Archive for the ‘Jonah 2’ Category

Jonah in the Big Fish   Leave a comment

Above:  Israeli Stamp of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JONAH

PART II

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Jonah 2:1-10 (Protestant and Anglican)

Jonah 2:2-11 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The Book of Jonah tells us that a “big fish,” not a whale, swallowed Jonah.  Avoid fixating on the species of aquatic life, O reader.  The essence of these verses pertains to other issues.

I begin with two Hebrew words.

  1. Jonah 2:1/2:2 (depending on versification) tells us that the big fish “swallowed” Jonah.  The Hebrew verb for “to swallow” has only negative connotations in the Bible.  It occurs, in the context of death, in Exodus 15:12 and in Numbers 16:30, 32, and 34.  In Jonah 2:1/2:2, however, swallowing prevents death.
  2. Jonah 2:10/2:11 (depending on versification) tells us that the big fish “vomited” Jonah onto terra firma.  The story tells us that the big fish could not stomach Jonah.  The Hebrew verb for “to vomit” also occurs in Jeremiah 51:44.  The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians had consumed/swallowed various nations in 51:34.  They were about to consume/swallow Judah in Chapter 52.  Jeremiah 51:44 tells us that God would force the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire to “vomit” what it had “swallowed.”  One may assume reasonably that the author of the Book of Jonah may have been familiar with the Book of Jeremiah.

The prayer of Jonah derives from various Psalms.  This part of the text is of different authorship than the rest of the Book of Jonah.  Certain details of the composite prayer contradict details of Jonah 1.  The Book of Jonah is pious fiction, after all.  I quote Phyllis Trible, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996):

Appearing between the genuine worship of the sailors and the Ninevites, the psalm offers counterfeit piety from loquacious Jonah.

(The Ninevites repented in Jonah 3.)

Counterfeit piety is ubiquitous, unfortunately.  It is the stock and trade of many people from a host of professions and a range of ideas.  Perhaps one needs to look no farther than into a mirror to see a practitioner of counterfeit piety.  The Biblical standard in this matter is to know a tree by its fruits.  Fruits do not lie.  The proof is in the pudding.  And actions speak louder than words.

In Christian terms, I think of a bumper sticker.  It reads,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

The supreme irony of that plea is that one does not need saving from Christ’s actual followers.  One needs no deliverance from people who obey the Golden Rule.  The list of atrocities and other sins many people have committed and/or continue to continue to commit in the name of God is long and disturbing.  It is a record of counterfeit piety.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF ELIJAH P. LOVEJOY, U.S. JOURNALIST, ABOLITIONIST, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, AND MARTYR, 1837; HIS BROTHER, OWEN LOVEJOY, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, LAWMAKER, AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER; AND WILLIAM WELLS BROWN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST, NOVELIST, HISTORIAN, AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF LOTT CARY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO LIBERIA; AND MELVILLE B. COX, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO LIBERIA

THE FEAST OF ODETTE PRÉVOST, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, AND MARTYR IN ALGERIA, 1995

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God’s First Call of Jonah, with Jonah’s Flight   Leave a comment

Above:  Israeli Stamp of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JONAH

PART I

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Jonah 1:1-17 (Protestant and Anglican)

Jonah 1:1-2:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

–Psalm 139:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Book of Jonah is a theologically rich work of pious fiction.  Other works within that category in the Old Testament include Esther, Daniel, Tobit, and Judith.  The story of Jonah, written after the Babylonian Exile, contradicts the combined witness of ancient historical sources and much of the Hebrew Bible.  That is fine.  It is not a problem if one reads the Book of Jonah for what it is.

Shall we begin, O reader?

Nineveh was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  Empires rose and fell in Mesopotamia and beyond.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire was notoriously violent.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire absorbed the Kingdom of Aram in 732 B.C.E. and the Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E..  Then the Neo-Assyrian Empire menaced the Kingdom of Judah and reduced it to vassalage.  Finally, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire conquered the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 609 B.C.E.

The story of Jonah played out before the fall of Samaria.  The titular character was a subject of the Kingdom of Israel.  His name comes from that of a prophet (2 Kings 14:25) who prophesied during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of King Jeroboam II of Israel.

Jonah received and immediately rejected the call of God.  He went not to Nineveh but in the opposite direction–to the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.  He paid his fare for a journey to Tarshish, perhaps in Asia Minor or Spain.  During a severe storm, Jonah’s faithlessness became obvious.  The pagan sailors had more faith in YHWH than Jonah did.  Jonah probably hoped for death; it would spare him having to go to Nineveh.

God had other plans, though.

The author, writing in the Persian Period, knew well that Nineveh lay in ruins.  He also had a relatively generous attitude toward many Gentiles.  Persian kings sponsored the building of the Second Temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes had conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and permitted Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland.

Another theme present in these verses is the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  Repentance can avert judgment, or delay it, at least.  We tend to approve of divine mercy on ourselves and on those similar to us, do we not?  And do we not also prefer divine judgment on those we find objectionable.  Perhaps they are objectionable.  They are also human beings who bear the image of God.  They need to repent as much as we do.

I have learned much about the churched and the unchurched via conversations.  I have learned that the minds of many of the unchurched are more open to deep theological discussions than those of many of the churched.  I have chosen a denomination (The Episcopal Church) renowned for its embrace of questions.  I have, however, long known that many other denominations have cultures hostile to questions.  Some of their members have told me to my face and via email that I will go to Hell because I ask too many questions and think too much.  I did not make the mistake afterward of mistaking them for people who ask a sufficient number of questions and think enough.  I have also found that many of the unchurched, often refugees from churches, are often open to engaging in serious theological discussions.

The point that the pagan sailors had more faith in YHWH than Jonah did resonates with me, therefore.  To borrow a theme from the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Mark, those who think they are insiders may actually be outsiders, and visa versa.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, AND “SECOND MARTIN”

THE FEAST OF JOHANN(ES) MATTHAUS MEYFART, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARGERY KEMPE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROSWELL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Inner Jonah, Part II   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah

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:

Jonah 2

Psalm 95

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-7

Matthew 26:36-56

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Psalm 95:8 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979) tells us:

Harden not your hearts,

as you did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

In the same vein St. Paul the Apostle wrote:

Do everything without grumbling or argument.  Show yourselves innocent and above reproach, faultless children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world and proffer the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-16a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus, obedient to God, was about to die.

Jonah, seeking death, for the purpose of evading the call of God, could not get away from God and the divine call, as he learned.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  Each of us, to some extent, hopes to avoid God and the divine call on life.  Each of us, to a certain extent, wants to live for self, not God.  Each of us, to some degree, finds the presence of God terrifying, or at least inconvenient and annoying.

Juxtaposing the stories of Jesus asking God to let the cup of crucifixion pass from him and of Jonah praying inside the big fish is interesting and appropriate.  We read that Jesus accepted that cup and went on to sacrifice himself, and that Jonah accepted the mission to Nineveh reluctantly.  Furthermore, we read in Philippians 1:21-26 that St. Paul the Apostle was at peace with the prospect of dying for Christ.

Jonah sticks out like a sore thumb in that company.  So do most of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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Posted May 24, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Jonah 2, Matthew 26, Philippians 2, Psalm 95

Tagged with ,

Enemies and Repentance I   Leave a comment

Above:  The (United) Kingdom of Israel and the Divided Monarchy

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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

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Lord, we ask you to keep your household the Church in continual godliness,

that through your protection it may be free from all adversities,

and devoutly given to serve you in good works, to the glory of your name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Obadiah 1-4, 15-17a, 21

Psalm 35

Colossians 3:1-15

Matthew 7:15-23

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The readings for this week remind us of the importance of words and deeds.  The perfidy of the Moabites as well as the faithless Israelites dooms them in Obadiah.  The author of Psalm 35 asks God to destroy his (the author’s enemies).  The counterpoint that comes to my mind immediately is the Book of Jonah, in which God grants enemies of the Israelites an opportunity to repent, and therefore to avert destruction, but Jonah objects.  No, he has the attitude of the author of Psalm 35.  We read in Colossians 3 that we have an obligation to put away, among other things,

human anger, hot temper, malice, abusive language, and dirty talk.

–Verse 8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Our grand tour of scripture ends in Matthew 7, where we read that (1) one will know a tree by its fruits and (2) not all who think they do the will of God actually do so.  Words and deeds cannot save us, but they can condemn us.

Should we not be better than our foes?  Should we not rejoice when they repent?  Should we not want them to be peaceable, godly people?  The issue is not them but us.  What kind of people are we?  And what kind of people are we becoming?  After all, divine judgment and mercy are even-handed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Agents of Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O almighty and most merciful God, of your bountiful goodness keep us,

we pray, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things which you command;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship of Church and Home (1965), page 153

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 33

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

Mark 10:28-31

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In Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel, people are impressed with themselves and their collective accomplishment.  That accomplishment is a tower that God, looking down from Heaven, can barely see because of its relative smallness.  Our accomplishments and might are puny compared to God, as Psalm 33 reminds us.  May we have proper perspective, that is, humility before God.

Humility before God would certainly be easy for one to have if one were in the position of Isaiah, eyewitness to a glorious vision.  Accepting the call of God, as continued in subsequent verses in Isaiah 6, is perhaps a greater challenge.  The consequences can be dire, even to the point of death.  Certainly obeying that call will make one a new creation.  Change–even of the positive variety–frequently scares many people, for it endangers their comfort zones.  God calls us away from complacency and into the unknown.  Sometimes, as in the cases of some Hebrew prophets, God calls us to enter the realm of the scandalous.  Ultimately, though, the result should be the reconciliation of people separated from God with God.

This goal offends many people, including some of the professing faithful.  One might think of the great satire that is the Book of Jonah, a criticism of post-Babylonian Exile excesses.  One lesson from the text is that God loves everyone and wants all people to repent.  God sends the reluctant Jonah on a mission.  The prophet succeeds, much to his dismay.  We have enemies, by whom we define our identities.  If they cease to be enemies, who are we?  The possibility of such drastic change frightens us, does it not?

Will we stand humbly before God and serve as willing agents of reconciliation?  Or will we remain in our comfort zones and function as agents of obstruction?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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The Scandal of Grace II: Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O Lord, we ask you mercifully to hear us;

and grant that we, to whom you have given a hearty desire to pray,

may by your mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 28:10-22

Psalm 3

Acts 9:22, 26-31

John 3:4-17

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One might have enemies for various reasons.  If one is like Jacob, a schemer and a trickster, one antagonizes others easily.  However, if one is like St. Paul the Apostle, one might antagonize via one’s occasional brusqueness as well as one’s obedience to God.

The scandal of grace is also evident.  Why else would Jacob become an agent of the divine covenant?  Why else would God choose Saul of Tarsus?  And why else would the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate, live, die, and resurrect, for the benefit of the human race?

We humans seem to like the scandal of grace when it benefits us and those similar to us yet to resent it when it works to the benefit of those we do not like.  That is sinful.  Should we not rejoice that God is so generous?  One might think of the satirical character of Jonah, from the book that bears his name.  One of the points of the Book of Jonah is not to be like Jonah, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Spiritual Discipline   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR ASH WEDNESDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made,

and you forgive the sins of those who are penitent:

Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,

truly lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness,

may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 90

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Joel 2:12, 15-17

Psalm 11

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Matthew 6:16-21

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The reading from Joel occurs in the context of a military campaign against Judah.  “Yet even now,” God says, return and repent–turn around, literally.  In the rest of the book of Joel God forgives Judah and judges the enemies of Judah.  Judgment on one’s enemies is, incidentally, one of the requests in Psalm 11.

Spiritual discipline is the unifying theme of all the readings.  Taken together, they teach us that, the evidence of our discipline will be obvious without us being showy, and we must not brag.  We are supposed to glorify God, not ourselves, after all.

Without ignoring the reality that unrepentant evildoers exist and will, without our involvement, suffer the negative consequences of their actions, is it not better to pray for our enemies, that they might turn to God also?  Would that not be Christ-like?  Would not that not require much spiritual discipline?

Whenever you, O reader, are reading this post, may you strive, by grace, to become more Christ-like, capable of doing the difficult spiritual tasks, such as forgiving your enemies and seeking their repentance, not their destruction.  It is better to be Christ-like than Jonah-like, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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A Light to the Nations V   Leave a comment

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Albrecht Durer

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-40191

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FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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We ask, Lord, that you mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you,

and that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do,

and may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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Isaiah 60:1-3, 6b

Psalm 24

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Isaiah 60 and Psalm 24 state that God is the King, a ruler superior to human rulers who shed the blood of the innocent, commit injustice shamelessly, and do not care about integrity.  God is not fully the King of the Earth yet, we read, but that will change.  God is certainly superior to the unstable and evil Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire and a man fearful of a young boy.

Interestingly, Father Raymond E. Brown, author of The Birth of the Messiah (1977 and 1993) and An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), both magisterial works of Biblical scholarship, was dubious of the story in Matthew 2 (considering the account in Luke 2, despite its factual errors, more plausible) yet affirmed the Virgin Birth.  For a long time many scholars–even conservative ones–have struggled to reconcile the very different stories in Matthew 2 and Luke 2.  Nevertheless, would not visiting Magi have been more likely than a virginal conception and subsequent birth?

Regardless of the objective reality regarding that matter, the kingship of God remains.  Most of God’s subjects are Gentiles, whom He does not exclude from the potential for salvation.  This is an old theme in the Bible, given the faithful Gentiles who appear in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.  The narrative makes room for the civilly disobedient midwives Shiphrah and Puah (probably ethnically Egyptian) in Exodus 1, for Rahab the prostitute of Jericho and her family in Joshua 2 and 6, and Ruth in Ruth 1-4, for example.  The four chapters of Jonah, a work of fiction and a Jewish protest against post-Babylonian Exilic exclusionary attitudes among Jews, remain relevant in many settings.  We read of some Gentile Godfearers in John 12:20-36.  Faithful Gentiles, we read in epistles of St. Paul the Apostle as well as those texts others wrote in his name, join the Jews in the ranks of the Chosen People.  Are not the Chosen People–Jews and Gentiles–supposed to be a light to the nations, that is, Gentiles?

The message of God is for all people.  Not all will accept it, however; that is their decision.  The offer is on the table one way or another, however.  It is a generous offer and a gift.  The grace is free yet not cheap, for it makes demands of all its recipients.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Psalms 82-85   1 comment

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POST XXXII OF LX

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

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Show us, O LORD, Your faithfulness;

grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Show us, O Yahweh, your kindness,

and give us your prosperity.

–Psalm 85:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

–Psalm 85:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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LORD, show us your love

and grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The act of comparing translations can yield much.  For example, the Hebrew word hesed can mean “faithfulness,” “kindness,” “love,” and “steadfast love.”  Likewise, another Hebrew word can mean “deliverance,” “salvation,” and “prosperity.”  In the context of Psalm 85 it is deliverance from the Babylonian Exile and prosperity that only God can provide.  Related to these matters is the fact that “righteousness” and “justice” are the same in the Bible.  I bring up this point because of Psalm 82, which tells us that God’s justice is universal.

The author of Psalm 83 assumes that enemies of ancient Israel are automatically enemies of God also.  Thus he has no hesitation to ask God to smite them.  Yet, as we read in Psalm 81, God has enemies in ancient Israel also.  Furthermore, a recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is the faithfulness of certain Gentiles, including the prostitute Rahab and her family (Joshua 2 and 6) and the Aramean general Naaman (2 Kings 5), both from national enemies.  In the Book of Jonah, a work of satirical fiction from the post-Babylonian Exilic period, God recognizes the possibility that enemies of ancient Israel will repent and desires that they do so.   Reality is more complicated than the author of Psalm 83, in his understandable grief and anger, perceives it to be.

A faithful response to God includes both gratitude and obedience.  This segue brings me to Psalm 84, my favorite psalm, one which Johannes Brahms set to music gloriously in A German Requiem.  The psalmist writes as a pilgrim to the Temple at Jerusalem.  He approaches the Presence of God humbly and filled with awe.  The author delights to be in the Presence of God, which he understands to exist physically (via the Ark of the Covenant) at the Temple.

If Rahab and her family could become part of Israel, surely divine judgment and mercy crossed national barriers in antiquity.  If the Gentile Ruth could become the grandmother of David, YHWH was never just a national deity.  If the alien Naaman could recognize the power of YHWH, there was an opening to Gentiles at the time of the divided monarchy.

If divine justice is universal, as I affirm, we will do well to cease imagining that God is on our side and strive instead to be on God’s side.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Good Society, Part II   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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