Archive for the ‘Judges 4’ 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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It Is Getting Dark In Here   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Judges 4:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him,

The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.”

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be silent before the Lord GOD!

For the day of the LORD is at hand;

the LORD has prepared a sacrifice,

he has consecrated his guests.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the people

who rest complacently on their dregs,

those who say in their hearts,

“The LORD wil not do good,

nor will he do harm.”

Their wealth shall be plundered,

and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,

they shall not drink wine from them.

The great day of the LORD is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter,

the warrior cries aloud there.

That day will be a day of wrath,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,

a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

I shall bring such distress upon people

that they shall walk like the blind,

because they have sinned against the LORD,

that blood shall be poured out like the dust,

and their flesh like dung.

Neither shall their silver nor their gold

will be able to save them

on the day of the LORD’s wrath;

in the fire of his passion

the whole earth shall be consumed;

for a full, a terrible end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say,

There is peace and security,

then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:14-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Collect:

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.

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Some Related Links:

Matthew 25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

1 Thessalonians 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-tuesday-year-1/

Addressing a Specific Form of Foolishness:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-friday-year-1/

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Today I choose to leave the Gospel reading to a related post while I pursue another track.

Proper 28 is the penultimate Sunday in the Church year; Advent is nearly upon us.  So the lectionary readings have turned toward the apocalyptic, as they are prone to do in November.  Nevertheless, I write these words in late May 2011, just a few days after the predicted rapture that never occurred.  This was no surprise for me.  To state the case simply, Harold Camping does not know more than Jesus:

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  (Matthew 24:36, New Revised Standard Version)

It is customary that, in The Episcopal Church, to read an assigned text then say,

The word of the Lord,

to which the congregation responds reflexively,

Thanks be to God.

If the reading comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, the priest or deacon concludes the lesson then says

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the people say,

Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

Yet I recall one 6:00 P.M. Sunday service at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, when our Rector, Beth Long, read the designated Gospel text, which was rather grim.  An awkward silence followed before we said with hesitation,

Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

What else were we supposed to say?

That is the sense I take away from Zephaniah.  My fellow liturgy enthusiasts might know that the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass used to include the “Dies Irae” (“Day of wrath and doom impending”) section.  More than one composer set it to music gloriously, with Verdi’s version being the one that plays inside my cranium most often.  The lesson from Zephaniah was the basis of that Latin text.  Anyhow, am I supposed to say “Thanks be to God” after the reading from Zephaniah?

It is vital to remember that we are looking at just a portion of the sacred story; the tone is quite different on Easter Sunday, for example.  There is a time and a season for everything, if not every verse, within a well-constructed lectionary.  There is a time to rejoice.  And there is a time, as we read in 1 Thessalonians, to be serious.  Yet there is never a bad time to put on the breastplate of faith and love.

May we wear it always.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

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

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