Archive for the ‘Jael’ Tag

Violence, Victory, Hatred, and Perfect Love   1 comment

Yael Killing Sisera

Above:  Yael Killing Sisera, by Palma the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:17-23; 5:24-31a

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Revelation 12:1-12

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The reading from Revelation, told in the language of symbols, is about the persecution of Christians.  Martyrs in Heaven have conquered evil forces by dying, but their counterparts in the Church Militant remain vulnerable.  Their day to sing, in the words of Psalm 118:16 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979),

The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

resides in the future.

Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, knew how to triumph.  She used a mallet to drive a tent pin through the temple of Sisera, the Canaanite army commander, until the pin went into the ground.

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Easter Week.  Liturgically the death and resurrection of Jesus are therefore recent events.  According to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor for short, the proper emphasis falls on the reality that Jesus was dead only briefly.  His resurrection thwarted evil plots, making clear the superior power of God, of perfect love.  Jesus was a sacrifice, not a person committing or condoning deadly violence.

As I have written online many times, I am not naive.  I understand that some evildoers will refuse to amend their ways.  I grasp that human sinfulness necessitates a rescue operation sometimes, and that such missions have body counts much of the time.  Yet I cannot imagine Jesus advocating for needless violence and militant religion.  He was, after all not a zealot, a member of that group which sought to expel the Romans from Palestine forcefully.

The call to love my neighbors as I love myself reminds me that even those who would destroy me are my neighbors.  Jesus interceded on behalf of such as these; should any of us who claim to follow him do any less?

The battle is God’s.  We have the right to defend ourselves against threats, but may we never give in to hatred, a greater foe.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-tuesday-after-easter-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

 

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Relying on God’s Power   1 comment

Deborah

Above:  Deborah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-16 (Monday)

Judges 5:12-21 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Ephesians 6:10-17 (Monday)

1 John 5:13-21 (Tuesday)

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Though God delivered them many times

they, for their part, went on planning rebellion

and so sank deeper into sin.

Yet he looked kindly on their distress

whenever he heard them cry.

To help them he recalled his covenant with them,

so deep was his devotion that he took pity on them.

He saw to it that they received compassion

even from those who had taken them captive.

Save us, LORD, our God,

gather us in from among the nations

so that we may acknowledge you as the Holy One.

and take pride in praising you.

–Psalm 106:43-47, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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I know that the portion of Psalm 106 I have quoted follows verse 12, but those verses seem more applicable to the readings from Judges 4 and 5 than Psalm 106:1-12.  If I had quoted from the first 12 verses of Psalm 106 I would have selected verse 10, set in the context of the Exodus from Egypt:

He rescued them from their foes,

he reclaimed them from enemy hands.

–Harry Mowvley translation

The story in Judges 4 and 5 is consistent with a motif in that book:

  1. The Israelites have fallen into pervasive sin.
  2. YHWH permits a foreign group to oppress the Israelites.
  3. The Israelites cry out to YHWH.
  4. YHWH sends a leader or leaders to resist the oppressors.
  5. The oppression ceases.
  6. The Israelites follow God for a time.
  7. The cycle repeats.

As a note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, nowhere does the text of Judges 4 and 5 identify any of the human protagonists–Deborah the prophetess, Barak the army commander, and Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite–as the deliverer of the Israelites.  Each of those individuals played a crucial role in the liberation, but God delivered the Israelites from oppression.  That theme occurs elsewhere in the Book of Judges and other portions of the Bible, as in the Exodus and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

A motif in the Bible is that God works through people much of the time.  These might be upstanding individuals or they might be scoundrels, at least on their bad days.  Some of these instruments of God are not even believers.  These realities point toward the power and sovereignty of God.

As much as I find Martin Luther to have been a morally troublesome character, his theology of relying on the faithfulness of God is beyond reproach.  We who follow God are children of God, members of the household of God, so we ought to act boldly and confidently in righteousness.  Such righteous confidence should banish faithless and selfish fears (distinct from well-reasoned fears, such as that of touching hot surfaces), enabling us to love our neighbors (both near and far) selflessly.  We have the spiritual armor of God, of which St. Paul the Apostle  or someone writing in his name imagined as being like the armor of a Roman soldier.  Every piece of the armor is God’s.  If it is good enough for God, it is good enough for mere mortals.  After the reading from Ephesians 6 comes this advice:

Constantly ask God’s help in prayer, and pray always in the power of the Spirit.

–Ephesians 6:18, The Revised English Bible (1989)

After all, we depend on God’s power, not our own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Judges and Acts, Part II: Proper Piety   1 comment

hazor

Above:  Jordan Valley North of Lake Galilee, Tell-el Kedah, “Hazor”

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004002159/PP/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-24

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

Acts 14:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

Acts 14:

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

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Deliverance comes through women in Judges 4 and Acts 14.

Judges 4 is a violent tale.  Ten thousand soldiers die in just one verse.  The demise of their commander, Sisera, receives more attention to detail; Jael, a woman, drives a pin through his temple with a mallet.  The text concludes by saying that God subdued King Jabin of Canaan, whom whom the Israelites subdued.

Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus, born of a woman, in Acts 14.  They inspired conversions, opposition, and misunderstanding.  They almost died at Iconium for all their trouble.  And a crowd at Lystra mistook them for Zeus and Hermes.  People filtered the message of Paul and Barnabas through the filters of their religious traditions.  Some chose the new, others reacted violently in favor of the old, and a third group almost sacrificed to men they mistook for deities.  Only one group was correct, although all three acted out of a sense of piety.

Proper piety recognizes that God is in control and works through people; they are agents of God and are not gods.  Proper piety acknowledges that sometimes God’s agents are people we might not expect.  And proper piety leads to the admission that one’s knowledge of God is very limited, so there is always more to learn and probably something to unlearn.

Proper piety leads us to wrestle with texts sometimes.  I struggle with the violence in Judges 4, for I note the positive portrayal of it there and the negative description of the near-stoning in Acts 14.  Stoning was a punishment for a variety of offenses, including blasphemy, in the Law of Moses.  So those who sought to kill Paul and Barnabas justified their actions as attempts at lawful execution, not murder.  But when is violence acceptable and when is it needless?  And when is there no moral difference between executing lawfully and committing murder?  I am not a pacifist, for I understand the hard truth that some violence is necessary.  Yet I suspect that very little of it fits this description.  I prefer to express my piety nonviolently, to do so properly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-9-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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