Archive for the ‘Zechariah 9’ Category

A Royal Nation   1 comment

Above:  Cross and Crown

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 55:1-5

Psalm 104:25-31 (LBW) or Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 (LW)

Romans 8:35-39

Matthew 14:13-21

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Gracious Father,

your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread which gives life to the world. 

Give us this bread,

that he may live in us and we in him,

Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

OR

Almighty God, judge of us all,

you have placed in our hands the wealth we call our own. 

Give us such wisdom by your Spirit

that our possessions may not be a curse in our lives,

but an instrument for blessing;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church;

and because it cannot continue in safety without your help,

protect and govern it always by your goodness;

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 73

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The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, present in all four canonical Gospels, is a topic about which I have written many times during the years I have been composing lectionary-based posts.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts for more about that event.

Second Isaiah applied the Davidic Covenant to the people of Judah, delivered from the Babylonian Exile.  He wrote that the Jewish people had royal status, not a human king.  This transformation of the Davidic Covenant accounted for the fall of the Davidic Dynasty in 587/586 B.C.E.  Historically, that dynasty never returned to power.  Second Isaiah, having democratized the Davidic Covenant, did not include an idealized future king–the Messiah–in his theology.  This vision of the future contrasted with Second Zechariah, who wrote of such a Davidic monarch in Zechariah 9:9-12.

God provided for that royal nation.  The authors of Psalms 104 and 136 also understood God as being active in nature and history.  The theme of God feeding people carried over into the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power in the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

This is excellent news!  Do you, O reader, trust that this is true?

Psalm 23 tells us that divine kindness and faithful love either pursue or accompany (depending on the translation) us, even in the presence of our enemies.  God is on our side.  Are we on God’s side?

The people of God are a royal nation.  May we think and act accordingly, loving God fully and our neighbors (all people) as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post

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Yokes   1 comment

Above:  A Yoke

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 45:1-2 (3-13), 14-22 (LBW) or Psalm 119:137-144 (LW)

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:25-30

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God of glory, Father of love, peace comes from you alone. 

Send us as peacemakers and witnesses to your kingdom,

and fill our hearts with joy in your promises of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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Grant, Lord, that the course of this world

may be so governed by your direction

that your Church may rejoice

in serving you in godly peace and quietness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 68

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Zechariah 9:9-12 depicts a future scene, in which the Messiah, an ideal king, approaches Jerusalem at the culmination of history–the Day of the LORD.  This is the scene Jesus reenacted during his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, without being a regnant type of Messiah.

The image of YHWH as king exists in the assigned readings from Psalms.

In Romans 7:15-25a we read St. Paul the Apostle’s confession of his struggles with sins.  We may all relate to those struggles.

My tour of the readings brings me to Matthew 11:25-30 and the topic of yokes.

Literally, a yoke was a wooden frame, loops of ropes, or a rod with loops of rope, depending on the purpose.  (See Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; and Jeremiah 28:10.)  A yoke fit over the neck of a draft animal or the necks of draft animals.  Alternatively, a captive or a slave wore a yoke.  (See Jeremiah 28:10; 1 Kings 12:9; 2 Chronicles 10:4; and 1 Timothy 6:1).  Also, a yoked pair of oxen was a yoke.  (See 1 Samuel 11:7; 1 Kings 19:21; Luke 14:19).

Metaphorically, a yoke had a variety of meanings, depending on the circumstances.  It often symbolized servitude and subjection.  Forced labor was an unjust yoke (1 Kings 11:28; 12:11, 14).  Slavery was a yoke (Sirach 33:27).  Hardship was a yoke (Lamentations 3:27; Sirach 40:1).  The oppression and humiliation of one nation by another was the yoke of bondage (Jeremiah 27:8; 28:4; Hosea 11:7; Deuteronomy 28:48; and Isaiah 47:6).  To break out of subjugation or slavery was to break the yoke (Jeremiah 28:2; Isaiah 9:4; 14:25).  God promised to break the yoke of Egypt in Ezekiel 30:18.  To break away from God was to break God’s yoke (Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5; Sirach 51:39).  Sin was also a yoke (Lamentations 1:14).

The yokes of God and Christ carry positive connotations.  The yoke of obedience to God is easy.  It is also the opposite of the yoke of subordination and subjugation.  This positive yoke is the yoke in Matthew 11:28-30.  It is the yoke St. Paul the Apostle wore (Philippians 4:3).  It is the yoke in Psalm 119:137-144.

Draw near to me, you who are untaught, 

and lodge in my school.

Why do you say you are lacking in these things,

and why are your souls very thirsty?

I opened my mouth and said,

Get these things for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under the yoke,

and let your souls receive instruction;

it is to be found close by.

See with your eyes that I have labored little

and found for myself much rest.

Get instruction with a large sum of silver

and you will gain by it much gold.

May your soul rejoice in his mercy,

and may you not be put to shame when you praise him.

Do your work before the appointed time,

and in God’s time he will give you your reward.

–Sirach 51:23-30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

You, O reader, will serve somebody or something.  That is not in question.  Whom or what you will serve is a germane question.  Why not serve God, the greatest king?  In so doing, you will find your best possible state of being.  The path may be difficult–ask St. Paul the Apostle, for example–but it will be the best path for you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMINICA MAZZARELLO, CO-FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

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Adapted from this post

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Eschatological Ethics XII   1 comment

Above:  Isaiah Wall, United Nations, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122 (LBW) or Psalm 50:1-15 (LW)

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44 or Matthew 21:1-11

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Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Protect us by your strength and

save us from the threatening dangers of our sins,

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

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

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Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, 

and come that by your protection

we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins

and be saved by your mighty deliverance;

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 10

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When I compose a post based on lectionary readings, I prefer to write about a theme or themes running through the assigned readings.  The readings for this Sunday fall on the axis of divine judgment and mercy, in balance.  Hellfire-and-damnation preachers err in one direction.  Those who focus so much on divine mercy that they downplay judgment err in the polar opposite direction.

Isaiah 2:2-4, nearly identical to Micah 4:1-4 (or the other way around), predicts what, in Christian terms, is the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The soaring, positive imagery of Isaiah 2:2-4 precedes divine judgment on the impious and impenitent–those who revel in the perils of their sins.  There is no place for such people in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Psalm 50 focuses on divine judgment.  YHWH is just, keeping faith with the “devoted ones” who have kept the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  YHWH is just, prioritizing these moral mandates over ritual practices.  Rituals still matter, of course; they are part of the Law of Moses, too.  Yet these rites are never properly talismans, regardless of what people may imagine vainly.  People will still reap what they have sown.

Psalm 122 is a hymn of a devout pilgrim who had recently returned from Jerusalem.  The text fits neatly with Isaiah 2:1-4.  Psalm 122 acknowledges the faithfulness of God and the reality of “thrones of judgment.”

Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 21:1-11, and Matthew 24:37-44, like Isaiah 2:1-4, exist within the expectation of the establishment or unveiling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  We read of Jesus acting out Second Zechariah’s prediction of the Messiah’s arrival at Jerusalem at the fulfillment of time (Zechariah 9:9-10) in Matthew 21:1-11.  Romans 13:1-14 and Matthew 24:37-44 remind us to straighten up and fly right, so to speak.

St. Paul the Apostle identified the resurrection of Jesus as the dawn of a new historical era.  Naturally, therefore, he taught that salvation had come nearer.  St. Paul also expected Jesus to return soon–nearly 2000 years ago from our perspective, O reader.  St. Paul’s inaccurate expectation has done nothing to minimize the importance of his ethical counsel.

Forbidden fruits frequently prove alluring, perhaps because they are forbidden.  Their appeal may wear off, however.  This is my experience.  That which really matters is consistent with mutuality, the Law of Moses, and the Golden Rule.  That which really matters builds up the common good.  This standard is about as tangible as any standard can be.

Let us be careful, O reader, not to read into Romans 13:14 that which is not there.  I recall Babette’s Feast (1987), a delightful movie set in a dour, Pietistic “Sad Dane” Lutheran settlement.  Most of the characters are unwilling even to enjoy their food, literally a “provision for the flesh.”  One can live honorably as in the day while enjoying the pleasures of life.

Advent is a bifurcated season.  It begins with mostly somber readings.  By the end of Advent, however, the readings are more upbeat.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do the two halves of Advent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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Introduction to Second Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART I

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Zechariah 9-14

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

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

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

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

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

extremely enigmatic.

So be it.  Let us jump in, shall we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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Divine Judgment on Bad Kings and False Prophets   Leave a comment

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIV

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Jeremiah 23:1-40

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I like wordplay.  The Hebrew Bible is replete with it.  In Jeremiah 23, for example, puns on the Hebrew root letters resh and ayin move from ro’in (“shepherds,” in verses 1-4) to ra’ah (“evil,” in verses 11, 12, 14, 17, 22), mere’im (“evildoers,” in verse 14), and re’im (“each other,” in verses 27, 30, 35).  Also, in verses 5-6, we find a pun on the name of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah.  “Zedekiah” means “YHWH is justice.'”  The true branch of David’s line, however, will be “The LORD our justice.” we read.  This text tells us that Zedekiah did not live up to his regnal name.

The imagery of kings as shepherds exists in Ezekiel 34, also.

The promise of a messianic royal branch, in reference to an ideal ruler, occurs also in Isaiah 11:1 and Zechariah 3:8.  This promise contradicts facts from the historical record.

As with other parts of the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 23 contains layers of authorship.  Verses 7-8, repeated nearly verbatim from Jeremiah 16:14-15, probably date to a period after Jeremiah–most likely during or after the Babylonian Exile.

False prophets abounded.  Some prophesied in the name of Baal Peor; they led people astray.  Other prophets claimed to speak on behalf of God; they led people into violations of the covenant.  The people and the false prophets paid a high price.  In more wordplay, massa (“burden”) meant a message from God (also in Deuteronomy 1:12; Jeremiah 17:24, 27; Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Malachi 1:1; Isaiah 22:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1), as well as a judgment from God.  The language of the “burden of the LORD,” as an oracle, was more common in reference to Gentile nations than to Israel and Judah.  In Jeremiah 23, the population that had requested an oracle received a judgment instead.

A difficult and germane question remains unanswered:  Without the benefit of hindsight, how can one discern who is a false prophet?  Each of us may correctly classify some figures as false prophets and wrongly categorize others, based on a belief system.  In hindsight, identifying false prophets is easier than doing so in real time.  If, for example, a self-proclaimed prophet predicts that Jesus will return by a certain date, one may reasonably classify him or her as a false prophet.  One may be certain, however, if that date comes and goes without the Second Coming having occurred.  On a mundane level, someone may offer a pronouncement that may be difficult to evaluate on the true prophet-false prophet scale in real time.  This person may even be a false prophet while imagining himself or herself to be a true prophet.  I accept Jeremiah as a true prophet, with the benefit of hindsight and faith.  Yet I admit that, had I lived when he was prophesying, I may have thought he was crazy.

May rulers be good and prophets be true.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXII   1 comment

Above:  The New Jerusalem

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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Genesis 24:34-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12, 16-17

Psalm 145:10-21

Revelation 22:1-7, 12-17

John 16:16-33

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This life is a mix of pleasure, joy, love, and hardship.  Nevertheless, we read, keep the faith; God will win in the end.  God will destroy the unrepentant wicked, wipe out the oppressive and corrupt world order, and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.  That is a fine note to go out on one week prior to Christ the King Sunday.

Stereotypes of God in the Old Testament and the New Testament exist.  The God of the Hebrew Bible is supposedly harsh, judgmental, and temperamental.  He is allegedly not gracious.  And the God of the New Testament is supposedly all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens.  Anyone who has read the Old and New Testaments closely knows or should know that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  The God of Revelation is not all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens, for example.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/devotion-for-proper-28-year-d-humes/

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What Kind of King?   4 comments

Above: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, 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 Everlasting God, who hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross,

that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;

mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 157

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Zechariah 9:9-14

Psalm 24

Galatians 2:16-21 or 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 19:29-44

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The readings for Palm Sunday, taken together, present a contrast between expectations and immediate reality.

The prophecy in Zechariah 9:9-14 is of the Messiah returning on the Day of the Lord.  (The text was surely in the minds of many supporters and opponents of Jesus during the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus was NOT keeping a low profile.   The week of Passover was a dangerous time not to keep a low profile in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.)

Psalm 24 is a liturgical text for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant.  The text contains parts for two alternating choirs.  Perhaps one could not get more triumphant than such a formal procession for a very long time, certainly pre-Easter 29 C.E. or so.

Yet the Romans remained in power for centuries after that day.  In that manner, they won, or seemed to win.  On the other hand, Jesus did not remain dead for long.  In that regard, the Roman Empire lost.

If one answers that all Jews of the time shared one Messianic hope, one errs.  Choose any population, O reader; you will find variation within it.  Nevertheless, if one thinks that the expectation that the Messiah would be a conquering hero was commonplace, one is correct.  This commonplace idea of Messiahship is one against which the Gospel of Mark argues.

What kind of king is Jesus?  He is not the conquering hero.  And as Bishop N. T. Wright points out, Yahweh will be the king after the end of this age.  Jesus is the king of salvation, but Yahweh is the king of the ages.  The Western Church even observes Christ the King Sunday.

I understand the appeal of Messiah as conquering hero.  I also know one finds it in certain prophecies, including Zechariah 9:9-14.  That must wait, however.  For now, we have the Prince of Peace, who laid down his life to a violent power.

Does God confuse us by defying our expectations at times or even most of the time?  If so, we stand in the company of a myriad.  We can argue with God’s choices or we can revel in them, if not understand them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND CONDUCTOR

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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Jesus as a Threatening Figure   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everliving God, who gave thy Son to be a leader and servant of men:

grant that as he entered Jerusalem to suffer and die for us,

we may enter his world, follow his example, and, by his power,

live in obedience to thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Zechariah 9:8-10

Hebrews 12:1-6

Luke 19:29-44

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The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was an overtly political act with apocalyptic overtones.  He looked like the ideal Davidic king, who had already won, arriving for negotiations after a battle.  Romans may not have noticed the symbolism, but Temple officials were far from oblivious to it.

The old Presbyterian lectionary, by focusing on Palm Sunday, not Passion Sunday, permits us to focus on the Triumphal Entry, not treat it like a prologue to a Passion Narrative.  This narrow focus lets helps us to ponder whether we think of Jesus as a threat.  If we do, we need to take that sin to him and surrender it.  The portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels is of him as, among other things, an instigator and a trouble-maker for God.

Consider a hypothetical question, O reader.  Suppose your church is seeking a new priest or pastor.  One candidate stands out.  He or she argues with ecclesiastical authorities, dines frequently with disreputable people, has questionable credentials, transgresses societal norms often, and runs afoul of political authorities habitually.  Is he or she a feasible applicant for the job?

Think about it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everliving God, who gave thy Son to be a leader and servant of men:

grant that as he entered Jerusalem to suffer and die for us,

we may enter his world, follow his example, and, by his power,

live in obedience to thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 59:14-21

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Mark 11:1-11

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In Christian tradition there are two ways of handling the Sunday prior to Easter.  One is to make it, for lack of a better term, the Reader’s Digest condensed book version of Holy Week through Good Friday.  In this practice the Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion.  The old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 follows the other option–Palm Sunday.

The imagery of God, victorious and just, in Isaiah 59, is powerful.  The passage, set amid disappointment after exiles have returned to their ancestral homeland and not found the promised paradise, follows condemnation of faithlessness and injustice earlier in the chapter.  To quote a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014),

God brings justice, which is good news for the faithful and dreadful news for everyone else.

–884

Jews living in their Roman-occupied homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  This must have been especially true at Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, and the commemoration of their independence.  Jesus looked like the victorious messianic monarch of Zechariah 9:9-17 to many people as he entered Jerusalem as part of a counter-parade–not the Roman military parade into the city.

He was not that kind of king, though, as he said.

God brings justice for the faithful.  Sometimes this entails extravagant mercy, even for the purpose of repentance  At the same time this constitutes catastrophe for others.  Why God throws the book, so to speak, at some enemies and converts others may prove to be confusing.  Yet divine judgment is superior to human judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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