Archive for the ‘Numbers 17-19’ 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 Third Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART V

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Haggai 2:10-19

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

In the third oracle (2:10-19), Haggai offered an explanation for why the situation in Jerusalem had not improved, despite the resumption of construction of the Second Temple.  Holiness was not transferrable, but ritual impurity was (Numbers 5:2; 6:6; 9:10; 19:11, 13).  Tainted and unacceptable offerings to God made the work of the people unclean, impure (verse 14).  The problem was with the altar upon which people laid the offerings.  Priests were using the altar, despite not having properly purified it ritually (Ezra 3:107; 1 Esdras 5:47-73).

Nevertheless, December 18, 520, B.C.E., marked a turning point in the people’s relationship with God:

Consider, from this day onwards,…:  will the seed still be diminished in the barn?  Will the vine and the fig, the pomegranate and the olive still bear no fruit?  Not so; from this day I shall bless you.

–Haggai 2:18-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet read Zechariah 1:18-21/2:1-4, set two months later.

I am an Episcopalian and a ritualist.  Therefore, I grasp the importance of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.

However, I am also a Gentile to whom ritual purity and impurity are foreign concepts.  These are concepts about which I have read, especially in regard to whether Jesus accepted them and how to interpret them in healing stories involving Jesus.  These are also concepts I have rethought, especially in regard to Jesus, after reading Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Studying Haggai 2:10-19, I must dig into the text and read regarding the Biblical background of the ritual purification of altars.  Jewish sources teach me much.

This is a rule binding on your descendants for all time, to make a distinction between sacred and profane, between clean and profane, and to teach the Israelites all the decrees which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.

–Leviticus 10:9b-11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

When we move from one context to another, a timeless principle remains:

What is at stake is attitude.

–W. Eugene March, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 728

Approaching God reverently and respectfully is essential.  Rules dictate how to do so.  So be it.  This is a serious matter in the Hebrew Bible.  This explains why Leviticus 12-15 describe how to dispose of ritual impurity of various types.  This is why Leviticus 16 pertains to the annual purging of the sacred precincts of impurity.  This is why Leviticus 1-7 go into great detail about types of offerings to God.  This is why Exodus 35-38 detail the construction of the Tabernacle.  This is why Exodus 39 focuses on the making of the priests’ vestments.  I respect all this, even though I enjoy eating pork.

I also notice that God changed the relationships, for the people’s benefits.  People were still supposed to use a purified altar, of course.

Grace is free, not cheap.

For the sake of completeness and intellectual honesty, however, I note that the first vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-17) contradicts the pressing of the giant reset button in Haggai 2:10-19.  I will get to Zechariah 1:8-17 in due time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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Judith Before Holofernes   Leave a comment

Above:  Holofernes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JUDITH

PART VI

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Judith 10:1-12:20

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Holofernes was like his master, King Nebuchadnezzar II.  He was vain, boastful, and quick to accept flattery.  The general also consumed lies as easily and in great quantities as easily as he drank too much wine.

Judith played the role of the seductress well.  She understood male nature, which she exploited.  In doing so, Judith placed herself in much danger.  She was even sleeping in the tent of Holofernes.  Her undercover (pardon the pun) mission was always perilous.

A few aspects of these three chapters are especially worthy of explanation and elaboration.  

  1. Judith lied when she said her people were so desperate they were about to violate the food laws in the Law of Moses.  She referenced Leviticus 17:10-16 and Numbers 18:8-32.  Yet, at the time of the composition of the Book of Judith, any violation of the Law of Moses for the purpose of preserving human life was acceptable, according to one school of Jewish thought (1 Maccabees 2:29-41).
  2. Ironically, Holofernes told the truth, at least partially.  He said that Judith was renowned throughout the world (11:20-23).  The Book of Judith has long provided inspiration for artists.
  3. Judith was in extreme sexual danger (12:5).  So was Sarah in Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:17.
  4. Judith established her routine of leaving the Assyrian army camp unchallenged each night (12:6-9).  This strategy paid off in 13:11.
  5. Judith had to work quickly.  She had only five days to deliver her people (7:29-32; 8:32-35).
  6. Judith obeyed kosher food laws, even in the Assyrian army camp.  (One may think of Daniel and his friends in Daniel 1, too.)
  7. Judith’s unnamed female maid/servant was loyal and essential.  Judith’s servant was intelligent, unlike the gullible Bagoas, servant of Holofernes. 
  8. In 11:19-23, Judith used language laced with allusions to the prophets and the Book of Psalms.  Verses 19 and 20, for example, echoed Isaiah 40:3-4; 35:8-10; 42:16; 51:11; 56:10-11;; as well as 2 Samuel 7:13; Psalm 89:4; Ezekiel 34:8; Zechariah 10:2 and 13:7.
  9. Ironically, the wisdom at which Holofernes marveled was deception.
  10. The words of Holofernes, “…your God will be my God…” (11:22), an echo of Ruth 1:16, are vague.  Perhaps the character had no idea what he was saying.
  11. Holofernes lusted after Judith (11:16).
  12. The texts depict Judith as a great beauty.  They also describe Assyrian soldiers as drooling over her.  Therein resided part of Judith’s power, which she used to the full extent necessary.

The Book of Judith contains elements of satire and comedy.  The text is rich with irony in many places.  For example, even a boastful fool accidentally tells the truth sometimes.  The intoxicated Holofernes also imagines himself to be in control of the situation.  He has no idea how wrong he is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMASZ SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF MARYRS OF EL MOZOTE, EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 11-12, 1981

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Tobit’s Blindness and Prayer   Leave a comment

Above:  Tobit and Anna with the Kid Goat, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART III

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Tobit 2:9-3:6

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Dystrus 7 was in late winter, in February.  Dystrus, a Hellenistic month, was also a literary anachromism.

In the story, Tobit was ritually impure after having buried a human corpse (Numbers 19:11-14).  So, he slept outside after washing himself ritually.  In the story, sleeping outdoors led to his blindness.  After two years, nephew Ahikar ceased to support Tobit then moved away.  The titular character, reduced to depending financially on his wife, wrongly accused her of having stolen an kid.  She justifiably objected to his attitude.  Anna, angry with her husband (not God, as was Job’s wife in Job 2:8), questioned Tobit’s virtue.  Then Tobit, like Jonah (Jonah 4:3, 8), Moses (Numbers 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Job (Job 7:15), prayed for death.

The Theory of Retribution, which I have already mentioned and explained in this series, holds that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous.  This perspective pervades the Old and New Testaments.  Without rejecting the Theory of Retribution, I propose that life is more complicated than that.  Many of the wicked flourish and many of the righteous suffer in this life.  One way out of this conundrum is to relocate the ultimate reward or punishment to the afterlife.  Yet the Book of Tobit does not indicate belief in postmortem reward or punishment.

However, I remind you, O reader, of the meaning of the title of this book.  “Tobit” means “YHWH is good.”  The Book of Tobit, in its entirety, depicts YHWH as being very good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 421

THE FEAST OF JAMES MILLS THOBURN, ISABELLA THOBURN, AND CLARA SWAIN, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES TO INDIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COOKE AND BENJAMIN WEBB, ANGLICAN PRIESTS AND TRANSLATORS OF HYMNS

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Tobit’s Piety   Leave a comment

Above:  The Story of Tobit, by the Workshop of the Master of the Prodigal Son

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART 1

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Tobit 1:1-15

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The Book of Tobit, present in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, falls into the canon of scripture for about three-quarters of the Christian Church.  Tobit, like Esther, Jonah, and Judith, is a work of fiction that teaches theological and spiritual truths.  The Catholic Study Bible (1990) and The Catholic Bible–Personal Study Edition (1995) describes the Book of Tobit as a novel.  The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) accurately describes the Book of Tobit as a novella.  The Book of Tobit is too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel.

The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) acknowledges that the Book of Tobit is a work of fiction.  The introduction to the Book of Tobit describes the work as a love story in which a father sends his son out into the world.  The son finds and saves a bride, whom he brings home.  The introduction to the Book of Tobit links this story to Christ in John 3:16 and describes the Book of Tobit as an icon of the story of salvation.

The Book of Tobit is another Hellenistic work about Jews in exile.  (The Book of Daniel is also such a work.)  Superficially set in the eighth century B.C.E., the Book of Tobit teaches faith in God and trust in providence from the temporal perspective of the second century C.E.

The titular character is Tobit.  His son is Tobias.  “Tobit” is a shorter variation on “Tobias.”  Both names mean, “the LORD is good.”

Tobit 1:2 signals the book’s status as fiction by naming the wrong Neo-Assyrian king.  The verse names the monarch as Shalmaneser V (reigned 727-722 B.C.E.)  Historical records tell us Sargon II (reigned 722-705 B.C.E.) was the king who completed Shalmaneser V’s work and conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-6, O reader.)  However, historical records and 2 Kings 15:19 tell us that Tiglath-Pilesar III, also known as Pul (reigned 745-727 B.C.E.), took the tribe of Naphtali into exile.

Tobit was a devout Jew.  The impossible internal chronology had Tobit live in excess of 150 years (1:4f), despite his age at death (14:1) being 112.  Anyhow, he eschewed idolatry and made his offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem (Numbers 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:3-4).  Tobit also distributed money to widows, orphans, and converts.  He kept the food laws (Exodus 34:15; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 11:1-47; Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:23-25; Deuteronomy 14:3-21; and Deuteronomy 15:23) in exile, too.  Tobit obeyed the Law of Moses regardless of how difficult doing so proved to be.  At home and in exile, Tobit was a model Jew.

Tobit also deposited ten talents of silver with a relative, Gabael, in Media.  That amount equaled 3000 shekels.

The germane note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) reads:

A substantial amount, but efforts to express in modern monetary units are futile.

Other sources do express that amount in modern monetary units, though.  The Catholic Study Bible (1990) estimates the value as being about $10,000.  The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) estimates the value as being at least $10,000.  

We also read of Tobit’s wife, Anna, which means “Grace.”  Remember that, O reader; the name is sometimes ironic.

The Book of Tobit contains similarities to the Books of Job and Daniel.  We read of Tobit working for the king in Chapter 1.  One may recall that Daniel worked for several monarchs.  And one may remember accounts of Daniel’s piety.  The parallels to Job, already becoming apparent, will become stronger as we continue.

Tobit 1 contains the Theory of Retribution, that God rewards faithfulness and punishes faithlessness.  The Theory of Retribution, a hallmark of Deuteronomic theology, is prominent throughout the Book of Tobit and in much of the Hebrew Bible.  Deuteronomy 28 teaches the Theory of Retribution, which informs the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.  In particular, consult Joshua 7:1-8:29; Judges 3:7-11; and 2 Samuel 11:1-12:15, for example, O reader.

The counterbalance also exists un the Hebrew Bible.  Blessings also come undeserved.  A relationship with God should not be a quid-pro-quo arrangement.  See Deuteronomy 4:32-40; 6-11; 8:17-18; 9:4-6; 10:15; and 23:6, O reader.  Likewise, that seems undeserved is a form of testing (Deuteronomy 8: 2, 3, 5, 16-17), and repentance following suffering precedes divine mercy (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

What we do matters.  How we respond to God is crucial.  One does know a tree by its fruits.  And actions have consequences.  However, Prosperity Theology remains a heresy.  Many of the devout suffer.  Many of the devout become martyrs.  And many of the devout endure poverty.

The Bible is a nuanced sacred theology.  Any impression to the contrary is erroneous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

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Maintaining Christian Hope   1 comment

Moses and Korah

Above:  Moses and Korah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 17:1-11

Psalm 90

2 Peter 3:1-18

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For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

–Psalm 90:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Complaining frequently, rebelling occasionally, and angering God in the process are recurring motifs in the post-Exodus parts of the Torah.  The people were free, had sufficient food and water, and should have been grateful.  Many were, to be sure, but a large proportion of the population waxed nostalgically regarding Egyptian leftovers and kept angering God.  They were impatient.

Allowing for change in God concepts from Numbers 17 to 2 Peter 3, the principle of obeying God remains constant.  The context in 2 Peter 3 is the fact that expectations of the imminent return of Christ proved to be false.  Many early Christians were dying without the Messiah having come back and replaced the corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order with the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Many people were losing hope.  Some were seizing the opportunity to live wrongly.

God is never late, but we humans are frequently impatient.  We are fortunate, for God has blessed us in more ways than we can count, but often we murmur or shout our complaints.  Giving thanks, not kvetching, is in order.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

–John 14:15-17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

We need not rely on our own power to have a proper, respectful, awe-filled relationship with God, who advocates for us and does not strike us down with plagues.  No, abundant grace is available.  Will we accept it, maintain Christian hope, and embrace divine love, which demands much of us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EUNICE SHRIVER KENNEDY, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/devotion-for-monday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 12, 2015 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 3, John 14, Numbers 17-19, Psalm 90

Tagged with ,

Numbers and Luke, Part VII: Accepting or Rejecting the Chosen of God   1 comment

wicked-husbandmen

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen

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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:

Numbers 16:41-17:13/17:6-28

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 20:1-8

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Numbers 16:41-17:13 (Protestant versification) = 17:6-28 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification).

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The theme of authority and rebellion against it continues from previous readings in the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of Luke.

One day prior to the setting of the Numbers reading Moses had ordered that the fire pans of Korah and his people be melted down and made into copper plating for the altar as a warning against any future rebellions.  Yet he and Aaron faced a rebellion which, the narrative tells us, God punished with a plague which killed 14,700 people.  And God affirmed the Aaronic priesthood; I ought to mention that detail.

Much later, in Jerusalem, during Holy Week in 29 CE, Jesus faced challenges to his authority.  The textual context makes abundantly clear that the wicked tenants in the parable were stand-ins for people such as those who were confronting him.

Here I am, almost eleven months ahead of schedule, writing a devotional post for just a few days before Pentecost Sunday, and the lectionary I am following has me in Holy Week!  Anyhow, the message is timeless:  Do not oppose the chosen ones of God.  Since I am writing for just a few days before Pentecost Sunday, I choose to focus on the Holy Spirit here and now.  It goes where it will.  Through it God the Father speaks to us. We need it to interpret Scripture correctly.  The one unpardonable sin in the Bible is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which I understand to be to mistake good for evil, to be so spiritually oblivious as not to know the difference.

May we–you, O reader, and I–recognize the fruits of the Holy Spirit in people.  We see them in many ways.  When people of God strive for social justice, which entails inclusiveness more often than not, the Holy Spirit is probably at work.  When love and compassion win, the Holy Spirit is at work.  The test is fruits, or results.  And may we support the good ones (the ones of the Holy Spirit, of God) and reject the rest.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST ENGLISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITING CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FISHER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROCHESTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/devotion-for-the-forty-seventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part VI: Servant Leadership   1 comment

punishment-of-korah-and-the-stoning-of-moses-and-aaron-sandro-botticelli

Above:  The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron, by Sandro Botticelli

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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:

Numbers 16:1-22 (45th Day of Easter)

Numbers 16:23-40/17:5 (46th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–45th Day of Easter)

Psalm 99 (Morning–46th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–45th Day of Easter)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening–46th Day of Easter)

Luke 19:11-28 (45th Day of Easter)

Luke 19:29-48 (46th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 19:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/week-of-proper-28-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/week-of-proper-28-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-2/

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Numbers 16 has 35 verses in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Bible yet 50 verses in Protestant ones.  So Numbers 17:1-5 in Protestant Bibles = Numbers 16:36-50 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.  And 17:1-5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) = 16:36-40 (Protestant).  Life would be simpler if there were just one system of versification in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, would it not?

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ARCHELAUS, received the kingdom of Judaea by the last will of his father, Herod the Great, though a previous will had bequeathed it to his brother Antipas.  He was proclaimed king by the army, but declined to assume the title until he had submitted his claims to Augustus.  Before setting out, he quelled with the utmost cruelty a sedition of the Pharisees, slaying nearly 3,000 of them.  At Rome he was opposed by Antipas and by many of the Jews, but Augustus allotted to him the greater part of the kingdom (Judaea, Samaria, Ituraea) with the title of Ethnarch.  He married Glaphyra, the widow of his brother Alexander, though his wife and her second husband, Juba, king of Mauretania, were alive.  This violation of the Mosaic Law and his continued cruelty roused the Jews, who complained to Augustus.  Archlaus was deposed (A.D. 7) and banished to Vienne.  The date of his death is unknown.  He is mentioned in Matt. ii. 22, and the parable of Luke xix. 11 seq. may refer to his journey to Rome.

Encyclopedia Britannica (1955), Volume 2, page 264

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What right did Moses have to rule?  And what was the proper basis of the Aaronic priesthood?  Korah and his confederates wanted to know.  So they challenged Moses and Aaron.  They also died trying.  Exuent those reels.  The basis for all that they opposed was God, the narrative tells us.

The Parable of the Pounds refers to Herod Archelaus, whose 1955 Encyclopedia Britannica entry I have typed verbatim.  The appointed king, like Archelaus, was a very bad man.  The placement of this parable immediately before our Lord’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem cannot be an accident.  Jesus is a king, but of a sort very different from any Roman puppet, such as Herod Antipas, who appears in Luke 23:8-12.  Antipas was Tetrarch of Galiille and Perea.  He had ordered the beheading of St. John the Baptist.  Ironically, the Tetrarch’s journey to Rome in search of the title “king” had an unexpected result.  The Emperor Caligula, convinced by Herod Agrippa I, brother-in-law of Antipas, that Antipas was conspiring against the Emperor , banished him (Antipas) to Lugdunum, Gaul, now Lyon, France, in 39 CE.

Seeking glory is a dangerous game and wielding authority is a great responsibility.  Power might grind down those who lack it, but it also consumes many people who desire it.  Moses did not seek the alleged glory of leading a mass of grumblers in the desert.  And going to the cross just a few days after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was the glorification of Jesus in the Gospel of John, albeit a painful and humiliating manner of attaining it.

You know that among the gentiles those they call their rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt.  Among you this is not to happen.  No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.  For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

–Mark 10:42b-45, The New Jerusalem Bible

The context for that lesson from the Gospel of Mark is shortly before the Triumphal Entry and immediately after James and John, our Lord’s first cousins, ask for honored places in Heaven.  And it fits well here, in this post, with the assigned readings for these two days.

Every generation has its share of violent tyrants and petty dictators, unfortunately.  Yet every generation also has its servant leaders, men and women who struggle to do the right thing, to wield authority honorably, without losing their souls.  It is a difficult calling, one in which, I pray, they will succeed.

I pray also that the rest of us called to other pursuits will work effectively for the benefit of others, not our own aggrandizement, in all the ways in which God leads us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-fifth-and-forty-sixth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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“Everything Else Is Commentary.”–Hillel   1 comment

Above:  A Torah Scroll

Image Source = Merlin

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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.

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Romans 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

You have no defence, then, whoever you may be, when you sit in judgement–for in judging others you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, are equally guilty.  We all know that God’s judgement on those who commit such crimes is just; and do you imagine–you that pass judgement on the guilty while committing the same crimes yourself–do you imagine that you, any more than they, will escape the judgement of God?  Or do you despise the the wealth of kindness and tolerance and patience, failing to see that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  In the obstinate impenitence of your heart you are laying up for yourself a store of retribution against the day of retribution, when God’s just judgement will be revealed, and he will pay everyone for what he has done.  To those who pursue glory, honour, and immortality by steady persistence in well-doing, he will give eternal life; but the retribution of his wrath awaits those who are governed by selfish ambition, who refuse obedience to truth and take evil for their guide.  There will be affliction and distress for every human being who is a wrongdoer, for the Jew first and the Greek also; but for everyone who does right there will be glory, honour, and peace, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  God has no favourites.

Psalm 62:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will you assail me to crush me,

all of you together,

as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

4  They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;

lies are their chief delight.

5  They bless with their lips,

but in their hearts they curse.

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

Luke 11:42-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but neglect justice and the love of God.  It is these you should have practised, without overlooking the others.

Alas for you Pharisees!  You love to have the chief seats in synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the street.

Alas, alas, you who are like unmarked graves, which people walk over unawares.

At this one of the lawyers said,

Teacher, when you say things like this you are insulting us too.

Jesus rejoined,

Alas for you lawyers also!  You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Numbers 19:16 reads:

In the open, anyone who touches someone killed with a weapon or someone killed with a weapon or touches a human bone or a grave, is unclean for seven days.

This applied especially to those who did this accidentally.  This detail matters because Jesus refers to it in Luke 11:44, the verse about walking over an unmarked grave.  The Pharisees and their accompanying experts in the Law of Moses were bad influences even if they did not wake up each day plotting how to be bad influences, Jesus said.  They were certainly sincere, but they were sincerely wrong and destructive.

They were so because they became and remained lost in the details.  They had reduced morality to a checklist when it is more a matter of proper attitudes.  The details tend to fall into place when one has proper priorities.  If I say, for example, that I will endeavor, with the help of God, to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me, I do not need to carry a checklist of forbidden and acceptable actions.  ”Is it lawful?” is not a question on which I need to spend much time when love of my neighbor defines my actions.

This is a profoundly Jewish attitude.  The great Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a young man, once fielded a question from a scoffer who demanded a very brief summary of the Torah–one he could listen to in its entirely while standing on one foot.  Hillel’s replied with the Golden Rule, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.  He continued,

Everything else is commentary.  Now, if you’re really interested, to and study the commentary.

It is vital that, when studying the commentary, one ought not forget the main idea, which is the Golden Rule.  One can be a wrongdoer while trying to do that which is moral.  I think of many of my Antebellum Southern forebears in the Christian faith, who used the Bible to defend chattel slavery, a dehumanizing institution.  Then, after the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement, many professing Christians used many old pro-slavery arguments to support de jure segregation.  They looked at the details–the commentary–but did not stay focused on the main idea, the Golden Rule.  The commentary contains many useful ideas about how to observe the Golden Rule, but one can pervert and twist the commentary and contradict the Golden Rule easily and without trying to do so.

Sometimes our cultural, subcultural, and religious programming blinds us to our sins.  Other times we blind ourselves to our sins out of selfish interests.  Yet the guiding principle, which is the Golden Rule, remains clear and succinct.  Why are so many of us so confused so much of the time?

Yet, as James 1:27 reads,

A pure and faultless religion in the sight of God the Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in trouble and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

This is all the checklist I need.  ”Is it lawful?” If it cares effectively for the vulnerable, it is.  If not, it is not.  If it values people more than possessions and other forms of wealth, it is lawful.  If it does not, it is not.  As Saint Laurence of Rome understood well, the poor are treasure of the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLORIAN OF LORCH, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GODEHARD OF HILDESHEIM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MONICA, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-1/

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A Living Power Among You Who Believe It   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair.  You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Contact with a corpse made one ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16).  So imagine that it is the month of Adar, and that you, O reader, are a pilgrim in Jesus’ day traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.  You might become ritually unclean, and therefore ineligible to celebrate Passover, if you come into contact with a roadside tomb.  Fortunately for you, people have whitewashed the tombs in advance, so they will stand out, and pilgrims will not become ritually unclean by accident.

This is the reference to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23.  But Jesus says that hypocritical professional religious people who lay needless burdens on the faithful are the whitewashed tombs; the scribes and Pharisees are themselves unclean.  How is that for a strong condemnation, one that hits home?  And these scribes and Pharisees are the spiritual heirs of those who have persecuted and killed prophets of God.  At this point in Matthew Jesus is nearing his own death, in which professional religious people were complicit.  (But let us not let the Romans off the hook, for the Procurator authorized the execution and soldiers carried it out.)

This day’s reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with Paul defending himself against unfounded criticisms.  Why else would he have pointed to his work ethic and his treatment of others?  Here we have an example of an old truth:  Whatever you do, somebody is likely to criticize you.  But the part of the reading that attracts my attention is verse 13:  God’s message is a living power among those who believe it.  Belief is trust; it indicates an influence in how one lives.  So belief becomes evident in actions.

The fault of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized was that their belief was self-serving.  It made them look good to themselves and many others, but it was a disguise for spiritual rot.  Jesus calls us not to be tombs or spiritual memorials, but living testimonies to him.  Once in a while we might have to say something, but our actions ought to do most of the talking.

The aspect of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that bothers me most is its preoccupation with individual salvation at the expense of the well-being of one’s community and society.  I have had conversations with people possessed of this spiritual understanding.  Many of them do not care if the world burns; they have Jesus.  (Someone expressed this sentiment to me a few years ago, without embarrassment.)  According to this point of view, social justice can take a back seat as long as a man’s hair is not too long, a woman’s skirt is not too short, and someone is learning that he or she will go to Hell unless he or she comes to Jesus.  Without dismissing the necessity of Jesus (I am a Christian.), I prefer a holistic gospel.  It is pointless to cure one person of spiritual sickness and not care about societal ills.  Indeed, we humans are not separate from our societies.  And love of God is more effective than fear of damnation in drawing one into a spiritually healthy relationship with God.

Disclaimer, for the sake of accuracy:  Many evangelical Christians are quite concerned about social justice and responsible ecology.  I applaud them.  Unfortunately, some of their co-religionists criticize them for the breadth of their concerns.

May we–you and I–exhibit the living power of God to all, so that all who seek it and cross paths with us will see it working within us.  And, to borrow a line from St. Francis of Assisi, may we preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 6, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-1/

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