Archive for the ‘Monotheism’ Tag

The Family of Hosea and the Restoration of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING HOSEA, PART II

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

Hosea 1:2-2:1 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 1:2-2:3 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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

When I began my preparation for writing this post, I read the text aloud.  While doing so, I got theological whiplash.  Late in the reading, I also detected evidence of subsequent, Judean editing of the text, as in 1:7 and 1:10-2:1/2:3.  (I wrote about reasons for subsequent, Judean editing in the original text of the Book of Hosea in the previous post.)

Adultery and prostitution, in the Bible, are sometimes simply adultery and prostitution.  On other occasions, they are not literal references, but metaphors for idolatry.  And, on other occasions, they are both literal and metaphorical.  Regarding Gomer, the third option is germane.

Idolatry was widespread in ancient Israel.  Polytheism was ubiquitous in the ancient world, so monotheism was an outlying theological position.  Canaanite religion was popular in ancient Israel, much to the consternation of God, God’s prophets, and pious priests.  Pious priestly religion and folk religion were quite different from each other.  The cult of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god, entailed shrine prostitution, to ensure continued fertility and productivity of the soil, officially.  Gomer (“to complete,” literally) was probably one of these prostitutes.

A competing scholarly opinion in commentaries holds that Gomer was a different type of prostitute.  Some books I consulted suggested that she may have resorted to prostitution out of economic necessity, that her alternatives may have been starvation and homelessness.  These scholars write accurately that many women in patriarchal societies have found themselves in this predicament, and that, in Gomer’s society, women lacked property rights.

Gomer being a shrine prostitute fits the metaphor in the Book of Hosea better.

Metaphorically, God’s covenant with the Jews was a marriage.  Worship of Baal Peor, therefore, constituted infidelity.  God was, metaphorically, her husband, and the Jewish people were God’s wife.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer dramatized the divine indictment of Israel.  The prophet played the role of God, and Gomer took the role of Israel.  The children of Hosea ben Beeri and Gomer bath Didlaim bore names that revealed God’s terse messages.

  1. The first son was Jezreel, literally “God sows.”  Jezreel was a city (as in Joshua 15:56) and a valley (as in Judges 6:33).  Apart from the Book of Hosea, this place name occurred in Joshua 15, 17, and 19; Judges 6; 1 Samuel 25, 27, 29, and 30; 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4; 1 Kings 4, 18, and 21; 2 Kings 8, 9, and 10; 1 Chronicles 4; and 2 Chronicles 22.  The city of Jezreel had a bloody past.  There, for example, Queen Jezebel had plotted the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21).  And, when King Jehu founded the dynasty to which King Jeroboam II belonged, Jehu did so by assassinating the entire royal court at Jezreel.  What had come around was coming around, God warned.  In 747 B.C.E., King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, died after reigning for about six months.  His life and the House of Jehu ended violently when King Shallum staged a palace coup.  About a month later, King Shallum died in another palace coup (2 Kings 15:11-15).  Hosea, by the way, disagreed with the perspective of 2 Kings 9-10, the author of which held that God had authorized Jehu’s revolution.
  2. Lo-ruhamah was the daughter of Hosea and Gomer.  The daughter’s name meant “not accepted” and “not shown mercy.”  (Poor girl!)  God refused to accept or pardon the House of Israel.
  3. Lo-ammi was the second son.  His name meant “not My people.”  (Poor boy!)  The House of Israel had ceased to be God’s people.

Pronouncements of divine judgment continued after 1:9.  But first, in 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification), came an announcement of divine mercy.  Those God had just condemned as not being His people would become the Children of the Living God, shown mercy and lovingly accepted.  This passage may have been a subsequent insertion into the Book of Hosea.

The juxtaposition of material serves a valuable theological purpose.  It reminds us that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Therefore, do not abandon all hope or presume on divine mercy; God both judges and forgives.  I recognize this balance without knowing where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer also dramatized God’s continued yearning for Israel.  R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

Hosea speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final words remain with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

History offers a complicating factor.  John Adams, while defending the accused British soldiers charged in the so-called Boston Massacre, said,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

  1. The Assyrian Empire absorbed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.  A mass deportation followed.  This was not the first mass deportation.  A previous one had occured in 733 B.C.E., when that empire had claimed much of the territory of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  2. Many refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel fled south, to the Kingdom of Judah after these events.  These refugees merged into the tribes of Judah and Simeon.
  3. Many other Israelites remained in their homeland.  Many who did this intermarried with Assyrian colonists, producing the Samaritans.
  4. The Ten Lost Tribes assimilated.  Their genetic and cultural heritage spread throughout the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa, over time.
  5. The two kingdoms did not reunited, contrary to Hosea 1:11/2:2.

Nevertheless, I like what R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF HENRI DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, DOMINICAN, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GLYCERIA OF HERACLEA, MARTYR, CIRCA 177

THE FEAST OF UNITA BLACKWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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

In Praise of Wisdom   Leave a comment

Above:  Jackson Mine, Negaunee, Michigan, 1912

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART III

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

Baruch 3:9-4:4

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

My recent Bible study and reading programs have brought me back to Job 28 twice in short order.  This has been serendipitous.  Job 28 was the model for much of Baruch 3:9-4:4.

Wisdom is inaccessible to human beings, Job 28 tells us.  Job 27 flows into Job 29.  Chapter 28 sits between for some reason.  Job 28 concludes with:

And [God] said to man,

“Wisdom?  It is fear of the Lord.

Understanding?–avoidance of evil.”

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Baruch 3:9-4:4 embraces the Deutronomic teaching that God punishes sins and rewards righteousness.  The text urges people to obey God’s commandments, to keep the Law of Moses.  This is a prominent motif in the Bible:  Love God; keep divine commandments.

How, then, should exiles–or just people living under occupation–live while they wait for divine deliverance?  They ought to keep God’s laws?  They must hold God in awe and avoid evil.  The beginning of evil is the false idea that one can do whatever one wants and God will not care.  Evil also falsely assumes that one can and must act on one’s power, given the assumption that God either does not exist or does not care.

To quote Anthony J. Saldarini:

We either acknowledge and obey God in harmony with the world or reject God with a disobedience that leads to chaos.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (2001), 970

Without rejecting science and cultural tolerance, both of which are valuable, I take Saldarini’s point.  I take the point of the author of Baruch 3:9-4:4.  Divine wisdom is 

the book of the precepts of God.

–4:1

Monotheism is uncompromising.  It stakes its claim and rejects other deities.  Ethical monotheism proposes standard that may prove daunting to many people.  So be it.

As we stand firm, may we do so lovingly.  May we never be obnoxious as we assert the truth.  As we proclaim God, may we avoid erecting barriers to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIACZYNSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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

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

Above:  King Jehoahaz of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

PART XCII

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

2 Kings 13:1-25

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

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)

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

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.)

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

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

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

The Reign of King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, with the Rebellion of Mesha   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoram/Joram of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

PART LXXXII

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

2 Kings 3:1-27

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

…in all his days [Elisha] did not tremble before any ruler,

and no one brought him into subjection.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:12b, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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

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

King Jehoshaphat of Judah (Reigned 870-846 B.C.E.)

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

King Jehoram/Joram of Israel received a mostly negative evaluation in 2 Kings 3:1-3.  His father, King Ahab, had ordered the construction of pillars in honor of Baal Peor.  King Jehoram/Joram ordered their destruction.  That was positive.  Nevertheless, Elisha had no use and little time for the King Jehoram/Joram.

The geopolitical situation was as follows:  Israel and Judah were allies.  Their royal families had married into each other.  Israel dominated Moab, the king of which, was Mesha.  Judah dominated Edom.  King Mesha of Moab sought to cease being a vassal of the King of Israel.  King Jehoshaphat of Judah feared that, if King Mesha succeeded, the King of Edom would also rebel.

Mesha’s revolt succeeded.  At first, the Israel-Judah coalition seemed poised to win the conflict.  When Moabites saw the reflection of red sandstone mountains in water, they mistook the sight for pools of blood.  Then the coalition forces attacked.  After Mesha made his firstborn sone and his heir a human sacrifice, the coalition forces lost and retreated.  The Mesha stele has confirmed some of these details.

Mesha assumed that this god Chemosh was angry, hence the subjugation of Moab to Israel since the reign of King Omri.  The King of Moab understood himself to be appeasing this deity.

One interpretation of the story assumes that the wrath of Chemosh against coalition forces drove them out of Moab.  Or maybe the story assumes that that the wrath of YHWH against Israel for violating the prohibition against scorched-earth warfare drove coalition forces out of Moab.  One may legitimately wonder, according to 2 Kings 3:27, whose “great wrath” came upon Israel.

In simple terms, the question is one of monotheism versus monolatry.  Monotheism, of course, affirms the existence of only one deity.  Monolatry accepts that other deities exist yet rejects the worship of them.  The question of whether the original intention of a particular verse in the Hebrew Bible indicated monotheism or monolatry is one a person can trace by comparing commentaries.

I cannot read the mind of the author of 2 Kings 3:27.  I know, however, that strict monotheism in Jewish folk religion (as opposed to priestly orthodoxy) became prominent after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile.  I know that, for a very long time, many Hebrews in ancient Judah and Israel assumed that other peoples had their gods.  I suppose that the author of 2 Kings 3:27 may have thought that Chemosh had power in Moab.

If so, I point to another example of why some ancient perspectives in the Bible should not define my thinking.  On the other hand, if the wrath was that of YHWH, according to the author of 2 Kings 3:27, my previous point does not apply in this case.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

PART LXXI

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

1 Kings 17:1-24

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

And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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

For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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

Samuel as Judge   Leave a comment

Above: Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

PART VII

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

1 Samuel 7:2-17

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

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings,

From the wicked who assault me,

from my deadly enemies who surround me.

–Psalm 17:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

Unlike as in Chapter 4, the link between fidelity to God and military victory is explicit in Chapter 7.

The problem with idolatry in Israel in the Old Testament was NOT that people were NOT worshiping YHWH.  They were.  No, the problem was that they were NOT worshiping only YHWH.  Polytheism was a difficult habit to unlearn.  Astarte (the Canaanite goddess of fertility and love) was allegedly YHWH’s consort.  Some Biblical authors likened idolatry to sexual infidelity, in fact.

Unfortunately, successive generations of Hebrews were serial idolaters.  This was a theme of which authors, their works later cut and pasted during the post-exilic period, wrote.

Idols are easy to find.  An idol can be anything–an object, an activity, an idea, a person, a pet, or an action.  The test is function.  Whatever or whoever functions as an idol, is an idol.  One can affirm the existence of just one deity and still commit idolatry.  Idols distract one from God.  They receive love one should give to God.  In Augustinian theology, sin is disordered love.  Many people, objects, etc., are worthy of love, but not as much as God.  To love x more than one should and God less than one should is to sin and to commit idolatry.

Loving God as one should does not prevent misfortune, of course.  It does not guarantee wealth and good health, either.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Jesus and the plethora of Christian martyrs prove that suffering may result from proper piety.  However, worshiping only God is the best policy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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

Arguing Faithfully With God, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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 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

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

1 Samuel 12:19-24 or Jeremiah 20:7-18

Psalm 107:1-15

Romans 8:26-39

Luke 12:49-13:9

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

Relationships with God can be difficult; read today’s lesson from Jeremiah, for example.  It starts with,

O LORD, you have duped me, and I have been your dupe;

you have outwitted me and have prevailed.

A few verses later, one reads,

But the LORD is on my side, strong and ruthless,

therefore my persecutors shall stumble and fall powerless.

Nevertheless, a few verses later, one reads,

A curse on the day when I was born!

This is vintage Jeremiah.  It is stronger than Psalm 107, consistent with our reading from Jeremiah.  The reading from Romans 8, in contrast, is upbeat:

If God is on our side, who is against us?…for I am convinced that…nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Verses 31, 38, and 39, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I suppose that, depending on the time of day, Jeremiah, a prophet of God, changed his mind about whether God was on his side.  That was fine, for Jeremiah had a relationship with God, at least.

My second favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  (Monotheism is my favorite aspect of Judaism.)  Islam is about submitting to God.  In Judaism, however, one can kvetch at God and be pious.  One can also be pious in the same way in Christianity, fortunately.  After all, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Repentance remains vital, though.  Although nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  We human beings retain our free will; may we use it wisely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/24/devotion-for-proper-20-year-c-humes/

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

God of the Jews and the Gentiles, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath, by Louis Hersent

Image in the Public Domain

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

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 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

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

Exodus 20:1-20 or 1 Kings 17:8-24

Psalm 57

Hebrews 1:1-2:12

Mark 8:1-13

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

Scholars of the Hebrew Bible debate whether the commandment,

You shall have no other god besides me,

in its original context, refutes the existence of other gods or merely places them off limits to Hebrews.  Subsequent monotheistic developments point to refutation of other gods in today’s context, though.

Scholars of the Hebrew Bible agree, however, that Canaanite religion influenced Hebrew religion in more than one way.  The Bible tells us that polytheism influenced Hebrew folk religion, much to the consternation of the orthodox.  We also detect linguistic influences of Canaanite religion in certain names of God, as in Psalm 57.  Furthermore, some of the Psalms are rewritten Canaanite texts.

Three of the assigned readings pertain to Gentiles.

  1. The widow of Zarephath and her son were Gentiles.
  2. The 4000 or so people Jesus fed in Mark 8:1-13 were Gentiles.
  3. The audience for the so-called Epistle to the Hebrews (not an epistle) consisted of Gentiles.

I, as a Gentile, find this comforting.

How likely are we to write off populations as being beyond hope, help, salvation, et cetera?  Take courage; God has not, does not, and will never write you, O reader, off.  But will you write yourself off?  I pray that you will not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-18-year-b-humes/

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

Psalm 89   1 comment

Above:  A Map of the Persian/Archaemenid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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

POST XXXIV OF LX

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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 226

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

The reign of the last Davidic monarch ended when the Kingdom of Judah died and became part of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The dynasty did not return to power when the Persians conquered the Chaldeans and allowed exiles to return to their ancestral homeland.  God did not reign on Earth and Israel did not bloom, contrary, to high hopes.  A descendant of David did not sit on a throne, contrary to old dreams.  Jews rebuilt in a poor satrapy of the Persian/Archaemenid Empire.  Eventually Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, defeated the Persian Empire and expanded his realm greatly.  Then he died a few years later.  Successor states, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires, battled over Israel until the Hasmoneans (not of Davidic descent) drove out the Selecids and established a dynasty of priest-kings.  About a century later forces of the Roman Republic (by that time, a republic in name only and about thirty years from becoming the Roman Empire officially) took over.

Amid the dashed hopes of restoration of the kingdom under the Davidic Dynasty came affirmations of hesed, or divine faithfulness/kindness/love/steadfast love (depending on translations) and justice.  Nevertheless, the psalmist wondered where that hesed was, just as he blessed God.

Discussions of political systems aside, feeling besieged while trying to maintain hope in God’s hesed is a timeless manner.  Neither do geography, culture, and other circumstances curtail the power of Psalm 89.  One might find reasons to identify with sentiments of the text in a wide variety of settings.  Certainly the sense of disappointment with God is both old and contemporary.

When we feel disappointment with God, we should say so to God, thereby following the lead of the author of Psalm 89.  This is spiritually healthy; if we argue with God, so be it.  At least we are being honest.  Honesty is, after all, one foundation of a good relationship.  Arguing faithfully with God is also my second favorite aspect of Judaism; monotheism is the first.

As for the delay of hopes, I point out that time has yet to expire.  Perhaps the error is human, with regard to the linking of expectations and timeframes.

The passage of time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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

Posted August 14, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 89

Tagged with , ,

Faithfulness and Faithlessness   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

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

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 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

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

The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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

A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d/

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