Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

Character, Part I   3 comments

Above:  Jephthah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judges 11:1-8, 30-40 or Jeremiah 7:1-15

Psalm 90:1-10, 13-17

Romans 2:13-29

Luke 9:51-62

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judges 11, in which we read of the judge Jephthah, is certainly absent from books of Bible stories for children.  I wonder if Jesus had the fate of Jephthah’s unnamed daughter in mind when he taught not to swear an oath, but to let yes be yes and no be no (Matthew 5:33-37).  Tammi J. Schneider is correct; in the story of Jephthah we read of a man who had

no qualities, no deeds, no crisis, no God.

We also read of a man who reaped what he sowed.  Unfortunately, we read that his daughter reaped it, too.

The Hebrew Bible describes the character of God mostly by recounting what God did and had done.  By the same logic, we are like what we do and have done.

What do we do?  Do we seek wisdom?  Do we practice idolatry?  Do we practice and/or condone economic injustice?  Do we oppress aliens?  Do we deal fairly with each other?  Do we make excuses for not following God?  Is the law of God written on our hearts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/devotion-for-proper-11-year-c-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Liberty to Love Each Other in God   1 comment

Jephthah

Above:  Jephthah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life,

in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 22:1-14 (Monday)

Judges 11:29-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 68:1-10, 19-20 (Both Days)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Monday)

Galatians 2:11-14 (Tuesday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The upright rejoice in the presence of God,

delighted and crying out for joy.

Sing to God, play music to his name,

build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,

rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

–Psalm 68:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Liberty in God is freedom to love God and our fellow human beings, to glorify God and work for the benefit of others, especially the vulnerable, those who need it the most, in society.  We are responsible to and for each other, regardless of whether we acknowledge that fact and behave accordingly.

The readings from Judges 11 and Genesis 22, which concern human sacrifice, are troublesome.  The famous and infamous story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, his father, is a tale of a man who interceded on behalf of strangers yet not his son.  Abraham failed the test of faith; he should have argued.  The less well-known story from Judges 11 is the tale of Jephthah, who spoke before he thought.  Thus he ensnared himself in an oath to sacrifice his only child.  He, unlike Abraham, went through with it.  Among the lessons these stories teach is that Yahweh does not desire human sacrifice.

More broadly speaking, God does not desire any form of human exploitation.  Rather, God condemns all varieties of human exploitation.  They are inconsistent with interdependency and responsibility to and for each other.  That is a fine standard by which to evaluate any human or corporate action or policy, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASIMIR OF POLAND, PRINCE

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-5-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Obeying or Resisting the Will of God   1 comment

Abimelech

Above:  Abimelech

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Judges 9:7-15

Psalm 20

1 John 2:18-28

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Now I know that the LORD has given deliverance to his king;

from his heavenly sanctuary he responds to him,

sending his mighty power which always saves.

Some draw attention to their chariots, some to their horses,

 but for our part we draw attention to the LORD, our God.

They crumble and fall,

but we will rise and continue on our way.

The LORD had delivered the king;

he answers us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 20 contains a monarchical perspective, but Judges 9 does not.  In Judges 9 we read of Abimelech, son of Gideon (Jerubbabel).  We learn of Abimelech’s three-year-long local reign at Shechem, of his violent rise to power, and of his violent demise.  The text makes plain that Abimelech’s reign was contrary to the will of God and that of God was supposed to be the only king of the Israelites.  The thematic link of Samuel’s warning in 1 Samuel 8 is obvious.

1 John we find a letter to a congregation recovering from a traumatic schism.  The schismatics were probably Gnostics, based on internal evidence from the document.  The author, who was possibly St. John the Evangelist, advised his audience to remain strong in Christian faith and to continue to reject teachings of antichrists (note the plural form of the word, O reader), who reject Christ.  Gnostics seem like probable antichrists in this context, given their theological position that Jesus was not really incarnate and therefore could not have died on the cross.  That which is material, they said, is evil.  They taught, therefore, that Jesus was a phantom.  So much for Christianity!  There is no Christianity without the Incarnation and all that followed it in the earthly life of Jesus.

The thematic glue for this day’s assigned readings is the will of God–specifically, acting in accordance with it or contrary to it.  Stating that one should act according to the will of God is easy, but discerning that will can be difficult.  Many people who have claimed to know the divine will have acted such that their deeds have belied their protestations of righteousness.  I make no pretense of knowing the mind of God better than anyone else, but I affirm some helpful principles.  These include:

  1. Love you neighbor as you love yourself.
  2. Respect the image of God in all other people actively.
  3. Act toward others as you want them to behave toward you.
  4. Follow Jesus.
  5. Refrain from attempting to domesticate him and/or his message.
  6. If you must err, do so on the side of compassion, not fear or hatred.

Stating those principles is easier than practicing them, I realize, but one need not rely on one’s own power to live righteously in one’s society; grace abounds.  May God deliver each of us from all that stands between us and righteousness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Turning Toward God   1 comment

Othniel

Above:  Othniel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Judges 3:7-11

Psalm 138

Luke 4:42-44

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

–Psalm 138:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That verse from Psalm 138 works well in a lectionary with his pericope from Judges 3, the story of chieftain Othniel of Kerizzite.  Living among and intermarrying with polytheistic Gentiles had led to idolatry and other offenses, the text tells us, and King Cushan-rishathaim (literally “Dark double-wickedness”) of Aram-naharaim (in upper Mesopotamia) oppressed the Israelites.  The people cried out to God, who selected Othniel to liberate them, and peace and holiness reigned for a few decades, until people repeated the cycle.

Repentance is turning around spiritually–something which proved to be a temporary turn for many people in the Book of Judges.  Is that not an accurate description for many of we mere mortals?  We turn away from sin and toward God then turn away from God again.  Repentance was among the components of our Lord and Savior’s teaching.  Repentance remains a germane topic, for human nature, with all of its virtues and vices, is constant over time.

May we, by grace, turn 180 degrees toward God and remain there, not turn 180 degrees again, thereby returning to where we had been before we repented.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted October 9, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Judges, Luke 4, Psalm 138

Tagged with , , , ,

Disobedience to God, Part I   1 comment

Ancient Corinth

Above: Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

othneil

Above:  Othneil

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-7-and-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What You Get Might Not Be What You Expect–For Good Or For Ill   1 comment

Above: The Death of Abimelech, by Gustave Dore

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judges 9:6-15 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

All the citizens of Shechem and all Beth-millo convenend, and they proclaimed Abimelech king at the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.  When Jothan was informed, he went and stood up on top of Mount Gerizim and called out to them in a loud voice.

Citizens of Shechem!

he cried,

listen to me, that God may listen to you.

Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves.  They said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’  But the olive tree replied, ‘Have I, through whom God and men are honored, stopped yielding my rich oil, that I should go and wave above the trees?’  So the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’  But the vine replied, ‘Have I stopped yielding my new wine, which gladdens God and men, that I should go and wave above the trees?’  Then all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘You come and reign over us.’  And the thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you are acting honorably in anointing me king over you, come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, may fire issue from the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

Psalm 21:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The king rejoices in your strengh, O LORD;

how greatly he exults in your victory!

2 You have given him his heart’s desire;

you have not denied him the request of his lips.

For you meet him with blessings of prosperity,

and set a crown of fine gold upon his head.

He asked you for life, and you gave it to him:

length of days, for ever and ever.

5 His honor is great, because of your victory;

splendor and majesty have you bestowed upon him.

For you will give him everlasting felicity

and will make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Matthew 20:1-16a (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Jesus said,

For the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder going out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on a wage of a silver coin a day and sent them to work.  About nine o’clock he went and saw some others standing about in the market-place with nothing to do.  ‘You go to the vineyard too,’ he said to them, ‘and I will pay you a fair wage.’  And off they went.  As about mid-day and again at three o’clock in the afternoon he went out and did the same thing.  Then about five o’clock he went out and found some others standing about.  ‘Why are you standing about here all day doing nothing?” he asked them. ‘Because no one has employed us,’ they replied.  ‘You go off into the vineyard as well, then,’ he said.

When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  So those who were engaged at five o’clock came up and each man received a silver coin.  But when the first to be employed came they reckoned they would get more; yet they also received a silver coin each.  As they took their money they grumbled at the householder and said, ‘These last fellows have only put in one hour’s work and you’ve treated them exactly the same as us who have gone through all the hard work and heat of the day!’

But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you.  Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day?  Take your money and go home.  It is my wish to give the late-comers as much as I give you.  May I not do what I like with what belongs to me?  Must you be jealous because I am generous?’

So, many who are the last now will be first then and the first last.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Standing out from the crowd can be difficult, for conformity is relatively easy.  So Israelites desired to have a king.  But, to paraphrase the extremely old knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in a different context, they chose poorly.  They opted for Abimelech, the amoral son of Gideon.  Abimelech was willing to kill anyone–including brothers–to advance himself.  Not even Jotham’s cautionary tale dissuaded the people.  So they got a king, one who sparked a civil war and reigned for three years, give or take a few months, weeks, and days.  And, in Judges 9, as he lay dying because a woman had cracked his skull by dropping a millstone upon it, Abimelech ordered his arms-bearer to kill him, saying

Draw your dagger and finish me off, that they may not say of me, ‘A woman killed him!’  (9:54, TANAKH)

Women were not equal to men in that society, so dying because of  a woman was a mark of ignominy, not that Abimelech was a glorious figure.

God was supposed to be the king of Israelites.  Each judge served his or her time in a leadership capacity, with the charge to do the work God intended.  But Israel was supposed to be different, and it wanted to be same.  This was a big mistake, the beginning of its downfall.  Yet the Biblical narrative speaks of how God gave the people what they wanted, and they got Saul, David, Solomon, and their political heirs.  Along with political glory came increased social inequality and economic exploitation.  The people got more than they bargained for, and it included a large dose of unpleasantness.

In contrast, consider the generosity of the vineyard owner, a stand-in for God, in the parable of Jesus.  Everyone received the standard wage for one day’s work.  Everybody–even the people whom the vineyard owner had recruited two hours before the end of work–received one day’s wage.  But the vineyard owner cheated nobody; he paid nobody less than he had promised.  The people who worked a day received what they expected at the beginning of the day, and those who worked for a shorter period of time received more than they expected.  It was only when the men who had worked a full day saw the wages of the others that they expected more, and were therefore disappointed.

Let us never begrudge the generosity of God to anyone.  And may we be careful what we wish for, for we might get it–and more.  The first sentence is a happy spiritual thought, while the second is disturbing.  The first sentence indicates grace and the second speaks of discipline, the intention of which is correction.  So, when we pray, may we seek only that which is consistent with God’s best for us and others.  May we be sufficiently humble to realize that God knows far more than we do, and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 17, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE ADOLPHINE DIERKS, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FINAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS SERRANO, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGFRID OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/week-of-proper-15-wednesday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Idolatry, Part I   3 comments

Above:  Baal

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++