Archive for the ‘Jehoash’ Tag

The Reign of King Amaziah of Judah   2 comments

Above:  King Amaziah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCIV

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2 Kings 14:1-22

2 Chronicles 25:1-28

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The mourning of men is about their bodies,

but the evil name of sinners will be blotted out.

Have regard for your name, since it will remain for you

longer than a thousand great stores of gold.

The days of a good life are numbered,

but a good name endures for ever.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 41:11-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoash/Joash of Judah (Reigned 836-798 B.C.E.)

King Amaziah of Judah (Reigned 798-769 B.C.E.)

King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (Reigned 800-784 B.C.E.)

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King Jehoash/Joash of Judah had died via an assassination.  His son and successor, King Amaziah, remembered this and acted accordingly.  He had those responsible for the death of King Jehoash/Joash executed and spared their children, in accordance with Deuteronomy 24:16.

The Kingdom of Judah, compared to the Kingdom of Israel, was weak militarily.  King Jehoash/Joash of Israel invaded Judah, penetrated one of the walls of Jerusalem, and seized treasures and vessels from the Temple and palace.

The account in 2 Chronicles, based on that in 2 Kings, expands on the source material.  2 Chronicles 25, for example, elaborates on the Edomite campaign and its consequences.  Beware of resentful, dismissed mercenaries, one learns.

King Amaziah of Judah, like his father, became a victim of assassination.

King Amaziah inherited a difficult political and military situation.  He heeded good advice.  And Amaziah was not bloodthirsty, presiding over vengeful bloodbaths.  He received a mostly a favorable evaluation in the Bible.  The main caveat was that shrines remained intact and people continued to offer sacrifices and make offerings to gods and goddesses there.  But, reading the text through the lens of freedom of religion, theocracy is negative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LUDOLPH ERNST SCHLIGHT, MORAVIAN MINISTER, AND HYMN WRITER; JOHN GAMBOLD, SR., MORAVIAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS; AND JOHN GAMBOLD, JR.,, MORAVIAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LÉON BLOY, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST AND SOCIAL CRITIC; GODFATHER OF JACQUES MARITAIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER; HIS WIFE, RAÏSSA MARITAIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

THE FEAST OF THEODORE WELD, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST AND EDUCATOR; HIS WIFE, ANGELINA GRIMKÉ, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST, EDUCATOR, AND FEMINIST; HER SISTER, SARAH GRIMKÉ, U.S. EPISCOPALIAN THEN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; HER NEPHEW, FRANCIS GRIMKÉ, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST; AND HIS WIFE, CHARLOTTE GRIMKÉ, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITONIST AND EDUCATOR

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The Reigns of Kings Jehoahaz and Jehoash/Joash of Israel   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoahaz of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCII

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2 Kings 13:1-25

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Be wise therefore:  ye kings the more,

Receive ye wisdom’s lore:

Ye judges strong:  of right and wrong,

advise you now before.

The Lord in fear:  your service bear,

with dread to him rejoice:

Let rages be:  resist not ye,

him serve with joyful voice.

The son kiss ye:  lest wroth he be,

love not the way of rest:

For when his ire:  is set on fire,

who trust in him be blest.

–From Psalm 2, Archbishop Matthew Parker’s Psalter (1567)

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King Jehoahaz of Israel (Reigned 817-800 B.C.E.)

King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (Reigned 800-784 B.C.E.)

King Hazael of Aram (Reigned 842-806 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad II of Aram (Reigned 806-750 B.C.E.)

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According to The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth Edition (2001), King Hazael of Aram had grand imperialistic ambitions.  He proved successful at executing most of them.  His son, King Ben-Hadad II, however, presided over the beginning of the decline of Aram.  Ben-Hadad II’s son, King Rezin (reigned 750-732 B.C.E.), presided over the end of the realm.  Aram became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

That historical summary should contextualize the verses for this post.

I choose to focus on other aspects of this passage.

First, one who reads accounts of the (northern) Kings of Israel closely may notice a pattern.  We see it recur twice in the verses for today.  We have seen it already in previous evaluations of monarchs.  We will continue to see it as we read about Kings of Israel.  Consider 2 Kings 13:11, O reader:

He did what was displeasing to the LORD; he did not depart from any of the sins which Jeroboam son of Nebathad caused Israel to commit; he persisted in them.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeroboam I, the first (northern) King of Israel, had led his subjects in committing syncretism and worshiping at local shrines.  He did not want Israelite subjects to make their sacrifices and offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Judah.  These were political and religious decisions.  Jeroboam I had also made non-Levite priests.  At the time, priests did not have to descend from Aaron, but such descent was preferable.  Also at the time, worship at local shrines were acceptable for Hebrews.  Retrospective condemnations of Jeroboam I and his successors reflected later Deuteronomic theological concerns, such as the Temple in Jerusalem and the Aaronic priesthood.

The second theme on which I focus is the balance of divine judgment and mercy in the Hebrew Bible.  That balance is prominent in the passage for this post.  God judges, punishes, and afflicts.  God also forgives and delivers, often after having judged, punished, and afflicted.  This is classical monotheism.  There is no possibility of the polytheistic dodge of having one deity afflict and anther god deliver from affliction.

As much as I seek to maintain the balance between having an inadequate God concept and portraying God as a bully and a monster, I also derive comfort from monotheistic complexity.  The gods of polytheistic systems are inadequate and frequently incompetent.  They are also powered-down.  And they are imaginary, of course.

I recognize shifting theology within the canon of scripture.  My intellectual honesty requires me to do so.  However, I also affirm that God is constant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN WORTHINGTON, BRITISH MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER; JOHN ANTES, U.S. MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, COMPOSER, AND MISSIONARY; BENJAMIN HENRY LATROBE, SR., BRITISH MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; CHRISTIAN IGNATIUS LATROBE AND COMPOSER; JOHANN CHRISTOPHER PYRLAEUS, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MUSICIAN; AND AUGUSTUS GOTTLIEB SPANGENBERG, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE-FRANÇOIS NÉRON, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM, 1860

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The Reign of King Jehoash/Joash of Judah   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoash/Joash of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCI

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2 Kings 12:1-21

2 Chronicles 24:1-27

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For the lowliest man may be pardoned in mercy,

but mighty men will be mightily tested.

For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of anyone,

nor show deference to greatness;

because he himself made both small and great,

and he takes thought for all alike.

But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty.

To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed,

that you may learn wisdom and not transgress.

–Wisdom of Solomon 6:6-9, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehu of Israel (Reigned 842-814 B.C.E.)

Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 B.C.E.)

King Jehoash/Joash of Judah (Reigned 836-798 B.C.E.)

King Hazael of Aram (Reigned 842-806 B.C.E.)

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The two accounts overlap substantially.  The version in 2 Chronicles is longer and more negative than its counterpart in 2 Kings, however.  2 Chronicles 24:17-22 adds the apostasy of King Jehoash/Joash, survivor of Queen Athaliah’s purge and once a patron of Temple repairs, to the record.

King Hazael of Aram, a threat to the northern Kingdom of Israel, also menaced the Kingdom of Judah.  The Chronicler understood the King of Aram to have been an instrument of divine punishment for royal and collective sins.

High Priest Zechariah, son of the late High Priest Jehoiada, preceded King Jehoash/Joash in falling victim to assassination.  The promising beginning of the reign, with the regency of Jehoiada, never reached its positive potential, sadly.  What a waste!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Revolution and Reign of King Jehu of Israel   3 comments

Above:  King Jehu of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XC

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2 Kings 9:1-10:30

2 Chronicles 22:5-9

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The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers,

and has seated the lowly in their place.

The Lord has plucked up the roots of the nations,

and has planted the humble in their place.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:14-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah (Reigned 843-842 B.C.E.)

King Jehu of Israel (Reigned 842-814 B.C.E.)

Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 B.C.E.)

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Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Dynasties in the northern Kingdom of Israel rose and fell.  I counted five dynasties, as well as four kings who belonged to no dynasty.  Three of the dynasties consisted of only two monarchs.  The House of Omri supplied four Kings of Israel and one Queen of Judah (Athaliah).  The House of Jehu supplied five Kings of Israel.

In 1 Kings 19:15-16, God had assigned Elijah to anoint Jehu the next King of Israel.  Elijah passed that task to his successor, Elisha.  Elisha, in turn, fulfilled it indirectly; he sent a disciple-prophet to anoint Jehu then to 

flee without delay.

The disciple-prophet of Elijah anointed Jehu then did not 

flee without delay.

Jehu presided over a bloodbath that claimed King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah, Queen Jezebel of Israel, all members of the House of Omri in reach, many Baalists in Israel, and 42 mourners of King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz from Judah.  However, Queen Mother Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, remained safe in Jerusalem.  She usurped the throne of Judah and purged as many rival claimants to the throne as she could find.  She did not, however, find her grandson, the future King Jehoash/Joash.  The revolution in Israel occurred during a war against King Hazael of Aram.  The threat of King Hazael persisted.

King Jehu received a negative review in 2 Kings.  

Finding someone to cheer for in this story is extremely difficult.  This is frequently the case in revolutions.  Yes, one says, Side A is terrible.  So is Side B, however.  It is lamentable that the population cannot have good government.  Pity the people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Reign of Queen Athaliah of Judah   1 comment

Above:  Queen Athaliah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXIX

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2 Kings 11:1-20

2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21

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The children of sinners are abominable children,

and they frequent the haunts of the ungodly.

The inheritance of the children of sinners will perish,

and on their posterity will be a perpetual reproach.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 41:5-6, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 B.C.E.)

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Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

A refresher:  Princess Athaliah, sister of Princes Ahaziah and Jehoram/Joram of Israel, had married Jehoram/Joram, the Crown Prince of Judah.  The couple’s elder son had become King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah.  Then he had perished in Jehu’s revolution in Israel, leaving an infant son, Jehoash/Joash, the legitimate heir to the throne.  Meanwhile, King Jehoram/Joram of Israel had also perished in Jehu’s revolution in the northern kingdom.

Got that?

Queen Athaliah was a chip off the old block.  In another verse of an ancient song, she seized power and ordered the deaths of potential rivals.  Yet Princess Jehosheba (whose name should join those of Shiphrah and Puah in honor) helped High Priest Jehoiada hide the young Jehoash/Joash (her nephew) from Queen Athaliah for about six years.  After Queen Athaliah and Baalist priest Mattan died in a coup d’état, Jehoash/Joash, seven years old, came to the throne, and Jehoiada served as the regent.  The High Priest provided a positive influence upon the young monarch.  Meanwhile, the destruction of altars and images of Baal Peor had been another result of the revolution in Judah.

The last vestiges of the House of Omri were gone.  Their sins continued, unfortunately.

Next, I will step back in time and focus on King Jehu of Israel and his revolution.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Reign of King Ahaziah of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXIX

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1 Kings 22:51-53

2 Kings 1:1-18

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Listen therefore, O kings, and understand;

learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.

Give ear, you that rule over multitudes,

and boast of many nations….

Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly,

nor keep the law,

nor walk according to the purpose of God,

he will come upon you terribly and swiftly,

because severe judgment falls on those in high places.

–Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-2, 4-5, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahaziah of Israel (Reigned 852-851 B.C.E.)

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Now seems like a good time to mention duplicate royal names in the dynasties of Judah (southern) and Israel (northern).  Even a cursory scan of the names of monarchs of those kingdoms reveals duplicate names.  Distinguishing between Jeroboam I and Jeroboam II of Israel is easy.  Yet consider, O reader, the use of the names Ahaziah, Jehoram/Joram, Jehoahaz, Shallum, and Jehoash/Joash by monarchs in both kingdoms.  Furthermore, consider that Jehoram/Joram of Israel and Jehoram/Joram of Judah were contemporaries.  And, to make matters more confusing, there were two Jehoahazes and two Shallums of Judah, without Roman numerals to distinguish them.

King Ahaziah of Israel, son of King Ahab of Israel, was a chip off the old block.  The apple did not fall far from the tree.  He was, after, all a scion of two evil people.  King Ahaziah, a practitioner of idolatry, died after falling through the lattice in the upper chamber of his palace at Samaria.  (There was no glass in the windows yet.)  The monarch consulted Baal-zebub, the pagan of god of Ekron, not God.  This final act of idolatry set up a confrontation with Elijah.

The text conveys the meaning that, had King Ahaziah of Israel turned to God, he would have lived and recovered.

The throne passed to a brother, Jehoram/Joram of Israel, with whom we will catch up in 2 Kings 3:1-27 and continue with through 2 Kings 9, in time for the end of the House of Omri, thereby fulfilling 1 Kings 21:20-29.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Two Killings   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod--James Tissot

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 118:26-29

Psalm 27

Matthew 23:37-39

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Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

–Psalm 27:7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 118 is a song of praise to God after a military victory.  Literary echoes of the text are apparent in the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Consider this verse, O reader:

Blessed be who enters in the name of Yahweh,

we bless you in the house of Yahweh.

–Psalm 118:26, The Anchor Bible:  Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), by Mitchell Dahood, S.J.

That allusion fits well, for, when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he did so not as a conquering hero but as one who had conquered and who was en route to the peace talks.  A victorious monarch rode a beast of burden to the negotiations for peace.  Jesus resembled a messianic figure who had won a battle.  He was not being subtle, nor should he have been.

The tone of the assigned reading from Matthew 23 fits the tone of the verse from Psalm 27 better, however.  Psalm 27 consists of two quite different poems with distinct tenors.  Part I is happy and confident, but Part II comes from a place of concern and a context of peril.  The latter distinction is consistent with Christ’s circumstances between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or seeker-sensitive Jesus.  That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed.  His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground.  He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt. 19:14; cf. Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16).  The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort.  He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach.  This Jesus’s hair is untamed.  His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle.  His face and neck are reddened by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused.  There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 39; cf. 23:16).  His message ends not with a head pat to a child and an aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).

When you finish reading Jesus’s tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath.  Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reassess wholesale their idea of Jesus.  At the very least, we can point to the text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.

–Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite:  The Origins of the Conflict (2014), page 5

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You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters!  Damn you!

–Matthew 23:29a, The Complete Gospels:  Annotated Scholars Version (1994)

Literary context matters.  Immediately prior to Matthew 23:37-39, the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, our Lord and Savior, having engaged in verbal confrontations with religious authorities, denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, power plays, impiety, violence, and inner impurity.  Immediately after Matthew 23:37-39 comes Matthew 24, in which Christ speaks apocalyptically, as in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  (The order of some of the material differs from one Synoptic Gospel to another, but these are obviously accounts of the same discourse.)  Jesus is about to suffer and die.

Matthew 23:34-39 echoes 2 Chronicles 24:17-25.  In 2 Chronicles 24 King Joash/Jehoash of Judah (reigned 837-800 B.C.E.), having fallen into apostasy and idolatry, orders the execution (by stoning) of one Zechariah, son of the late priest Jehoiada.  Zechariah’s offense was to confront the monarch regarding his apostasy and idolatry.  The priest’s dying wish is

May the LORD see and avenge!

–2 Chronicles 24:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theology of the narrative holds that God saw and avenged, given the subsequent killing of Joash/Jehoash by servants.

A contrast between that story and the crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear.  Never does Jesus say

May the LORD see and avenge!

or anything similar to it.  One cannot find Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for the crown and those who crucified him in Matthew or Mark, but one can locate it at Luke 23:34, which portrays him as a righteous sufferer, such as the author of Part II of Psalm 27.

The example of Jesus has always been difficult to emulate.  That example is, in fact, frequently counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Love your enemies?  Bless those who persecute you?  Take up your cross?  Really, yes.  It is possible via grace.  I know the difficulty of Christian discipleship.  It is a path I have chosen, from which I have strayed, and to which I have returned.  The goal is faithfulness, not perfection.  We are, after all, imperfect.  But we can do better, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Two Stonings   1 comment

Murder of Zechariah

Above:  The Murder of Zechariah, by William Brassey Hole

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 4:17-24

Psalm 148

Acts 6:1-7; 7:51-60

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Psalm 148 is a song of praise to God, especially in nature.  The text begins with references to the created order then moves along to people in social and political contexts.  Finally we read:

[The LORD] has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Verse 15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the context of this day’s pericopes Psalm 148 functions as a counterpoint to the other readings.  In them holy men of God died for the sake of righteousness.  Zechariah, a priest and the son of Jehoida, also a priest, died because of his condemnation of idolatry.  Zechariah said:

Thus God said:  Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD when you cannot succeed?  Since you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.

–2 Chronicles 24:20b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

His punishment was execution by stoning at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Similar in tone and content is the story of St. Stephen, one of the first seven Christian deacons and the first Christian martyr.  The diaconate came to exist because it was necessary.  Apostles perceived the need to divide labor:

It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.

–Acts 6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So the deacons fed the hungry widows.  St. Stephen died by stoning not because of his participation in an ancient Means on Wheels program but because of his preaching.  He, like Zechariah son of Jehoida, accused his audience of having abandoned God.

These two stories end differently, though.  The dying words of Zechariah son of Jehoida were:

May the LORD see this and exact the penalty.

–2 Chronicles 24:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The interpretation of subsequent events in that book is that God avenged the priest (24:24).  King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (reigned 836-798 B.C.E.) died after becoming wounded in a devastating Aramean invasion.  His servants murdered him on his bed.

In contrast, St. Stephen prayed for his killers:

Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

–Acts 7:60b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The text does not indicate what effects, if any, that had on any of his executioners.  We do know, however, that Saul of Tarsus, who approved of the execution, went on to become St. Paul the Apostle.  One need not stray from the proverbial path of reasonableness to say that St. Paul, pondering his past and God’s grace, to say that he regretted having ever approved of St. Stephen’s death.

The use of violence to rid oneself of an inconvenient person is sinful.  To commit violence for this purpose in the name of God, presumably to affirm one’s righteousness in the process, is ironic, for that violence belies the claim of righteousness.  Furthermore, there are only victims in violent acts.  The person who commits violence harms himself or herself, at least spiritually, if in no other way.  Violence might be necessary or preferable to any alternative sometimes, but nobody should ever celebrate it or turn to it as a first resort.

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we pursue peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, not revenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/devotion-for-december-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Humility Before God, Part I   1 comment

house-of-naaman-damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

2 Kings 11:21-12:16 (Tuesday)

Psalm 139:1-18 (Both Days)

James 4:8-17 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

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LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

–Psalm 139:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was approximately 140 years old.  The Ark of the Covenant was there.  Repairing the structure of the Temple, which, like all buildings, required maintenance, should have been a priority long before King Jehoash made it one.  The lack of upkeep indicated an improper attitude toward God.

The proper attitude toward God includes humility.  God is God; none of us is God.  We depend entirely upon God (and rely upon each other), so any thought to the contrary is mistaken.  Our interdependence and mutual responsibility (to and for each other) leaves no room for sins such as oppression, exploitation, and gossiping.  Our total dependence on God leaves no room for excessive pride.

Naaman learned humility and monotheism.  Unfortunately, the narrative ended with the beginning of his journey back home.  I wonder how the experience at the River Jordan changed him and how that altered reality became manifest in his work and daily life.  I also wonder if that led to any negative consequences for him.

Martin Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.”  The letter’s emphasis on works (including justification by them) offended the reformer, who was reacting, not responding, to certain excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  The epistle’s emphasis on works was–and remains–necessary, however.  The book’s condemnations of exploitation and hypocrisy have called proper attention to injustices and other sins for millennia.

I am not a wealthy landowner exploiting impoverished workers (James 5:1-6), but part of these days’ composite reading from the epistle speaks to me.  The condemnation of judging others (4:1-11) hits close to home.  My estimate is that judging others is the sin I commit most often.  If I am mistaken, judging others is one of the sins I commit most frequently.  I know better, of course, but like St. Paul the Apostle, I know well the struggle with sin and my total dependence upon God.  Knowing that one has a problem is the first step in the process of resolving it.

Caution against moral perfectionism is in order.  Public statements by relatives of victims of the White supremacist gunman who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, have been impressive.  The capacity for forgiveness has come quickly to some.  I rejoice that divine grace is so richly evident in their lives.  For some of us (including the author), however, the capacity to forgive those who have committed lesser offenses has arrived later rather than sooner.  For others it remains in transit.  In any circumstance may it arrive in God’s time.  May the rest of us refrain from judging those struggling with that (and other) issues.

The Didache, an essential Christian text from the second century of the Common Era, opens with an explanation of the Way of Life (filling a page and a half in my copy) and the Way of Death (just one paragraph–about one-third of a page).  The accent on the positive aspect of morality is laudable.  The section on the two Ways ends with two sentences:

Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching, for such a man’s tuition can have nothing to do with God.  If you can shoulder the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if that is too much for you, do as much as you can.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987), p. 193

We, to succeed, even partially, depend on grace.  Even so, I am still trying to do as much as I can, to borrow language from the Didache, for human efforts are not worthless.  I am imperfect; there is much room for improvement.  Much has improved already, by grace.  The potential for spiritual growth excites me.  The only justifiable boast will be in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-20-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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