Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 50’ Category

Divine Judgment Against Ammon, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XI

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Ezekiel 21:28-32 (Anglican and Protestant)

Ezekiel 21:33-37 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Ezekiel 25:1-7

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Oracles of divine judgment against nations are staples of Hebrew prophetic literature.  For example, they populate Isaiah 13-23; Jeremiah 46-51; Amos 1:3-2:3; and Ezekiel 25-32.

Since I began this long-term project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material regarding Ammon in Amos 1:13-15; Jeremiah 49:1-16; and Ezekiel 21:28-32/21:33-37 (depending on versification).

Ammon was east of the River Jordan, and bordered the territory of the tribe of Gad (Joshua 13:8-10).  Ammon’s capital was Rabbath-Amman (modern-day Amman, Jordan).  Sometimes the Hebrews and the Ammonites were foes (Judges 3:13; Amos 1:13-15; Zephaniah 2:8; Judges 10:6-12:7; 1 Samuel 11; 2 Samuel 10; 2 Samuel 12:26-31).  Sometimes they were allies (Jeremiah 27:3).  After the Fall of Jerusalem, the Ammonites supported Ishmael, the Davidic claimant who rebelled against Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:7-41:18).  Before that, however, Ammon had occupied the territory of the tribe of Gad after the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.).

Ammon, as a province of the Assyrian Empire, had a native ruler most of the time in the seventh century B.C.E.  During the Assyrian civil war that started in 652 B.C.E., some of the remote peoples rebelled.  They endangered the security of Ammon and other Assyrian vassals.  With the fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.E.), Ammon briefly regained independence.  Ammon allied with the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire against common foes, those pesky Arab tribes and the Kingdom of Judah.  The alliance quickly turned into Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian domination of Ammon.

The Ammonite rebellion against their Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian overlords informed the material in Ezekiel 21.  The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians struck Judah first then came back around for Ammon.  After the failed Ammonite rebellion, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire instituted mass deportations of Ammonites and, for a time, ended sedentary settlement in Ammon.  Ammon became the abode of nomads until the Persian period.

Ezekiel 25:1-7 is consistent with this history.  The text of the oracle condemns Ammon for opposing Judah and siding with the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The fitting punishment, we read, is to fall to that empire, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Superscription of the Book of Ezekiel   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART I

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Ezekiel 1:1-3

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In 597 B.C.E., Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces invaded Judah.  King Jehoiachin‘s brief reign ended.  His uncle Mattaniah came to the throne as King Zedekiah.  Jehoiachin and many others–members of the Judean elite–became exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The first wave of the Babylonian Exile had begun.

Ezekiel ben Buzi was one of these captives and exiles.  Ezekiel, a priest in the community beside the Chebar Canal (next to the city of Nippur, southeast of the city of Babylon), received his commission as a prophet on the fifth day of Tammuz (on the Gregorian Calendar, in June), 593 B.C.E.  He prophesied until 571 B.C.E.

Robert Alter describes Ezekiel as

surely the strangest of all the prophets

and as

an extreme case.

The Hebrew Bible, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1049

The prophet, whose name meant, “God strengthens,” was, by modern standards, misogynistic, as in Chapters 16 and 23.  He was not unique–certainly not in the company of Biblical authors.  According to Alter, especially in the context of Chapter 16:

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.  The states of disturbance exhibited in his writing led him to a series of remarkable visionary experiences, at least several of which would be deeply inscribed in the Western imagination, engendering profound experiences in later poetry and in mystical literature.  At the same time, there is much in these visions that reminds us of the dangerous dark side of prophecy.  To announce authoritatively that the words one speaks are the words of God is an audacious act.  Inevitably, what is reported as divine speech reaches us through the refracting prism of the prophet’s sensibility and psychology, and the words and images represented as God’s urgent message may be sometimes distorted in eerie ways.

–1051-1052

Biblical scholars from a variety of times, theological orientations, and geographical origins have commented on Ezekiel’s pathological psychology.  The prophet may not have been well-adjusted.  “Touched by the gods” has been an expression for a long time, and for a good reason.

However much one accepts that much or most of the Book of Ezekiel comes from the prophet, a textual difficulty remains.  The book includes evidence of subsequent editing after the Babylonian Exile.  Any given passage, in its final form, may have more to do with Ezra or some other editor than with Ezekiel.  Or that passage may be entirely from Ezeki8el.  Or the editorial touch may be light.

I acknowledge these matters as I commit to my primary purpose in this Hebrew prophetic reading project:  to read these passages in context and to ponder what they say to the world today.  The ancient message, grounded in particular circumstances, continues to speak.

“The hand of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:3) symbolizes divine power.

The Book of Ezekiel breaks down into three sections:

  1. Chapters 1-24, in their original form, date to between the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This section divides into two subsections.  Chapters 1-11 contain visions of divine presence and departure.  Chapters 12-24 offer a rationale for and anticipate the destruction of Jerusalem.
  2. Chapters 25-32 contain oracles against the nations.  The arrangement of these oracles is not chronological.  Such a collection of oracles is also a feature of other prophetic writings, as in Amos 1:3-2:3; Isaiah 13:1-23:19; Jeremiah 46:1-51:64.
  3. Chapters 33-48 contain oracles from after the Fall of Jerusalem.  This section breaks down into two subsections.  Chapters 33-39 offer a rationale for and anticipate the transformation of the LORD’s people.  Chapters 40-48 contain visions of the LORD’s return to the Second Temple (not yet built; dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) in a transformed land.

Tova Ganzel wrote, in the introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014):

Because of the central themes of the Temple, acts of leadership, sins of the people, and divine theophanies appear in both the predestruction and postdestruction oracles (1.3, 13-15, 22-24; 8.2-3; 10.11, 22-23; 40.1-2; 43.1-5), Ezekiel’s oracles merit both sequential and topical study.

–1034

I will study the Book of Ezekiel in a combination of sequential and topical organization of posts.

Major lectionaries ignore most of the Book of Ezekiel.  The Roman Catholic lectionaries for weekdays, Sundays, and major feast days omit Chapters 3-8, 11, 13-15, 19-23, 25-27, 29-42, 44-46, and 48 entirely. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) lists the Book of Ezekiel only five times:

  1. 34:11-16, 20-24 for Christ the King Sunday, Year A;
  2. 36:24-27 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C;
  3. 37:1-14 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C; the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A; and (as an alternative reading), for the Day of Pentecost, Year B.

I understand the benefits and limitations of lectionaries.  Any lectionary–even a narrow, one-year cycle with two readings and a Psalm each Sunday–is superior to ministers focusing on their favorite passages of scripture Sunday after Sunday.  The orderly reading of scripture in communal worship has virtues.  Lectionaries also help people to read the Bible in conversation with itself.  Nevertheless, the parts of the Book of Ezekiel that even three-year cycles overlook are worth hearing and reading, in private, alone, in a study group, and in the context of worship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Divine Judgment Against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXIV

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Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

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Since I started reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material related to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in Isaiah 13:1-14:22; 21:1-10.

Jeremiah 50 and 51 contain two oracles (50:1-46; 51:1-58) and an account of the the transportation of the scroll of the prophecy against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire to Babylon, followed by the enactment of the curse against that empire (51:59-64).  Chapters 50 and 51 also contain material from different periods.  The copies I read are translations of the final draft, from after the Babylonian Exile.

The contents of the two oracles contain familiar, repeated themes:

  1. Babylon will fail.
  2. The empire will end.
  3. Jews will return to God and to their homeland.
  4. God is sovereign.
  5. Idolatry, hubris, and arrogance will be the downfall of the empire.

Jeremiah 51:59 provides a year for the events of 51:59-64.  That year is 593 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah.  The reference to King Zedekiah’s official delegation to Babylon fits historically.

Tying a stone around the scroll and sinking that scroll into the Euphrates River was a prophetic symbolic action.  Seraiah ben Neriah, brother of Baruch ben Neriah, performed that task on Jeremiah’s behalf.  That symbolic action enacted the curse that Babylon would sink and never rise again.

Babylon remained a major city, within the Persian Empire, for centuries.  In the Hellenistic Era, however, Babylon declined.  By the early Christian era, Babylon had become a village.  The site, abandoned by 1000 C.E., became a source for bricks.

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Thus for the words of Jeremiah.

–Jeremiah 51:64b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

So ends the Book of Jeremiah, except for Chapter 52, mostly copied and pasted from 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.

I have already covered Jeremiah 52 (as Jeremiah 52) here and (as 2 Kings 24 and 25) here and here.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Jeremiah.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Lamentations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Divine Judgment Against Edom, Part I   4 comments

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXX

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Jeremiah 49:7-22

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The Edomites were relatives of the Hebrews–descendants of Esau, a.k.a. Edom, actually (Genesis 25:19-34; 33:1-20; 35:1-36:43).  The Edomites were traditional, bitter enemies of the the Hebrews.  Edomites joined Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces at the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  Hebrew antagonism toward the Edomites made its way into the Bible (Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 63:1-6; Lamentations 4:21-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Amos 1:11-12; Obadiah; Malachi 1:2-5; Psalm 137:7; et cetera).

This antagonism is especially evident in Jeremiah 49:7-22, which, unlike some of the oracles in this set, lacks a lament.  Also, Jeremiah 49:22 echoes 48:41-44 (regarding Moab) and 50:44, 44-46 (regarding the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire).

Since I commenced this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material regarding Edom in Amos 1:11-12 and Isaiah 21:11-12.

The Edom material in Obadiah and in Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35:1-15 awaits me, in due time.

Some points in the oracle require explanation:

  1. This oracle and the Book of Obadiah probably drew from the same source.
  2. Borzah was the main city-fortress of Edom.
  3. Edom, associated with wisdom (Job 1:3; Proverbs 30:1; Proverbs 31:1) had become prideful and arrogant.

There would be no word of comfort for Edom.  The future was calamity for Edom and the Edomites.  Edomites, who had moved into southern Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) and established a capital at Hebron, declined during the Persian period.  This region of Judah became Idumea.  During the Persian period, Nabatean encroachment upon Edom pushed many more Edomites into Idumea.  Those Edomites who remained in Edom assimilated with the Nabateans.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Introduction to Jeremiah’s Oracles Against the Nations   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXV

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Jeremiah 46:1

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Jeremiah 46-51 consists of oracles against nations:

  1. Egypt (46),
  2. Philistia (47),
  3. Moab (48),
  4. Ammon, Edom, Aram, Arabia, and Elam (49), and
  5. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (50-51).

Such oracles are staples of Hebrew prophetic literature.  They fill the Book of Nahum (against the Assyrian Empire), the Book of Obadiah (against Edom), Isaiah 13-23, Ezekiel 25-32, and Amos 1:3-2:16.  The oracles in Jeremiah 46-51 are consistent with Jeremiah’s commission:

…a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

–Jeremiah 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The Book of Jeremiah consists of material from various sources.  Some of these oracles, therefore, come from Jeremiah himself.  Others may come from a later stratum or subsequent strata of composition.  This fits with the process of composing and editing other Hebrew prophetic books as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  So be it.

We read, in the context of a particular scroll from 605 B.C.E.:

Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to his scribe, Baruch, son of Neriah, and wrote on it at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words contained in the scroll, which Jerhoiakim, king of Judah, had burned in the fire, adding many words like them.

–Jeremiah 36:32, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I wonder how many other authors added

many words like them

elsewhere in the Book of Jeremiah, specifically in in Chapters 46-51.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SPYRIDON OF CYPRUS, BISHOP OF TREMITHUS, CYPRUS; AND HIS CONVERT, SAINT TRYPHILLIUS OF LEUCOSIA, CYPRUS; OPPONENTS OF ARIANISM

THE FEAST OF DAVID ABEEL, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD, U.S. METHODIST THEN CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Judgment and the Refusal to Repent   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART IV

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Jeremiah 4:5-6:30

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Who were the invaders from the north in Jeremiah 4?  Given the layers of composition in the final draft of the Book of Jeremiah, answering his question is no simple task.  Answers include the Scythians, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and an assortment of enemies.  Jeremiah 25:26 refers to

all the kings of the north, whether far from or close to each other.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The identity of the northern invader threatening the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (or just Judah, if Israel had already fallen to the Assyrian Empire) may not matter.  This invader may also have threatened Egypt, Babylonia, and Philistia (Jeremiah 46:6, 10, 24; 47:2; 50:3, 9, 41).  The text of Jeremiah 4 tells us that this invading force was an instrument of God, punishing peoples for their persistent sins, their complacency, their false sense of security, and their refusal to repent.  We read, in particular, condemnations of Hebrews:

For My people are stupid,

They give Me no heed;

They are foolish children,

They are not intelligent.

They are clever at doing wrong,

But unable to do right.

–Jeremiah 4:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The calls to repent (as in Jeremiah 4) have gone unheeded.  Therefore, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah will fall, we read.  The people have condemned themselves, we read.

God assumes responsibility for sending foreign invaders into Israel and Judah.  For example:

Hear, O earth!

I am going to bring disaster upon this people,

The outcome of their own schemes;

For they would not hearken to My words,

And they rejected My instruction.

–Jeremiah 6:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah 6 concludes with an announcement of divine rejection of Israel and Judah.  This divine rejection is the consequence of the people rejecting God.  Yet a remnant will remain:

But even in those days–declare the LORD–I will not make an end of you.

–Jeremiah 5:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

I, as a student of history, know that layers of composition reside in Jeremiah 4-6.  The final editorial layer dates to after the Babylonian Exile.  I am not certain, therefore, how much is from Jeremiah and how much is subsequent material.  Yet we have the final draft we have, and we can attempt to interpret it as best we can.

The God of Jeremiah may frighten many people.  This deity is the sovereign, unitary God of the universe.  This is God, who has repeatedly provided instructions and refresher courses in them.  This is God, who has been patient.  This is God, who continues to invite peoples to repent while announcing judgment against them.  This is God, who ultimately permits proverbial chickens to roost.  This is God, who, even then, preserves a remnant of the disobedient covenant people.  This is God, still playing a long game on a schedule we mere mortals can never fully grasp.

I conclude this post with one element of these three chapters:  do not fall into the trap of complacency.  Spiritual complacency is an individual and a collective peril.  No person or population is exempt from this warning.  We who are devout can fall into complacency easily.  So can those who are not devout and make no pretense of being pious.  We all stand before God, in whom judgment and mercy exist in a balance not one of us can understand fully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Deeds as Credentials   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:17-20

Psalm 100

John 10:31-42

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Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

–Psalm 100:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Do we acknowledge God via our deeds and attitudes?  Or does “God” function merely as a mechanism for self-justification?  The genuine God is a truly challenging character.

Our deeds are our credentials, for better and worse.  By them we might glorify God or ourselves.  (The first choice is superior, obviously.)  Sometimes we might labor under the erroneous impression that we are glorifying God.  Indeed, identifying correctly what we are actually doing can prove difficult on occasion.  May we, by grace, perceive and behave correctly.

The proper response to the extravagance of God’s grace is gratitude, which comes with responsibility.  Grace is free yet costly.  Our deeds are our credentials.  Are they credentials of the Golden Rule, of compassion, of love of God and our fellow human beings?  Or are they credentials of self-aggrandisement?  Are they credentials of leaving the world or some part of it better than we found it or they credentials of the opposite?

May we love one another, just as God loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 31, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah 50, John 10, Psalm 100

Tagged with

Sheep and Shepherds   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)

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Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-11-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Faithfulness of God, Part I   1 comment

Above: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin (1854)

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

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Genesis 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

Bestir yourself; take away your wife, and the two daughters that are at hand, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.

When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s pity on him, seized his hand and those of his wife and his two daughters, and bringing them out, they left him outside the city.  After they had brought them outside, they said,

Fly for your life; do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the valley; fly to the hills, lest you be swept away.

Lot said to them,

O no sirs!  Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and great is the kindness that you have done me in saving my life, but I cannot possibly fly to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I perish.  Here is the town near enough to fly to, and quite small; pray, let me fly there (is it not small?) to save my life.

The LORD said to him,

See, I grant you this request as well, in that I will not overthrow the town of which you speak.  Hurry and fly there; for I can do nothing until you reach there.

Thus the name of the town came to be called Zoar [small].

Just as the sun rose over the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained sulphur and fire from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, devastating those cities and all the valley, with all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation on the land.  And Lot’s wife looked back, and had become a pillar of salt.

Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

Next morning when Abraham went early to the place where he had stood before the LORD, he gazed toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the region of the valley, and he saw smoke from the land rising like smoke from a kiln.

Thus it was that God remembered Abraham when he destroyed the cities of the valley, by sending Lot away from the catastrophe when he devastated the cities where Lot lived.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Let us examine the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carefully.  In Genesis 19:1-14, two angels arrive at Sodom, where Lot rescues them from would-be gang rapists.  The angels tell Lot that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah very shortly because, as Professor Richard Elliott Friedman translates verse 13,  they have “grown big before YHWH’s face.”

I pause at this point to ponder the importance of growing “big before YHWH’s face.”  Later in Chapter 19, YHWH permits Lot and his family to flee to Zoar, which is small, for safety.  (Two angels appear early in Chapter 19, and by chapter’s end, YHWH is there, too.  When did God show up, after disappearing between the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19?  Following the bouncing ball can be challenging.)  Anyhow, I posit that growing “big before YHWH’s face” indicates spiritual arrogance, a lack of faithfulness.

There is an interesting feature in the Hebrew text of verse 15.  The word for punishment, as in “…or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city,” means sin as well.  Sin and punishment are the same thing; consequences flow from actions, so we reap what we sow.

Lot is sufficiently hospitable to rescue the angels, strangers in Sodom, and, as Genesis 19:29 indicates, God saves Lot and family out of faithfulness to Abraham.  Indeed, Lot is a disturbing character, one who offers his two virgin daughters to the would-be gang rapists gathered outside his house (verse 8).  Fortunately for the daughters, the men are not interested.

But Lot is kind to the strangers, if not his own daughters, and the angelic guests offer him and his family a safe way out–if only they follow instructions.  Nobody must look back.  I suppose that curiosity about what is happening would inspire one to look back; we are a species of people who stare at the aftermath of car wrecks.

Biblical writers over many generations used Sodom and Gomorrah to demonstrate various points.  These include:

  • Repent, or be destroyed.
  • Sexual immorality (in all its forms) is wrong.  The first explicit link between homosexual acts and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah comes in Jude 7, however.
  • Any town that refuses to heed visitors bearing the word of God will face condemnation.
  • The failure to extend hospitality to strangers will lead to condemnation.
  • The neglect of the poor will lead to condemnation and destruction.

The word “Sodom” appears in the New Revised Standard Version 51 times.  For those of you who wish to follow up, here they are:

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis 13:10, 12, and 13
  • Genesis 14:2, 8, 10-12, 17, 21, 22, and 26
  • Genesis 18:16, 20, and 26
  • Genesis 19:1, 4, 24, and 28
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Deuteronomy 32:32
  • Isaiah 1:9 and 10
  • Isaiah 3:9
  • Isaiah 13:19
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 49:18
  • Jeremiah 50:40
  • Lamentations 4:6
  • Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 53, 55, and 56
  • Amos 4:11
  • Zephaniah 2:9
  • 3 Maccabees 2:5
  • 2 Esdras 2:8
  • 2 Esdras 7:106
  • Matthew 10:15
  • Matthew 11:23 and 24
  • Luke 10:12
  • Luke 17:29
  • Romans 9:29
  • 2 Peter 2:6
  • Jude 7
  • Revelation 11:8

The reading from Matthew tells the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In all fairness to the Apostles, I would have been afraid, too.  I note also that Jesus said they had little faith, not no faith.  This is a difficult text, one with more possible interpretations than I dreamed possible before reading commentaries.  However, remaining consistent with my methodology of following a common thread between or among lectionary readings, I latch onto the “little faith” comment.  At least the Apostles had some faith.  Are we not like this much, if not most, of the time?  We have some faith and we know that we need more.  We believe, yet we need God to forgive us for our unbelief.  But a little faith is better than none, and from little faith much more can spring.  As the Book of Psalms says, God knows that we are “but dust.”

Reciprocity matters in a healthy relationship with God.  We will get much wrong, for we are fallible.  But, by grace, we can walk in the paths of righteousness more often than not.  We might save not only ourselves, but friends and family members, too.  But are we trying?  That is the first question.  Fortunately, God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And let us remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about faithfulness:  God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Certainly, how we treat others can be an outward sign of faithfulness.  If we love God with our essence and respect ourselves, following the Golden Rule will result in frequent acts of kindness.  To follow up on a previous devotion in this series, Jesus said that “you shall know them by their fruits.”  I add to this thought the entire Letter of James.

May we be faithful to God for the glory of God and out of awe of God and gratitude for all the wonderful deeds God has done.  And why not?  God is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

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

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