Archive for the ‘Judges 13’ Category

Divine Judgment Against Ammon, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXIX

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Jeremiah 49:1-6

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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.).

Since I started this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the oracle against the Ammonites in Amos 1:13-15.

The oracle regarding Ammon in Ezekiel 25:1-6 awaits me, in due time.

Some details in the oracle require explanation:

  1. We read place names.
  2. We read “Milcom,” the name of the Ammonite chief deity (1 Kings 11:5).  That name, rendered in Hebrew (which lacks vowels), can read, in English, “their king.”
  3. We read that the Hebrews would repossess the territory of the tribe of Gad.
  4. This oracle also concludes on a note of consolation.
  5. The Ammonites were relatives of the Hebrews (Genesis 19:38).

Ammon fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Mass deportations ensued.  After the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to the Persians and the Medes in 539 B.C.E., Ammon became a part of the Persian Empire.  This empire restored Ammon, reduced to a domain of Arab nomads, to political order.

The Ammonites, like many others, had relied on wealth, strength, and false gods.  The Ammonites had also seized land not legitimately theirs.  This type of activity was a major concern in Biblical times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF DAVID LOW DODGE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BUSINESSMAN AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS J. UPLEGGER, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; “OLD MAN MISSIONARY”

THE FEAST OF FRANK LAUBACH, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

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Divine Judgment Against Philistia   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXVII

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Jeremiah 47:1-7

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The Philistines were descendants of the Sea Peoples.

Interpretations of the Sea Peoples have changed in recent decades.  The older version of them was that, starting in the fourteenth century B.C.E., the Sea Peoples moved from Greece to Asia Minor then to the eastern Mediterranean region.  They destroyed the Hittite Empire (in Asia Minor).  The Sea Peoples attacked Egypt during the twelfth century B.C.E., but the Egyptian forces defeated them.  Afterward, the Sea Peoples settled on the coast of Canaan, assimilated with the local population, and became the Philistines.

The Sea Peoples’ defeat at Egyptian hands is a matter of the historical record.

However, the former historical consensus regarding the Sea Peoples may have been wrong.  The Bronze Age Collapse (circa 1177 B.C.E.) affected the Mediterranean region.  The powers were interdependent.  Then a combination of climate change and natural disasters, followed by social and economic collapse, may have driven a diverse group of refugees from one land to another, then to another.  Some of the ancient empires may have collapsed from within, not due to the Sea Peoples.  Nevertheless, the Sea Peoples may still have proven disruptive.  Certainly, they were not welcome.

The Philistines were one of the oldest enemies of the Hebrews.  The Philistines oppressed the tribes of Israel for an undefined period of time (Judges 3:31) and again for about 40 years (Judges 13-16).  Hostilities between the Philistines and the Israelites continued into the twilight of the age of the judges and into the time of the Israelite monarchy (1 Samuel 4-31; 2 Samuel 1-5, 8).  In fact, the Philistine military threat was the main justification for creating the Israelite monarchy.

I have already read prophetic oracles against Philistia during this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in historical order.  I have read the oracles in Amos 1:6-8 and Isaiah 14:28-32.

The oracle in Ezekiel 25:15-17 awaits my attention, in due time.

Jeremiah 47:1 establishes a temporal setting for the oracle against Philistia:

before Pharaoh attacked Gaza.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Pharaoh Neco II (r. 610-595 B.C.E.) attacked Gaza in 609 B.C.E.

The Septuagint copy of the Book of Jeremiah lacks 47:1.  The rest of the germane text of Chapter 47 refers to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Philistia circa 604 B.C.E., followed by mass deportations.  The juxtaposition of these facts indicates editing subsequent to the time of Jeremiah the prophet.

Jeremiah 47 depicts God as destroying Philistia.  The prophet pleads:

Ah! Sword of the LORD!

When will you find rest?

Return to your scabbard;

stop, be still!

–Verse 6, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The answer in verse 7 is that the sword of the LORD cannot rest until God commands it to do so.

Walter Brueggemann writes:

Yahweh is not dominated by any of our conventionalities, but acts in sheer freedom, owing no one anything.  Listeners to this poem are invited to face this undomesticated God who may violate our sensitivities, this God who maybe the only hope for the Philistines as for Israel.

A Commentary on Jeremiah:  Exile and Homecoming (1998), 441-442

God refuses to fit into human categories and metaphorical theological boxes.  God does not issue trigger warnings.  God remains undomesticated, despite human discomfort.  So be it.  If we object, we have the problem; God does not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF DAVID LOW DODGE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BUSINESSMAN AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS J. UPLEGGER, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; “OLD MAN MISSIONARY”

THE FEAST OF FRANK LAUBACH, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

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The Commissioning of Isaiah ben Amoz   Leave a comment

Above:  Isaiah’s Vision

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART VI

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Isaiah 6:1-13

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King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah died no later than 742 B.C.E. and no earlier than 733 B.C.E., depending on which scholar’s chronology one accepts.

The scene in this familiar portion of scripture is the Temple in Jerusalem.  Certain details are notable; some are important.  “Feet” is a euphemism for genitals in 6:2.  That is interesting, but is it important?  At the time of Isaiah ben Amoz, seraphim were not yet a class of angels in Hebrew angelology.  No, they were serpentine creatures.  A bronze image of a serpent–perhaps the one Moses had made–stood in Jerusalem.  It did so until King Hezekiah ordered its destruction (2 Kings 18:4).  “Seraphim” is the plural form of “seraph” (“to burn”).  This term calls back to the “fiery” serpents who bit Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21:1-9; Deuteronomy 8:15).  “Seraphim” means “the burning ones.”  That detail matters.

Above:  The Brazen Serpent, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

(Numbers 21:1-9; Deuteronomy 8:15)

The terrified reaction of Isaiah ben Amoz makes sense in this context.  The Hebrew word for “doomed” (Isaiah 6:5) can also mean “struck silent.”  Notice the emphasis on Isaiah’s lips (6:7) and ponder “struck silent,” O reader.  On the other hand, there was a popular belief that seeing God would lead to one’s death (Genesis 32:31; Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22).

Isaiah 6:1-13 bears evidence of editing after the fact.  Verse 13 seems to come out of nowhere, for example.  Acknowledging this is being intellectually honest.  I favor intellectual honesty.  Yet another aspect of this chapter interests me more.

And [God] replied:  Go and say to this people:

Listen carefully, but do not understand!

Look intently, but do not perceive!

Make the heart of this people sluggish,

dull their ears and close their eyes;

Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,

and their heart understand,

and they turn and be healed.

–Isaiah 6:9-10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

More than one interpretation of the mission of Isaiah ben Amoz exists.

  1. One interpretation holds that his mission was not to call the people to repentance, and therefore, to stave off divine judgment.  No, the prophet’s mission was to inform the people of their fate.  Yet God will preserve a remnant, we read.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.
  2. An alternative interpretation holds that God predicted that people would not respond favorably to Isaiah’s message.  Sometimes the wording in certain passages of scripture may describe the result as the intention.

So far in this long blogging project through the Hebrew prophetic books, I have gone through the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, each with layers of writing and editing.  So far, I have read God call upon recalcitrant people to repent and go into “no more mercy” mode.

The hard reading of Isaiah 6:9-10 may be the accurate one.  As the heading of a germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014) reads:

Repentance is no longer an option.

–779

Isaiah 6:13, added later, softens the blow.

The purification of the lips of Isaiah ben Amoz (6:5-7) is symmetrical to the purification of the people.  And there is hope for renewal, even in a burned stump.

Yet a lack of symmetry exists, too.  Isaiah ben Amoz knew he was unworthy before God.  Isaiah did walk humbly/modestly/completely with God (Micah 6:8).  The people, however, were either oblivious or indifferent to God.  They had trampled the covenant, grounded in the Law of Moses.  Their prosperity (not shared with the poor) was about to fade, and the kingdom was about to go into decline.

One of the recurring themes in the early prophets is, in a few words:

You have made your bed.  Lie down in it.

That is an uncomfortable message to ponder.  It is a message the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) shies away from by assigning only verses 1-8 on Trinity Sunday, Year B.  It is a message the RCL provides the option for omitting by making verses 9-13 optional on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.

Yet consider a motif from the Book of Amos, O reader:

Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of ____, and now four–

I will not take it back–

Because they….

–Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Divine patience is not infinite.  Neither is divine judgment.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  I do not pretend to know where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR, 1430

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1582

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The Birth and Consecration of Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Before Eli

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART II

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1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

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I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

–Psalm 9:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Hannah’s culture, infertility was a curse and a source of humiliation for women.  Several Biblical authors wrote of formerly barren women, including Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mother of Samson, as well as Hannah.  (See Genesis 21:1-8; Genesis 25:19-26;l Genesis 30:1-2, 22-24); and Judges 13:2-3, also.)  In each case, the offspring entered the world with a divine purpose.  Samuel, in particular, provided moral guidance to his people.  Many people ignored him, but he continued to offer the moral advice.

Elkanah, despite being a kind man and a loving husband, seems to have been oblivious to the bad blood between Hannah and Peninnah.  He favored Hannah (“charming” or “attractive”) and had children with Peninnah (“fertile” or “prolific”).  The double portion of the sacrifice Elkanah gave to Hannah contrasted with the portions he gave to Peninnah, his sons, and his daughters with her.

Hannah was pious.  Her manner of prayer at Shiloh was unusual; moving one’s lips yet not speaking was a rare method of praying in that culture at the time.  The priest Eli mistook her desperation and her way of praying for intoxication.

Hannah asked.  God granted.  Hannah kept her word.

Grace is the foundation of this story.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it carries obligations.  Grace also transforms despair into thanksgiving and creates a better future out of a bleak present.

The Song of Hannah (2:1-10) is a later text.  It mentions a king in verse.  That reference to a monarch cannot be contemporary with Hannah, whose lifetime preceded the Israelite monarchy.  The themes fit her circumstances, though.  And, if the text reminds you, O reader, of another song, you may be thinking of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), modeled on the Song of Hannah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Character, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Samson

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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Judges 13:1-5, 24 or Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Psalm 92

Romans 3:1-10, 23-31

Luke 10:1-24

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All people are sinful, we read.  Societies and institutions are sinful.  The icing on the cake is the depressing reading from Jeremiah.  That is almost as somber as a movie by Vittorio De Sica.  Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), and Umberto D. (1952) are realistic and depressing works of art.

There is good news, however:  God can work through us.  God worked through the conventionally pious Psalmist, the frequently oblivious Apostles, and that idiot, Samson.  God worked through Jeremiah and St. Paul the Apostle.  God can work through corrupt institutions.  God can work through you and me, O reader.  God is sovereign.

That settles one question, but not another one.  No excuses for bad character and institutional corruption are valid.  Being an instrument of God does not exempt one from moral obligations.  Yes, God can work through scuz buckets, but being being a scuz bucket is still wrong.

May we, by grace, be the most moral instruments of God possible.  May our public and private morality be as close to the divine ideal as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-c-humes/

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Light in the Darkness, Part IV   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 13:2-24

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

John 7:40-52

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“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve it for all generations.”

–Psalm 89:3-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The origin stories of Samson and Jesus had some similarity to each other.  In each case, for example, an angel announced the conception of the child to the mother.  Yet Samson and Jesus were quite different.

Samson, a man of action, was supposed to deliver his people from oppressors.  He was, alas, not the brightest oil lamp in Israel, and character defects led to his downfall.  His death was his victory, but in a violent manner.

Jesus lived amid a range of messianic expectations, including the hope that he would liberate his people from the Roman occupiers.  That was not his task, however.  Nevertheless, he proved sufficiently threatening to the Roman Empire for imperial officials to execute him.  To call Jesus the “Savior of the world” and the “Son of God” was to subvert imperial Roman language, to put him in the place of the Emperor.  And the New Testament is replete with criticisms of the Roman Empire.  (My Bible study program has revealed more of them than I had imagined to exist, in fact.)  Jesus also had a victory–his Resurrection–in part a triumph over violence.

The assigned reading from John 7 precedes 7:53-8:11, the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This was originally from the Synoptic tradition.  In fact, different ancient texts have that floating pericope in various places in the Gospels.  If we skip over the inserted story, we move directly to Jesus telling Pharisees that he is the light of the world and that they know neither him nor God.  That section of scripture reads consistently flowing from 7:40-52 as well as from 7:53-8:11.  In 7:45-52 some Pharisees were anxious to ignore proper procedure in order to arrest Jesus, so Nicodemus spoke up on behalf of procedure.  If one reads 8:12-20 in the context of 7:53-8:11, some scribes and Pharisees have just violated the law to entrap Jesus, so the light was not in them for that reason.  Either way, skullduggery was in the works.

Light in the darkness is a wonderful metaphor to employ during Advent, when many of we Christians see a wreath with candles in church.  May we be lights of Christ in the darkness, which cannot conquer that light of divine love.  May we leave pettiness, greed, hatred, and other destructive forces behind, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus, for whose birth we prepare liturgically.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 28, 2014 by neatnik2009 in John 7, John 8, Judges 13

Tagged with , ,

Judges and Galatians, Part II: Obligations   1 comment

paul-writing-his-epistles

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

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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:

Judges 13:1-25

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Galatians 2:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-19/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

Galatians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/proper-6-year-c/

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The call of God on one’s life imposes some obligations and lifts others.  This theme plays out in Judges 13, the account which culminates in the birth of the judge Samson, designated to end the Philistine oppression of the Israelites.  He was supposed to obey rules governing hair and wine.  Yet the lifting of the obligation of male circumcision is a prominent part of Galatians 2.  The mandate to care for the poor remains, however.  Our justification is in Christ, Paul wrote, so “saving justice” does not come from the Law of Moses.  This principle did not apply to Samson for reasons of chronology.

We are not our own; no, we belong to God. Sometimes God’s call on our lives requires us to abandon certain traditions, such as the prohibition against table fellow ship with Gentiles in Galatians 2.  Yet, when one reads the other account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, one finds some old rules which continue to apply:

…to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages.

–Acts 15:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

But circumcision ceases to be obligatory.

As I have written already, male circumcision is a traditional part of Jewish identity.  Recent (as of 2012) international disputes regarding the practice reinforce this point.  But an outward sign which few people will see is not more important than public acts of compassion, such as caring effectively for the poor in the name of God.  A hokey song whose music and shallow, repetitive words I despise does at least convey a simple truth nevertheless:

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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We Cannot Thwart God’s Ultimate Will   3 comments

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

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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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Judges 13:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Israelites again did what was offensive to the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the stock of Dan, whose name was Manoah.  His wife was barren and had borne no children.  An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,

You are barren and have borne no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son.  Now be careful not to drink wine or other intoxicant, or eat anything unclean.  For you are going to conceive and bear a son; let no razor touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb on.  He shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

The woman went and told her husband,

A man of God came to me; he looked like an angel of God, very frightening; I did not ask him where he was from, nor did he tell me his name.  He said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and bear a son.  Drink no wine or other intoxicant, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death!’

Psalm 139:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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It is customary in The Episcopal Church that, at when the priest or deacon finishes reading the Gospel lection, he or she says,

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the congregation answers,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I recall a situation one Sunday evening at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  Beth Long, the Rector, read the assigned lesson from the Gospels for that day.  It was a disturbing and unpleasant text.  Then she said,

The Gospel of the Lord.

All of us in the congregation mumbled hesitantly,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I have the same response when pondering Matthew 22:1-14.

Tradition calls this text the Parable of the Great Banquet.  Yet William Barclay insists correctly that it is really two parables.  The first ends with the king rounding up wedding guests on street corners.  The subtext is clear; those who have rejected Jesus as Messiah are unworthy to attend the wedding banquet.  And the destruction in the story echoes the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  The Gospel of Matthew dates to the middle 80s C.E., in a Jewish Christian community on the margins of Jewish life.  Certain emotions tend to accompany marginal status, especially when one is marginalized involuntarily.  They are on full display in this text.

The second parable concerns the man who did not come to the wedding feast attired properly.  He did not care about the matter, a major breach of protocol in that society.  His disrespect led to his removal from the banquet.  My North American society is increasingly informal in matters of attire, and this is not entirely bad.  But sometimes it goes too far.  One student in a class for which I was a Teaching Assistant came to the classroom on the day of the Final Exam in his pajamas, slippers, and bathrobe.  How one presents oneself in public indicates how one regards others.  There is social etiquette and decorum to maintain; it makes public interactions go more smoothly.  So how much more true must showing respect toward God be?

Understand me correctly.  During my last year of high school I tutored a Middle Grades student after school.  Joe and his family attended a Southern Baptist church in Berrien County, Georgia.  He mentioned once that some elderly members of the congregation had criticized him for wearing tennis shoes to church.  Joe asked me what I thought.  I replied that God has concerns greater than whether Joe wore tennis shoes to church.  In fact, I wear tennis shoes to church sometimes.  But they are clean and presentable.

There is, however, great value in dressing up for certain occasions.  I feel one way when I wear a suit and a tie (often with a fedora) and another when I wear jeans and a tee-shirt.  I feel quite comfortable in both states, but I would never think of wearing jeans and a tee-shirt (no matter how clean and presentable they might be) to certain occasions.  This is simply a matter of decorum.

So the second parable teaches that we must approach God with our best.  This being from the Gospels, the meaning goes far deeper than wardrobe, although that is a matter for some people.  How does one live?  The king invited the good and the bad alike to the banquet, but all were expected to uphold certain standards after they arrived.  We can all come to God by route or another, but this is not cheap grace that demands nothing of us.  No, we must respond to God honestly and faithfully.  This will require something of us.

So the king filled the banquet hall one way or another.  Nothing could thwart his will–only require him to change tactics.

Then there is the story of Samson, the beginning of which is today’s reading from Judges.  I encourage everyone to read the whole thing again or for the first time; it is a very good story.  Samson was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, the brightest crayon in the box.  Neither was he self-disciplined, especially with regard to women, namely Delilah.  But, despite all these facts, God worked through Samson to deliver the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.  Samson died in the process, for the building fell down on top of him, along with many Philistines, but this end was not necessary.  Samson could have avoided it with some more intelligence and a dose of self-discipline.  He was weak, though, and he paid the price for that.

Yet God’s ultimate will came to fruition via Samson, despite Samson’s character.

Is it not better cooperate with God rather than abuse our free will and force God to change strategies?  Is not cooperating with God a sign of healthy respect?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED GUIDO DI PIETRO, A.K.A. FRA ANGELICO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARTIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLMAN OF LINDISFARNE, SAINT AGILBERT, AND SAINT WILFRID, BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER, PROTESTANT REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOTONIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

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Samson and John the Baptist   1 comment

Above:  A Statue of Samson

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Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 (Revised English Bible):

There was a certain man from Zorah of the tribe of Dan whose name was Manoah and whose wife was barren; she had no child.  The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said,

Though you are barren and have no child, you will conceive and give birth to a son.  Now be careful to drink no wine or strong drink, and to eat no forbidden food.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor must touch his head, for the boy is to be a Nazirite, consecrated to God from birth.  He will strike the first blow for Israel’s freedom from the power of the Philistines.

The woman went and told her husband,

A man of God came to me,

she said to him;

his appearance was that of an angel of God, most terrible to see.  I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name, but he said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and give birth to a son.  From now on drink no wine or strong drink and eat no forbidden food, for the boy is to be a Nazirite, consecrated to God from his birth to the day of his death.’

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson.  The boy grew up in Mahaneh-dan between Zorah and Eshtaol, and the LORD blessed him, and the spirit of the LORD began to move him.

Psalm 71:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

In you, LORD, I have found refuge;

let me never be put to shame.

By your saving power rescue and deliver me;

hear me and save me!

Be to me a rock of refuge

to which at all times I may come;

you have decreed my deliverance,

for you are my rock and stronghold.

Keep me safe, my God, from the power of the wicked,

from the clutches of the pitiless and unjust.

You are my hope, Lord GOD,

my trust since my childhood.

On you I have leaned from birth;

you brought me from my mother’s womb;

to you I offer praise at all times.

I have become like a portent to many,

but you are my strong refuge.

My mouth will be full of your praises,

I shall tell of your splendour all day long.

Luke 1:5-25 (Revised English Bible):

In the reign of Herod king of Judaea there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of the priesthood called Abijah.  His wife, whose name was Elizabeth, was also of priestly descent.  Both of them were upright and devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.  But they had no children, for Elizabeth was barren, and both were well on in years.

Once, when it was the turn of his division and he was there to take part in the temple service, he was chosen by lot, by priestly custom, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and to offer the incense; and at the hour of the offering the people were all assembled at prayer outside.  There appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right of the altar of incense.  At this sight, Zechariah was startled and overcome by fear.  But the angel said to him,

Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard:  your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.  His birth will fill you with joy and delight, and will bring gladness to many; for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.  He is never to touch wine or strong drink.  From this very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit; and he will bring back many Israelites to the Lord their God.  He will go before him as a forerunner, possessed by the spirit and power of Elijah, to reconcile father and child, to convert the rebellious father and child, to convert the rebellious to the ways of the righteous, to prepare a people that shall be fit for the Lord.

Zechariah said to the angel,

How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.

They angel replied,

I am Gabriel; I stand in attendance on God, and I have been sent to speak to you and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.  But now, because you have not believed me, and you will lose all power of speech and remain silent until the day when these things take place; at their proper time my words will be proved true.

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, surprised that he was staying so long inside the sanctuary.  When he did come out he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had had a vision.  He stood there making signs to them, and remained dumb.

When his period of duty was completed Zechariah returned home.  His wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she lived in seclusion, thinking,

This is the Lord’s doing; now at last he has shown me favour and taken away from me the disgrace of childlessness.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This series of Advent devotions is nearing its end and climax.  December 24 will be the last day of Advent, so the assigned readings (especially the Gospel readings), which span Luke 1:5 to Luke 1:79, bring us to the verge of Christmas Day.

This day’s readings tell of two men whose backstories were similar yet whose lives were different.  The stories of the births of Samson and John the Baptist contain an angel, a miracle, and a mission for the yet-unborn child.  Samson’s mission took a detour; he gave into his weakness for women, and one woman, a spy, in particular.  Yet John the Baptist remained true to his mission from beginning to end.

John chose the better path.  May we do likewise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-19/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Judges 13, Luke 1, Psalm 71

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