Archive for the ‘Meshach’ Tag

The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART III

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Daniel 3:1-31 (Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican)

Daniel 3:1-100 (Roman Catholic)

Daniel 3:1-97 (Eastern Orthodox)

The Song of the Three Young Men

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Satire is a feature of the Book of Daniel.  Satire is evident in the uses of humor and in the exaggeration of pomp, circumstance, and numbers.  The portrayal of kings as pompous, blustery, and dangerous people is another feature of Biblical satire.  The two main examples who come to my mind are Nebuchadnezzar II (the version from Daniel 1-4), the fictional Darius the Mede (Daniel 6, 9, and 11), and Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace unsinged and in the company of a mysterious fourth man is familiar.  It is one of the more commonly told Bible stories.  If one overlooks the references to Nebuchadnezzar II, one misses some satirical and theological material.

The story portrays King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool who defeats his own purposes.  (Aren’t we glad such people no longer exist?  I am being sarcastic.)  Verse 15 depicts the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch accidentally invoking YHWH, not any member of the Chaldean pantheon.  And, implausibly, the end of the chapter portrays the king deliberately blessing YHWH.  In other words, King Nebuchadnezzar II was no match for YHWH.

Who was the fourth man?  The Jewish Study Bible suggests that he was an angel.  Much of Christian tradition identifies him as the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  I prefer the first option.  Besides, Daniel 3 is a work of fiction.  It is folklore, not history.  And the authors were Jews who died before the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men fall between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24, depending on versification and one’s preferred definition of the canon of scripture.  Set inside the fiery furnace, the additional, Greek verses identify the fourth man as an angel.  

  • The Prayer of Azariah links the suffering of the three pious Hebrews to the sins of their people.  The text expresses communal remorse for and repentance of sin.  God’s punishments are just, the prayer asserts.
  • The Song of the Three Young Men is one of the literary highlights of the Old Testament.  Two canticles from Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) come from this Greek addition.  I adore the John Rutter setting of part of the Song of the Three Young Men (“Glory to you, Lord God of Our Fathers,” S236 in The Hymnal 1982).  The Song of the Three Young Men calls on all of nature to praise God and celebrates God’s deliverance of the three pious Hebrews.

The question of submission to authority is a thorny issue in the Bible, which provides us with no unified answer.  Many people cite Romans 13:1-7 to justify obedience to authority no matter what.  However, one can point to passages such as Exodus 1:15-22 (Shiphrah and Puah the midwives), Daniel 3, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the lions’ den), Tobit 1:16-22 (burying the dead in violation of a royal edict), and Luke 6:22-26 (from the Woes following the Beatitudes) to justify civil disobedience.  Perhaps the best way through this comes from Matthew 22:15-22.  We owe God everything.  We bear the image of God.  And we ought not to deny God that which belongs to God.  The proper application of that timeless principle varies according to circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULÉN AND HIS PROTÉGÉ AND COLLEAGUE, ANDERS NYGREN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

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King Nebuchadnezzar II’s Dream of the Composite Statue   Leave a comment

Above:  The Composite Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART II

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Daniel 2:1-49

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The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel goes awry again in 2:1.  One may recall the passage of three years in Chapter 1.  Chapter 2 occurs after the events of Chapter 1.  So, how could the events of Chapter 2 have occurred in the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II?  If I were a fundamentalist, I would try to rationalize that contradiction.  Yet I am not, so I do not.  Instead, I ask myself,

What is really going on here?

This is a story about the sovereignty and power of God.  The courtiers (“Chaldeans”) could not interpret the king’s dream vision.  So, he nearly killed them all, including Daniel and his Judahite friends.  Daniel, by the power of God, provided the correct interpretation.  People continued to live.  Daniel became the governor of the province of Babylonia.  His friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (introduced in Chapter 1 and prominent in Chapter 3) administered the province under Daniel’s guidance.

I have found two proposed lists of the four empires in the dream vision.  They repeat in Chapter 7, the vision of the four beasts.  The first list, in order, is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Median Empire of “Darius the Mede,” a fictional character (Daniel 6, 9, and 11);
  3. the Persian Empire; and
  4. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great.”

The minority, alternative list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Persian Empire;
  3. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great;” and
  4. the Roman Empire.

According to Daniel 6, 9, and 11, “Darius the Mede” conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and preceded King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.).  In reality, however, Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.

Anyhow, the bottom line in the dream vision is that, after a sequence of increasingly inferior empires, God would finally inaugurate the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  This has yet to happen.

Civilizations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires have risen.  Many have also fallen.

Nothing human lasts forever.  To go full Augustinian on you, O reader, much of that which is temporary (even if long-term) is worthy of love.  But we have an obligation to love God the most.  To love something or someone more than we ought is to take love away from God.  It is to commit idolatry.  We may love our countries, but we should never deify them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL SEABURY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AND PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1391

THE FEAST OF PETER WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER; THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND JOHN FREDEREICK “J. FRED” WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND CHOIR DIRECTOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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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

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:1-28

Psalm 98

Matthew 17:22-27

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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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Violence and Exploitation   1 comment

Ruins of Babylon 1932

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-16078

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:1-18 (Monday)

Daniel 3:19-30 (Tuesday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Revelation 18:1-10, 19-20 (Monday)

Revelation 18:21-24 (Tuesday)

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In righteousness shall he [the LORD] judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I have the read the Book of Daniel (in its Jewish/Protestant and Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox versions) closely.  Neither version has a chronology which makes any sense.  Thus, I conclude, we are reading theologically important folk tales, not anything resembling history.

The character of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.) was not only violent but willing to reverse previous decisions, as the Book of Daniel presents him.  This combination placed others in dangerous positions, for what was mandatory one day might contribute a capital offense the next.  In Daniel 3, for example, the monarch made committing idolatry mandatory upon pain of death.  Then he found three Jewish men–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego–who disobeyed him.  Nebuchadnezzar II tried to execute them in the furnace, but they survived without even a singe mark.  Next the monarch promised violence against anyone who blasphemed Yahweh.

We know from history that, after the time of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to the forces of the Persian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  “Babylon” became the code word for the Revelation to John, which owed much to the Book of Daniel.  In Revelation 18 “Babylon” has fallen and those merchants, monarchs, and other people who had benefited from her oppressive and violent system mourn her demise.  There is much rejoicing in Heaven, however.

“Babylon” functions as an effective, damning metaphor in our day.  We of today live within systems of politics and economics which depend on violence and exploitation, do we not?  Some of us are even invested in one of these systems, whether or not we know it.  If it were to end tomorrow, such people would mourn its passing.  And that fact would stand in condemnation of such people.

I think of this text then ponder the ways in which even my simple lifestyle depends upon deplorable labor conditions and immorally low wages everywhere from down the street to far away.  Who made my garments, shoes, and radios, for example?  And under what conditions?  I apply the same questions to the pens I used to write the first draft of this post and the notebook in which I wrote it.  I could continue in this line of thought, but I have made my point plainly.  Would I mourn the fall of “Babylon”?  (I hope so.)  Would you, O reader?

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Daniel and Revelation, Part II: Settling Scores   1 comment

michelangelo_giudizio_universale_02

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo

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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:

Daniel 3:1-30

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Revelation 20:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

Daniel 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-first-day-of-lent/

Revelation 20:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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The imagery of fire unites the readings from Daniel and Revelation.  King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) II orders Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego–all righteous, observant Jews–thrown into the fire.  But they emerge unscathed.  Yet, at the Last Judgment, in Revelation, the unrighteous face an unpleasant fate, one described metaphorically as

the burning lake.

–verse 15, The New Jerusalem Bible

These are stories about settling scores.

Certain Chaldeans came forward to slander the Jews.

–Daniel 3:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

But God is the one settling scores in Revelation 20 as part of the process of destroying the old, unjust world order before establishing the new, just world order.

Which side of God–good or bad–are you on, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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