Archive for the ‘Sorcery’ Tag

Religious Decline and Hope of Recovery   Leave a comment

Above:  Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART II

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Malachi 1:2-3:12

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As I wrote in Reading Malachi, Part I, the dating of the Book of Malachi is vague–perhaps prior to 445 B.C.E., when the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah began (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9)–or perhaps not.   Clear, however, are the sense of spiritual crisis and the religious decline in the Book of Malachi.

Consider 1:2-5, O reader.  We read divine assurance of love for the people.  We may assume safely that the population (much of it, anyway) needed this assurance.  The proof of divine love for Jews in Judea in Malachi 1:2-5 is their continued existence in their ancestral homeland.  The contrast with their ancient foe and cousin people, the Edomites, is stark.

I have read and blogged about divine judgment on the people of Edom in Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Obadiah; and Isaiah 34:5-17.

The designated portion of the Book of Malachi continues with the condemnations of priests and the population.  We read of priests offering defiled food as sacrifices.  We read that God objected strongly to such disrespect, and preferred no ritual sacrifices to the offerings of blemished animals.  (See Exodus 12:5; Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10; Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 22:22).  We read that God was really angry:

And now, O priests, this charge is for you:  Unless you obey and unless you lay it to heart, and do dishonor to My name–said the LORD of blessings into curses.  (Indeed, I have turned them into curses, because you do not lay it to heart.)  I will put your seed under a ban, and I will strew dung upon your faces, the dung of your festal sacrifices, and you shall be carried out to its [heap].

–Malachi 2:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, we read that (much of) the population of Israel has failed to keep the covenant, too.  We read that God objected to Jewish men divorcing Jewish wives to marry foreign women.  One may recall that this was also an issue in Ezra 10.  As prior to the Babylonian Exile, idolatry is in play.  Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 12:31 permit divorce, but Malachi 2:16 begins:

For I detest divorce….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Context is crucial; statements never arise in a vaccum.

Malachi 3:5 specifies offenses:

But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me:  Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause] of the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the LORD of Hosts.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Faithless members of the Chosen People remain “children of Jacob,” we read.  And God (as in Zechariah 1:3) expects them to express remorse for their sins and to repent:

Turn back to Me, and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Malachi 3:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The text continues by explaining another way (other than not committing the previously listed sins) the people could return to God:  to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21-31; Nehemiah 13:10-13).  The text challenges the people to respond faithfully and generously to the extravagant and generosity of God.

Malachi 3:11 mentions locusts in the present tense.  This clue does not reveal as much as one may guess.  Does Malachi 3:11 date the Book of Malachi approximately contemporary with the Book of Joel, whenever that was?  The case for this is tenuous and circumstantial.  One may recall that swarms of locusts were a frequent threat in the region.  Malachi 3:11 may tell us one reason many people were not paying their tithes, though.

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 exists within a context, of course.  Taking it out of context distorts its meaning.  Recall Malachi 2:17, O reader.  We read there that people have been wearying God by saying:

“All who do evil are good in the sight of the LORD, and in them He delights,” or else, “Where is the God of justice?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 rebuts that wearying statements and that wearying question.

Trusting in God liberates.  It liberates populations and individuals.  It liberates them to become their best possible selves in God, who is extravagantly generous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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Prophecy and Prophets   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VIII

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Ezekiel 12:21-14:11

Ezekiel 15:1-8

Ezekiel 20:45-22:31 (Anglican and Protestant)

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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In the ancient Near East, certain assumptions were ubiquitous.  Two of these were:

  1. the multiplicity of deities, and
  2. the defeat of B’s gods by A’s gods when A conquered B.

Yet YHWH remained unconquered when Judah fell.  As the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) approached, come claimed that the prophecies of this event were for the distant future.  They were wrong (12:21-28).  Some (false) prophets of peace predicted peace and security for Judah (13:1-16).  They spoke for themselves, not for God.  Many people resorted to sorcery (13:17-23).  They were wrong.  Idolatry abounded, as usual (14:1-11).  Jerusalem was bound for destruction (15:1-8), regardless of what anyone said or desired in the final years before 586 B.C.E.  And God remained sovereign, regardless of what any human power did.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was the sword of the LORD, after all (20:45-21:17/21:1-22, depending on versification).  Both Judah and Ammon were destined for destruction, but a remnant of Judah would survive (21:23-22:31/21:18-22:31, depending on versification).

I will return to the prophecies of divine judgment against Ammon (already in Amos 1:13-15; Jeremiah 49:1-16; Ezekiel 21:33-37/21:28-32, depending on versification) when I cover Ezekiel 25:1-7.

I, as a Christian, affirm that “God is love,” as I read in 1 John 4:16.  Reading the entire verse is crucial, of course.  In the context of the indwelling of Jesus, we read:

Thus we have come to know and believe in the love which God has for us.

God is love; he who dwells in love is dwelling in God, and God in him.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.

In Jewish terms, salvation comes by grace, just as it does in Christian terms.  In Jewish terms, salvation comes by birth into the Chosen People, the covenant people.  The covenant includes moral mandates.  Persistently and unrepentantly violating moral mandates causes people to drop out of the covenant.

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.  And people read what they have sown.

JUNE 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THEODORE H. ROBSINSON, BRITISH BAPTIST ORIENTALIST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

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In the Wilderness   Leave a comment

Above:  An Oasis, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07236

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FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, you have taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son.

Save us from undue love of the world, that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord,

and so abide in him, that when he shall appear we may not be ashamed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Malachi 3:1-7b

Psalm 1

Romans 13:8-14

Mark 13:33-37

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The readings from Malachi 3 and Mark 13 sound the note of divine judgment.  The Day of the Lord will be bad news for many, we read in Malachi 3, a text indicative of the Hebrew prophetic concern for the conditions of the vulnerable members of society.  Those who oppress them come in for divine condemnation, as do those who swear falsely, commit adultery, and practice sorcery.  Our lesson from Mark 13 concludes the miniature apocalypse of that Gospel, in the context of Holy Week.  May we all perform our sacred duties faithfully.

The decision to assign a portion of Mark 13 for the First Sunday of Advent is appropriate, given the apocalyptic character of the season of Advent.  That decision also seems consistent with the practice of reading the same set of passages on the First Sunday of Advent as on Palm Sunday, per certain Lutheran and Moravian lectionaries.  Not all is light and joy, we perceive.  Yes, the King is coming, but this is not entirely happy news, even for the King, much less his enemies.

Love cannot wrong a neighbour;

therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That verse from St. Paul the Apostle is consistent with our reading from Malachi 3.  As we read in Psalm 1, the wicked, despite any appearances of long-lasting prosperity and success, will perish, and the righteous, despite any appearances of failure, will flourish in the long term.  They are, after all, like trees planted by streams of water.  The timeframe for this success and prosperity of the faithful might not satisfy us or otherwise meet human expectations, but God works on a different schedule.

The wilderness imagery of Psalm 1 is appropriate for Advent.  It is of a piece with the wilderness themes in Lent and accounts of St. John the Baptist in the desert.  In a desert plants with roots in streams will have enough water; they will persist in otherwise hostile circumstances.

The season of Advent is a time to prepare for the twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).  May we certainly observe all the days of Christmas as the sacred season they are.  May we also give Advent its due and be ready for Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS

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