Archive for the ‘Micah 3’ Category

Jeremiah’s Sermon in the Temple, With His Trial and Death Sentence   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Jeremiah, Salisbury Cathedral

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART V

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Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Jeremiah 26:1-24

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Jeremiah 7:1-20:18 consists of oracles primarily from the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of Jehoiakim (born Eliakim) of Judah.  For more about Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42.

The Assyrian Empire had consumed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. then the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.  In 612 B.C.E., the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire.  In 608 B.C.E., Judah was struck between two powerful neighbors–Egypt and Babylonia, themselves enemies.  After the death of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in combat against Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (r. 610-595 B.C.E.), Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Neco II had appointed the next King of Judah, Jehoahaz, also known as Jeconiah and Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38).  Jehoahaz had reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E. before Neco II had replaced him with another son of Josiah and taken him into captivity in Egypt.  Neco II had also appointed Eliakim and changed his name to Jehoiakim in 608 B.C.E.  He served as an Egyptian vassal until 605 B.C.E., when he became a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal.

Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic career speaking difficult truths to a nation under foreign domination.  This context was extremely politically dangerous.

This sermon is thematically consistent with Hosea 6:4-6; Micah 3:9-12; and Amos 2:4-6.  It is also thematically consistent with many other passages of Hebrew scripture.  The link between idolatry and social injustice (especially economic injustice) is clear.  Sacred rituals, even those the Law of Moses mandates, are not talismans.  The joining of lived collective piety and justice on one hand and sacred ritual on the other hand is imperative.  The combination of social injustice and sacred ritual makes a mockery of sacred ritual.

Mend your ways and your actions,

Jeremiah preached at the Temple.  Then he unpacked that statement:

…if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will I [YHWH] let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time.  See, you are relying on illusions that are of no avail….

–Jeremiah 7:5-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Pay attention to 7:11, O reader:

Do you consider this House, which bears My name, to be a den of thieves?  As for Me, I have been watching–declares the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is an allusion in Jesus’s mouth during the Temple Incident/the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; and Luke 19:46.  Notice that Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the First Temple.

Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  The Temple Sermon of Jeremiah is a case in point.  We return to it and read of its aftermath in Jeremiah 26:1-24.

Idols abound.  They may be tangible or intangible.  If an activity, idea, or object functions as an idol for someone, it is an idol for that person.  Money is one of the more common idols.  Greed contributes greatly to economic injustice, and corruption is one of the major causes of institutionalized poverty.  Obliviousness to participation in the violation of God’s moral commandments, including mutuality, will not shield us from the consequences of those sins any more than keeping sacred rituals will do so.

Circa 608 B.C.E. God was still holding out the possibility of repentance, prompting the cancellation of divine punishment, according to Jeremiah 26:3.  This contradicts other passages from the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books composed or begun prior to the Book of Jeremiah.  Perhaps one reason for the contradiction is the addition of later material to the early Hebrew prophetic books, as late as the Babylonian Exile.  I suppose that maintaining the hard line of the time for repentance having passed was difficult to maintain after the Fall of Babylon (539 B.C.E.).

The priests and prophets said to all the people, “This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

–Jeremiah 26:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah prophesied against a government and a population under foreign domination.  There was no separation of religion and state either.  The prophet worked in a dangerous milieu.

Jeremiah had allies, though.  Some cited the example of Micah, who had issued a dire prophesy (Micah 3:12) and had not received a death sentence.  Fortunately for Jeremiah, the court’s sentence remained unfulfilled.  Ahikam, a high-ranking royal official (2 Kings 22:12), saved him.  Ahikam was also the father of Gedaliah, the assassinated governor of Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1-41:18).

Uriah ben Shemiah, from Kiriath-jearim, was not as fortunate as Jeremiah was.  Uriah, also prophesying in the name of YHWH, said what Jeremiah proclaimed.  Uriah fled to Egypt for safety because King Jehoiakim wanted him dead.  Royal agents found Uriah in Egypt and returned him to Judah, to die.

One may legitimately wonder why God protected Jeremiah from threats to his life yet did not spare faithful Uriah ben Shemaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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Oracles of Divine Salvation, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Swords into Plowshares Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART V

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Micah 4:1-5:1 (Anglican and Protestant)

Micah 4:1-14 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The fourth and fifth chapters of the Book of Micah constitute a distinct section of that book.  They apparently contain a mix of material from the prophet Micah and from a later period.  The references to Assyria (5:4-5) are contemporary to the prophet, but the mention of Babylon (4:10) is not, for example.  Also, Micah 4:1-5 bears a striking resemblance to to Isaiah 2:1-5/2:2-6 (depending on versification).  This makes much sense, for scholars tell us that Micah and First Isaiah were contemporaries.  Also, Biblical authors quoting and paraphrasing each other is a practice one encounters as one studies the Bible seriously.  Alternatively, one may plausibly posit that the Book of Micah and the First Isaiah portion of the Book of Isaiah paraphrased the same source.

After all the doom and gloom of the first three chapters, the tonal shift in Micah 4 is impossible to miss.  That which R. B. Y. Scott wrote in relation to the Book of Hosea applies to the Book of Micah, too:

The final word remains with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed (1968), 80

Looking ahead, judgment will return in Chapters 6 and 7, but the Book of Micah concludes on a note of divine mercy.

The hopes of an ideal future remain attractive.  I pray for a future in which nations will beat their swords into plowshares.  I am a realist; I want to be a pacifist yet understand that some violence, sadly, is necessary.  I also affirm that most violence is unnecessary.  I yearn for the day when all people will be at shalom with themselves, each other, and God.  I pray for the time when the reality of the world will be the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

A careful reader may notice certain details in the designated portion of the Book of Micah.  4:2 tells us that “many nations” will seek divine instruction at Mount Zion.  It does not read, “all nations.”  4:11 tells us that “many nations” still oppose God’s covenant people.  Reading this chapter, in its final form, can be confusing, given the mix of material from different eras.  Micah 4:11f, in the context of 4:10 (“To Babylon you shall go….”) dates to a period later than the prophet Micah.  Micah 4:11f, acknowledging a challenging geopolitical situation for Judah, comforts Judah with the promise of divine deliverance.  Divine mercy on Judah will be divine judgment on Judah’s enemies.  The vision of 4:1-8 remains unfulfilled in the rest of the chapter.  In 4:14/5:1 (depending on versification), Jerusalem is under siege.

Dare we hope for the vision of Micah 4:1-8 to become reality, finally?  Dare we have enough faith to accept this ancient prophecy as not being naive?  Bringing the fully-realized Kingdom of God into existence is God’s work.  Transforming the world from what it is into a state less unlike that high standard is the work of the people of God, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARDWICKE DRUMMOND RAWNSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAMBERT PÉLOGUIN OF VENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP NERI, THE APOSTLE OF ROME AND THE FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE ORATORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT QUADRATUS THE APOLOGIST, EARLY CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST

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Oracles of Divine Punishment, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Siege of Jerusalem, 586 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART IV

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Micah 3:1-12

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Leaders, by definition, have followers.  Those who think they may be leaders can test this hypothesis easily; they can turn around and see if they have followers.

Continuing with the thread of divine judgment for exploiting the poor and working against the common good, we come to Micah 3.  We read condemnations of kings and other rulers, who have maintained destructive policies.  When the Assyrians (or later on, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians) come, we read, these rulers will cry out to God.  God will not answer them because of the evil they have committed.  They have forsaken the covenant, with its mandate of social justice, including economic justice.

One who reads the Hebrew Bible closely enough and long enough should know about false prophets, whom kings kept on the payroll.  These false prophets are targets in Micah 3:5-8.  These prophets, the Hebrew text indicates, are:

like beastly creditors or snakes that bite the flesh off Israel with their teeth.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 1198

The language of beastly behavior, used to describe leaders (3:1-3) exists also in 3:5-8.  In 3:5, the Hebrew verb nashakh (“to bite”) puns on the noun nahash (“snake”).  In other contexts, nashakh means “to charge interest.”  Charging interest carries negative connotations in Habakkuk 2:7 and Deuteronomy 23:20.

A population with predators for leaders is in an extremely difficult situation.  One may think also of Ezekiel 34, the promise is that God, the Good Shepherd, will take the place of bad kings, bad shepherds.  (Does Ezekiel 34 synchronize with Micah 2:12-13?)  In Micah 3:12, however, the news is different and frightening:

Assuredly, because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field,

And Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins,

And the Temple Mount

A shrine in the woods.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CRISTOBAL MAGOLLANES JARA AND AGUSTIN CALOCA CORTÉS, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SAINTS AND MARTYRS, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1951

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Oracles of Divine Punishment, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING MICAH, PART II

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Micah 1:2-16

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Micah 1:2-3:12 consists of oracles of divine punishment.  I choose to unpack this section in three installments.  The first installment concludes where Chapter 1 does.

For an explanation of the terms “Jacob” and “Israel” in the Book of Micah, I refer you, O reader, to the first post in this series.

Idolatry (metaphorically, prostitution; see the Book of Hosea) was ubiquitous in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  God’s coming would be frightening and cause natural disasters.  Only Samaria , the capital of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, and that kingdom would fall in 1:2-7, though.

Who mourned for Jerusalem in 1:8-16?  Micah himself?  The people of Israel?  God?  The ambiguity of the text invites speculation.  More than one answer may be correct.  And, given (A) the passage of time, (B) new contexts in which to read 1:8-16, and (C) the layers of composition in the Book of Micah, all three answers I have listed may be correct.  Considering the divine pathos in Hosea 11:8-9, God is a feasible candidate for the identity of the mourner in Micah 2:8-16.

Micah 1:10-14 contains Hebrew wordplay in place names.  The following translations from notes in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014):

  1. Verse 10–“In Dusthouse I will roll myself in dust.”
  2. Verse 11–“Pass on your way, girl of Pretty-town, in shameful nakedness.”
  3. Verse 12–“The girl of Bitterness-town aches for good, yet evil has come down from the LORD at the gate of Jerusalem.”
  4. Verse 14–“The houses of Deception-ville shall be a deception to the kings of Israel.”

Towns, personified as females, receive omens.  Yet Jerusalem receives no such omen.  The Kingdom of Judah will suffer, but Jerusalem will not fall–yet.

Shave the pate and shear your hair

over your pampered children.

Make yourself bald as an eagle,

for they are gone from you into exile.

–Micah 1:16, Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (2019)

The Babylonian Exile would happen.  It did happen.  It also ended.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CRISTOBAL MAGOLLANES JARA AND AGUSTIN CALOCA CORTÉS, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SAINTS AND MARTYRS, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1951

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The Superscription of the Book of Micah   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING MICAH, PART I

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Micah 1:1

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The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.  He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.  His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God.  Why do the two need reconciliation?  Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.

–Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), xiii

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The superscription of the Book of Micah identifies the prophet as Micah, from Moresheth, a village southwest of Jerusalem.  “Micah” is abbreviated from “Micaiah,” literally, “Who is like Yah[weh]?”  The superscription also specifies the prophet’s mission (to prophecy regarding the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah) and timeframe (during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah).

With a few exceptions (such as in the First Book of the Maccabees, which dated events according to the Hellenistic calendar), when authors of the Old Testament dated events, the usually used relative dating, such as “in the third year of king _____.”  Converting these ancient dates to fit onto the Gregorian calendar and the B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E. scale has long proven challenging and with inconsistent results.  Perhaps you, O reader, have noticed that when you have consulted two different study Bibles for when a certain King of Israel or King of Judah reigned, you found two different answers.

For the record, as much as possible, I take dates from The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014).  It tells me that the four listed kings reigned accordingly:

  1. Azariah, a.k.a. Uzziah (785-733 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles 26:1-23;
  2. Jotham (759-743 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:32-38 and 2 Chronicles 27:1-9;
  3. Ahaz (743/735-727/715 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27; and Isaiah 7:1-8:15; and
  4. Hezekiah (727/715-698/687 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33; Isaiah 36:1-39:8; and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22 and 49:4.

Jotham and Azariah/Uzziah had a co-regency.  Did Ahaz and Azariah/Uzziah also have a co-regency?  Trying to answer that question accurately is difficult, given that relative dating for the same monarchs is not always consistent, due to factual contradictions in sources.

Scripture does mention “Micah the Morashite” outside of the Book of Micah.  Jeremiah 26:17-19, in the context of Jeremiah’s trial and death sentence, quotes some Jewish elders recalling Micah as having prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah and not having received the death penalty.  Jeremiah 26:18 quotes Micah 3:12.

The Book of Micah, like the Books of Hosea and Amos before it, has layers of authorship and editing between the original version and the final version, from after the Babylonian Exile.  This reality does not trouble me in the Books of Hosea and Amos.  Neither does it disturb me in the Book of Micah.

The timeframe of the prophetic career of Micah, as established in 1:1, was very difficult.

  1. The Assyrian Empire menaced the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.
  2. The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram had formed an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz of Judah refused to join that alliance.  Therefore, during the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.), Israel and Aram waged war on Judah and sought to replace Ahaz with a monarch who would join that alliance.  Ahaz allied himself with the Assyrian Empire, not God.  In 732 B.C.E., the Assyrian Empire seized territory from Aram and Israel and reduced those kingdoms to vassalage.
  3. The Assyrian Empire conquered the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.
  4. The Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.
  5. In 701, during the reign of King Hezekiah, Assyrian King Sennacherib (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) invaded Judah.
  6. On the domestic front, wealthy landowners were forcing peasant farmers into debt and seizing their land, in violation of the common good and the Law of Moses.  Corruption, injustice, and oppression of Judeans by Judeans was endemic.

The superscription (1:1) refers to “Samaria and Jerusalem,” the capitals of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, respectively.  I mention this because the use of language matters.  If, for example, I write, “x” and have one meaning in mind yet you, O reader, read “x” and have another definition in mind, I have not communicated with you, and you have missed the point.

  1. The Book of Micah, in its final form, generally uses “Israel” in the generic sense–the people of the covenant, not the subjects of any Jewish kingdom.  This explains why, in Micah, Israel continues to exist after the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.).
  2. “Jacob” refers to Judah.  The use of “Jacob” recalls the infamous trickster (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-35:37; 37:1-36; 42:29-43:14; 46:1-47:12; 47:28-48:22).  “Jacob,” of course, is also the original name of Israel, after whom the people of Israel took their name.  The use of “Jacob” to refer to Judah indicates the importance of divine promises to the Patriarchs and foreshadows restoration to a state of grace after punishment for sins.

The Book of Micah holds divine judgment and mercy in balance.  Much of the prophecy, in its final, edited form, is doom and gloom.

Yet faith in God does not conclude on a note of despair.  Hope is the last word, then as now.  But the hope which prophetic religion exalts is born of faith in God and in his love of man.

–Harold A. Bosley, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 901

Another detail interests me.  Most English translations begin:

The word of the LORD that came to Micah….”

Focus on “came to,” O reader.  The Hebrew text literally reads:

The word of the LORD that was Micah….

This leads me back to Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel:

The prophet is a person, not a microphone.  He is endowed with a mission, with the power of a word not his own that accounts for his greatness–but also with temperament, concern, character, and individuality.  As there was no resisting the impact of divine inspiration, so at times there was no resisting the vortex of his own temperament.  The word of God reverberated in the voice of man.

The prophet’s task is to convey a divine view, yet as a person he is a point of view.  He speaks from the perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation.  We must seek to understand not only the views he expounded but also the attitudes he embodied:  his own position, feeling response–not only what he said but also what he lived; the private, the intimate dimension of the word, the subjective side of the message.

–The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), viii

The inspiration of scripture included a human element.  The authors and prophets were not secretaries of the Holy Spirit, taking dictation, as in “Put a comma there.”  No, the people thanks to whom we have the Bible put themselves into the book.  They were the message.  They were people, not microphones.

What does the Book of Micah have to proclaim to the world of 2021?  Let us find out.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA GARGANI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS APOSTLES OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF MARY MADELEVA WOLFF, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, POET, SCHOLAR, AND PRESIDENT OF SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE, NOTRE DAME, INDIANA

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Opposing Corruption   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 3:5-12

Psalm 63:1-8

Titus 3:1-15

Luke 22:1-6, 39-53

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Psalm 63 is a royal text.  Titus 3:1 instructs Christians to obey civil authorities.  Yet in Luke 22 and Micah 3, the authorities (civil and religious) are corrupt.  The stance of faith is to confront corruption, not to support it or accept its bribes.

In full disclosure, the founders of my country rebelled against the British Empire.  I think of a line from Man of the Year (2006):

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

Furthermore, nuances regarding obedience to the civil magistrate exist in Christian theology.  For obvious reasons, when to resist and when to obey civil authority has been a question in segments of German theology since 1933.  One may think, for example, of the great Karl Barth (1886-1968) and the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934), anti-Nazi.  Nevertheless, extreme law-and-order-affirming Christian theology exists.  One historical prime example of this attitude I found during research into conservative Presbyterianism (the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, to be precise) comes from The Presbyterian Journal, the magazine that midwifed the birth of the PCA in 1973.  In the October 30, 1974, issue, the editor agreed with a letter-writer, one Joan B. Finneran, “an elect lady of Simpsonville, Maryland.”  Finneran wrote that God establishes governments and commands people to obey earthly authority, therefore

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the LORD’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

Finneran needed to read the Theological Declaration of Barmen.

What should we do in good conscience when systems are corrupt and inhumane?  Corruption leads to collective ruin, after all.  Timeless principles are useful, but they are also vague.  Proper applications of them varies according to circumstances.  If I say,

Oppose corruption and work against the exploitation of the poor and the powerless,

I sound like the Law of Moses, various Hebrew prophets, and Jesus.  I also provide no guidance about how best to follow that counsel.  Proper application of timeless principles depends upon circumstances–who, when, and where one is.

That guidance must come from the Holy Spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Holy God, who sent thy Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the Law:

mercifully grant that by our actions we may show forth his perfect love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Micah 3:5-12

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

Matthew 5:38-48

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I could replicate much of the previous post and remain on topic in this post, but I choose not to do so.  No, I refer you, O reader to that post for that duplicate material as I focus on the reading from Matthew 5.

According to The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), the translation of Matthew 5:39 should read, in part,

Do not use violence to resist an evildoer,

not

Do not resist and evildoer.

Matthew 5:39, in its proper translation, is a problematic passage.  It joins the company of Pauline passages commanding submission to governments, as in Romans 13.  Yet, as some prominent Biblical scholars have asked, especially in the context of World War II, does this advice tell people that they should have obeyed Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin?  One may reach back to Micah 3, with its condemnation of leaders who despise justice.  Should people submit to such rulers?

Matthew 5:43-48 places 5:38-42 in some context.  Although the Law of Moses never says to hate one’s enemies, doing so seems quite natural.  The commandment of Jesus is to resist evil with righteousness, and to love even enemies.  Perhaps they will repent.

Violence is necessary and proper sometimes.  Usually it is improper, though.  May we, obeying Jesus, resist without sinning, without compromising ourselves morally.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As Pelagius wrote,

The enemy has overcome you when he makes you like himself.

What moral leg do we have to stand on then?  This question applies far beyond the individual level–all the way to the national level, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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Caring for Others   1 comment

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/devotion-for-october-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 24-25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Timothy 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/devotion-for-september-22-23-and-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/\

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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