Archive for the ‘Numbers 24’ Category

To the Church in Pergamum   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins of the Acropolis, Pergamum, Between 1888 and 1910

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-03770

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READING REVELATION, PART IV

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Revelation 2:12-17

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Pergamum, a prominent city, was the seat of the local Roman imperial Provincial Council.  Zeal for enforcing emperor-worship was great.  In the worldview of Revelation, Pergamum was on the short list of places where Satan was enthroned.

Nevertheless, the church there persisted in faith, even after the martyrdom of one of their own, Antipas.

The story of Balaam fills Numbers 22-24.  In that account, Balak, the King of Moab, afraid of the Israelites, hired the soothsayer Balaam to curse and weaken the Israelites.  Numbers 22-24 reveal that God prevented Balaam from doing that.  The Jewish tradition upon which Revelation 2:12-17 relied expanded on that story, making Balaam the prototype of evil people who taught Jews to commit idolatry and to eat food sacrificed to idols (Numbers 25:1-3).

The Nicolaitans favored accommodation to the dominant culture, the one John of Patmos considered evil.

The text of Revelation 2:12-17 is vague about the sins of some of the Christians there.  Some guesses are reasonable, though.  One may surmise that some Christians were eating food sacrificed to idols, for example.  One may recall 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 regarding that matter.

Revelation 2:12-17 concludes with a divine promise to the faithful–a blessed afterlife with spiritual manna.  This conclusion is similar to a passage from Second Baruch, from the Pseudepigrapha:

And it will happen at that time that the treasury of manna will come down again from on high, and they will eat of it in those years because these are they who will arrived at the consummation of time.

–2 Baruch 29:8, translated by A. F. J. Klijn

The white stone was blessed because it was white.  (White symbolized holiness in Revelation.  Jesus had white hair.  The martyrs wore white robes.  Et cetera.)  The stone bore a new name, perhaps that of Jesus.  The faithful, having remained faithful to Christ, received a positive afterlife.

Not conforming to the dominant culture can be difficult when one belongs to a powerless minority.  When that dominant culture oppresses one’s religion, conforming is an easy way out of persecution.  Human beings are inherently social creatures.  Conformity, therefore, is a powerful pressure.  When nonconformity is righteous, conformity is sinful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS; AND HIS COMPANIONS; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, CIRCA 250

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF PENNY LERNOUX, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC JOURNALIST AND MORAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, PHILOSOPHER, AND BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

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False Teachers, Part II   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XI

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2 Peter 1:1-21

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The pseudonymous author, of the second century C.E., presenting himself as St. Simon Peter, followed a practice his culture accepted.  This author, in the first chapter of Second Peter, made some timeless points.

I like the translation of verse 4 in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):

…to escape corruption in a world that is sunk in vice.

The variation of this line, in the Vulgate, translated as:

…the corruption of the vice that is in the world.

My survey of other translations yields mostly “lust” in lieu of “vice.”  However, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers:

…after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

In textual context and the cultural context of Hellenistic Judaism, the soul that escapes from this corruption participates in the divine nature and becomes incorrupt.  Christians, therefore, escape the fate of those who abuse their freedom and fall prey to corruption.

“Lust,” “vice,” or “evil desire,” depending on the translation one reads, indicates desire for the forbidden.  This desire may be sexual some or much of the time, but is not solely sexual in nature.  “Evil desire” is a fine translation, in this context.  Forbidden fruit is frequently the most popular kind of fruit.  My experience teaches me that forbidden fruits become boring relatively quickly.  The satisfying path for the long term is the road of the godly and the merely decent.  It is the road 1:5-11 explains.  Divine law does not forbid building up each other in mutuality.

The targets of 1:19-21 were false teachers.  Their class of people has existed at least since the days of the Hebrew Bible; prophets of God clashed with false prophets.  In the context of eschatology, apocalyptic expectations, “Peter” condemned false teachers who argued against the parousia.  The scriptural context of 2 Peter 1:19-21, replete with allusions to Numbers 24:17, Revelation 2:28, Revelation 22:16, Jeremiah 23:16-22, Ezekiel 13:1-7, Genesis 40:8, and 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 10:43, made the points of eschatology and the divine source of prophecy plain.

False teachers and prophets persist.  Many identify themselves as orthodox Christians.  Some of these retain audiences despite having made predictions of the Second Coming and lived long enough to witness the failure of their predictions.  I leave details of the parousia entirely to God.  Trying to live properly one day at a time can prove sufficiently challenging much of the time.  I have no time to spare to obsess about prophecy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS

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The Sixth Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Zechariah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART X

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Zechariah 5:1-4

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The sixth vision (5:1-4) was of a flying scroll about 30 feet long and about 15 feet wide.  The scroll was about the size of the portico of the Great Hall of the First Temple (1 Kings 6:3).  The purpose of the curse on this remarkable scroll was to remove all crime–namely, theft and perjury–from the land.  There was no room such transgressions in the ideal society to come–in either Judah or the world, depending on the translation of 5:3.

Zechariah 5:1-4 get us, O reader, into the realm of curses.  I, as a modern person grounded in science, give them barely a thought, except to dismiss them as superstitions.  I do not think, therefore, as the authors of Zechariah 5:1-4; Judges 17:2; Numbers 5; and Deuteronomy 29:19 did.  The importance of a curse, Biblically, relates to that of an oath.  (See Leviticus 5:20-24; Proverbs 29:24; Exodus 22:9-11/22:8-10; Judges 11:29-40; Matthew 5:33-37; et cetera.)  The importance of curses also relates to that of blessings, as in Numbers 27:1-45; Numbers 22-24; et cetera.

The emphasis on maintaining the integrity of the community of Zechariah 5:1-4 is a timeless principle, though.  May more people act according to mutuality, one of the pillars of the Law of Moses.

The importance of blessings, curses, and oaths in the Bible points to another timeless principle:  words matter.  Notice the mention of perjury in Zechariah 5:1-4, O reader.  One may recall Daniel 13, the story of Susanna, in which perjury almost cost an innocent woman her life.  The penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses is:

If the witness is a false witness, and has falsely accused the other, you shall do to the false witness just as that false witness planned to do to the other.  Thus you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 19:18b-19, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

For more commentary about the importance and power of words, read James 3:1-12.  That which the author of that epistle wrote goes double or triple in the age of social media.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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Announcement of Judgment, with Confidence in God’s Future   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART VII

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Micah 6:1-7:20

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A motif in Hebrew prophetic literature in God making a legal case against a group of people.  That motif recurs at the beginning of Chapter 6.

Another motif in the Hebrew Bible is that God is like what God has done.  In other words, divine deeds reveal God’s character.  Likewise, human deeds reveal human character.  We read reminders of divine deliverance in Micah 6:4-5.  These verses call back to Exodus 1:1-15:21; Numbers 22:1-24:25; and Joshua 3:1-5:12.  God, who is just, expects and demands human justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God.

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

–Micah 6:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Not surprisingly, no English-language translation captures the full meaning of the Hebrew text.  For example, to walk humbly or modestly with God is to walk wisely or completely with God.  Doing this–along with loving goodness and doing justice–is more important than ritual sacrifices, even those mandated in the Law of Moses.  This theme occurs also in Hosea 6:4-6.  One may also recall the moral and ethical violations of the Law of Moses condemned throughout the Book of Amos.  Micah 6 and 7 contain condemnations of such sins, too.  The people will reap what they have sown.

To whom can they turn when surrounded by corruption and depravity?  One can turn to and trust God.  In the fullest Biblical and creedal sense, this is what belief in God means.  In the Apostles’ Creed we say:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth….

In the Nicene Creed, we say:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

Sometimes belief–trust–is individual.  Sometimes it is collective.  So are sin, confession, remorse for sins, repentance, judgment, and mercy.  In Micah 7:7-13, belief–trust–is collective.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the case of Jerusalem, personified.  The figure is Jerusalem, at least in the later reading of Micah.  The reference to Assyria (7:12) comes from the time of the prophet.

“Micah” (1:1) is the abbreviated form of “Micaiah,” or “Who is like YHWH?”  That is germane to the final hymn of praise (7:18-20).  It begins:

Who is a God like You….

–Micah 7:18a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born and raised in exile, within the borders of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Imagine that you had heard that the Babylonian Exile will end soon, and that you will have the opportunity to go to the homeland of which you have only heard.  Imagine that you have started to pray:

Who is a God like you, who removes guilt

and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;

Who does not persist in anger forever,

but instead delights in mercy,

And will again have compassion on us,

treading underfoot our iniquities?

You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;

You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and loyalty to Abraham,

As you have sworn to our ancestors from days of old.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Imagine, O reader, how exuberant you would have been.

As R. B. Y. Scott wrote regarding the Book of Hosea:

[The prophet] speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final word remains with mercy.

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

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Micah.  I invite you to join me as I read and write about First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL GERHARDT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATINALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AMELIA BLOOMER, U.S. SUFFRAGETTE

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHARLES ROPER, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF OTTAWA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOJZE GROZDE, SLOVENIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1943

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The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Bread Line, by Nicolae Tonitza

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Easter, 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 God, from whom all good things do come; grant to us thy humble servants,

that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be right,

and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 173-174

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Numbers 24:10-23

Psalms 135:1-18

James 1:22-27

John 16:23-33

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God is in control, despite appearances to the contrary.  The prophet Balaam could not speak anything other than what God commanded.  This upset the men men paying Balaam to utter blessings they wanted to hear.  The author of Psalm 135, praising God for being good, recounted instances of God smiting enemies of Israel.  Jesus went to the cross, but somehow he had already conquered the world.  Jesus also did not stay dead for long.

James 1:27 leads into a section (in Chapter 2) on respecting the poor with these words:

Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this:  coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I do not know about you, O reader, but I live in a society that does not respect the poor.  The Letter of James teaches that faith without works is dead, and that works reveal faith.  By that standard, my society does not respect the poor.   Even many of the poor do not respect the poor.  The teaching of various Hebrew prophets regarding such disregard for the impoverished concludes with divine judgment.

How is that for justice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Rebuilding the Culture of Judah, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Jerusalem at the Time 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 XX

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Nehemiah 13:1-31

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There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her;

she shall not be overthrown;

God shall help her at the break of day.

The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken;

God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This chapter contains separate elements.  I will write about each one in order.

13:1-3, pertaining to the ban against intermarrying with Ammonites, contains allusions to Deuteronomy 23:3-5 and Numbers 22-24.  One may also look forward to Ezra 9-10.  Perhaps one mistakes such an order for xenophobia.  Yet, if one reads the Hebrew Bible and notices how after intermarriage with Gentiles (with their own gods) led to national idolatry.  Then perhaps one will understand the reason for the ban.

The events of 13:4-9 predated those of 13:1-3.  (Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in Nehemiah.)  Housing trouble-maker Tobiah (from the readings for the previous post in this series) in the Temple was a terrible idea.  Evicting Tobiah and purifying the rooms was necessary and proper.

Restoring the distribution of the means of supporting the Levites was also crucial.

The Sabbath is a day of essential rest.  The Sabbath is an indication of freedom.  The Sabbath is a gift.

Old, bad habits are difficult to break.  Human beings are creatures of habit.  May we nurture good habits.

Literally, the Book of Nehemiah ends with 13:31.  However, given that consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of Nehemiah, we will proceed chronologically to 9:38-10:39.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

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A Covenant People, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  The Calling of Peter and Andrew, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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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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Almighty and Everliving God, mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth Thy right hand to help and defend us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 129

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Numbers 24:10-17

Psalm 33:6-22

Romans 5:1-5

Mark 1:14-28

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Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;

Let the search for Thy salvation

Be our glory evermore.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

Serving Thee whom we adore,

Serving Thee whom we adore.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), “God of Grace and God of Glory” (1930)

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God is sovereign, despite appearances to the contrary.  Innocent and faithful people suffer.  Many of them died unjustly.  Yet, ultimately, that world order will pass away and the fully-realized Kingdom of God will replace it.  The Gospel of Matthew, which uses “Kingdom of God” four times, calls the fully-realized Kingdom the Kingdom of Heaven.  (See:  Jonathan Pennington.)

Do we accept the sovereignty of God?  Doing so is difficult much of the time, after all.  “The sovereignty of God” becomes an empty platitude too easily and frequently.  I understand why.  Perhaps you, O reader, also understand this.

One challenge of faith is to move beyond what is and to hope for what can be.  This requires imagination sufficient to act positively, therefore, to improve the world, if only slightly.  This is one task of a covenant people–to cooperate with God, to leave the world better than we found it.  We have no excuse for folding up our arms in resignation and despair when we should reach them out to others.

God will save the world.  God is sovereign.  Thanks be to God!  May we not forget our duties, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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Faithful Servants of God, Part II   1 comment

Annunciation El Greco

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 24:1-14

Psalm 48

Luke 1:26-38

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What we had heard we saw for ourselves

in the city of our God,

in the city of Yahweh Sabaoth,

which God has established for ever.

–Psalm 48:8, The New Revised Standard Version (1985)

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The appropriate response to the call of God is obedience.

The cultural assumption in the background of the story of Balaam the prophet in the Book of Numbers is that words have power.  In the story, when Balak hired Balaam to curse his (Balak’s) enemies, he (Balak) thought that those curses from the mouth of Balaam would bring misfortune upon those foes.  Instead, Balaam, despite earlier intentions, uttered what God, not Balak, instructed, much to Balak’s anger.

At the Annunciation the Blessed Mother said, after learning that she was to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos,

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

–Luke 1:38, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

May each of us, in our individual circumstances, say that with Mother Mary.  And may we say, as Balaam did to the angered Balak,

What the LORD says, that I must say.

–Numbers 24:13b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

A faithful response to God requires nothing less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/devotion-for-wednesday-after-pentecost-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted February 25, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Numbers 24, Psalm 48

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The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part II   1 comment

Biblical World

Above:  Map of Ancient Israel

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 24:15-19

Psalm 72

Luke 1:67-79

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May his rule extend from sea to sea,

from the river to the ends of the earth.

–Psalm 72:8, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Balaam was a Hebrew prophet who consented to prophesy for hire, to say what his new, temporary employer wanted him to say.  At the time many people thought that blessings and curses had power, so, in the context of Numbers 24, Balaam’s words mattered.  God worked through Balaam, much to the chagrin of the prophet’s temporary employer.  The Hebrews, Balaam proclaimed, would rule the Transjordan region.  That prophecy might have been an addition to the original story of Balaam (complete with the talking donkey), for, at the time of King David, the Kingdom of Israel conquered Moab and Edom.  If the prophecy in question is of later origin, my point remains unaltered.  That point is that, according to the text, the Hebrews would triumph over their enemies and that the closest thing to the Kingdom of God on the Earth would win its battles.

The hope for a literal Kingdom of God on the Earth is ancient.  Many authors of the Hebrew Scriptures echoed it repeatedly, as in Psalm 72, a coronation text.  In time the aspirations of Psalm 72 became messianic.  The prophecy of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79 fit in well with the desire for a different world order.

My reading in Biblical studies has taught me much about the Kingdom of God.  It has been partially present on the Earth for a long time.  Attempting (as I have done) to identify how long the Kingdom of God has been present on the Earth is probably not the best intellectual exercise to undertake, for, strictly speaking, God has not, at any point in the human past, been closer to or farther away from us than at any other point in the human past.  The Kingdom of God, therefore, has not been nearer to us or more distant from us at any point of time than at another.  Nevertheless, we await the fully unveiled Kingdom of God.

As we wait for, as members of many preceding generations have awaited the fully realized Kingdom of God, may we never lose sight of the partially realized Kingdom of God among us and our roles in it.  May we love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we put away fear, hatred, bigotry, and everything else that separates us from accomplishing the goal of beloved community.  May we respect the image of God in each other then act accordingly.  Whenever we help the least of those among us we aid Christ.  Likewise, whenever we refuse to help the least of those among us, we refused to aid Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20–THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/devotion-for-january-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted September 21, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Numbers 24, Psalm 72

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Numbers and Luke, Part XI: Atonement   1 comment

pieta-michelangelo

Above:  Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

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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 23:4-28 (Wednesday)

Numbers 24:1-25 (Thursday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–Wednesday)

Psalm 97 (Morning–Thursday)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–Wednesday)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–Thursday)

Luke 22:47-71 (Wednesday)

Luke 23:1-25 (Thursday)

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How can I damn whom God has not damned,

How doom when the LORD has not doomed?

–Numbers 23:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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It would have been nice (per Numbers 31:16) if Balaam had maintained that attitude.

Balaam, in Numbers 23 and 24, did as God instructed him, to King Balak’s dismay.  This was risky in the short term, I suppose, but the two merely parted company. Thus that part of the story ended.

Among my essential books is A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996), by Linwood Urban.  Father/Professor Urban’s volume is a wonderful resource for reading about Christian theological development.  These doctrines which we Christians affirm, refute, or discuss did not fall fully formed from Heaven.  No, theologians wrote and debated.  Bishops gathered at council and synods.  And, more often than not, they got it right.

Urban devotes a chapter to the doctrine of the Atonement.  He contextualizes it in Scripture and theology.  And he traces three understandings of the Atonement in the Bible and the writings of Church Fathers.  To summarize:

Reconciliation or atonement is said to be accomplished by the Incarnation itself, by the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary, and by the conquest and defeat of the Devil.

–page 106

I recommend reading Urban’s chapter for full citations to the Bible and named Church Fathers.  These are matters of theological history.  Thus the existence of more than one ancient interpretation of the mechanics of the Atonement in Christian theology is a matter of objectively correct and confirmed history, not opinion.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

As for me, I grew up learning St. Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Jesus took my place on the cross, people told me.  This does not satisfy me, for it makes God seem like a vindictive thug.

I will not be satisfied until I see my son tortured and executed,

I imagine such a deity saying or thinking.  I recognize the Conquest of Satan theory in the Scriptures, and I hear echoes of the Incarnation-as-Atonement in the Gospels before their Passion narratives begin.  But we must come to terms with the death of Jesus.  That even played a vital role in the Atonement process.  Yet me must not stop there, for dead Jesus did not redeem us; resurrected Jesus did.

My conclusion follows:  The entire earthly life of Jesus was necessary for the Atonement to occur.  The Incarnation was vital, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  And Jesus was one whom God had neither damned nor doomed.  No, his death pointed out the futility and cruelty of scapegoating people.  And his Resurrection from the dead showed God’s power, which God had demonstrated many times.  Now and again, however, we mere mortals seem to need reminders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-wednesday-and-thursday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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