Archive for the ‘Darius I’ Tag

The Fourth Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Haggai 2:20-23

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

The fourth oracle of Haggai (2:20-23) indicates that Haggai believed that Zerubbabel, grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah (r. 597 B.C.E.), to be a future monarch.  The reference to a signet ring (Haggai 2:23) echoes Jeremiah 22:24, a reference to Jehoiachin.  Likewise, Zechariah 3:8 refers to Zerubbabel as “the Branch”–a royal, Davidic label.  Historical records tell us that Zerubbabel never reigned as a king.

Zerubbabel was a satrap (governor) of the Persian Empire.  After he left office, someone else succeeded him.  The next Jew to govern as a king was Simon, starting in 142 B.C.E. (1 Maccabees 13:41).  He was a Hasmonean priest-king, both monarch, and high priest, and not of the House of David.

+++++++++++++++++

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem, rebuking them in the name of the God of Israel.

–Ezra 5:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

+++++++++++++++++

Good progress was made with the sacred works, as the result of the prophesies of Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they finished the rebuilding as commanded by the God of Israel and according to the decrees of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

–Ezra 6:14b-15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

+++++++++++++++++

That is, in March 516 B.C.E.

We also find references to Haggai and Zechariah in 1 Esdras 6:1 and 7:3, in language nearly identical to that in the quotes above.

Haggai ceased to prophesy after December 18, 520 B.C.E.  Why did he stop?  Did many people become disillusioned because of precise prophecies that never came true, so that the lost credibility?  I do not know; no texts provide answers to those questions.  Yet the completion of the Second Temple stands in the historical record as part of his legacy.

We–you, O reader, and I–leave the Book of Haggai behind and return to First Zechariah; we have completed the Book of Haggai.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine Judgment Against Elam   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXIII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 49:34-39

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Elam (capital = Susa) was east of the Tigris River.  The name of the country derived from one of the children of Shem (Genesis 10:22). Ezra 4:9 mentioned the “men of Susa.”  The Assyrian Empire sacked Susa in 646 B.C.E., and Elamite archers participated in Assyrian attacks on Judah (Isaiah 21:2; 22:6).  King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire expelled Elamite invaders into the Tigris region circa 596 B.C.E.

This oracle provides a date, of a sort.  The oracle originates from very early in the reign (597-586 B.C.E.) of King Zedekiah of Judah.

This oracle, like some others in this set of oracles, concludes on a hopeful note.

Elam passed into the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire then into the Persian Empire, but long remained a rebellious province.  Finally, in 521 B.C.E., King Darius I of the Persian Empire (r. 522-486 B.C.E.) established his winter palace in Susa.

Some of the people in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were Elamites (Acts 2:9).

The oracle does not list any sin Elamites may have committed.

After the massive devastation, Yahweh will restore the fortune of Elam.  God’s ultimate resolve is the well-being even of Elam.  That well-being can only happen, however, when Yahweh’s throne is firm in the land and all other claimants to the throne have been eliminated.

–Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah:  Exile and Homecoming (1998), 461

After all, God is sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Overcoming Opposition and Completing the Rebuilding of the Walls of Jerusalem   2 comments

Above:  Nehemiah the Governor

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XVIII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nehemiah 6:1-7:5

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sanballat and company, not content merely to lie about the loyalties of Nehemiah and company, added attempted entrapment to their strategies.  Nehemiah was both pious and shrewd, though.  He succeeded, with the help of God.  Completing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in just over seven weeks was astonishing.  It was especially astonishing that half of the workforce rebuilt the walls while the other half of the workers guarded them.

Persian monarchs were usually religiously tolerant.  This was a virtue.  It was also a political necessity.  Judah’s proximity to Egypt made the loyalty of the Jews to the Persian Empire essential from the perspective of the Persian government.  Official sponsorship of rebuilding projects in Jerusalem was one way to encourage Jewish loyalty to the Persian Empire.  Nehemiah was fortunate to remain in the good graces of Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 B.C.E.), not as firmly pro-Jewish as Cyrus II and Darius I.

One hopes that the depiction of Artaxerxes I as Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther is an over-the-top satire.  On the other hand, mercurial and lazy potentates continue to exist.  So, the depiction of Artaxerxes I as Ahasuerus could be feasible.  That is scary.

Meanwhile, back in Judah, the rebuilding of the culture needed to occur.

I will turn to that matter in the next post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Opposition to Rebuilding Jerusalem and Its Walls   2 comments

Above:  Artaxerxes I

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XIV

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Esdras 2:16-30

Ezra 4:6-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How long shall the wicked, O LORD,

how long shall the wicked triumph?

–Psalm 94:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Just as consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in Ezra-Nehemiah, neither is it the organizing principle in 1 Esdras.

During the reign (465-424 B.C.E.) of Artaxerxes I of the Persians and the Medes…

…Lies about the loyalty of Jews in Jerusalem persisted.  The Jews were going to rebel against the empire, critics alleged.  Artaxerxes I believed the lies and issued orders to cease reconstruction.

The identification of Artaxerxes and one of the models for the fictional Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther makes sense.  Artaxerxes I comes across in 1 Esdras and Ezra as a king quite different from Darius I.  Also, Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther comes across as an easily-swayed ruler who let others make decisions in his name.

Next stop:  The Book of Nehemiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Continuation of the Rebuilding and the Completion of the Second Temple   2 comments

Above:  Reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XIII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Esdras 6:1-7:15

Ezra 5:1-6:22

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I have written in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizational principle in Ezra.  Consider, O reader, the following examples:

  1. Ezra 4:5 establishes the range of Persian kings during the delay in rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem as spanning Cyrus II (r. 559-530 B.C.E.), Cambyses (r. 530-522 B.C.E.), and Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).
  2. Ezra 4:6 names the king as Ahasuerus–in this case, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 B.C.E.)
  3. Ezra 4:7 names the king as Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 B.C.E.), with Xerxes I, one of the models for Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther.
  4. Ezra 5:1 names the king as Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).

In U.S. presidential terms, that would be like establishing the range as the administrations of George Washington (1789-1797), John Adams (1797-1801), and Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) then mentioning the administrations of James Madison (1809-1817) and James Monroe (1817-1825) before returning to the Jefferson Administration.  If one is not well-versed in the chronology, one can easily become confused.

To add to the confusion, Ezra 4:7-24 belongs to the next topic–rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  I am still writing about the rebuilding of the Temple.  I resume, therefore, at Ezra 5:1.

Darius I took the rebuilding of the Temple seriously (Ezra 6:11-12; 1 Esdras 6:32-33).  The completion of the Second Temple happened on his watch, to use an anachronistic figure of speech.  A celebration of the Passover followed.

Passover was the annual celebration of God liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  Passover was a great national holiday and a religious festival.  Jewish independence was in the past at that Passover, but the Persian monarch was friendly toward the Jews, at least.  Being subjects of Darius I was far better for Jews than being subjects of Nebuchadnezzar II.  Those Jews who had chosen to return to the ancestral homeland, part of the satrapy Beyond the River, had participated in an exodus from Babylon.  They had many reasons to be thankful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Restoration of Worship in Jerusalem and Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple   2 comments

Above:  Darius I

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Esdras 5:47-53

Ezra 3:1-4:5

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I detect chronological confusion in each text and between the two of them.  Ezra 3:1-4:6 places these events circa 538 B.C.E., during the reign of Cyrus II and shortly after the conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet Ezra 3:1-46 also names Zerubbabel as the governor.  In objectively correct  chronology, we find that Zerubbabel received his appointment after the death of Cyrus II.  (Cyrus II died in 530 B.C.E.)  On the other hand, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 correctly places these events and Zerubbabel’s governorship post-Cyrus II.  Nevertheless, 1 Esdras 5:73, following the lead of Ezra 4:5, mentions Cyrus II as being one of the kings during these events.  These hiccups are minor matters.  Now I turn my attention to major issues.

Proper worship of YHWH in Jerusalem had been impossible for decades, since Nebuchadnezzar II had taken (in stages) sacred vessels from the Temple to Babylon.  The restoration of proper liturgical worship in YHWH in Jerusalem (whenever that occurred) was a great joy and a communal blessing.  It was essential to communal restoration.  Many local Gentiles delayed the rebuilding of the Temple, unfortunately.

By the way, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 acknowledges that Gentile opposition while softening the attitude evident in Ezra 3:1-4:6.  1 Esdras is less hostile to Gentiles than Ezra.  1 Esdras 5:50, for example, says that some of the

other peoples of the land

joined Jews in preparing the altar of the God of Israel.

I can only imagine what joy those returned exiles must have felt when they could worship God properly, according to the Law of Moses.  I can identity with not being able to worship God as part of a congregation.  I write these words during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Attending church each Sunday consists of watching a video on YouTube, and I cannot take communion.  This seems to be the pattern I will continue to live indefinitely.  I know that, when the vaccine will be widely available and the pandemic is over, returning to church services will be especially joyful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Three Young Bodyguards in the Court of Darius I   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XI

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Esdras 3:1-5:6

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

–Psalm 18:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Our story jumps ahead a few years, past the reign (530-522 B.C.E.) of Cambyses to that (522-486 B.C.E.) of Darius I.

Zerubbabel was of the lineage of David.  Zerubbabel, a bodyguard in the court of Darius I, won a contest.  He provided the winning answer in a contest to state what is strongest.  Our bodyguard (not named) argued that wine is strongest, for it affects people regardless of social class.  Another unnamed bodyguard, citing the great power of Eastern monarchs, insisted that the king is the strongest.  Zerubbabel, the third bodyguard, first argued that women are the strongest and that even Darius I’s concubine had power over the monarch.  Then Zerubbabel changed his answer to truth.

To quote Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of John,

What is truth?

Truth is objective, not subjective.  Truth is right, upright, and everlasting.  Truth is not relative.  Truth is reliable.  That is important to understand at all times, especially during a polarized age in which many people speak shamelessly of

alternative facts.

I cannot have my truth.  You, O reader, cannot have a competing truth.  No, the truth is the truth.

In this charming story, probably originally in Aramaic, Darius I accepted Zerubbabel’s second answer.  Our hero’s prize was the opportunity to help rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.  Darius I did more; he put the Persian Empire on the side of the reconstruction effort and sent sacred vessels back to the holy city.

Zerubbabel’s prayer glorifying God (4:59-60) is suitable for many occasions.

Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  For example, when reading Ezra and Nehemiah, one has to move from one book to another sometimes to keep the timeline in order.  And the chronologies of 1 Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah are sometimes inconsistent with each other.  That is a minor point for me; I prefer to focus on major points.

With [truth] there is no partiality or preference, but it does what is righteous instead of anything that is unrighteous or wicked.

–1 Esdras 4:39a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Sovereignty of God II   1 comment

Daniel's Answer to the King

Above:  Daniel’s Answer to the King, by Briton Riviere

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:1-28

Psalm 98

Matthew 17:22-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In 539 B.C.E. King Cyrus II (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet the author of Daniel 6 wrote of one “Darius the Mede,” whom he listed as a king who reigned between the fall of Babylon and the time of Cyrus II.  As I wrote in the previous post, the chronology of the Book of Daniel makes no sense.  Evangelical-oriented resources in my Biblical studies library struggle to explain this historical discrepancy.  One even suggests that “Darius the Mede” might have been the regnal name of Cyrus II in the former Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, but Daniel 6 lists “Darius the Mede” and Cyrus II as separate people.  Yet I, unlike the author of those works, do not labor under the false notion of Biblical inerrancy or infallibility.  So “Darius the Mede,” most likely (at least partially) a backward projection of Darius I (reigned 522-486 B.C.E.), a successor of Cyrus II, never existed as the Book of Daniel presents him.  The application of Ockham’s Razor to this issue leads one to avoid needless intellectual gymnastics based on a false assumption.

Here is a summary of the story:  Daniel, who had worked for the Chaldeans, went to work for the Persians, the text tells us.  (He must have been really old!)  Daniel was loyal, but court intrigue led to a charge of treason, hence the lion’s den.  Our hero survived unscathed (as had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Chapter 3), of course.  And, as in Chapter 3, the monarch changed his mind and recognized the power of Yahweh.

The main point of this story, I suppose, is to trust God, who is sovereign over nations, kingdoms, empires, and rulers.  That, at least, is the point of the tale of Daniel in the lions’ den shares with the pericope from Matthew 17.  There God provided the money for a tax payable to the Roman Empire.  The display of divine power in both stories was the unmistakable.

To trust God in mundane circumstances can prove difficult.  To do so in dire and extreme circumstances might seem impossible or nearly so.  Yet the latter context is when grace becomes more obvious.  Grace is always present, of course, but it is like a lamp in a room; the light is more obvious in the darkness.  That has been my experience.  Deliverance did not arrive immediately, but at least I had excellent company while I waited.  And that company, present before darkness fell, remained with me.  And I have been more conscious of it since then.  Trusting God has become much easier for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR MACARTHUR, COFOUNDER OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-24-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hearing and Doing   1 comment

Above:  Darius I of Persia

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezra 6:1-8, 12-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written:

Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of God in Jerusalem:  ’Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high.  Let it be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone.  The expenses shall be paid by the palace.  And the gold and the silver vessels of the House of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Jerusalem where it belongs; you shall deposit in in the House of God.’

“Now you, Tannenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.  Allow the work of this House of God to go on; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this House of God:  the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped….And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem.  I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.  So the elders of the Jews progressed with the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lamps, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They appointed the priests in their courses and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to the prescription in the Book of Moses.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some dates will prove useful in comprehending the material from Ezra.  So, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), here they are:

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

“Artaxerxes” is Artaxerxes I, in case you were wondering.

Cyrus II had authorized the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem, but politics stopped the process.  The Assyrians had settled other peoples in Judea, and some of the descendants of these ethnic groups obstructed the effort.  The logjam ended during the reign of Darius I.  Thank goodness for archivists!

There is a plethora of Christian theological writing regarding the will(s) of God and the ability of humans to interfere with it/them.  One of the more accessible works on this subject is The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead.  As I have lived, read, and pondered, I have concluded that Weatherhead is correct:  the ultimate will of God will come to pass, regardless of what we mere mortals do.  That said, we have the power, through the abuse of our free will, to derail more than one divine path to fulfilling that ultimate will.  In other words, we can stand in the way of God’s Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C.  Yet, sooner or later, one way or another, God’s ultimate will is going to come to pass.

We function as obstructions when we fail to be both hearers and doers of God’s word and ultimate will.  Yet, when we hear then do, we act as faithful members of the household of God.  Is not that much better than being stubborn, spiteful, and petty?

So, why are we stubborn, spiteful, and petty?  Some of us might not realize what we are doing.  These are those who are so caught up in themselves that they cannot see the detrimental effects of their actions upon others.  Still others of us, if we do know what we are doing, might have distorted values systems which glorify stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness.  Then there are those who try to do the right thing, as they understand it, but get it wrong.  These are not bad people who wake up each day and plot their disobedience.  But perhaps cultural blinders prevent them from seeing clearly.  And, of course, all of us are prone to stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness from time to time.  Stubbornness, in the service of a good cause, is persistence, a virtue.  So context matters here.

Sometimes, then, we hear and try to do,  but fail.  Other times we hear and do not try to obey.  Still other times he hear but misunderstand.  And sometimes we do not hear at all, so we cannot obey in such circumstances.  Sometimes instructions from God seem quite clear with the aid of hindsight and tradition.  Yet other times traditions distort those instructions.  What are to do?  How can we know how to discern between correct and distorted messages?

This is not a simple matter, and I have not encountered a burning bush in my life.  I have opinions, many of which I voice on this weblog and others within my blog network.  Yet I try to maintain proper theological humility; I can be wrong.  I stand by my opinions today, but I might change some of them by next year.  I am fallible.

So I try to remain open to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit, to confirm when I am correct and tell me when I am not.  The best I can do is the best I can do.  It is not enough, but it does not have to be, for God is all-powerful.  And, even in my worst moments, the worst I can do is delay the fulfillment of the ultimate will of God.  At best, however, I will be part of the fulfillment of that will.  But God will’s is going to come to fruition, with or without me.  I prefer to be part of the solution, not the problem.  By grace, I will succeed more often than not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF GRAHAM GREENE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/week-of-proper-20-tuesday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Priorities, Temporal and Eternal   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Haggai

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Haggai 1:1-8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, this word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  These people say, “The time has not yet come for rebuilding the House of the Lord.”

And the word of the LORD through the prophet Haggai continued:

Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins?  Now thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Consider how you have been faring!  You have sowed much and brought in little; you eat without being satisfied; you drink without getting your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one gets warm; and he who earns anything earns it for a leaky purse.

Thus said the said the LORD of Hosts:

Consider how you have fared:  Go up to the hills and get timber, and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified

–said the LORD.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The oracle is dated August 29, 520 B.C.E., according to our Gregorian Calendar.  This date falls within the second year of the reign of King Darius I, who has just consolidated his power after a civil war.  Almost nineteen years have passed since King Cyrus II permitted Jews in Babylonia to return to their ancestral homeland, and the temple is still in ruins.

There are socio-political factors to consider.  For example, one did not just begin to construct a temple when one felt like it.  No, this was the responsibility of a king–in this case, Darius I.  Such an undertaking bestowed prestige on its sponsor.  Such subtleties may be lost on modern readers.  In fact, I had to look up all this information in The Jewish Study Bible.  One may assume that ancient Jewish readers of the text would have understood these facts.

The message of this text, however, is that the reconstruction of the Temple is essential to prosperity for the returned exiles.  It is a question of priorities, Haggai reports; do you value the temporal more than the eternal?

By eternal I mean “of God.”  This has nothing to do with time and is not restricted to the afterlife.  So eternal life, for example, is life in God.  As the Gospel of John defines it (in 17:3), eternal life is “to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

That which we sow we also reap.  The Gospels tell us this.  So, with this thought in mind, reconsider these words from Luke 6:20b-26, the Beatitudes and Woes and from the Sermon on the Plain:

How happy are you who are poor:  yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy you who are hungry now:  you will be satisfied.

Happy you who weep now:  you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich:  you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now:  you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now:  you shall moun and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

(The Jerusalem Bible)

Then read the section from Haggai again, noticing the similarities.

I write these words during a time of global recession brought about by the  irresponsible fiscal policies of a relative few people.  Prosperity is good, especially when it is widespread, permitting people to be financially independent.  There is always plenty for everybody in God’s economy, but artificial scarcity seems to be part of human economic systems.  This is sinful; there is no other way to state the matter.

But let us look upon the current dire straights as opportunities for setting and pursuing righteous goals, for establishing eternal priorities.  And may our Lord and Savior, per Luke, be our guide.  May we seek what we need for ourselves and others, but not luxury.  May we take this opportunity to simplify our appetites and lifestyles, as God directs us.  May we seek that which lasts–that treasure which moth and rust can never destroy.  And may we find prosperity of a sort no economic downturn can affect, because this wealth is not of this world.

And so may we find true liberation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE AMERICAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE, FOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 7, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/week-of-proper-20-thursday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++