to his cities,

And it shall consume their fortresses.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

It happened twice, in 722 and 586 B.C.E.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST; HIS SON-IN-LAW, JOHN HENRY HOBART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW YORK; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM HOBART HARE, APOSTLE TO THE SIOUX AND EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF NIOBRARA THEN SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA VOLPICELLI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE SACRED HEART; SAINT LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, FOUNDER OF THE GRAY FRIARS OF CHARITY AND COFOUNDER OF THE GRAY SISTERS OF SAINT ELIZABETH; AND SAINT GIULIA SALZANO, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE CATECHETICAL SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AND THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEYS AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF DONALD COGGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN ZIATYK, POLISH UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1952

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part II: Divine Disappointment   1 comment

Above:  Dew (Hosea 6:4)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART V

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Hosea 5:8-6:6

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Remorse for and repentance for sins must be sincere if they are to prove effective.  Hosea 6:1-3 offers an example of insincere remorse for and repentance of sins, hence the divine rebuttal in 6:4-6.

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had erred by breaking the covenant with God.  The way to resolve the problem was to repent, to return to God.  Instead, Israel turned to the Assyrian Empire.   One historical reference was to King Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.), who paid tribute to the Assyrian monarch, Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.) in 738 B.C.E.  (See 2 Kings 15:19-20).  The once-powerful (northern) Kingdom of Israel had become a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrian king did not have Israel’s best interests in mind; God did.  Another historical reference may have been to King Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.), the a rebellious vassal of the Assyrian Empire and the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-41).  Ironically, “Hosea” and “Hoshea,” literally “rescue,” were the same name.

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations to “goodness” and “obedience to God” exist.  These include:

  1. “Loyalty” and “acknowledgment of God” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  2. “Loyalty” and “knowledge of God” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  3. “Steadfast love” and “knowledge of God” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and
  4. “Trust” and “knowledge of God” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

The Law of Moses commands certain burnt offerings, of course.  The Book of Hosea does not argue for nullifying any portion of the covenant with God, bound up with the Law of Moses.  The Book of Hosea does insist that these mandatory sacrifices are not talismans.  People must offer these mandatory sacrifices devoutly and sincerely if these sacred rituals are to have the desired, divinely-intended effects.

John Mauchline (1902-1984), of the University of Glasgow, wrote:

It is not necessary to conclude that Hosea regarded sacrifice as having no value whatsoever as an act of worship.  What is meant is that sacrifice as an expression of a living faith in the Lord may be a genuine religious act, but the Lord’s delight is in the true knowledge of the demands of his service and in the cultivation of that love which is the cultivation of that love which is the will for his people.  It should be noted in passing that whereas Samuel is reported to have called for obedience, not sacrifice, from Saul, Hosea’s demand is for love (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 628

Gale A. Yee, late of of the University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, added:

It is not the sacrificial system that Hosea condemns, but the dishonesty of its worshipers, whose conduct blatantly contradicts the demands of God’s covenant.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (1996), 252

Sister Carol J. Dempsey, O.P., of the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, wrote:

Ethical living is more important than religious rituals.  True worship is not defined solely by ritual practice; rather, it consists of an attitude and way of life characterized by justice, righteousness, and steadfast love–the hallmarks of the covenant and the necessary ingredients for right relationships with all creation (cf. Jer. 9:24).

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1495-1496

If one could be a card-carrying ritualist, I would carry that card inside my wallet.  Proper liturgy, as I understand it, sets the table for worship for me.  Low Church Protestant worship, which throws out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water, leaves me spiritually cold and uninspired.  Visiting houses of worship where such a poor excuse for liturgy is the offering is, for me, engaging in a mere perfunctory social gathering.  I feel like saying yet never say:

There, I was a sociable human being; I put in an appearance.  I did what you expected of me.  Are you happy now?  And do you call that a liturgy?

In some settings, I develop the difficult-to-resist urge to quote Presbyterian theologian and Davidson College professor Kenneth J. Foreman, Sr. (1891-1967):

One does not plead for the use of incense–Presbyterians are not likely to come to that–but at least one may protest against mistaking a general odor of mustiness for the odor of sanctity.

“Better Worship for Better Living,” Presbyterian Survey, August 1932, p. 482

Rituals occupy important places in cultures.  I admit this readily; I am not a Puritan, taking time out from whipping Baptists (see here and here) and executing Quakers (see here and here) to argue that God’s altar needs no polishing and, therefore, will get none.  Neither am I a Pietist, speaking scornfully and dismissively of “externals.”  I like externals!  Externals are important.  Yet even beautiful liturgies, entered into without devotion, are mere pageants.  Conducting splendid rituals, even in accordance with divine commandments, while shamelessly practicing human exploitation, for example, makes a mockery of the rituals.  And, on a less dramatic level, I recall having attended some Holy Eucharists when I, for reasons to do solely with myself, should have stayed home.  I remember some times that I habitually attended church on Sunday morning, but was not in the proper spiritual state.  I recall that I got nothing out of the ritual that usually feeds me spiritually because I brought nothing to it.  I remember that I merely got my attendance card punched, so to speak.

All people and societies have disappointed God.  We have all fallen short of divine high standards, possible to fulfill via a combination of human free will and divine grace.  The grace is present and sufficient.  But do we want to do what God requires?  Do we–individually and collectively–want to fulfill the ethical demands of divine law and covenant?  If we do, we become partners with God.  If we do not, we disappoint God and condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, BOHEMIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1393

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF THE SUDAN, 1983-2005

THE FEAST OF SAINT UBALDO BALDASSINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GUBBIO

THE FEAST OF SAINT VLADIMIR GHIKA, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1954

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part I: Bad Habits   Leave a comment

Above:  Cattle (Hosea 4:16)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART IV

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Hosea 4:1-5:7

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The heading for Hosea 4:1-9:17 in The Oxford Study Bible, Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1992) is,

God’s case against Israel.

This is a legal case, given the language of accusation and reproof, which carries the connotation of hauling someone into court.  This language carries over from Hosea 2:2/2:4 (depending on versification),:

“To court, take your mother to court!….”

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Then we got theological whiplash by changing the tone in Chapter 3 and switching back to judgment in Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 begins:

Hear the word of the LORD,

O people of Israel!

For the LORD has a case

Against the inhabitants of this land,

Because there is no honesty and no goodness

And no obedience to God in the land.

–Hosea 4:1-2, TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I survey translations, I notice a variety of word choices in lieu of honesty, goodness, and obedience to God.

  1. The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers, in order, fidelity, loyalty, and knowledge of God.
  2. The Revised English Bible (1989) offers, in order, good faith, loyalty, and acknowledgment of God.
  3. The New Revised Standard Version (1989) offers, in order, faithfulness, loyalty, and knowledge of God.
  4. Robert Alter’s The Hebrew Bible (2019) offers, in order, truth, trust, and knowledge of the LORD.

I will unpack the three terms, in order.

  1. Truth/faithfulness/good faith/honesty refers to the trustworthiness expected of a judge, as in Exodus 18:21.
  2. Trust/loyalty/goodness refers to fidelity in human relationships, as in 1 Samuel 20:15.
  3. Knowledge of God/obedience to God/acknowledgment of God refers to marital intimacy.  The metaphors of marriage, sexual fidelity, and divorce are prominent in the Book of Hosea.

In other words, the covenantal relationship between God and Isaiah was broken.  Israel had broken it.

The priesthood was corrupt, too.  Some priests were devout and honest, of course, but corruption was rife.

Exegetes whose writings I have consulted disagree with each other about the alien or bastard children in 5:7.

  1. These offspring may be alien because of Israelite intermarriage with foreigners.
  2. But, O reader, do not forget the pervasive metaphors of marriage and divorce in the Book of Hosea.  We read that God has “cast off” Israel for sustained, collective infidelity to the divine covenant.
  3. The most likely explanation is that both answers apply.

The heart of 4:1-5:7 may reside in 5:4a:

Their habits do not let them

Turn back to their God;….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations of the Hebrew word translated as “habits” include:

  1. Deeds (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),
  2. Misdeeds (The Revised English Bible, 1989), and
  3. Acts (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

Each of these translations has something to recommend it.  Yet I prefer “habits.”

Habitual behavior of the population had broken the covenant.

Human beings are creatures of habits.  May we, therefore, learn and nurture good habits, both individually and collectively.

I write this post at a particular moment, therefore certain issues occupy my mind.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives needlessly around the world.  Whether to get vaccinated with a proven vaccine is, in the minds of many people with the option to get vaccinated, a politically partisan issue.  Public health policy, which should be just a matter of following science and saving lives, has become a matter of cynical politics for certain elected officials.  Varieties of hatred, often wrapped in Christian rhetoric, are on the rise.  Authoritarianism and objectively-inaccurate conspiracy theories are increasingly popular with most of those who identify with one of the two major political parties in the United States of America.  And speaking the objective truth about reality, as some members of that party do, is risky, if one hops to retain one’s leadership position within that party.

Bad habits separate individuals from each other.  Bad habits separate individuals, cultures, and societies from God.  Bad habits harm the whole.  Whatever I do, for example, affects others.  This is a statement of mutuality.  We all stand before God, completely dependent on grace.  In that context, each person is responsible to and for all other people.

Society is people.  Society shapes its members.  Those members also influence society.  When enough people change their minds, societal consensus shifts.

Their habits do not let them

Turn back to their God;….

This need not apply to any group, although it does.  Members of any such group can change their habits, therefore, their fates.  They can.  Will they?  Will we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JUNIA AND ANDRONICUS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Objecting for Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Near the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Massachusetts

Image Source = Google Earth

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For the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 228

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Hosea 10:12-11:12

Psalm 146

Philippians 3:7-21

Luke 12:49-59

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We read of the imperative of following God’s way, not our way.  Our way leads to, in words from Hosea 10:13, reaping iniquity and eating the fruits of treachery, having plowed wickedness.  Rather, we ought to sow righteousness and reap the fruits of goodness (Hosea 10:12).  In concrete terms, sowing righteousness means emulating YHWH.  In Psalm 146, YHWH keeps faith with the wronged, defends the cause of the oppressed, feeds the hungry, liberates prisoners, opens the eyes of the blind, uplifts those bend double, loves the just, protects the strangers, reassures the fatherless and the widows, and overturns the domination of the wicked.  Those sound like make many enemies, often among the conventionally religious, who should know better.

Jesus made enemies every time he healed on the Sabbath.  He made enemies every time he woke up after a good night’s sleep.  Christ made enemies because he had a pulse.

We Christians, who profess to follow Jesus, tread the way of the cross, if we really are doing what we should.  We, like St. Paul the Apostle, will make enemies by pursuing righteousness.  Ironically, many of these foes may identify themselves as Christians.  Intra-Christian persecution is a shameful and indefensible tradition.  Other persecution may originate from outside the Christian faith.  Either way, persecutors may imagine that they are positive figures doing what is necessary for the greater good.  Villains frequently think they are heroes.

Christ, functionally, is a cause of dissension.  This reality is as old as the ministry of Jesus and as recent as the present day.  This reality reflects negatively on those who object to Jesus, not on him.

One may also recall other words from the Gospel of Luke:

Blessed are you when people hate you, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets….Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, 26, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

May we never take offense at Jesus and think of him as a proper cause of dissension.  After all, many distinctions properly cease to exist or matter in Christ.  Therefore, Jesus should be a means of unity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Dependence on God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

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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Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

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For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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The Individual and the Collective I   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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