Archive for the ‘Tobit’ Category

Sarah’s Plight and Her Prayer for Death   Leave a comment

Above:  Asmodeus, by Louis Le Breton

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART IV

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Tobit 3:7-16

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Tobit had endured ridicule and was suffering from blindness (2:8f).  Then he had falsely accused his wife Anna of having stolen a kid (2:12f) and prayed for death (3:1-6).  Themes repeated in the case of Sarah, falsely accused of having killed seven husbands while remaining a virgin (3:7f) and who also prayed for death (3:11-15).  The demon Asmodeus had killed the seven husbands on those wedding nights.

God assigned the archangel Raphael (“God has healed”) to solve the problems of Sarah and Tobit.

Various elements are at work in these verses.

  1. Seven is the number of completeness and fullness.  By the standards of her culture, Sarah would not marry again.
  2. The disgrace of suicide is a theme.  This theme occurs also in 1 Samuel 31:4-5; 2 Samuel 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18; and 2 Maccabees 14:41-46.  The prohibition against committing suicide is implicit in Genesis 9:4-6 and Exodus 20:13.
  3. Asmodeus is a reference to Aeshma Daeva, the Persian “demon of wrath.”  The Book of Tobit bears a resemblance to the Persian folktale “The Monster in the Bridal Chamber.”  In this folk tale, a serpent emerges from the mouth of the bride-princess on her wedding night and kills her husband.  Finally, after a series of husbands has perished, a stranger marries her and kills the serpent.
  4. God answers prayers.

Suicide is an emotionally difficult subject.  I have never accepted that people who commit suicide automatically go to Hell.  If suicide is a sin, it is not the unpardonable sin.  And those who, not in their right minds, commit suicide, are not responsible, at least not in the way one in one’s right mind is.

This matter is real, not theoretical, for me.  I am in my right mind.  I used to be in love with a woman who struggled with mental illnesses.  The mental illnesses overpowered her.  She was not in her right mind at the end.  Now I am, in my words, “not quite a widower.”  I pray that my beloved has found her peace.  I have yet to find mine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT GEORGE BUTZER, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF KAMEHAMEHA IV AND EMMAR ROOKE, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAI’I

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AND MICHAEL HOFER, U.S. HUTTERITE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS AND MARTYRS, 1918

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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 Courageous Civil Disobedience: Burying the Dead   Leave a comment

Above:  Tobit and Tobias Burying the Dead Israelite, by David Teneirs the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART II

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Tobit 1:16-2:8

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The proper burial of relatives and strangers is a high priority in the Hebrew Bible.  Apart from the obvious public health issue, this is a question of respect and kindness.  This theme of proper burial is present in this reading.

Tobit practiced works of kindness and respect to the living and the dead.  His good deeds of burying the dead illegally cost him his livelihood and property.  Then, after a coup d’état, Tobit got his job back.  He continued to act kindly toward the poor and to bury the dead.  The scene in 2:1-8 played out on a day of feasting and thanksgiving.  Amos 8:10, quoted in Tobit 2:6, condemned wealthy Israelites, who exploited the poor.  The suffering of Tobit resumed and became worse because of his compassion for the poor and the murdered.

I will pick up that thread in the next post in this series.

Ahikar was a wise man in the court of King Esarhaddon (reigned 681-669 B.C.E.).  In the Book of Tobit, he was the titular character’s nephew.  Ahikar was also the main character in an ancient text, The Story of Ahikar, with which the anonymous author of the Book of Tobit was certainly familiar.

Tobit 1:16-2:8 reminds us that sometimes suffering results from performing one’s duty before God.  Love of God requires love of other human beings.  Whenever social pressure or a law condemns or prohibits active love for and kindness toward human beings, that social pressure or law is unjust.  Tobit 1:16-2:8 teaches obedience to the law of God in all matters and at all times.  The summary of the divine law is to love God fully and to love one’s neighbors as oneself.  As Rabbi Hillel said, the rest is commentary we ought to study.  

The Law of Moses contains many culturally-specific examples of timeless principles.  We need, therefore, to distinguish between examples and principles.  If we do that, we will be well on the road on which we should travel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SOJOURNER TRUTH, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, MYSTIC, AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF H. BAXTER LIEBLER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE NAVAJO NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF THEODORE P. FERRIS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND AUTHOR

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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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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART III

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Daniel 3:1-31 (Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican)

Daniel 3:1-100 (Roman Catholic)

Daniel 3:1-97 (Eastern Orthodox)

The Song of the Three Young Men

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Satire is a feature of the Book of Daniel.  Satire is evident in the uses of humor and in the exaggeration of pomp, circumstance, and numbers.  The portrayal of kings as pompous, blustery, and dangerous people is another feature of Biblical satire.  The two main examples who come to my mind are Nebuchadnezzar II (the version from Daniel 1-4), the fictional Darius the Mede (Daniel 6, 9, and 11), and Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace unsinged and in the company of a mysterious fourth man is familiar.  It is one of the more commonly told Bible stories.  If one overlooks the references to Nebuchadnezzar II, one misses some satirical and theological material.

The story portrays King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool who defeats his own purposes.  (Aren’t we glad such people no longer exist?  I am being sarcastic.)  Verse 15 depicts the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch accidentally invoking YHWH, not any member of the Chaldean pantheon.  And, implausibly, the end of the chapter portrays the king deliberately blessing YHWH.  In other words, King Nebuchadnezzar II was no match for YHWH.

Who was the fourth man?  The Jewish Study Bible suggests that he was an angel.  Much of Christian tradition identifies him as the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  I prefer the first option.  Besides, Daniel 3 is a work of fiction.  It is folklore, not history.  And the authors were Jews who died before the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men fall between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24, depending on versification and one’s preferred definition of the canon of scripture.  Set inside the fiery furnace, the additional, Greek verses identify the fourth man as an angel.  

  • The Prayer of Azariah links the suffering of the three pious Hebrews to the sins of their people.  The text expresses communal remorse for and repentance of sin.  God’s punishments are just, the prayer asserts.
  • The Song of the Three Young Men is one of the literary highlights of the Old Testament.  Two canticles from Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) come from this Greek addition.  I adore the John Rutter setting of part of the Song of the Three Young Men (“Glory to you, Lord God of Our Fathers,” S236 in The Hymnal 1982).  The Song of the Three Young Men calls on all of nature to praise God and celebrates God’s deliverance of the three pious Hebrews.

The question of submission to authority is a thorny issue in the Bible, which provides us with no unified answer.  Many people cite Romans 13:1-7 to justify obedience to authority no matter what.  However, one can point to passages such as Exodus 1:15-22 (Shiphrah and Puah the midwives), Daniel 3, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the lions’ den), Tobit 1:16-22 (burying the dead in violation of a royal edict), and Luke 6:22-26 (from the Woes following the Beatitudes) to justify civil disobedience.  Perhaps the best way through this comes from Matthew 22:15-22.  We owe God everything.  We bear the image of God.  And we ought not to deny God that which belongs to God.  The proper application of that timeless principle varies according to circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULÉN AND HIS PROTÉGÉ AND COLLEAGUE, ANDERS NYGREN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XIV   1 comment

Above:  Caduceus

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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Numbers 21:4-9 or Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6

Psalm 74:1-2, 10-17

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

Mark 12:35-44

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The promise of divine punishment for evil and of divine deliverance of the oppressed and righteous on the great Day of the LORD is one example of judgment and mercy being like sides of a coin.  The deliverance of the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors, who are, in a way, victims of themselves.

If we behave as we should–revere God, take care of each other, et cetera–we will not have to fear punishment from God for not doing so.  We may incur punishment from human authorities, as in Tobit 1, but God did not promise a peaceful life in exchange for righteousness.

Two stories require more attention.

The cure in Numbers, cited also in John 3:14-15, in the context of the crucifixion of Jesus, our Lord and Savior’s glorification, according to the Fourth Gospel, is a textbook case of sympathetic magic.  It is related to Egyptian imagery of kingship, divinity, and protection from cobra saliva.  A commonplace visual echo is the caduceus, the medical symbol.

Pay attention to what precedes and follows Mark 12:41-44.  Our Lord and Savior’s condemnation of those who, among other things,

eat up the property of widows,

precedes the account of the widow giving all she had to the Temple.  Immediately in Chapter 13, we read a prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  I conclude that Jesus found the widow’s faith laudable yet grieved her choice.

May our lives bring glory to God and lead others to faith and discipleship.  May we, in our zeal, not go off the deep end and embarrass God and/or accidentally drive people away from God or get in the way of evangelism.  And may we never mistake an internal monologue for a dialogue with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/devotion-for-proper-28-year-b-humes/

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Integrity and Spiritual Crutches   Leave a comment

Above:  Crutch

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, who by your word works out marvelously the reconciliation of mankind:

Grant, we ask you, that following the example of our blessed Lord,

and walking in such a way as you choose,

we may be subject to you with all our hearts, and be united to each other in holy love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 96

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Amos 7:7-10, 14-16a

Psalm 41

Romans 6:15-23

Mark 10:17-27

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The reading from Mark 10 is about recognition of complete dependence on God, not about material wealth.  I argue that if the man had been poor, he would still have had a spiritual crutch Jesus would have told him to throw away.  Material wealth is inherently spiritually neutral.  Spiritual attachment to it is negative, however.  If we do not have that crutch, we have another one, to which we enslave ourselves.  If we insist on remaining so negatively attached, we pronounce judgment on ourselves.

Integrity (Psalm 41:12) is indeed laudable, but it does not always save us from troubles.  In fact, it gets us into difficulties sometimes.  That unfortunate reality informs the Book of Tobit.  Although our integrity cannot save us from our sins, we should never abandon ourselves to the base elements of our nature.  To be a good person is positive; it leads to much that is praiseworthy in the world and improves many lives.  What is not to like about that?  It can constitute faithful response to God, something lacking in much of the reading from Amos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Psalms 35 and 36   1 comment

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POST XIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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Bestir yourself to my defense,

My God and my Lord, to my combat.

–Psalm 35:23, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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The author of Psalm 35 endured persecution entailing slander and false testimony.  He, using military terms–attack, combat, shield, sword, et cetera–asked God for defense.

Regarding those foes one might quote Psalm 36:

Perversity inspires the wicked man within his heart;

There is no dread of God before his eyes.

–Verse 2, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

God, these and other texts tell us, will vindicate the godly and the innocent.  There remains, however, a vital question:  Why has God not vindicated these godly and innocent people yet?  This question, which I have addressed somewhat in a previous post, is one of the stickiest of wickets.  The answer has something to do with free will; other than that, I have little to say.  I refuse to provide and easy and false answer to a profound and difficult question.

I am a Christian.  Thus I follow Jesus, an innocent man whom the Roman Empire executed for allegedly being an insurrectionist.  The Passion narratives in the canonical Gospels make several points abundantly clear; one of these is the innocence of Christ and therefore the injustice of his execution.  Suffering for the sake of righteousness is a recurring theme in the Bible.  Aside from Christ, I think also of Jeremiah, Elijah, Tobit, and St. Paul then Apostle immediately.

Speaking of difficult matters, I also think of Job, who suffered because of a heavenly wager.

I am not here to defend God, who needs no defense from mere mortals.  Besides, attempts to defend God frequently result in bad theology, if not outright heresy.  Consider, O reader, the alleged friends of Job, whom the text depicts as being incorrect.  I am here, however, to encourage the repeated act of wrestling with God and with spiritually difficult issues.  Wrestling with them is better than giving up on them, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Did I Say Anything?   Leave a comment

You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against, the members of your race, but will love you neighbour as yourself.  I am Yahweh.

–Leviticus 19:18, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Do to no one what you would not want done to you.

–Tobit 4:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Judge your fellow-guest’s needs by your own,

be thoughtful in every way.

–Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 31:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets.

–Matthew 7:12, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Treat others as you would like people to treat you.

–Luke 6:31, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not abuse your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in the one commandment: You must love your neighbour as yourself.  If you go on snapping at one another and tearing one another to pieces, you will be eaten up by one another.

–Galatians 5:13-15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Once upon a time I cared deeply about having and winning arguments, whether they were by electronic or personal means.  I sought to have the last word and to convince the other person or people of the superiority of my logic, intellect, and morality.  I was, of course, obnoxious, arrogant, and presumptuous, among other adjectives.

Now I seldom argue with anyone.  Silence implies not consent but the fact that I consider an argument to be unnecessary and possibly unwise, or at least not productive.  Really, will two or more people shouting at each other change the minds of anyone participating in the shouting match?  This scenario is far removed from an intellectual discourse.  Furthermore, I do not enjoy having to endure someone shouting at me and possibly insulting my intelligence and/or morality, so I choose to obey the Golden Rule by not doing unto the other person as he or she is doing unto me.

Usually such an unpleasant event starts without me saying anything.  On the rare occasion that I something I say triggers the shouted monologue, I have not sought to offend anyone.  Only once (as far as I recall) has my question,

Did I say anything?,

halted the monologue.  Anyhow, I, heeding the advice in Galatians 5, refuse to shout in return most of the time.  I am a flawed human being, after all, so my track record is imperfect.  I do, however, know what I ought to do and seek to act accordingly.  My purpose is not to be right; it is to be correct.  My purpose is not to be right; it is to avoid being arrogant, presumptuous, and obnoxious, among other adjectives.

That is a worthy goal, one for which I depend on grace for any degree of success.  The ability to control one’s temper–to refrain from striking out physically and/or verbally, and to avoid doing anything else one will have cause to regret later–is a learned skill.  I recognize that I have an obligation to exercise my responsibility with regard to how I act in these situations.  I choose not to pour gasoline on a proverbial fire.  Nevertheless, I know that not responding in kind frequently angers the other person and makes the situation worse in the short term.  If I were to argue in return, however, that course of action would have the same result in the short term and make matters worse in the medium term, at least.  And, if I were to pretend to agree with a proposition I oppose, I would be a liar.  C’est la vie.  Sometimes the fire must burn out on its own.

The tongue, James 3:6 reminds us, is a flame.  One can extend that teaching to pens, pencils, Twitter posts, Facebook memes, remarks in the comments sections of websites, et cetera.  Much of the time remaining silent, not sharing a meme, or not posting a comment is the better course of action.  Not giving into one’s anger and acting badly is preferable to ignoring the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

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Divine Commandments, the Image of God, and Spiritual Struggles   1 comment

Tobias Saying Goodbye to His Father

Above:  Tobias Saying Good-Bye to His Father, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Image in the Public Domain

Tobit had suffered for acting faithfully and compassionately.  His son took great risks to help him in the Book of Tobit.

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:20-33 (January 3)

Proverbs 3:1-12 (January 4)

Psalm 110 (Both Days)

James 4:1-10 (January 3)

James 4:11-17 (January 4)

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

–Psalm 110:5-6, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days include generous amounts of divine judgment and mercy.  Obey God’s instructions, they say, and life will be better in the short, medium, and long terms than if one disregards them.  Some of the content in Proverbs leans in the direction of Prosperity Theology, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, as other passages of scripture indicate, those who suffer for the sake of righteousness do so in the company of God.

James 4, along with the rest of that epistle, focuses on human actions and their spiritual importance.  In the Letter of James faith is intellectual, hence the epistle’s theology of justification by works.  This does not contradict the Pauline theology of justification by faith, for faith, in Pauline theology, is inherently active.  These two parts of the New Testament depart from different places and arrive at the same destination.  Recognizing the image of God in others then treating them accordingly is a loving thing to do.  It is a faithful thing to do.  It is also a frequently dangerous thing to do.

This is a devotion for two days leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), the commemoration of the Magi, who put their lives on hold for years and took many risks.  The Epiphany is also a feast about the Gospel of Jesus going out to the Gentiles, of which I am one.  Part of the significance of the Feast of the Epiphany in my life is the reality that people (especially those different from me) are more than they appear; they are bearers of the divine image.  As such, they have inherent dignity and potential.  Sometimes I recognize this reality easily in others, but I have a certain difficulty sometimes in recognizing it in those who have wronged me.  That is a spiritual issue which James 4:11-12 tells me to address.  Grace is available for that, fortunately.

Each of us has spiritual failings to address.  May you, O reader, deal with yours successfully, by grace.  May you obey God’s commandments and live compassionately, regardless of the costs.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27:  THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/devotion-for-january-3-and-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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