Archive for the ‘2 Kings 18’ Category

With Equity and Justice for All   1 comment

Above:  Nativity of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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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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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

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Christmas and Easter remind me of graduation in a way; orations at each of these events are usually rehashes of old material.  That is not necessarily negative, of course.  Ministers, of all people, must be keenly aware that they are delivering Christmas or Easter sermon #9, frequently repeated.  How can reality be otherwise?

Isaiah 9:2-7 (or 9:1-6, if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox) is a familiar passage.  Like so many familiar passages, it contains subtexts one might easily ignore when going on autopilot.  Depending on how one reads Hebrew verb tenses, the ideal king described is most likely Hezekiah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), son of Ahaz.  One can read of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32.  One finds, however, that Hezekiah, although pious, was a deeply flawed man.  The ideal king of the Davidic Dynasty, then, remains a hoped-for figure for many.  Christian tradition identifies this prophecy with Jesus, born in Luke 2.

God is the King of the Earth, and salvation is available to all people, we read.  Yet we know that many people refuse and will reject that offer.  We also know that grace, although free to us, is never cheap to us, if it is to be effective.  Divine generosity to us imposes certain moral obligations upon us.  We have mandates, for example, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That high calling leads to legal jeopardy sometimes, especially when the “king,” regardless of title, does not strive to be an ideal ruler and certainly falls far short of that standard.

Amid the reigns of wicked potentates and exploitative economic-judicial-educational systems I write

Merry Christmas!

to all of you.  Remember that God is in charge and will judge people with equity and justice.  That is good news for some and terrifying news for others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KUDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/devotions-for-christmas-eve-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Golden Rule, Part II   1 comment

Golden Rule

Above:   The Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 18:1-8, 28-36 (Thursday)

2 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37 (Friday)

Isaiah 7:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-9 (All Days)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-29 (Friday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Saturday)

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Put your trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

–Psalm 37:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days tell of the mercy–pity, even–of God.  In 2 Kings and Isaiah God delivers the Kingdom of Judah from threats.  The core message of Revelation is to remain faithful during persecution, for God will win in the end.  Finally, Jesus takes pity on two blind men and heals them in Matthew 20.

On the other side of mercy one finds judgment.  The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17 and 2 Chronicles 32.  The Kingdom of Judah went on to fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36.  The fall of Babylon (the Roman Empire) in Revelation was bad news for those who had profited from cooperation with the violent and economically exploitative institutions thereof (read Chapter 18).

In an ideal world all would be peace and love.  We do not live in an ideal world, obviously.  Certain oppressors will insist on oppressing.  Some of them will even invoke God (as they understand God) to justify their own excuse.  Good news for the oppressed, then, will necessarily entail bad news for the oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors hurt themselves also, for whatever they do to others, they do to themselves.  That is a cosmic law which more than one religion recognizes.  Only victims are present, then, and some victims are also victimizers.

Loving our neighbors is much better, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Attachments and Idolatry   1 comment

Shalmaneser V

Above:   Shalmaneser V

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings by your continual help,

that all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you,

may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy,

bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 17:24-41 (Monday)

2 Kings 18:9-18 (Tuesday)

2 Kings 18:19-25; 19:1-7 (Wednesday)

Psalm 101 (All Days)

1 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (Monday)

1 Timothy 4:6-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 18:18-30 (Wednesday)

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Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy;

those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,

and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house,

and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land,

that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the LORD.

–Psalm 101:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That depiction of God is consistent with the one in 2 Kings 17:25, in which, after the fall of the Kingdom of Israel to kill the Assyrians, God sent lions to kill some of the godless settlers.  That story troubles me, for, although I do not mistake God for a divine warm fuzzy, I do not confuse God for a vengeful thug either.

The emphasis in the composite pericope from 2 Kings, however, is on King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.) and the predicament of his realm.  Judah had to pay tribute to Assyria, after all.  Furthermore, Rabshakeh, the envoy of King Shalmaneser V of Assyria (reigned 727-722 B.C.E.), blasphemed, claiming that God was on the side of Assyria and that the people should disregard Hezekiah, who advised trusting in God for deliverance.  In 2 Kings 19 God saved Judah from Assyrian forces.

We should trust in God, laying aside our attachments to fear, political power, military might, false teaching, and wealth, among other things.  In that list the only inherently negative item is false teaching.  Fear can save one’s life and protect one’s health, but it can also lead to violence, hatred, bigotry, and insensitivity to human needs.  Wealth is morally neutral, but how one relates to it is not.  The same principle applies to political power and military might.

Each of us has attachments which distract from God.  These attachments are therefore idols in so far as they distract from God.  We might not need to abstain from certain behaviors or goods to get closer to God, but we do need at least to redefine our relationships to them.  That is difficult, but it is possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-18-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace and Obligations   1 comment

mosesandsnake

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 21:4-9 (11th Day)

Isaiah 65:17-25 (12th Day)

Psalm 128 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (11th Day)

Romans 4:6-13 (12th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-third-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/proper-28-year-c/

Hebrews 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Romans 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/devotion-for-january-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/week-of-proper-23-friday-year-1/

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Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in the ways of the LORD!

–Psalm 128:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The story in Numbers 21:4-9 is a good place to start this post.  It sent me scurrying to commentaries.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) tell me of the Rabbinic discomfort with the sympathetic magic in the account.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2011), makes the connection between the bronze serpent and the incident concerning the snake in the court of the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10).  Friedman also refers to 2 Kings 18:4, in which King Hezekiah orders the destruction of the bronze serpent, to which some people had been burning incense.  Volume 2 (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible says that the bronze serpent was an example of spiritual homeopathy or at least an example thereof, one which

rests on a sound basis in human experience

whereby

wounds heal wounds.

–page 243

The best, most helpful analysis, however, comes from Walther Eichrodt, as translated by J. A. Baker:

The terrifying power of God, who will turn his weapons of leprosy, serpent and plague (cf. Ex. 4.1-7, Num. 21:6ff; 11:33) even against his own people leaves men in no doubt that the covenant he has created is no safe bulwark, behind which they can make cunning use of the divine power to prosecute their own interests.  The covenant lays claim to the whole man and calls him to a surrender with no reservations.

Theology of the New Testament, Volume One (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1961), pages 44-45

Thus this post continues a line of thought present in its immediate predecessor in order of composition.  God calls the blessed people to function as blessings to others.  The faithful, redeemed people of God have a mandate to cooperate with God in reforming society for the common good and divine glory.  In the Bible righteousness and justice are the same thing.  Hence we read prophets’ condemnations of economic exploitation and judicial corruption as opposites of righteousness.  To live in the household of God is to have both privileges and duties.

One task for those with a slave mentality is to abandon it and to embrace freedom in God.  I know that eating the same thing repeatedly gets old rapidly, but at least the Israelites were not starving.  God does provide; gratitude is in order, even if manna is crystallized insect feces.  Often our mentalities stand between us and God, whose manna does come with the condition of servitude to the source.  What we receive from God might not be what we want or expect, but it is what we need.  May we accept it gratefully and accept the obligation to serve God and leave our world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Human Weaknesses, the Kingdom of God, and Kudzu   1 comment

17546v

Above:  An Abandoned Barn Overwhelmed by Kudzu, 1980

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011635740/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-17546

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 22:15-25 (Thursday)

Genesis 27:30-38 (Friday)

Psalm 40:1-11 (both days)

Galatians 1:6-12 (Thursday)

Acts 1:1-5 (Friday)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 27:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/devotion-for-the-fifteenth-and-sixteenth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/proper-4-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

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Blessed are those who have put their trust in the Lord:

who have not turned to the proud,

or to those who stray after false gods.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Shebna was a high-ranking official in the court of the King of Judah.  This royal steward, according to Isaiah, was unworthy of the position he held and of the elaborate tomb he had had built for himself.  The prophet predicted Shebna’s demotion and the promotion of Eliakim to the post of steward.  As the notes on page 826 of The Jewish Study Bible tell me, Isaiah 36:3; Isaiah 37:2; and 2 Kings 18:18 refer to Eliakim as royal steward.  Isaiah also predicted the downfall of Eliakim, who was also vulnerable to human weaknesses and failings.

Human weaknesses and failings were on full display in Genesis 27:30-38.  Certainly Rebecca and Jacob did not emerge from the story pristine in reputation.  And St. Paul the Apostle, a great man of history and of Christianity, struggled with his ego.  He knew many of his weaknesses and failings well.

Fortunately, the success of God’s work on the planet does not depend upon we mere mortals.  Yes, it is better if we cooperate with God, but the Kingdom of God, in one of our Lord and Savior’s parables, is like a mustard tree–a large, generally pesky weed which spreads where it will.  Whenever I ponder that parable I think about the kudzu just an short drive from my home.  The Kingdom of God is like kudzu.  The divine message of Jesus is like kudzu.  I take comfort in that.

Yet we humans, despite our weaknesses and failings, can cooperate with God.  It is better that way.  It is better for us, certainly.  And it is better for those whom God will reach through us.  The transforming experience of cooperating with God will prove worth whatever price it costs us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-thursday-and-fridaybefore-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Mercy of Flexibility   1 comment

Above:  King Hezekiah with the Prophet Isaiah

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Isaiah 38:1-6, 21 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In those days Hezekiah fell dangerously ill.  The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him,

Thus said the LORD:  Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not get well.

Thereupon Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD.

Please, O LORD, he said, remember how I have walked before You sincerely and wholeheartedly, and have done what is pleasing to You.

And Hezekiah wept profusely.

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah:

Go and tell Hezekiah:  Thus said the LORD, the God of your father David:  I have heard your prayer, and I have seen your tears.  I hereby add fifteen years to your life.  I will also rescue  you and this city from the hands of the king of Assyria.  I will protect this city.

…Isaiah said,

Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the rash, and he will recover….

Psalm 6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,

do not punish me in your wrath.

2  Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;

heal me, LORD, for my bones are racked.

3  My spirit shakes with terror;

how long, O LORD, how long?

4  Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;

save me for your mercy’s sake?

5  For in death no one remembers you;

and who will give you thanks in the grave?

6  I grow weary because of my groaning;

every night I drench my bed

and flood my couch with tears.

7  My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

8  Depart from me, all evildoers,

for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

9  The LORD has heard my supplication;

the LORD accepts my prayer.

10  All my enemies shall be confounded and quake with fear;

they shall turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Matthew 12:1-8 (An American Translation):

At that same time Jesus walked through the wheat fields, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of wheat and eat them.  But the Pharisees saw it and said to him,

Look!  Your disciples are doing something which it is against the Law to do on the Sabbath!

But he said to them,

Did you ever read what David did, when he and his companions were hungry?  How is it that he went into the House of God and that they ate the Presentation Loaves which it is against the Law for him and his companions to eat, or for anyone except the priests?  Or did you ever read in the Law how the priests in the Temple are not guilty when they break the Sabbath?  But I tell you, there is something greater than  the Temple here!  But if you knew what the saying means, ‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for,’ you would not have condemned  men who are not guilty.  For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 10:  Friday, Year 1 (For More Regarding the Matthew 12 Reading):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

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King Hezekiah of Judah received much positive press in the Bible.  He “did what was pleasing to the LORD,” “abolished the shrines and smashed the pillars and cut down the sacred post.”  (2 Kings 18:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)  And, in the words of 2 Kings 18:5-6 (also from TANAKH), Hezekiah

trusted only in the LORD the God of Israel; there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him.  He clung to the LORD; he did not turn away from hallowing Him, but kept the commandments that the LORD had given to Moses.

So “the LORD was always with him.”  (2 Kings 18:7a, TANAKH)

This day’s reading from Isaiah 38 occurs in the context of 2 Kings 20, to which it bears many similarities.  In Isaiah 38 we read of God giving the king advance notice of his impending death, Hezekiah weeping “profusely,” and God extending the king’s life by fifteen years.  Back in 2 Kings 20, God then tells Hezekiah of the impending Babylonian Exile, to which Hezekiah says to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.”  At least safety was assured for his time, he thought.  (2 Kings 20:19)

What are we supposed to make of this story?  I have checked some sources, and what follows is some of what I found.  The note in The Jewish Study Bible reads,

Contrition accompanied by prayer can effect a change in God’s decision.

The Orthodox Study Bible quotes Saint John Cassian (circa 360-circa 435):

What can be clearer than this proof that out of consideration for mercy and goodness the Lord would rather break His word, and instead of the prearranged limit of death, extend the life of him who prayed for fifteen years, rather than be found inexorable because of His unchangeable decree?

The NIV Study Bible note affirms both the sovereignty of God and the appropriateness of prayer.  The New Interpreter’s Bible stresses the connection between the well-being of Hezekiah and that of his realm, for God delivered both of them from the Assyrian king, a blasphemer.

Thus Hezekiah’s personal recovery is the working out of God’s will in microcosm.  (Volume III, page 271)

Now I bring the reading from Matthew 12 into consideration.  Jesus says in Matthew 12:1-8 that God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  In so doing he quotes Hosea 6:6.  Keeping the Sabbath, or Lord says, ought not to entail involuntary hunger.  Spiritual “purity” is not holiness when it imposes needless physical hardships on others.

Putting these two readings together and pondering their meanings leads to a beautiful lesson.  Mercy is a greater virtue than rigid consistency.  God modeled this lesson with regard to Hezekiah, and Jesus demonstrated it relative to Sabbath laws and the need to eat properly each day.  People and their needs matter far more than abstract rules.

Here is a lesson which is applicable in many circumstances in daily life.  I strive to live according to it in my work as a teacher.  (I hope that I succeed more often than I fail.)  Being a decent human being (in my case, as a Christian, for Jesus and the glory of God) is preferable to acting like an inflexible person who quotes syllabus provisions in a lawyer-like fashion while students suffer unnecessarily.  Grace is a wondrous gift; may we extend it to others without pretending that no rules mean anything and that there are no consequences for misdeeds.  This is the balance I must strike:  respecting the efforts of pupils who obey the rules while not treating every error as if it is a proper cause of catastrophe.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREW KIM TAEGON, PAUL CHONG HASANT, AND THEIR COMPANIONS MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF C. (CHALRES) H. (HAROLD) DODD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

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

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

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on September 20, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-2/

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