Archive for the ‘Isaiah 11’ Category

The Incomparable Sovereign God, with the First Servant Song   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 40:12-42:17

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YHWH, who ended the Babylonian Exile, was unconquered, incomparable, sovereign, and formidable.  YHWH, the Creator, was the God of the world, not a tribal or national deity.  YHWH was with the Jewish exiles, the Chosen People.  YHWH put the nations on trial, on behalf of justice.

The poor and the needy

Seek water, and there is none;

Their tongue is parched with thirst.

I the LORD will respond to them.

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

–Isaiah 41:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Idolatry in the presence of YHWH is futile (41:21-29).

I affirm all of the above while noticing that I have read all of it in various Hebrew prophetic books since I started this long-term project, with the Book of Hosea.  I also recall the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6), one of many tirades against idolatry in Hebrew literature.  Another such tirade awaits me in Isaiah 44:9-20.  These tirades, while mocking idolatry (as they should), frequently mischaracterize idols–the objects themselves–and what idolaters though the objects were.  These tirades after falsely accuse idolaters of believing these figures of wood or metal were gods.  Actually, idolaters believed that divine presences entered idols after complex rituals.

Isaiah 42:1-9 is the First Servant Song.  The servant, we read, will bring justice to the nations.  Who is–was–the servant?  Proposed identities include Jesus (of course), King Cyrus II of the Persian Empire, Second Isaiah, the faithful people within the Hebrew nation, and the Hebrew nation itself.  Isaiah 42:1-4, which borrows from Isaiah 11 and Jeremiah 31:31-36, anticipates an ideal future of justice and ecological harmony.  It also lends itself to identifying the servant as the covenant community (42:6)–Jews, in terms Second Isaiah knew.  I, as one who affirms God’s double covenant, add Christians to the ranks of covenant people.  The task of the covenant people (Jews and Christians) in 2021 is to bring justice to the nations, per Isaiah 42:1-4.  God equips and empowers us to do so.  How many of us accept the mission?

I the LORD, in My grace, have summoned you,

And I have grasped you by the hand.

I created you, and appointed you

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

–Isaiah 42:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Those words remain as applicable in 2021 as they were circa 540 B.C.E.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

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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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Divine Judgment on Bad Kings and False Prophets   Leave a comment

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIV

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Jeremiah 23:1-40

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I like wordplay.  The Hebrew Bible is replete with it.  In Jeremiah 23, for example, puns on the Hebrew root letters resh and ayin move from ro’in (“shepherds,” in verses 1-4) to ra’ah (“evil,” in verses 11, 12, 14, 17, 22), mere’im (“evildoers,” in verse 14), and re’im (“each other,” in verses 27, 30, 35).  Also, in verses 5-6, we find a pun on the name of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah.  “Zedekiah” means “YHWH is justice.'”  The true branch of David’s line, however, will be “The LORD our justice.” we read.  This text tells us that Zedekiah did not live up to his regnal name.

The imagery of kings as shepherds exists in Ezekiel 34, also.

The promise of a messianic royal branch, in reference to an ideal ruler, occurs also in Isaiah 11:1 and Zechariah 3:8.  This promise contradicts facts from the historical record.

As with other parts of the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 23 contains layers of authorship.  Verses 7-8, repeated nearly verbatim from Jeremiah 16:14-15, probably date to a period after Jeremiah–most likely during or after the Babylonian Exile.

False prophets abounded.  Some prophesied in the name of Baal Peor; they led people astray.  Other prophets claimed to speak on behalf of God; they led people into violations of the covenant.  The people and the false prophets paid a high price.  In more wordplay, massa (“burden”) meant a message from God (also in Deuteronomy 1:12; Jeremiah 17:24, 27; Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Malachi 1:1; Isaiah 22:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1), as well as a judgment from God.  The language of the “burden of the LORD,” as an oracle, was more common in reference to Gentile nations than to Israel and Judah.  In Jeremiah 23, the population that had requested an oracle received a judgment instead.

A difficult and germane question remains unanswered:  Without the benefit of hindsight, how can one discern who is a false prophet?  Each of us may correctly classify some figures as false prophets and wrongly categorize others, based on a belief system.  In hindsight, identifying false prophets is easier than doing so in real time.  If, for example, a self-proclaimed prophet predicts that Jesus will return by a certain date, one may reasonably classify him or her as a false prophet.  One may be certain, however, if that date comes and goes without the Second Coming having occurred.  On a mundane level, someone may offer a pronouncement that may be difficult to evaluate on the true prophet-false prophet scale in real time.  This person may even be a false prophet while imagining himself or herself to be a true prophet.  I accept Jeremiah as a true prophet, with the benefit of hindsight and faith.  Yet I admit that, had I lived when he was prophesying, I may have thought he was crazy.

May rulers be good and prophets be true.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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The Ideal Davidic King, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART X

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Isaiah 11:1-12:6

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For context, let us back up into Isaiah 10:

Now the Lord, the LORD of hosts,

is about to lop off the boughs with terrible violence;

The tall of stature shall be felled,

and the lofty ones shall be brought low;

He shall hack down the forest thickets with an ax,

and Lebanon in its splendor shall fall.

–Isaiah 10:33-34, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This, in literal, historical context, is a reference to the deliverance of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah from the Assyrian invasion force in 701 B.C.E., during the reign of King Hezekiah or Judah.  The Assyrians are, poetically, majestic and tall cedars of Lebanon.  The Assyrians are no match for God, we read:

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom….

–Isaiah 11:1, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This shoot growing out of the stump of Jesse is the ideal Davidic monarch.  To whom does this text refer?  The text, in context, seems to indicate Hezekiah, probably the prophesied baby in Isaiah 7:1-16.  If so, the messianic age of Hezekiah was imperfect, given the continued existence of poverty (11:4), for example.

Yet the text moves on and incorporates material from a later period.  We read of the return from the Babylonian Exile long after Hezekiah died.  One may wonder legitimately how to interpret 11:1-9.

I am a Christian and a Gentile.  I am also a student of history.  I chafe against efforts to shoe-horn Jesus into nooks and crannies of the Hebrew Bible in which Jesus does not fit, as far as I could tell.  Not everything or every other thing in the Hebrew Bible is about Jesus.  When I read in some commentaries that the pious man of Psalm 1 is Jesus, I roll my eyes.  I know that this man is a Jewish student of the Torah, actually.  At the risk of seeming to be a heretic, I assert that the ideal Davidic king in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) and 11:1-9 is, in context of the Babylonian Exile and the final editing of First Isaiah, difficult to identify.  So be it.

The text does speak beautifully of a reverse exodus from the former Chaldean/Babylonian Empire after the Babylonian Exile.  The emphasis here is on how God acts or will act through human beings.  This is ground I already covered, so I choose to minimize the degree of my repetition in this post.

A future much better than the one predicted in Isaiah 11:1-9 awaits fulfillment.  The inauguration of the fully-realized Kingdom of God remains in the future.  As N. T. Wright tells us in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), YHWH is the king in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The world, as it is, has gone off the rails, and more people than usual seem to have lost their minds.  These are extremely perilous times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR, 166/167

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 309

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROBINSON, MARMADUKE STEPHENSON, AND MARY DYER, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYRS IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1659 AND 1660

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This is post #2600 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Arrogant Assyria and the Repentant Remnant of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART IX

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Isaiah 10:5-34; 14:24-27; 29:1-34; 30:27-33; 33:1-24

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One of the motifs in Hebrew prophetic literature condemns haughtiness, arrogance, and impiety before God.  This motif applies to the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, both of which neglected the Law of Moses, therefore committed idolatry and practiced institutional social injustice, especially economic injustice and judicial corruption.  This motif also applies to nations outside of the covenant.  They are still accountable to God for violating basic standards of human decency.  If you, O reader, have been following my posts here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA since I started blogging on May 12, 2021, the contexts of this paragraph should be a mere refresher course.

I bring up this motif because we revisit it in Isaiah 10:5-34.

The Assyrian Empire boasted of its cruelty.  This empire, to that time the latest in a line of Mesopotamian empires, followed in a tradition of official, unrepentant cruelty.  Isaiah ben Amoz may have understood the Assyrian Empire to be an instrument of God, for a time, at least.  The perspective of the final draft of First Isaiah did, at least.  And the Assyrian Empire may have been an instrument of God, for a time, at least.  It was certainly never exempt from accountability to God.

The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians conquered the Assyrian Empire.  Then the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Then Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered the Persian Empire.  Then he died and that vast Macedonian Empire broke up.  Much of Alexander’s realm eventually became part of the Roman Empire.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

One should not trust excessively in human political structures, which rise and fall.

Divine judgment and mercy remained in balance.  A remnant survived.  Exiles eventually returned to Judea after the Babylonian Exile.

A close reading of Isaiah 10:5-34 reveals layers of authorship, as well as chronological leaping back and forth.  For example, 10:27b-34 and 29:1-34 refer to Assyrian King Sennacherib’s failed invasion of Judah in 701 B.C.E. (See 2 Kings 18:17-19:27; 2 Chronicles 32:1-33; Isaiah 37:8-20.)  Yet 10:20-23 refer to the end of the Babylonian Exile, centuries later.  There is a method to the editorial madness, though; the conclusion of Chapter 10 leads directly into the opening of Chapter 11.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH TO SAINT ELIZABETH

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Being Good Soil IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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

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

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O God, the Protector of all that trust in thee,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;

that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal,

that we finally lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 188

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Isaiah 12

Psalm 25

Acts 9:1-18

Mark 4:1-20

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Isaiah 12 flows directly from Chapter 11.  The first words of Isaiah 12 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) are,

In that day….

To understand what day that is, one must back up into Isaiah 11.  “That day” is the ideal, peaceful future that will follow “the Day of the Lord.”  In Christian terms, one would describe “that day” as the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, “that day” also refers to the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  This text describes a time in our future.  Isaiah 12 praises God, who was faithful, is faithful, will continue to be faithful, and dwells among us.

Psalm 25 and Acts 9:1-18 add repentance to our stable of topics.  Divine forgiveness of sins, another related topic, exists also in Isaiah 12.

We read the familiar “Parable of the Sower” in Mark 4.  I prefer another title, “Parable of the Four Soils,” which I read in a commentary.  The parable seems more concerned with the soils than with the sower and the seeds.  The parable invites each one of us to ask,

What kind of soil am I?

What kind of soil are you, O reader?  Do you have shallow faith that cannot endure trouble or persecution?  Do the cares of the world strangle you faith, as it may be?  Does faith never take root in you?  Or do you have deep faith?  Depending on your answer, O reader, you may have another reason to repent and to seek forgiveness.

We mere mortals need not wait until the time of the fully realized Kingdom of God for God to dwell among us.  God is always present and accessible.  The Quakers are correct; each of us has an Inner Light.  Many of us seem not to know that, though.  Others know about their Inner Light and ignore it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Revising Our Understanding   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 2

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

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

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O Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth;

enter not into judgment with thy servants, we beseech thee, but be pleased of thy great kindness to grant,

that we who are now righteously afflicted and bowed down by the sense of our sins,

may be refreshed and lifted up with the joy of thy salvation.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 152

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Isaiah 55:1-13

Psalm 39

Hebrews 10:1-14

John 11:47-57

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Second Isaiah has no ideal Davidic king of the future.  Instead, the prophecies of Second Isaiah feature an ideal Jewish people.  This makes sense, given the fall of the Davidic Dynasty in 587/586 B.C.E.   We have an ideal king (yet not as the crowds in the Gospel of John expected) in Hebrews 10:1-14 and John 11:47-57.  The Fourth Gospel depicts the crucifixion of Jesus as his exaltation and glorification.

To affirm verbally or in writing that God is faithful is easy.  To mean it may be more difficult, though.  Interpretations of prophecies change, even within the Bible.  First Isaiah (in Isaiah 11) points to an ideal Davidic king, but Second Isaiah (in Isaiah 55) does not, for example.  Events and the passage of time change perspectives and expectations.  Hindsight leads to revision of theology.  Of course it does.  How could it not?

A constantly germane issue in Christian faith is how to know to revise individual and collective understanding of scripture, reason, and tradition.  Constantly germane issues related to this matter include how and when to revise.  Faith is not set in stone.  Neither is doctrine.  For most of 2000 years, for example, much of the Church affirmed slavery.  Today, even most very conservative Christians reject slavery.  One would expect the liberals and moderates to reject slavery, of course.  Those very conservative, anti-slavery Christians of today are very liberal and even revolutionary by the standards of their predecessors as late as the middle 1800s.  For me, a student of history, 1860 may as well be last month.  And for me, a liberal, accepting changes in traditional theology is relatively easy.

God is faithful.  Human beings and religious institutions are frequently oblivious, however.  We may mean well, but good intentions pave the road to Hell.  May we keep revising our understandings until we get them right, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS FÉNELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA OF FOLIGNO, PENITENT AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GASPAR DEL BUFALO, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 312

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Posted January 7, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 10, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 55, John 11, Psalm 39

Tagged with ,

The Kingdom of God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip, by Lambert Sustris

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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Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalm 29

Acts 8:26-39

John 1:29-34

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Isaiah 12:1-6 flows from Chapter 11.  The two chapters are the final section of a poem about the ideal king in a peaceful future.  As elsewhere in the Bible, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

Psalm 29 praises God.  It is also an adaptation of a hymn to Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god.  Rewriting pagan stories and texts for Jewish theological purposes was a fairly common practice.  Doing so was one way of asserting the sovereignty of God and affirming faith in the one true deity.  Rewriting pagan texts also constituted an argument against the original texts’ validity.  In this case, rewriting a hymn in praise of Baal Peor was rebutting the legitimacy of his cultus.

Acts 8:26-39 and John 1:29-34 point to Jesus, as they should.

The ideal future remains an unfulfilled prophecy.  Nevertheless, I, as a Christian, affirm that the Incarnation was a game changer.  I hold that the reality of God’s presence became obvious in a way it was not previously obvious.

The presence of God is evident in many ways in our deeply flawed societies.  There are no gods; there is God.  God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.

May we–you, O reader, and I–keep the faith and work to make the world resemble more closely the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Only God can save the world and usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, of course.  Yet we–you, O reader, and I–have a divine mandate to leave the world better than we found it.  

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR B

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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Israel’s True Power and Strength   Leave a comment

Above:  King John Hyrcanus I

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JUDITH

PART III

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Judith 4:1-6:2

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Holofernes represented an oppressive violent power and an ego-driven monarch.  The general had succeeded in his previous campaigns, even against people who had greeted his army with garlands, dancing, and the sound of timbrels (2:1-3:10).  The Israelites were in dire straits as he turned his attention toward them.

Yet the Israelites worshiped God.  They prayed to God.  And, as even Achior, the Ammonite leader acknowledged, the Israelites’ power and strength resided in God.  Yet Holofernes asked scornfully,

Who is God beside Nebuchadnezzar?

–Judith 6:2b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Achior found refuge with the Israelites, at least.

A refresher on the Kingdom of Ammon and on the Ammonites is in order.

  1. “Ammon” comes from Benammi, both the son and grandson of Lot (Genesis 19:30-38).  Lot’s daughters had gotten their father drunk then seduced him.  They gave birth to the founders of the Moabite and Ammonite peoples.
  2. The attitude toward the Ammonites in the Bible is mostly negative.
  3. The Kingdom of Ammon was east of the River Jordan and north of Moab.  
  4. The Kingdom of Ammon, a vassal state of Israel under Kings David and Solomon.  After Ammon reasserted itself, it became a vassal state of the Neo-Assyrian Empire then the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  A failed rebellion led to mass deportations of Ammonites and the colonization of their territory by Chaldeans.

Anyone who wants to read more about the Ammonites in the Bible may want to follow the following reading plan:

  1. Genesis 19;
  2. Numbers 21;
  3. Deuteronomy 2, 3, 23;
  4. Joshua 12, 13;
  5. Judges 3, 10, 11, 12;
  6. 1 Samuel 10, 11, 12, 14;
  7. 2 Samuel 8, 10, 11, 12, 17, 23;
  8. 1 Kings 11, 14;
  9. 2 Kings 23, 24;
  10. 1 Chronicles 11, 18, 19, 20;
  11. 2 Chronicles 12, 20, 24, 26, 27;
  12. Ezra 9;
  13. Nehemiah 2, 4, 13;
  14. Psalm 83;
  15. Isaiah 11;
  16. Jeremiah 9, 25, 27, 40, 41, 49;
  17. Ezekiel 21, 25;
  18. Daniel 11;
  19. Amos 1;
  20. Zephaniah 2;
  21. Judith 1, 5, 6, 7, 14;
  22. 1 Maccabees 5; and
  23. 2 Maccabees 4, 5.

Back to Achior…

A close reader of Achior’s report (5:6-21) may detect some details he got wrong.  Not all characters speak accurately in every matter.  One may expect an outsider to misunderstand some aspects of the Israelite story.

At the end of the Chapter 6, we see the conflict between the arrogance of enemies of God and the humility of Israelites.  We know that, in the story, the Israelites could turn only to God for deliverance.  Anyone familiar with the Hebrew prophets ought to know that this theme occurs in some of the prophetic books, too.

In the context contemporary to the composition of the Book of Judith, Jews had endured Hellenistic oppression under the Seleucid Empire.  Jews had won the independence of Judea.  John Hyrcanus I (reigned 135-104 B.C.E.; named in 1 Maccabees 13:53 and 16:1-23) had ordered the destruction of the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerazim and forced many people to convert to Judaism.  The persecuted had become persecutors.  This was certainly on the mind of the anonymous author of the Book of Judith.

May we, collectively and individually, do to others as we want them to do to us, not necessarily as they or others have done to us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIERST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF ERIK CHRISTIAN HOFF, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND ORGANIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIN SHKURTI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1969

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The Kingdom of This Earth, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2

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

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

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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-5

Psalm 98

Hebrews 2:1-8

Matthew 2:11-21

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Understanding Isaiah 11:1-5 requires one to back up into Chapter 10.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire, described poetically as majestic cedars of Lebanon, will fall, we read.  God will cut that empire down to size, we read.  Yet real strength will emerge from the Davidic Dynasty.  The ideal Davidic monarch will govern justly, we read.

The Bible tells us much about divine justice.  Both Testaments are replete with this content.  Obviously, we–you, O reader, and I–do not live in the ideal Davidic kingdom or even the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  Yet our governments can become more just, by a combination of grace and active faith.

Tyrants still hold sway in many places.  God is still their judge.  God is still your judge, O reader.  God is still my judge.  And repentance remains crucial.  All of that is true.

So is what follows.  God, the Incarnation, can and does identify with we mere mortals.  Jesus is able to help us, for he know temptations, too.  And the Holy Spirit is our defense attorney (John 14:16, 26; 1 John 2:1).  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  We may safely dismiss one of the great heresies, hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  We may not safely dismiss, however, the warning that God does have standards.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  This Christmas season, may the kingdom of this Earth come to resemble more closely the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God and for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MAURA CLARKE AND HER COMPANIONS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; HIS BROTHER, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HORMISDAS, BISHOP OF ROME; AND HIS SON, SAINT SILVERIUS, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 537

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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