Archive for the ‘Judges Other’ Category

Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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The Accession of King David of Judah and the Beginning of the Israelite Civil War   Leave a comment

Above:  Abner

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 XXIX

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2 Samuel 2:1-32

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Do you indeed decree righteousness, you rulers?

do you judge the peoples with equity?

No; you devise evil in your hearts,

and your hands deal out violence in the land.

–Psalm 58:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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1 Chronicles 11:1-3 skips over years of civil war (2 Samuel 2-4) and jumps to 2 Samuel 5:1-5.  Civil war?  What civil war?  There was a civil war?

Yes, there was.

David became the King of Judah after the death of Saul, the King of Israel.  Ishbaal/Ishbosheth, one of Saul’s surviving sons, became the King of Israel.  Ishbaal (“Man of Baal”) was his given name.  Ishbosheth (“Man of shame”) was an editorial comment.  Ishbaal/Ishbosheth reigned for about two years.

Aside:  On occasion, “Baal” functioned as a synonym for YHWH, as in 2 Samuel 5:20.  Usually, though, it referred to a Canaanite deity, often Baal Peor, the storm/fertility god.  “Baal” mean “Lord.”  Some Biblical texts referred to “the Baals” (Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7; Judges 8:33; Judges 10:6; Judges 10:10; 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10; 1 Kings 18:18; 2 Chronicles 17:3; 2 Chronicles 24:7; 2 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 33:3; 2 Chronicles 34:4; Jeremiah 2:33; Jeremiah 9:14; Hosea 2:13: Hosea 2:17; and Hosea 11:2).

The civil war began at Gibeon.  Abner served as the general loyal to Ishbaal/Ishbosheth.  Joab was David’s general.  The forces under Joab’s command won the first battle.

The narrative emphasizes the legitimacy of David as monarch.  God was on David’s side, according to the text; Abner’s forces had a higher death toll.

Abner’s question, from the context of those high casualties, remains applicable.

Must the sword devour forever?

–2 Samuel 2:26a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

How long will the sword, tank, missile, drone, bullet, et cetera, devour?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEANNE JUGAN, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LEARY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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The Accession of King Saul   Leave a comment

Above: The Coronation of King Saul

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 X

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1 Samuel 11:1-15

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He shall defend the needy among the people,

he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

–Psalm 72:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Saul, chosen to become the King of Israel, was not yet the monarch.  He was still working in the field at the beginning of Chapter 11.  Saul rose to the occasion and led forces into victory against those of the cruel Nahash the Ammonite.

The mention of Jabesh-Gilead, east of the River Jordan, constitutes a call-back to Judges 21:8-12.  In that passage, set after a civil war against the tribe of Benjamin, victorious tribes sacked Jabesh-Gilead  to find wives for Benjaminite men.  Judges 21:25 reads,

In those days, there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their eyes.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In narrative context, then, the deliverance of the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead affirmed the necessity of the monarchy.

Saul’s behavior in 1 Samuel 9-11 indicated that he did not want to become the King of Israel.  The family farm seemed to be his preference.  After the anointing, Saul returned home and told nobody about the anointing.  He hid in the baggage at the assembly.  After the assembly, he was still a farmer.

Reading the stories of the beginning of Saul’s reign may create a sense of sadness.  Knowing the rest of the story places the beginning of the tale in context.  One can imagine what Saul may have become if he had made different choices or had never had to pursue runaway donkeys on a certain day.  There is also a cautionary tale about the allure of power and the fragility of some psyches.

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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Getting Off Our Values and Getting to Work   3 comments

Above:  The Importune Neighbour, by William Holman Hunt

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 19 (portions) or Jeremiah 13:1-11

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 4:13-25

Luke 10:38-11:13

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We have quite a collection of readings this Sunday!

  1. Judges 19 gives us a tale of rape, death, dismemberment, and the prelude to genocide, played out in Judges 20 and 21.
  2. Stay away from God’s bad side, as in Jeremiah 13 and Psalm 94.
  3. Romans 4 reminds us of the importance of living according to faith.
  4. The executive summary of the lesson from Luke is to learn from Jesus (even to violate social conventions to do so) and to act according to those teachings.

Judges 19, the first portion of a section spanning chapters 19-21, contains enough material for many posts, given its background, its literary contexts, and the ink many exegetes have spilled regarding the story.  However, my purpose in this post entails reading Judges 19 in the context of the other lessons.  One note from The Jewish Study Bible (2nd. ed.) offers a useful sentence:

The story depicts a unified society, sensitive to the problems of ethics and serving the LORD.

–536

The society Jeremiah critiqued was insensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  On the other hand, St. Mary of BethanySt. Paul the Apostle, and the author of Psalm 94 were sensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  So was St. Martha of Bethany, also insistent on being a good hostess who offered proper hospitality, a Biblical virtue.

Prayer comes attached to action in Luke 11:9-13.  That is an important lesson:  pray then, as able, act to effect positive change.  Self-serving politicians who offer “thoughts and prayers” after terrible events then do nothing, even though they have the power to do so, make a mockery of the teaching in Luke 11:9-13.  One of the lessons my father taught me is that prayer should have feet whenever possible.  Be salt and light in the world, Jesus still commands us.

I recall an editorial from a Roman Catholic periodical during the middle 1990s, when many politicians beat the drum of “family values” with more words than deeds.  As I remember, the title of the editorial was,

GET OFF YOUR VALUES AND GET TO WORK.

Talk is cheap.  We need to get off our values and get to work.  After all, faith, in the theology of St. Paul the Apostle, is inherently active.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; AND SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/devotion-for-proper-14-year-c-humes/

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Disobedience to God, Part I   1 comment

Ancient Corinth

Above: Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 2:6-15 (Thursday)

Judges 2:16-23 (Friday)

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 10:1-11 (Thursday)

Acts 13:16-25 (Friday)

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God, examine me and know my heart,

probe me and know my thoughts;

make sure I do not follow pernicious ways,

and guide me in the way that is everlasting.

–Psalm 139:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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2 Corinthians is a cut-and-pasted document.  There were four letters from St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthian Church:

  1. The first is lost, as are many other ancient texts.
  2. 1 Corinthians is the second letter.
  3. 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:13 is the third letter.
  4. 2 Corinthians 1-9 (except for 6:14-7:1, the authorship and original placement of which are matters of dispute) is the fourth letter.

[Thanks to Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul:  Conversations in Context, 2d. Ed. (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1982), pages 52-63.]

The text which is actually 3 Corinthians is a defensive, scolding, sarcastic, and sometimes threatening letter.  St. Paul argued against criticisms, such as the claim that he was more effective at a distance than when he was near and the allegation that he could not do what he claimed he could do.  He had to contend with fractiousness and rumor mongering.  Such problems constituted evidence of spiritual problems in the congregation.

St. Paul was not the only one who had to contend with people who disobeyed God.  Of course, God has had to deal with that problem for a long time.  Even those who had experienced the Exodus were prone to idolatry and rebellion.  Their descendants continued that pattern, unfortunately.

We humans have insufficient attention spans much of the time.  We also have selective memories.  I read about God’s mighty acts of the past, but many people experienced them.  How could any of them forget or ignore such wonders?

May we–you, O reader, and I–pay better attention and be more obedient.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-second-sunay-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Judges and Acts, Part I: Identity and Tradition   1 comment

othneil

Above:  Othneil

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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 2:6-23 (July 7)

Judges 3:7-31 (July 8)

Psalm 110 (Morning–July 7)

Psalm 62 (Morning–July 8)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–July 7)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–July 8)

Acts 13:13-41 (July 7)

Acts 13:42-52 (July 8)

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-1/

Acts 13:

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

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

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

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Many of the Israelites had habitually short memories , for they fell back into idolatry.  The prevention of the this was a major reason for repeating the stories of what God had done.  Yet the majority of the people fell into idolatry.  And, according to the Book of Judges, this led to Canaanite oppression of the Israelites. Periodically a judge–a chieftain–arose and delivered the people.  Then the cycle repeated.

Paul, in Acts 13, recounted what God had done.  In so doing he and his missionary companions converted many Jews and Gentiles.  Paul and company also made enemies, so they had to move along.  Those who opposed Paul and his partners probably considered themselves guardians of holy traditions, which their forebears had abandoned long before, in Judges 3.

Traditions can be tricky, for one should neither abandon a healthy tradition lightly nor ossify any tradition.  No, traditions are properly living things.  We human ought to adapt them to new circumstances and distinguish between what has outlived its usefulness and what ought to remain.

Paul challenged a version of Judaism which had adapted to a new reality while not embracing Hellenism.  The precise circumstances which were current when the Law of Moses was new had ceased to exist.  So, scholars asked, how ought Jews to live according to the Law of Moses in changed circumstances?  Paul did not object to adaptation per se; no his innovation was to add atonement and justification via Jesus to the list of God’s mighty acts.

But place yourself, O reader, in the seat of one who opposed Paul’s message.  What did Paul’s theology mean for Jewish identity–one based on remaining distinct–in the Hellenistic context?  In this way Paul’s opponents at Antioch in Pisidia were in tune with the theology of the Book of Judges.

Questions of identity strike at a vulnerable spot for many people, including me.  One can approach these questions positively or negatively, focusing on what and who one is rather than on what and who one is not.

I wonder how I would have responded to Paul and Barnabas had I been an observant Jew at Antioch in Pisidia.  I suspect that I might have sided with my tradition and rejected Paul’s message.  I would have been wrong in such a hypothetical situation.  Where might you, O reader, have stood in this hypothetical situation?  And where might your answer to this question lead you to go spiritually?

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-7-and-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Idolatry, Part I   3 comments

Above:  Baal

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Judges 2:11-19 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

And the Israelites did what was offensive to the LORD.  They worshiped the Baalim and forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.  They followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples around them, and bowed down to them; they provoked the LORD.  They forsook the LORD and worshiped Baal and the Ashtaroth.  Then the LORD was incensed at Israel, and He handed them over to foes who plundered them  He surrendered them to their enemies on all sides, and they could no longer hold their own against their enemies.  In all their campaigns, the hand of the LORD was against them to their undoing, as the LORD had declared and as the LORD had sworn to them; and they were in great distress.  Then the LORD raised up chieftains who delivered them from those who plundered them.  But they did not heed their chieftains either; they went astray after other gods and bowed down to them.  They were quick to turn aside from the way their fathers had followed in obedience to the commandments of the LORD; they did not do right.  When the LORD raised up chieftains for them, the LORD would be with the chieftain and would save them from their enemies during the chieftain’s lifetime; for the LORD would be moved to pity by their moanings because of those who oppressed and crushed them.  But when the chieftain died, they would again act basely, even more than the preceding generation–following other gods, worshiping them, and bowing down to them; they omitted none of their practices and stubborn ways.

Psalm 51:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

Matthew 19:16-22 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then it happened that a man came up  to him and said,

Master, what good thing must I do to secure eternal life?

Jesus answered him,

I wonder why you ask me what is good?  Only One is good.  But if you want to enter that life you must keep the commandments.

He asked,

Which ones?

Jesus replied,

Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The young man replied,

I have carefully kept all these.  What is still missing in my life?

Then Jesus told him,

If you want to be perfect, go now and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor–you will have riches in Heaven.  The come and follow me!

When the young man heard that he turned away crestfallen, for he was very wealthy.

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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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Old habits are hard to break, even when doing so is for the best.  One way of breaking an old and bad habit, such as committing idolatry or relying on one’s own wealth, not God, is developing a new, good habit, such as relying on God alone.  This strategy can prove challenging, however.  None of these facts are excuses, just statements of reality.

Fortunately, we do not have to rely on our own power to make these essential changes.  Grace is available to assist us.  But we must cooperate with God.

Let us consider bad habit #1:  idolatry.  Monotheism is a recent development in human religion, in the grand scheme of history.  In the time in which the events of the Book of Judges are set, most people in that region were polytheists.  Deities were localized, specialized, and tied to nature.  And some members of one pantheon resembled those of other pantheons.  Hence Astarte, Ishtar, and Aphrodite were essentially the same character, a fertility goddess.   So, for the Israelites settled in Canaan, the local religious culture was polytheistic.  And many, if not most, of them, blended into it.

Local religious cultures can prove quite powerful.   One might not realize this until one lives as a member of a religious minority in a place.  The person who is different is set apart.  If one is especially susceptible to peer pressure, this can be difficult to maintain.  I am convinced that the pressure to conform within a culture or subculture is generally negative, for it discourages healthy differences.  (I write as one who has dealt with these issues as a liberal United Methodist then more leftist Episcopalian in some very fundamentalist, Southern Baptist-dominated southern Georgia towns and communities.  Fortunately, I have nurtured the habit of resisting peer pressure.)

But the Israelites were the chosen people of God.  Therefore they had great responsibilities to function as a light to the Gentiles.  A bright light stands out in the darkness.  It cannot do its job if it ignores its purpose.

Wealth can be as much of an idol as Baal or Astarte.  All of them distract one from God.  It is upon God alone that one ought to lean and depend spiritually.  Anything else–whether a habit, a tangible object, a collection of said items, money (which is imaginary and psychological, although reified), or a fictitious deity–is a poor substitute.  The wealthy man in the story from Matthew tried to do well, and he succeeded outwardly.  He had mastered what the Lutheran confessions of faith call civil righteousness.  But, as the Lutheran confessions tell us, civic righteousness cannot save us from sin, from ourselves.  Only God can do that.  And the rich young man had a profound psychological attachment to his wealth.

Whatever we are attached to in lieu of God must cease to distract us from God.  For many people of various economic statuses this is not money.  So it will be something else.  It is sports for some people and the Bible itself for others. Anything (other than God) can be an idol if one treats it as that.  So the challenge for you and for me is to identify our idol or idols then to abandon our idolatry forever.  May we do so sooner rather than later.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 13, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AQUILA, PRISCILLA, AND APOLLOS, COWORKERS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF ABSALOM JONES, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREAS KATSULAS, ACTOR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 13, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-1/

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