Archive for the ‘Nehemiah 5’ Category

Religious Decline and Hope of Recovery   Leave a comment

Above:  Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART II

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Malachi 1:2-3:12

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As I wrote in Reading Malachi, Part I, the dating of the Book of Malachi is vague–perhaps prior to 445 B.C.E., when the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah began (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9)–or perhaps not.   Clear, however, are the sense of spiritual crisis and the religious decline in the Book of Malachi.

Consider 1:2-5, O reader.  We read divine assurance of love for the people.  We may assume safely that the population (much of it, anyway) needed this assurance.  The proof of divine love for Jews in Judea in Malachi 1:2-5 is their continued existence in their ancestral homeland.  The contrast with their ancient foe and cousin people, the Edomites, is stark.

I have read and blogged about divine judgment on the people of Edom in Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Obadiah; and Isaiah 34:5-17.

The designated portion of the Book of Malachi continues with the condemnations of priests and the population.  We read of priests offering defiled food as sacrifices.  We read that God objected strongly to such disrespect, and preferred no ritual sacrifices to the offerings of blemished animals.  (See Exodus 12:5; Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10; Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 22:22).  We read that God was really angry:

And now, O priests, this charge is for you:  Unless you obey and unless you lay it to heart, and do dishonor to My name–said the LORD of blessings into curses.  (Indeed, I have turned them into curses, because you do not lay it to heart.)  I will put your seed under a ban, and I will strew dung upon your faces, the dung of your festal sacrifices, and you shall be carried out to its [heap].

–Malachi 2:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, we read that (much of) the population of Israel has failed to keep the covenant, too.  We read that God objected to Jewish men divorcing Jewish wives to marry foreign women.  One may recall that this was also an issue in Ezra 10.  As prior to the Babylonian Exile, idolatry is in play.  Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 12:31 permit divorce, but Malachi 2:16 begins:

For I detest divorce….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Context is crucial; statements never arise in a vaccum.

Malachi 3:5 specifies offenses:

But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me:  Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause] of the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the LORD of Hosts.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Faithless members of the Chosen People remain “children of Jacob,” we read.  And God (as in Zechariah 1:3) expects them to express remorse for their sins and to repent:

Turn back to Me, and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Malachi 3:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The text continues by explaining another way (other than not committing the previously listed sins) the people could return to God:  to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21-31; Nehemiah 13:10-13).  The text challenges the people to respond faithfully and generously to the extravagant and generosity of God.

Malachi 3:11 mentions locusts in the present tense.  This clue does not reveal as much as one may guess.  Does Malachi 3:11 date the Book of Malachi approximately contemporary with the Book of Joel, whenever that was?  The case for this is tenuous and circumstantial.  One may recall that swarms of locusts were a frequent threat in the region.  Malachi 3:11 may tell us one reason many people were not paying their tithes, though.

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 exists within a context, of course.  Taking it out of context distorts its meaning.  Recall Malachi 2:17, O reader.  We read there that people have been wearying God by saying:

“All who do evil are good in the sight of the LORD, and in them He delights,” or else, “Where is the God of justice?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 rebuts that wearying statements and that wearying question.

Trusting in God liberates.  It liberates populations and individuals.  It liberates them to become their best possible selves in God, who is extravagantly generous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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The Superscription of the Book of Malachi   1 comment

Above:  Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART I

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Malachi 1:1

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The stated prophet in Malachi 1:1 is simply “Malachi,” without the traditional “son of ” formula following the persona name.  “Malachi” means “My messenger.”  This may be a name, a description, or both.  In fact, we know close to nothing about the prophet.

The Book of Malachi does not provide many details that place it in time.  It comes from after the Babylonian Exile.  1:8 and 1:2-5 place the book during the Persian period (539-332 B.C.E.).  The Book of Malachi refers to concerns raised in the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and First Esdras–Malachi 1:6-14 and Nehemiah 10:32-39; 13:31 pertain to provision for sacrifices.  The tithe is the topic in Malachi 3:8-12 and Nehemiah 13:10-14.  Acceptable marriage partners are the topic in Malachi 3:5 and Nehemiah 5:1-13.  But did Malachi come before Ezra and Nehemiah, who started their reforms in 445 B.C.E.?  (See Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9.)

The historical relationship s of Joel, Second Zechariah, and Malachi to each other are not clear.  The Book of Malachi, in its original form, may plausibly date to the 470s, prior to Second Zechariah.  Or the Book of Malachi may plausibly postdate Second Zechariah.

The Book of Malachi has fifty-five verses.  Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles divide those verses into three chapters.  Yet Anglican and Protestant Bibles divide these verses into four chapters.

Considering how short the Book of Malachi is, it fares well on the three major Christian lectionaries.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) assigns 3:14 for the Presentation of the Lord, Years A, B, and C, as well as for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C.  The RCL also assigns 4:1-2a on Proper 28, Year C.  The Roman Catholic lectionary for Sundays and major feast days assigns 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10 for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.  The same lectionary assigns 3:19-20a for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.  The corresponding lectionary for weekday Masses assigns 3:1-4, 23-24 on December 23, Years 1 and 2.  The same lectionary assigns 3:13-20b for Thursday in Week 27 of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Shall we begin, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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Introduction to Second Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART I

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Zechariah 9-14

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The Book of Zechariah has two distinct sections.  First Zechariah encompasses chapters 1-8.  Second Zechariah, from a later time, encompasses chapters 9-14.  Second Zechariah, in turn, consists of two sections–chapters 9-11 and 12-14.  Second Zechariah, like much else of the Hebrew Bible, exists in a final form expanded and revised from its original form.

Second Zechariah dates mainly to the middle of the fifth century–the 450s B.C.E., give or take.  The temporal setting is Persian imperial concern for internal security, in the wake of the Egyptian rebellion in the 450s B.C.E., as well as the Greek-Persian wars.  History tells us that the Persian Empire increased control over its western satrapies (provinces) and built fortresses and garrisons linking the Mediterranean coast to the interior.  History also tells us that, from 515 to 450 B.C.E., the pace of Jewish resettlement of Judah was relatively slow, as was the pace of economic recovery.  Furthermore, history tells us that the situation in Judah improved substantially only after 445 B.C.E., with the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9).

Second Zechariah contains diverse material that draws heavily on earlier works.  These works include Jeremiah 13:1-11 and Ezekiel 4:1-5:4, which influenced Zechariah 11:4-16.  Other influences on Second Zechariah include the Book of Isaiah and the Deuteronomic History (Deuteronomy-2 Kings).

The three major Christian lectionaries do little with Second Zechariah.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) schedules 9:9-12 for Proper 9, Year A.  That is the only listing of anything from the Book of Zechariah on the RCL.  The Roman Catholic lectionary for Sundays and major feast days lists Second Zechariah twice–9:9-10 for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A; and 12:10-11 and 13:1 for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.  (First Zechariah is absent from that lectionary.)  The Roman Catholic lectionary for weekday Masses omits Second Zechariah yet lists three excerpts from First Zechariah.

The introduction to the Book of Zechariah in The Oxford Study Bible (1992) describes much of Second Zechariah as

extremely enigmatic.

So be it.  Let us jump in, shall we?

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 Promise of the New Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Tiges (Isaiah 61:11)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 60:1-62:12

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Isaiah 60-62 is a lengthy poem of encouragement to Jerusalem (Zion), personified as a bereaved woman.  Jewish exiles are returning to Jerusalem, we read.

Certain themes are notable, some for their presence and others for their absence:

  1. There is no Davidic monarch in Third Isaiah.  In this respect, Third Isaiah disagrees with Haggai, First Zechariah, and First Isaiah.
  2. In the future, according to Isaiah 60:1-62:12, the Jewish nation will have royal and priestly status, and God will rule directly.
  3. A must society embodies the divine covenant and receives God’s blessing.
  4. Judah, in Isaiah 60:1-22, is superior to its neighbors.  The theme of reversal of fortune exists here.  So do national concerns, overriding universalism of any variety.  We read of Gentiles transporting Jewish exiles to Judah, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and bringing silver and gold.  This image contrasts with First Isaiah (2:1-4), in which Gentiles stream to Jerusalem to learn God’s ways.
  5. Isaiah 61:1-9 applies the jubilee year (Leviticus 25:10), by which farmers forced into indentured servitude could regain their land, to the nation.  The time to start over had come.
  6. The predicted splendor of Jerusalem contrasted with the actual state of the city prior to 445 B.C.E. and the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8:1-9:55).  Isaiah 60:1-62:12 offered hope for a better future.

Hope is essential.  These beautiful three chapters, replete with familiar passages, come from a particular context.  If one takes these chapters and passages out of context, one misses much of their meaning.  The central message is timeless, not bound by context, though.  That meaning is that God is faithful.  God has promised to act.  God will act.  Keep the faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Introduction to Third Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART I

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Isaiah 24-27, 56-66

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Haggai prophesied in late 520 B.C.E.  First Zechariah, commissioned as a prophet in late 520 B.C.E., prophesied in 519 and 518 B.C.E.  Sometime after Jewish exiles began to return to their ancestral homeland in the late 530s B.C.E., Third Isaiah prophesied.  He grappled with difficult circumstances and ubiquitous disappointment, just as Haggai and First Zechariah did.  The reality on the ground did not match the descriptions of prosperity and paradise on Earth that some previous prophets had offered.  For example, the contrast between the pessimism of many returned exiles and the optimism of Second Isaiah (from circa 540 B.C.E.) was a gaping chasm.

Third Isaiah spoke of divine sovereignty and divine compassion for Israel.  He did this between 537 and 455 B.C.E., in the context of matters remaining difficult for Jews in their ancestral homeland, part of the Persian Empire.  The reforms of Nehemiah and Ezra, starting in 445 B.C.E. (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8:1-9:55) greatly improved the civic and spiritual life of the population.  Third Isaiah prophesied before these reforms.

Designating Isaiah 56-66 as Third Isaiah and Isaiah 24-27 as part of First Isaiah is commonplace.  Yet I follow the determination in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), for I define the prophesies of Third Isaiah as encompassing Isaiah 24-27, 56-66.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF NAPLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., AND HIS SON, DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR.; EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF MISSISSIPPI, AND ADVOCATES OF CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE TYRRELL, IRISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WNCHESTER

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The Tears of the Christ   1 comment

Above:  Jesus, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964)

A Screen Capture

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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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Genesis 13:1-16 or Ezra 1:1-7; 3:8-13

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Revelation 7:9-17

John 11:1-3. 16-44

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Jesus wept.

–John 11:35, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears like their eyes.

–Revelation 7:16-17, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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I could take so many paths through the assigned readings for this week.  These readings are rich texts.  I will take just one path, however.

Before I do, here are a few notes:

  1. Abraham waited for God to tell him which land to claim.  Abraham chose well.
  2. Lot chose land on his own.  He chose poorly.  However, at the time he seemed to have chosen wisely; he selected fertile land.
  3. I agree with Psalm 136.  Divine mercy does endure forever.
  4. The chronology of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah weaves in and out of those books.  I know, for I blogged my way through them in chronological order at BLOGA THEOLOGICA last year.

For the record, the chronological reading order of Ezra-Nehemiah follows:

  1. Ezra 1:1-2:70; Nehemiah 7:6-73a;
  2. Ezra 3:1-4:5;
  3. Ezra 5:1-6:22;
  4. Ezra 4:6-24;
  5. Nehemiah 1:1-2:20;
  6. Nehemiah 3:1-4:17;
  7. Nehemiah 5:1-19;
  8. Nehemiah 6:1-7:5;
  9. Nehemiah 11:1-12:47;
  10. Nehemiah 13:1-31;
  11. Nehemiah 9:38-10:39;
  12. Ezra 7:1-10:44; and
  13. Nehemiah 7:73b-9:38.

I take my lead in this post from the New Testament readings.  Tears are prominent in both of them.  Tears are on my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They are also on my mind as I continue to mourn the violent death of my beloved.  Her departure from this side of the veil of tears has left me shaken and as forever changed me.

The full divinity and full humanity of Jesus are on display in John 11.  We read that Jesus wept over the death of his friend, St. Lazarus of Bethany.  We also read of other people mourning and weeping in the immediate area.  We may not pay much attention to that.  We may tell ourselves, “Of course, they grieved and wept.”  But two words–“Jesus wept”–remain prominent.

There is a scene in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964) that fits this theme.  At the time, Hollywood studios had recently released technicolor movies about a Jesus who had no tear ducts yet had an impressive command of Elizabethan English while resembling a Northern European.  Yet Pier Paolo Pasolini, who committed about half of the Gospel of Matthew to film, presented a Jesus who had tear ducts.  Immediately after the off-camera decapitation of St. John the Baptist, the next shot was a focus on Christ’s face.  He was crying.  So were the men standing in front of him.

Jesus wept.

We weep.  Jesus weeps with us until the day God will wipe away all tears of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-19-year-d-humes/

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A New Beginning   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 47

Romans 12:1-5

John 1:35-51

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We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

The Reverend Will Campbell (1924-2013)

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If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.

–Pope Francis, The New York Times, November 29, 2020

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Know, O reader, that I have been a serious student of the Bible for most of my life.  (And I feel much younger than my chronological age.)  Muck knowledge of the contents of the Bible has been academic and theoretical, not that there is anything wrong with that.  I have long been an academic and an intellectual, after all.  Living has added the visceral aspect of knowledge to that which has been purely academic and theoretical.  Abstract sympathy for those who grieve has given way to empathy with them, especially during holidays, when families traditionally gather.  Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made the theme of a fresh start in Isaiah 61:1-3 and Romans 12:1-5 more potent in my mind than the many previous times I read those passages.

Scripture is what it is.  How we mere mortals relate to it depends greatly on our experiences.

Some seemingly dry academic material is appropriate, however.

The speaker in Isaiah 61:1-3 was Third Isaiah.  Exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland.  They had learned that the reality on the ground fell far short of their high hopes.  Much despair set in.  Third Isaiah used language derived from Leviticus 25:10.  There would be a fresh start, a new beginning.

“To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor….”

–Isaiah 61:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Year of Jubilee was supposed to occur every 50 years.  People who had become indentured servants were supposed to go free.  Land lost since the previous Year of Jubilee was supposed to return to its proper owners.  The only actual Year of Jubilee documented in the Bible occurred in Nehemiah 5, after the return from exile.

Romans 12 brings us to the theology of bodies in the thought of St. Paul the Apostle.  We who carry assumptions born of Greek philosophy quickly assume that a body is a vessel for a soul.  To apply this assumption to Pauline theology is to err.

St. Paul, like many other Jews, believed that a person is a body, not that a person has a body.  This was a holistic understanding of the self.  This holistic view applied to the body (individually) and to the body (as a group of people in faith community, as in Romans 12:5).

I have read commentaries as I have sought to understand what amazed St. Nathanael/Bartholomew in John 1:48f.  I have read a series of educated guesses from brains better than mine.  The author of the Gospel of John (“John,” whoever he was) kept the text vague in this passage.  He made his point, though; Jesus astounded St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  Then St. Nathanael/Bartholomew followed him.

Psalm 47 reminds us that God is the king of all the Earth.  Accepting that can be difficult at times.  Nevertheless, not accepting it is not a feasible alternative for me.  I must have hope, after all.

I must have a basis of hope that a fresh start is possible.  Otherwise, I will collapse into despair.  Otherwise, I will cease to have any spiritual grounding.  In an age when “none” is the fastest growing religious affiliation, the lack of spiritual grounding is a sort of plague.

Then there is a literal plague, COVID-19.  It has laid bare the best and the worst in human nature.  Mainly, as far as I can tell, this coronavirus has confirmed that we humans are naturally selfish bastards who easily fall into delusions that kill us and each other.

Human nature is constant.  So is divine nature.  As Martin Luther advised, we need to rely on the faithfulness of God.  We need a fresh start, a new beginning.  God can provide one, fortunately.

To return to the beginning of this post, the Pope is correct.  We human beings need to emerge from this pandemic less selfish than when we went into it.  We need to allow the pain of others to touch us.  The first step of compassion is to get beyond oneself.

I know better than to expect a change in human nature.  The study of history and theology combines with experience to make me skeptical of excessive optimism.  But, with regard to God, optimism is justifiable.  God has been faithful.  God is faithful.  God will remain faithful.

May the aftermath of this pandemic be mostly positive, by grace.  May the human species have a new beginning, a fresh start.  May we accept this gracious offer from God.  May we take better care of each other and the planet.  May we awaken from our sinful slumber.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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Economic Crisis in Jerusalem and Its Environs   2 comments

Above:  Icon of Nehemiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XVII

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Nehemiah 5:1-19

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Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the Lord and not faltered.

–Psalm 26:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses forbade exploitation and taught mutuality in the context of total dependence on God.  Exodus 22:24-26 forbade a lender from seizing collateral.  Usury also violated the Law of Moses.  Yet, in Jerusalem during the time of Nehemiah, some wealthy Jews were violating these laws and forcing some poor Jews into slavery.

This was an outbreak of economic injustice.  It was not the first such outbreak in the Bible, of course.  Egyptians had enslaved Hebrews.  Later, Hebrew prophets had condemned the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy.  Forms of economic exploitation have varied from place to place and from time to time.  Economic exploitation has never ended.

Nehemiah enforced the Law of Moses.  He established a jubilee (Leviticus 25:1-5; Deuteronomy 15:1-18).  Nehemiah had the power and the will to make the order stick.

I write this blog post in the context of the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.  Many governments have failed in their duties to their people and to the global community.  Many individuals have failed to keep their obligations consistent with mutuality.  Many individuals have chosen to act irresponsibly.

Yes, each of us the keeper of his or her brothers and sisters.  Each of us is responsible to and for his or her brothers and sisters.  This is a sacred principle.

Those who exercise authority have more obligations than the rest of us.  They make decisions that affect more lives than any decision, I, for example, make.  Those who exercise authority also have an obligation to lead by example as they work for the common good.

Nehemiah’s decisions and actions indicated that he understood that great principle.

The world needs more Nehemiahs and fewer Sanballats.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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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 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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