Archive for the ‘Nehemiah 3-7’ Category

Economics, Politics, and the Demands of Piety   1 comment

Icon of Nehemiah

Above:  Icon of Nehemiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 5:1-13

Psalm 19

Luke 2:39-52

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The law of the LORD inspires reverence and is pure;

it stands firm, for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true;

they form a good code of justice.

–Psalm 19:10, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The economic crisis in Judea was one which entailed some Jews exploiting other Jews–poor returnees, to be precise–in violation of Exodus 22:24-26.  Seizing property put us collateral for a loan to a poor person violated the letter of the Law of Moses and contradicted the underlying ethos of mutuality.  Both civic and religious leaders were guilty, but at least Nehemiah used his gubernatorial power to correct the injustice.  He possessed much wisdom and righteousness.

Jesus, a figure far greater than Nehemiah, also possessed much wisdom and righteousness–more than Nehemiah.  Our Lord and Savior–a sage yet more than just that–taught in a particular geographical and historical context, one in which the realities of the Roman occupation frustrated the already-harsh realities of peasants’ lives.  Much of Christian tradition has ignored or minimized the economic-political background of Christ’s sayings, unfortunately.  Perhaps doing otherwise would have led to unpleasant and inconvenient political situations for ecclesiastical organizations and leaders loyal to governments and potentates, or at least dependent upon them.  More figures such as Nehemiah among civic leaders as well as among ecclesiastical shepherds would have helped many people.  The same thought applies well to current times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part IV: Performing Good Deeds at Every Opportunity   1 comment

esdras-ezra

Above:  Ezra

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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:

Nehemiah 7:1-4 (September 22)

Nehemiah 8:1-18 (September 22)

Nehemiah 9:1-21 (September 23)

Nehemiah 9:22-38 (September 24–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 9:22-10:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 67 (Morning–September 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–September 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–September 24)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–September 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–September 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–September 24)

1 Timothy 5:1-16 (September 22)

1 Timothy 5:17-6:2 (September 23)

1 Timothy 6:3-21 (September 24)

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Some Related Posts:

Nehemiah 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

1 Timothy 5-6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-saturday-year-1/

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The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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These days’ readings speak of lamenting sins and of vowing to reform errant ways.  They also offer culturally specific advice as to how to do the latter.  I, as a Christian, do not follow the Law of Moses, for Jesus has fulfilled the Law.  And I read 1 Timothy 5-6, my jaw dropping because of the sexism and the failure to condemn slavery.  I, when pondering Old and New Testament moral advice, find the following statements helpful:

Identifying general principles is important because the real purpose of the Law is to inculcate general principles and values and to apply them in specific instances.  This is done by stating general principles and by illustrating, with specific examples, how general principles can be applied in specific cases.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, pages 24-25)

The best moral advice I have located in these days’ readings is to preform good deeds

at every opportunity.

–1 Timothy 5:10d, The Revised English Bible

What that looks like depends on the opportunities.  May we focus on that principle and not become bogged down in legalistic details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY EUPHRASIA PELLETIER, FOUNDER OF THE CONTEMPLATIVES OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

THE FEAST OF PARDITA MARY RAMABAI, SOCIAL REFORMER IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF CHAISE DIEU, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part III: Leadership and Economic Justice   1 comment

20156v

Above:  Vineyards and Gazebo, 1905-1915

Photographed by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-prokc-20156

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/prk2000002599/)

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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:

Nehemiah 4:7-23 (September 20–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 4:1-17 (September 20–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Nehemiah 5:1-16 (September 21)

Nehemiah 6:1-6, 15-16 (September 21)

Psalm 130 (Morning–September 20)

Psalm 56 (Morning–September 21)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–September 20)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–September 21)

1 Timothy 3:1-6 (September 20)

1 Timothy 4:1-16 (September 21)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Timothy 3-4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-1/

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Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight;

this I know, for God is on my side.

–Psalm 56:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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1 Timothy 3 and 4 concern themselves with the trust which is leadership and the imperative of true teaching in the context of the church.  Those matters relate to Nehemiah, who led by example for the common good in Jerusalem centuries before the author of 1 Timothy wrote.  Nehemiah faced stiff opposition in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but he succeeded with divine help.  And, in response to economic injustice, he declared a jubilee, something out of Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15.  He even set an example by denying himself his legal portion of the governor’s food allowance.

Economic justice is among the great preoccupations of the Bible.  How one ought to practice it differs according to one’s individual circumstances as well as one’s time and societal setting, but the imperative is timeless.  Those who exercise authority have an obligation to think of the common good and to act for it.  May they not only seek to do so, but, by grace, succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/devotion-for-september-20-and-21-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part II: Overcoming Opposition the Godly Way   1 comment

persian-empire-500-bce

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire Circa 500 B.C.E.

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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:

Nehemiah 2:11-20

Nehemiah 4:1-6 (Protestant Versification)/3:33-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 36 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening)

1 Timothy 2:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

1 Timothy 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

Feast of Aquilla, Priscilla, and Apollos (February 13):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/feast-of-aquila-priscilla-and-apollos-february-13/

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Restore us, O God of hosts:

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I doubt that St. Paul wrote 1 Timothy.  Consider, O reader, 2:9-15.  Allowing for culturally specific conditions regarding hair, jewelry, and clothing, I still detect the stench of patriarchy.  Although St. Paul was a product of his patriarchal context, I contrast 1 Timothy 2:9-15 with the case of Prisca/Priscilla, who taught with the Apostle’s approval.  (See Acts 18:2, 18, and 26; Romans 16:3; and 1 Corinthians 16:19).  That is not my main point, but I feel the need to articulate it first.

Now, for the main idea….

Jewish exiles residing in their ancestral homeland lived within the Persian Satrapy of Beyond the River.  The complicated politics of rebuilding the walls of and Temple at Jerusalem, as told in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, lived up to the joke that politics consists of many small, bloodsucking creatures.  Although King Artaxerxes I (reigned 464-424 B.C.E.) had authorized Nehemiah for a set of tasks, our hero faced opposition from local interests.  Sanballat (the governor of Samaria), Tobiah (the governor of Ammon), and Geshem (the governor of Edom) knew of Nehemiah’s authorization yet tried to stop him anyway.  Did our hero’s role threaten their power, at least in their minds?  That was a likely scenario.  So they resorted to lies and other forms of interference.  Yet they failed for divine and human forces (some of the latter armed with lances, shields, swords, and bows) acted.  The construction workers did need guards, after all.

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for sovereigns and for all in high office so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life, free to practise our religion with dignity.

–1 Timothy 2:1-2, The Revised English Bible

Yes, it is right to pray for everyone, especially those in authority.  I note the difference between praying for someone and praying about that person.  To pray for a person indicates confidence that he or she can change for the better and remain steadfast in the good.  But to pray about a person can reflect an attitude of hopelessness regarding him or her.  As good as we who claim to follow God ought to be, we should not be naive because, despite the power of prayer, some people will not change their negative attitudes and corresponding actions.  So it is wise to obey our Lord and Savior’s advice to his Apostles:

…be wary as serpents, innocent as doves.

–Matthew 10:16b, The Revised English Bible

May each of us, by grace, maintain that balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DURER, MATTHIAS GRUNEWALD. AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/devotion-for-september-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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