Archive for the ‘Isaiah 29’ Category

The End of Days   Leave a comment

Above:  Ahriman (from Zoroastrianism)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART II

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Isaiah 24:1-27:13

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Babylon is not mentioned even once.  Rather, the eschatological focus of these chapters has raised their sights to the ultimate purpose of God in portraying the cosmological judgment of the world and its final glorious restoration.  Moreover, the redemption of Israel is depicted as emerging from the ashes of the polluted and decaying world.  Not just a remnant is redeemed , but the chapter recounts the salvation of all peoples who share in the celebration of God’s new order when death is banished forever (25:8).

–Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah (2001), 173

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INTRODUCTION

Isaiah 24-27 constitutes the Isaiah Apocalypse.  They also constitute an early and not full-blown example of Biblical apocalyptic literature.  Some books I read inform me that the Jewish apocalyptic form emerged in the wake of the fall of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire–in the late sixth century (early 500s) B.C.E., to be precise.  These books also teach that full-blown Jewish apocalypses emerged only in the second century (100s) B.C.E., as in the case of Daniel 7-12.

Isaiah 24, in vivid language, depicts the divine destruction of the natural order and the social order.  I recommend the translation by Robert Alter, in particular.  Regardless of the translation, we read that people have violated the moral mandates embedded in the Law of Moses:

And the earth is tainted beneath its dwellers,

for they transgressed teachings, flouted law, broke the eternal covenant.

Therefore has a curse consumed the earth,

and all its dwellers are mired in guilt.

Therefore earth’s dwellers turn pale,

and all but a few humans remain.

–Isaiah 24:5-6, in Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Volume 2, Prophets (2019)

The timeframe is sometime in the future, relative to both Third Isaiah and 2021.  in this vision, high socio-economic status provides no protection against God’s creative destruction.

Within the Book of Isaiah, in its final form, chapters 24-27 follow oracles against the nations (chapters 13-23) and precede more oracles against nations (chapters 28-33).  This relative placement is purposeful.

SWALLOWING UP DEATH FOREVER

Returning to the Isaiah Apocalypse, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God entails the defeat of the enemies of God’s people, the celebration of an eschatological banquet, and the swallowing up of death forever (See 1 Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 7:7-17).  The divine swallowing up of death echoes the swallowing up of Mot (the Canaanite god of death) in mythology.

Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19 refer to divine victory over death.  Given the temporal origin of the Isaiah Apocalypse, is this a metaphor for the divine vindication of the downtrodden, likened to the dead?  Such language, in Book of Daniel (100s B.C.E.) and the Revelation of John (late 100s C.E.), refers to the afterlife.  The operative question regarding Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19, however, is if the author knew about and affirmed the resurrection of the dead.  We know that Ezekiel 37 (the vision of the dry bones) is a metaphor for the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  But what about Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19?  Even the Jewish commentaries I consult do not arrive at a conclusion.

I understand why.  The Isaiah Apocalypses comes from a time when Jewish theology was changing, under the influence of Zoroastrianism.  Satan was moving away from being God’s employee–loyalty tester (Job 1-2) and otherwise faithful angel (Numbers 22:22-40)–and becoming a free agent and the chief rebel.   The theology of Ahriman, the main figure of evil in Zoroastrianism, was influencing this change in Jewish theology.  Jewish ideas of the afterlife were also changing under Zoroastrian influence.  Sheol was passing away.  Reward and punishment in the afterlife were becoming part of Jewish theology.  By the second century (100s) B.C.E., belief in individual resurrection of the dead was unambiguous (Daniel 12:2-3, 12).

I do not know what Third Isaiah believed regarding the resurrection of the dead.  I suppose that he could have affirmed that doctrine.  The historical context and the symbolic language of the apocalypse combine to confuse the matter.  So be it; I, as an Episcopalian, am comfortable with a degree of ambiguity.

DIVINE JUDGMENT ON ENEMIES OF THE COVENANT PEOPLE

Isaiah 25:9-12 singles out Moab, in contrast to the usual practice of not naming enemies in chapters 24-27.  One may recall material condemning Moab in Amos 2:1-3; Isaiah 15:1-16:13; Jeremiah 48:1-47; Ezekiel 25:8-11.

In the divine order, the formerly oppressed rejoice in their victory over those who had oppressed them.  Oppression has no place in the divine order.

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance in Isaiah 24-27.  Divine deliverance of the oppressors is frequently catastrophic for the oppressors.  And the contrast between the fates of the enemies of God (27:11) and the Jews worshiping in Jerusalem (27:13) is stark.  As Brevard S. Childs offers:

In sum, the modern theology of religious universalism, characterized by unlimited inclusivity, is far removed from the biblical proclamation of God’s salvation (cf. Seitz, 192),

Isaiah (2001), 186

GOD’S VINEYARD

Neither do apostasy and idolatry have any place in the divine order.  And all the Jewish exiles will return to their ancestral homeland.  Also, the message of God will fill the earth:

In days to come Jacob shall take root,

Israel shall bud and flower,

and the face of the world shall fill with bounty.

–Isaiah 27:6, Robert Alter (2019)

The face of the world will be God’s productive vineyard, figuratively.  The people and kingdom of God, figuratively, are a vineyard in the Old and New Testament.  (See Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19).

CONCLUSION

Despite ambiguities in the texts, I am unambiguous on two germane points:

  1. Apocalyptic literature offers good news:  God will win in the end.  Therefore, faithful people should remain faithful.
  2. Apocalyptic literature calls the powers and leaders to account.  It tells them that they fall short of divine standards when they oppress populations and maintain social injustice.  It damns structures and institutions of social inequality.  It condemns societies that accept the unjust status quo.

Regardless of–or because of–certain ambiguities in the Isaiah Apocalypse, chapters 24-27 speak to the world in 2021.  Some vagueness in prophecy prevents it from becoming dated and disproven, after all.  And structural inequality remains rife and politically defended, unfortunately.

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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Divine Judgment on Judah, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-49864

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART XIV

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Isaiah 22:1-25; 28:1-29:24; 32:1-20

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In 701 B.C.E., during the reign (727/715-698/687 B.C.E.) of King Hezekiah of Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) besieged Jerusalem.  That invasion of the Kingdom of Judah failed, by the hand of God (2 Kings 18:13-37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-25; Isaiah 29:1-8; Isaiah 30:27-33; Isaiah 36:1-37:38).  In that context, widespread rejoicing ensued in Judah.  Isaiah ben Amoz was not impressed.

What is the matter with you now, that you have gone up,

all of you, to the housetops,

you who were full of noise,

tumultuous city,

exultant town?

–Isaiah 22:1-2a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Or maybe the rejoicing occurred because, in the failure of the Philistine-led revolt against the Assyrian Empire during the reign (722-705 B.C.E.) of Assyrian King Sargon II, Assyrian forces bypassed Jerusalem.  King Hezekiah had wisely not joined that uprising.  Yet Judah remained a vassal of the Assyrian Empire.  Either way, rejoicing was premature.  The Assyrian Empire remained a threat, and Judah was still subject to divine punishment for forsaking the covenant.  Judah still ignored the moral demands for righteousness and justice, in violation of the Law of Moses.  And Judah’s leaders bore the heavy load of responsibility for the kingdom’s predicaments.

An editor repurposed Isaiah 28:1-6, originally about the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, applied that passage to the Kingdom of Judah, and used 28:1-6 as the introduction to a condemnation of Judah.  Apart from one word (“Ephraim”), Isaiah 28:1-6 could be about Judah.  The oracle originally meant for Judah (28:7f) accused the ruling class of that kingdom of having made a covenant with death–not God–death.  Destruction would ensue, but it would not be complete.

The same themes repeat in the portions of scripture I grouped together for this post.  Isaiah 32 concludes with another condemnation of widespread, systemic unrighteousness and injustice, and a vision of how the people will benefit from the rule of a just and righteous government.

On April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church, New York, New York, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke without equivocation against United States participation in the Vietnam War.  He also offered a moral critique of his country.  The United States of America needed to experience a

moral revolution of values,

King argued.  It was a thing-oriented society; the society needed to value people more highly than money and property, King contended.  King was correct.  He had also read the Hebrew prophets carefully.

King was a modern-day prophet.  He was also as unpopular in his day as many Hebrew prophets were in theirs.  The vision of a society standing humbly before God, recognizing its complete dependence on God, and acknowledging mutuality has remained an unfulfilled dream.

On that depressing note, I conclude this journey through First Isaiah.  Thank you, O reader, for joining me.  My next step on my trek through Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, will be the Book of Zephaniah.  I invite you to join me there, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH HOMBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 1075

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Divine Judgment on Philistia, Phoenicia, Moab, Aram, Ethiopia, and Egypt, with Warnings Against Alliances with Egypt and Ethiopia   3 comments

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART XII

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Isaiah 14:28-20:6; 23:1-18; 30:1-26; 31:1-9

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INTRODUCTION

Some of this material may have originated with Isaiah ben Amoz, but other material (if not all of it) came from a later time.  The First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33) part of the Book of Isaiah came to exist in its final form of the Babylonian Exile.  The editing of the older material and the addition of old material created a multi-layered collection of texts.

I acknowledge this historical and literary reality without reservation.  I also focus on meanings.  Contexts–especially historical ones–are crucial for establishing a text’s original meaning.  One needs to do this before interpreting a text for today as effectively as possible.  Unfortunately, determining original historical context is not always possible in First Isaiah.  Still, I do the best I can.

If prophetic denunciations of Tyre/Philistia, Moab, and Aram/Damascus (Isaiah 14:28-17:14) seem familiar to you, O reader, you may be thinking of Amos 1:3-5; 1:9-10; and 2:1-3.

PHILISTIA

Isaiah 14:28 establishes a temporal marker:

In the year that King Ahaz died….

As I have written in previous posts in this series of posts about Hebrew prophetic books, establishing a coherent and consistent chronology on the Gregorian Calendar and the B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E. scale for the period from King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah and King Hezekiah of Judah is notoriously difficult.  If one consults three study Bibles, one may find three different sets of years for the reign of the same monarch.  Although study Bibles disagree about when King Ahaz began to reign, they agree that he died in or about 715 B.C.E.

Circa 715 B.C.E., Philistine cities, Assyrian vassals, were trying to forge a regional united front against the Assyrian Empire.  That empire had already swallowed up Aram and the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 720 and 722 .C.E., respectively.  The Kingdom of Judah, under King Hezekiah, did not join this alliance.  Circa 715 B.C.E., the Assyrian Empire was experiencing a period of temporary decline.

Do not rejoice, Philistia, not one of you,

that the rod which struck you is broken;….

–Isaiah 14:29a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The rod was not broken, after all.  The Assyrian Empire had a resurgence of power, and the anti-Assyrian rebellion failed.

Anyway, the snake in Isaiah 29:b is a call back to the seraphim (poisonous snakes) from Numbers 21:1-9 and Deuteronomy 8:15, and alluded to in Isaiah 6:1-13.

Philistia’s hopes of throwing off the Assyrian yoke were in vain.

PHOENICIA (TYRE AND SIDON)

The Phoenicians (who deserve much credit for the alphabet in which I write this post) were seagoing merchants.  In fact, in the Bible, the association between Phoenicians and merchants was so strong that, in some texts, “Phoenicians” may refer to merchants, not ethnic-cultural Phoenicians.  Anyway, many Phoenician merchants were fabulously wealthy.

Isaiah 23:1-18 may be either a prophecy or a text written after the failed Phoenician rebellion against the Assyrian Empire in 701 B.C.E.  The text is, in any case, a mock lament.  The text criticizes Phoenicians for relying on their wealth and being arrogant, not relying on YHWH.  We read the Tyre, supposedly inviolable, fell.  We may legitimately consider this as a warning that Jerusalem, also supposedly inviolable, could fall, too.

It did, in 586. B.C.E.

MOAB

The temporal origin of Isaiah 15:1-16:13 is uncertain.  It may date to a time after Isaiah ben Amoz and refer to mourning after Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian military activity.  A similar text, a dirge for events circa 650 B.C.E., exists in Jeremiah 48.  There are also thematic connections with Numbers 21:27-30.

Moab, to the east of the Dead Sea, was where Jordan is today.  Moab was a traditional enemy of the Jewish people.  The (united) Kingdom of Israel controlled Moab.  The (northern) Kingdom of Israel fought off Moabite resistance to its control until the reign (851-842 B.C.E.) of King Joram (Jehoram) of Israel.  Then Moab regained its independence.  Circa 735 B.C.E., Moab became a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire.  In the middle of the seventh century B.C.E., Moab, as an autonomous state, ceased to exist.  Moab traded Assyrian domination for Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian domination in 609 B.C.E.  The last Moabite king’s reign ended circa 600 B.C.E. (Jeremiah 27:3).

Isaiah 16 encourages the Kings of Judah, part-Moabite (Ruth 1-4), to welcome Moabite refugees.

Isaiah 16 also includes some references that careful, attentive readers of the early prophets (Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah) should find familiar.  Verse 7 refers to raisin cakes offered to false gods (Hosea 3:1).  The royal government of Judah had a divine mandate to act justly, consistent with the Law of Moses (verses 1-5).  We read another condemnation of collective and official “haughtiness, pride, and arrogance” before God (verse 6).  And the remnant of Moab will be “very small and weak,” we read in verse 14.  The Moabite remnant contrasts with the Judean remnant.

E. D. Grohman wrote:

Archaeological exploration has shown that Moab was largely depopulated from ca. the beginning of the sixth century, and in many sites from ca. the eighth century.  From the sixth century on, nomads wandered through the land until political and economic facts made sedentary life possible again in the last centuries B.C.

The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible:  An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, K-Q (1962), 418

ARAM/DAMASCUS

Aram (where Syria is today) was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire during the prophetic careers of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, and during the beginning of the prophetic career of First Isaiah.  After the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.), both the Kingdom of Aram and the (northern) Kingdom of Israel lost territory to the Assyrian Empire and became vassal states of that empire.  The Assyrian Empire conquered Israel in 722 B.C.E. and Aram in 720 B.C.E.

Truly, you have forgotten the God who saves you,

the Rock, your refuge, you have not remembered.

–Isaiah 17:10a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I will return to that theme before the end of this post.

ETHIOPIA AND EGYPT–REALLY CUSH/NUBIA

Modern place names do not always correspond to ancient place names.  The references to Ethiopia in Isaiah 18:1-7 and 20:1-6 are to Cush (where the Sudan is today).  On maps of the Roman Empire, the label is Nubia.

A Cushite/Nubian dynasty (the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty of Egypt) controlled Egypt at the time, so references to “Ethiopia” included Egypt.  That dynasty had invited the Kingdom of Judah to join its coalition against the Assyrian Empire circa 715 B.C.E.  Egypt/Cush/Nubia had replaced Aram as the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  Judah, under King Hezekiah, did join this alliance, much to divine disapproval (Isaiah 30:1-5; 31:1-9).  Judean participation in this alliance was apparently an example of rebellion against God (Isaiah 28:14-22; 29:15-26; 30:6-7).  God was prepared to act against the Assyrian Empire, but not yet (Isaiah 18:1-7).

Isaiah 19 refers to the Cushite/Nubian conquest of Egypt and asserts divine sovereignty over Egypt:

The idols of Egypt tremble before him,

the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.

Verse 1b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The theological-geopolitical agenda in the Egyptian/Cushite/Nubian material was to rely only on God, not on powerful neighbors that did not have Judah’s best interests at heart.  Trusting in God was the only way to maintain independence.  Empires rose and fell, but God would never fall.  And God was waiting to be gracious to Judah (Isaiah 30:18f).

For this said the Lord GOD,

the Holy One of Israel:

By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,

in quiet and trust shall be your strength.

But this you did not will.

–Isaiah 30:15, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

CONCLUSION

These passages reflect a particular geopolitical and historical set of circumstances.  As with the Law of Moses, one ought to be careful not to mistake examples bound by circumstances for timeless principles do exist.

If one expects me to extrapolate these readings into a condemnation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.) or the United Nations (U.N.), for example, I will disappoint such a person.  I live in the United States of America, not equivalent to any ancient kingdom, empire, or city-state.  I do not accept American Exceptionalism either, so I may disappoint another group of readers.  The same rules and moral standards that apply to other nation-states in 2021 also apply to the United States of America.

One timeless principle germane in this post is the imperative of trusting in God more than in people.  This applies both collectively and individually.  God is forever; people have relatively short lifespans.  Nation-states come and go.  Administrations come and go, also.  Even the most capable and benevolent leaders are imperfect.  They can still function as instruments of God, of course.  May they do so.  And may they know that they are “like grass.”

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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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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Trusting in God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  The Seduction of Dinah, Daughter of Leah, by James Tissot

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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Genesis 34 or Isaiah 29:13-24

Psalm 18:1-15

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Matthew 10:34-11:1

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We have some unpleasant content this week–rape, deceit, and murder in Genesis 34 and incest in 1 Corinthians 5.

The rape of Dinah is one of those stories that makes people squirm.  Dinah is the only completely sympathetic character.  Jacob, her father, is indifferent to her plight.  Her brothers Simeon and Levi are sympathetic until they entrap and massacre Canaanite men still recuperating from circumcision.  Shechem the rapist is not sympathetic at all; neither is his father Hamor.  Still, Simeon and Levi, avengers of their sister, are somewhat sympathetic characters.

At least they cared about what had happened to her, what was happening to her, and might happen to her.

As for Dinah, given the realities of her situation in a patriarchal culture that shamed raped women, her future seemed bleak.  Who would marry her now?  And marrying her rapist was not a good option either.  She almost dropped out of the narrative; her name recurred in the census in Genesis 46.  She had no descendants.

Her brothers’ vengeance brought them material gain and ego boosts, but wounded their souls and diminished them as human beings.  It made a bad situation worse.

Trust in God, most of the assigned readings tell us.  Trust in God when doing so is difficult.  Trust in God and live accordingly.  Trust in God, take up one’s cross, follow Jesus, and take care of each other.  Trust in God when one’s family abandons one.

Trusting in God can prove challenging during the best of times, especially if one insists on self-reliance.  Trusting in God when one is in dire straits can therefore be more difficult.  Yet I know from experience that trusting in God might be easier in times of dire straits if, for perhaps no other reason, one is acutely aware of one’s dependence on God and of God’s presence.  God is always with us.  If one likens God to a lamp turned on, one might understand my point.  One might notice the light during daylight, but the light is more noticeable at night.

Trusting in God also entails leaving desires for revenge unfulfilled.  Vengeance might prove satisfying in the short term, but it devours those who have committed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-14-year-a-humes/

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Idolatry and Social Justice   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah, by Lorenzo Monaco

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-5

Isaiah 29:9-10, 13-16

James 1:12-16

Matthew 6:7-13

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David Ackerman has selected a cohesive set of readings for Ash Wednesday.

In Jeremiah 7 the prophet, delivering his Temple sermon, grouped social injustice, violence, economic exploitation, idolatry, adultery, and false oaths together.  Abandon these practices, Jeremiah decreed, and YHWH will return to the Temple.  The prophet’s words were immediately for naught, of course; the public did not repent–turn around.  A prediction of renewal of that divine-human relationship after the Babylonian Exile came in Isaiah 29, after the condemnation of a skewed view of that relationship, one in which one mistakes the potter for the clay.

The author of Matthew and James reminded their audiences that God does not tempt anyone.  Those writers also encouraged repentance before God.

I do not know anyone who opposes the idea of social justice.  I do, however, know people who understand that concept differently.  Invariably, somebody, acting in the name of social justice will commit social justice and probably be oblivious to that fact.  We humans do, after all, have social and personal moral blinders.  I like that Jeremiah 7 defines social justice in concrete terms. Nevertheless, even those standards are subject to disagreement regarding how best to avoid committing them.  So, of course, someone will invariably support an economically exploitative policy while genuinely opposing economic exploitation.

May God deliver us from being either oblivious to the demand for social justice, defined as how we treat each other–individually and collectively–or from our blind spots regarding how best to effect social justice.  May God also deliver us from all forms of idolatry, such as those that stand between us and social justice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-ackerman/

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Missing the Point, Part II   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:1-24 or 59:1-21

Psalm 55

Matthew 15:1-20 or Mark 7:1-20

1 Timothy 4:1-6

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But you, O God, will make them descend to the sludgy Pit.

Let not men of idols and figurines live out their days.

For my part, I trust in you.

–Psalm 55:24, Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II (1968)

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A recurring theme in the Psalms is the sliminess of Sheol.  That is the kind of detail one can learn from Biblical scholars.

Those “men of idols and figurines” missed the point.  All evildoers who think vainly that God does not know their plans have missed the point.  Those who perpetuate social injustice and imagine that God has not noticed have missed the point.  Those who obsess over minor details of ritual purity laws while condoning the practice of denying necessary funds to people have missed the point.  (This is an echo of a theme from certain Hebrew prophets.)  Those who teach deceitful doctrines have missed the point.

One might miss the point for any one of a set of reasons.  One might be one of the blind led by other blind people and worse, leading other blind people, to borrow and expand upon a figure of speech from the Gospels.  One might be defending tradition as one understands God to have handed it down, as in 1 Timothy 4.  One might not care about not missing the point.  Or one might be self-serving and prone to interpreting morality through that distorted lens.

Heresies are legion, as they have been for a very long time.  A few generalizations regarding them are worth pondering:

  1. Objective religious truth exists.  For lack of a better name, let us call it God.
  2. The degree to which we can know doctrinal truth is restricted, due to the fact that we are mere mortals.
  3. The definition of orthodoxy changes over time, even within any given ecclesiastical institution.  Consider, for example, O reader, the evolution of theology in Roman Catholicism.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, who were orthodox in their time, became heretics ex post facto.
  4. Objective truth does not change.
  5. Many heresies began as attempts to pronounce orthodoxy in specific circumstances.
  6. Every person is somebody’s heretic.
  7. Every person is somewhat heretical.

We are left to do our best, trusting in God’s grace and commanded to love one another.  Christ is our Savior and exemplar.  The historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity, however that worked.  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who not only spoke of loving one’s neighbors but modeled that behavior, even unto death.

Jesus did not miss the point.

By grace, may we not miss it either.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-7-year-d/

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Deeds and Rituals   1 comment

cuci_tangan_pakai_sabun

Above:  Washing Hands With Soap

Image Source = Serenity

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cuci_tangan_pakai_sabun.jpg)

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:1-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 29:13-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 112:1-9 [10] (both days)

James 3:13-18 (Friday)

Mark 7:1-8 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 29:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

James 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/week-of-7-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/week-of-proper-2-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

Mark 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-thirteenth-and-fourteenth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/proper-17-year-b-3/

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Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

–Psalm 112:4-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Ritualism, in and of itself, is positive.  It, paired with lived faith in God–the kind of faith which finds expression in, among other things, an active concern for what James 3:18 (The New Jerusalem Bible) calls

a harvest of justice,

is consistent with the witness of Hebrew prophets who decried judicial and political corruption and economic exploitation.  In fact, the instructions for the house of worship in the Law of Moses indicate a space designed for ritualism.  But the Law of Moses (when it does not call for stoning people or reflect a negative view of female biology) speaks of lived holiness for the community.

Many activities are positive.  Among these is washing one’s hands before eating–certainly a sanitary action.  Yet sanitation was not the concern Jesus addressed in Mark 7.  No, our Lord and Savior discussed tradition for its own sake and the sake of making some people appear holier than others.  He knew that washing hands could not purify one’s self-righteous attitude.  So rituals ought not to function as totems, which people imagine vainly will protect them from the wrath of God or merely from the consequences of their bad deeds and sins of omission.

May each of us engage in good deeds and rituals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER, WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Restoration IV: Grace and Restoration   1 comment

08033v

Above:  Design Drawing for a Stained-Glass Memorial Window with St. Peter’s Mother-in-Law for Sacred Heart Chapel in Carville, Lousiana

Created by J. & R. Lamb Studios

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006001918/)

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:17-24 (Monday)

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 8:1-17 (Wednesday)

Psalm 42 (all days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Monday)

Jude 17-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34 (Wednesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 29:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/sixth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ezekiel 47:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/devotion-for-january-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fourth-day-of-lent/

Zechariah 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

Acts 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eleventh-day-of-easter/

Jude:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,

and why are you so disquieted within me?

O put your trust in God;

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

–Psalm 42:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The theme of restoration unites all these readings.

National restoration is one thread running through some of the lections.  The Babylonian Exile will come.  Before that Jerusalem will survive an Assyrian siege.  But Jerusalem will fall one day.  And restoration will follow.  As Gordon Matties wrote in the introduction to Ezekiel in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), God will deal with evil decisively, destroy the Temple and purify the land

polluted by Israel’s economic injustice, violence, and idolatry,

and only then

take residence again among the people.  (page 1154)

Thus restoration will be to a condition better than the previous one.  The strong arm of God will accomplish this.  And such extravagant grace will impose certain responsibilities upon the redeemed; they are to be a light to the nations, living for God’s glory and the benefit of others, not their own selfish desires.

Speaking of the glory of God and the benefit of others…..

Healings in the Bible restored the healed to wholeness in society.  The ritually unclean were pure again, the economically marginalized could cease from begging or avoid slavery, etc.  Yet sometimes the community, which defined itself in opposition to the marginalized, disapproved of the healing of the marginalized.  Who were they now that the marginalized person was in his right mind?  Pure compassion disrupted the status quo ante.  Such people should have heeded timeless advice (not yet written in these words at the time of the incident):

…keep yourselves in the love of God…..

–Jude 21a, The New Revised Standard Version

That advice merely rephrased an already ancient ethos.  That advice owed much to the Law of Moses, with its myriad rules regarding compassion for members of one’s community.  For how we think and treat those whom we can see indicates much about how we think of and behave toward God.  Those around us are the least of our Lord and Savior’s brothers and sisters; as we treat them, we do to him.

Those are challenging words, for we humans tend to like to think of ourselves as good people who do good things, especially when we are plotting or committing bad deeds.  A villain probably does not see a villain when he or she looks into a mirror.  Yet reality remains unchanged by human delusions.

Advent is about preparing for God to act.  When God acts God might overturn our apple cart and/or neutralize the pattern according to which we define ourselves.  Yes, grace can prove very upsetting and disturbing sometimes.  Every time it does so, that fact speaks ill of those who take offense, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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When God Comes Knocking   1 comment

Above:  The Reverend Will Dexter, from Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996)

Image Source = A Screen Capture Via PowerDVD and a Legal DVD

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:15-30:14

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalm 126 and 62 (Evening)

Revelation 1:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 29-30:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/sixth-day-of-advent/

Revelation 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/proper-29-year-b/

Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/babylon-5-and-the-rock-cried-out-no-hiding-place-1996/

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The reading from Isaiah condemns haughtiness before God, the commission of evil and exploitative deeds, the quest for a diplomatic agreement with an ancient foe (who once enslaved the Israelites), and the preference for comforting words over true ones.  Judah was rife with legal and economic exploitation.  Judah also made diplomatic overtures to Egypt.  Many workers of malicious deeds acted as if God were not watching them.  They were mistaken.  Isaiah and John of Patmos said that there would be a reckoning, that God will mete out justice.  Those who destroy will face destruction; those suffering from injustice will exult.

I remember an episode of one of my favorite science fiction series, Babylon 5.  Our hero, the stressed-out Captain John Sheridan, had a conversation with a visiting Baptist minister, the Reverend Will Dexter.  Sheridan, not in the mood for spiritual counsel, asked mockingly if he should take all his problems to God.  Dexter replied that Sheridan would not need anyone to tell him when God comes knocking.

When God comes knocking the meek will triumph and the haughty will stumble.  When God comes knocking there will be good news and there will be bad news.  It will be the same news.  Whether it will be good or bad depends on us, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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