Archive for the ‘Ten Lost Tribes’ Tag

Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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The Book of Consolation   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIX

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Jeremiah 30:1-31:40

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The Book of Jeremiah contains distinct sections.  30:1-31:40 is the Book of Consolation.  After all the recent doom and gloom in Jeremiah, some consolation is welcome.

Layers of authorship exist in the Book of Consolation:

  1. A layer dating to the prophet himself,
  2. A layer of the editing of statements dating to the prophet himself,
  3. A layer dating to the Babylonian Exile, and
  4. A layer dating to after the Babylonian Exile.

I acknowledge this and focus on themes.

We read of a divine promise of the end of the Babylonian Exile, with collective spiritual renewal attached the return to the ancestral homeland.

We read of God chastising the covenant community for its sins and devouring those who wanted to devour the covenant community.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

The image of God as the Good Shepherd, reversing exile, occurs in Jeremiah 31:10-14.  For other occurrences, read Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34:11-16.  The image of the Good Shepherd applies to Jesus in John 10:1-21.

Jeremiah 31:15 is one of the verses dubiously quoted in reference to Jesus (Matthew 2:18).  (The Gospel of Matthew frequently quotes the Hebrew Bible dubiously in reference to Jesus.)  Jeremiah 31:15 uses the name of Rachel, wife of Jacob, and alludes to Genesis 35:16-21 and 1 Samuel 10:2.  In Jeremiah 31:15, “Rachel” (Jerusalem personified) weeps for those who have gone into exile.  Yet these exiles–or their descendants–will return, we read.  Matthew 2:18 interprets Jeremiah 31:15 as a prediction of the Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, circa 4 B.C.E.

We also read of the remnant of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel reincorporating into Zion.  This element is either historically troublesome or potentially so.

  1. It may refer to those people of Israel who retained their faith joining the spiritually renewed community.  This is not historically troublesome.  The historical record mentions people fleeing Israel, as well as their descendants moving to the ancestral homeland.
  2. However, if the prophecy in Chapter 30 is a version of the prophecy in Chapter 31, we may have a historical problem, O reader.  The historical record tells us that the descendants of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah never reunited.  The combination of genetics and cultural anthropology tells us that Ten Lost Tribes scattered across the Old World–from South Africa to Afghanistan.  And, with the advent of widespread global travel, we can state with certainty that the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes have scattered across the world.
  3. We do not have a historical problem if the fulfillment of this prophecy has yet to occur.

Whenever God will reunite the remnants of Israel and Judah, we read, God will establish a new covenant–one written on human hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Early Christian interpretation of this passage as referring to Jesus explains why the New Testament bears the label it does.  We can thank Tertullian (in full, Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian, c. 160-c. 225 B.C.E.) for that.  In the context of Jeremiah 31, though, the prophecy refers to the internalization of the Torah, therefore, to a spiritual state in which disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

This topic reminds me of an abbreviation of an extended passage from St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430):

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

The too-abbreviated version is:

Love God and do whatever you please.

The rest of the quote is essential for proper context and understanding.

Anyhow, the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 has yet to come true communally.  Some especially holy men and women may have, by grace, achieved the spiritual state St. Augustine described.  I am not one of them.

Jeremiah 31 concludes with the repetition of divine faithfulness to the covenant people.  God may punish them for their sins, but will never destroy them.  The Jews will remain the Chosen People for all time.  Jeremiah 31:38-40 reverses Jeremiah 1:10.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build up and to plant.

–Jeremiah 1:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is the beginning of one thread.  Then we read Jeremiah 31:38-40:

See, a time is coming–declares the LORD–when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate; and the measuring line shall go straight out to the Gareb Hill, and then turn toward Goah.  And the entire Valley of the Corpses and Ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, and the corner of the Horse Gate on the east, shall be holy to the LORD.  They shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This description of the rebuilding of Jerusalem speaks of a promising future.  Yet I know of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  We may be reading a yet-unfulfilled prophecy.

Or Jeremiah may have gotten this one wrong.  He also predicted the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (46:1-6).  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SPYRIDON OF CYPRUS, BISHOP OF TREMITHUS, CYPRUS; AND HIS CONVERT, SAINT TRYPHILLIUS OF LEUCOSIA, CYPRUS; OPPONENTS OF ARIANISM

THE FEAST OF DAVID ABEEL, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD, U.S. METHODIST THEN CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part IV: Idolatry and Degeneration   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Neighbors

Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING HOSEA, PART VII

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Hosea 9:1-17

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I am convinced that references to Egypt in the Book of Amos may date to the Judean editing of the text.  History tells me that, in the days of the prophet Hosea, Aram, not Egypt, was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  History also tells me that, when the (southern) Kingdom of Judah was waning, Egypt was the main rival to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, successor to and conqueror of the Assyrian Empire.  I also recall 2 Kings 23:31f, in which the Pharaoh, having killed King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in battle, selected the next two Kings of Judah–Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Jeconiah and Shallum; reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E.) and Jehoiakim (born Eliakim; reigned 608-598 B.C.E.).  (See 2 Kings 23:31-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:1-8; and 1 Esdras 1:34-42.)  References to returning to Egypt make sense on a literal level after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, given the events of Jeremiah 42:1-44:31.  On a metaphorical level, “returning to Egypt” stands for abandoning freedom in God and returning to captivity, thereby reversing the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17-14:31).

As for eating unclean food in Assyria (9:3), just replace Assyria with Babylonia, and that statement applies to the late Judean reality, too.  2 Kings 24:1-25:30 tells of the fall of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  That portion of scripture also tells us that the last three Kings of Judah were Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassals.

Editing the original version of the Book of Hosea to describe the plight of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah required little effort.  For example, Hoshea (r. 732-723 B.C.E.), the last King of Israel, was a rebellious vassal of Assyria.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17).  Likewise, King Zedekiah (born Mattaniah; reigned 597-586 B.C.E.) was a rebellious vassal of Babylonia.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58)

A sense of divine sadness pervades Hosea 9:1-17.  One can feel it as one reads God, filtered through Hosea and perhaps subsequent editors, asking:

Why did my people make such terrible, destructive choices?

The chapter concludes on a somber note:

My God rejects them,

Because they have not obeyed Him….

–Hosea 9:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Cultures, societies, and individuals have the choice to obey or to disobey the moral mandates from God.  Well-intentioned people who seek to obey God may debate how to do so.  The situation in the Book of Hosea, however, is that the debate does not take place.  The Book of Hosea describes a society in which disregard for those moral mandates was endemic.  Judgment for trying and failing to fulfill these moral mandates differs from judgment for not caring enough to try.

My late beloved was mentally ill.  Immediately prior to the end of her life, I told her that I accepted that I had moral obligations to her, but that I did not know in the moment what they required me to do.  I was attempting, in a terminal crisis, to behave morally.  Perhaps I made the wrong choice.  Maybe I committed a sin of omission by avoiding the difficult and proper course of action.  Perhaps she would have done differently in a counterfactual scenario.  But I proceeded from a morally correct assumption, at least.

I live in a conflicted state.  I tell myself that I sinned by what I did not do, not what I did.  On the other hand, I tell myself that I could, at best, have delayed, not prevented her death by means other than natural causes.  I tell myself, too, that I had already delayed her death by means other than natural causes for years.  I tell myself that I carry survivor’s guilt, and that God has forgiven me for all sins of commission and omission vis-à-vis my late beloved.  I have yet to forgive myself, though.

I wonder what exiles from Israel and Judah felt as they began their captivity and that exile dragged on.  I wonder how many of them “saw the light” and repented.  I know that the Ten Lost Tribes (mostly) assimilated, and that their descendants spread out across the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa.  Knowing this adds poignancy to Hosea 9:14b:

And they shall go wandering

Among the nations.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We human beings condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST; HIS SON-IN-LAW, JOHN HENRY HOBART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW YORK; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM HOBART HARE, APOSTLE TO THE SIOUX AND EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF NIOBRARA THEN SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA VOLPICELLI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE SACRED HEART; SAINT LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, FOUNDER OF THE GRAY FRIARS OF CHARITY AND COFOUNDER OF THE GRAY SISTERS OF SAINT ELIZABETH; AND SAINT GIULIA SALZANO, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE CATECHETICAL SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AND THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEYS AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF DONALD COGGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN ZIATYK, POLISH UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1952

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

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART II

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

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

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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

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Being Good Soil IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Protector of all that trust in thee,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;

that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal,

that we finally lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 188

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Isaiah 12

Psalm 25

Acts 9:1-18

Mark 4:1-20

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Isaiah 12 flows directly from Chapter 11.  The first words of Isaiah 12 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) are,

In that day….

To understand what day that is, one must back up into Isaiah 11.  “That day” is the ideal, peaceful future that will follow “the Day of the Lord.”  In Christian terms, one would describe “that day” as the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, “that day” also refers to the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  This text describes a time in our future.  Isaiah 12 praises God, who was faithful, is faithful, will continue to be faithful, and dwells among us.

Psalm 25 and Acts 9:1-18 add repentance to our stable of topics.  Divine forgiveness of sins, another related topic, exists also in Isaiah 12.

We read the familiar “Parable of the Sower” in Mark 4.  I prefer another title, “Parable of the Four Soils,” which I read in a commentary.  The parable seems more concerned with the soils than with the sower and the seeds.  The parable invites each one of us to ask,

What kind of soil am I?

What kind of soil are you, O reader?  Do you have shallow faith that cannot endure trouble or persecution?  Do the cares of the world strangle you faith, as it may be?  Does faith never take root in you?  Or do you have deep faith?  Depending on your answer, O reader, you may have another reason to repent and to seek forgiveness.

We mere mortals need not wait until the time of the fully realized Kingdom of God for God to dwell among us.  God is always present and accessible.  The Quakers are correct; each of us has an Inner Light.  Many of us seem not to know that, though.  Others know about their Inner Light and ignore it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XX   2 comments

Above:  Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Jacob

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Amos 9:8-15 or Proverbs 22:1-23

Psalm 119:33-48

1 Timothy 6:1-8

John 4:1-42

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First, I condemn all forms of slavery at all times and places.  The acceptance of slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is false doctrine.

With that matter out of the way, I focus on my main point.  1 Timothy 6:7 is correct; we came into this world with nothing.  We, likewise, can take nothing with us when we die.  Greed is a form of idolatry.

The reading from Proverbs 22 includes harsh words for those who oppress the poor.  To oppress to the poor is to get on God’s bad side.  Oppression of the poor is a topic in the Book of Amos.  That practice is one of the stated causes of the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance in Amos 9.  The destruction, we read, will not be thorough.  Then restoration will follow.  This restoration remains in future tense, given the scattering of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

LORD, let your mercy come upon me,

the salvation you have promised.

–Psalm 119:41, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Jesus knew how to use harsh language.  He used none with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, though.  He had a long conversation with a woman–a Samaritan woman.  Jesus surprised even his closest associates by doing so.  Christ offered grace and no judgment.  Many exegetes, preachers, and Sunday School teachers have judged the woman, though.  They should never have done so.

The woman at the well was different from the condemned people in Amos 9 and the false teachers in 1 Timothy 6.  She was receptive to God speaking to her when she realized what was happening.  That Samaritan woman gained insight.  She also acquired a good name, something more desirable than great riches.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/devotion-for-proper-6-year-d-humes/

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The Death and Evaluation of Elisha   1 comment

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XCIII

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2 Kings 13:14-21

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It was Elijah who was covered by the whirlwind,

and Elisha was filled with his spirit,

in all his days he did not tremble before any ruler,

and no one brought him into subjection.

Nothing was too hard for him,

and when he was dead his body prophesied.

As in life he did wonders,

so in death his deeds were marvelous.

For all this the people did not repent,

and they were carried away captive from their land

and were scattered over all the earth;

the people were left very few in number,

but with rulers from the House of David.

Some of them did what was pleasing to God,

but others multiplied sins.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:12-16, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Some translations add two more lines in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:12.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989), for example, tells us:

He performed twice as many signs,

and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.

The first of those two lines is an interpretation of Elisha having requested and received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit in 2 Kings 2:9-18.  (I have covered that passage already in this series of posts.) 

The discrepancy between two sets of translations results from differing texts, in both Hebrew and Greek.  This is not a new issue in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira, as one who reads it closely should know.

The agreed-upon text of Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:12-16 is my guide for this post.

  1. Elisha did not suffer fools easily and did not find proud, powerful people impressive.  He had a healthy attitude in these matters.  It helped him confront authority, as a prophet should.
  2. Verse 13 refers to 2 Kings 13:21.
  3. Working wonders (even when dead) was impressive and gave Elisha his bona fides.
  4. Yet collective sins persisted, and future generations paid the price.  Ten tribes became the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Human nature is a constant factor.  The capacity for obliviousness can shock yet should never surprise.  And sin is both collective and individual.  Only grace can save us from each other and ourselves.  The free will to accept grace and its demands is a gift of grace.  Every road leads to grace, if one drives in the proper lane.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

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

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

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Psalm 119:145-176   5 comments

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POST LII OF LX

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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.

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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 226

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This is the last of five posts on Psalm 119 in this series.  The first is here.  The second is here.  The third is here.  The fourth is here.

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Let me live, that I may praise You;

may Your rules be my help.

–Psalm 119:175, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Interestingly, in verse 175 the psalmist does not pray,

may You be my help

or

You are my help.

No, the author of Psalm 119 emphasizes the rules, which he describes as worthy of learning (verse 7), delightful (verse 16), his intimate companions (verse 24), just and eternal (verse 160), et cetera.  Also, love of the torah replaces love of God in the psalm.  This use of torah is mystical; God’s words have saving power.  Yet the psalmist also seeks divine deliverance throughout the text, as in verse 176:

I have strayed like a  lost sheep;

search for Your servant,

for I have not neglected Your commandments.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

A note in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that I contrast 119:176 with Psalm 44:18:

All this has come upon us,

yet we have not forgotten You,

or been false to Your covenant.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Note, O reader, what the psalmists have not forgotten or neglected:  “You” (God), in the case of Psalm 44, and “Your commandments,” in the case of Psalm 119.

All of his is fascinating reading for me, an Episcopalian who grew up as a United Methodist.  The sentiment of Psalm 44:18 (“we have not forgotten You”) comes naturally to me.  However, the attachment to the rules in Psalm 119 does not.  Nevertheless, the legal emphasis of Psalm 119 makes sense in its postexilic setting, given the teaching that neglecting those commandments had led to two exiles and the lost of ten tribes.

As for the straying of the psalmist in 119:176, how has he strayed, if indeed he has not neglected divine commandments?  The text does not explain.  Somehow he finds himself lost, or more precise, perishing.  Those enemies to whom he has been referring remain.  The psalmist acknowledges that he and all faithful people find their deliverance via grace, not the keeping of the rules.

St. Paul the Apostle agreed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Christ, Victorious I   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 14:1-9

Psalm 64 or 119:73-96

John 16:16-24

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17

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The reading from Hosea is interesting.  Thematically it is similar to the assigned portions from the Book of Psalms, with the exception that exile would certainly occur but that return will follow it.  The rub, so to speak, is that Hosea 14 refers to exiles returning from captivity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, not the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The prophetic book refers to the Ten Lost Tribes.  Genetics and cultural anthropology have revealed the locations of those tribes, from South Africa to Afghanistan.  Although some members of this diaspora have emigrated to the State of Israel, most have not.  The fulfillment of this prophecy resides in the future.

Jesus is about to die in John 16.  Nevertheless, future joy is on his mind.  As one reads, that joy will be complete, by the power of God.  In God one will find deep joys that people are powerless to take away.

Joys–fleeting and timeless–seem off the table in the reading room from 2 Corinthians.  St. Paul the Apostle spends time attempting to soothe the hurt feelings of some overly sensitive Corinthians, who have mistaken his kindness for an insult.  Eventually he makes the point that faithful Christians are the aroma or fragrance of Christ–the scent produced by the burning of incense in worship.  People, depending upon how they respond to this aroma, will go onto either salvation or destruction.

St. Paul turns a metaphor on its head in 2:14.  The triumphal procession is a reference to a Roman military procession following a conquest.  Victorious soldiers and defeated prisoners, led either to death or slavery, were participants in such a procession.  But in which category does one find oneself–soldier or prisoner?  Is Christ the victorious general in the metaphor?  St. Paul argues that point of view.

Christ, whom the Roman Empire executed as a threat to national security, is like a victorious Roman general leading Christian forces in triumph and glory.  That is an intriguing metaphor from St. Paul.  I am uncertain what Jesus might have to say about it, had someone suggested it to him.  Christ was (especially in the Gospels of Mark and John) a powerful figure, but he declined to accept the definition of himself as a king, at least in conventional human terms.  As he said, his kingdom was not like any earthly kingdom; the two were, actually opposites, as he said.  Also, the image of Christ leading conquered people to death or slavery does not sit well with me.

I do, however, like the reminder that Christ proved victorious over human evil.  That is a worthy theme for the Second Sunday of Easter.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Works in Progress   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  Twelve Tribes of Israel

Scanned from an old Bible

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Psalm 72

John 1:[1-9] 10-18

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Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wonderful things.

And blessed be his glorious name for ever.

May all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen. Amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Jeremiah 31 comes from articles of consolation focusing on national reunification.  The exiles from Israel, the northern kingdom, will reunite with Judah, the southern kingdom, the text says.  God will turn mourning into joy.

The ten “lost” tribes are not lost, at least not in the sense that their locations are unknown.  The tribes scattered across Africa and Asia.  Most of them have not reunited with the main body of Judaism, although Jewish organizations have been working with some of these groups for the purpose of working toward that goal.  Then there is the case of the Ethiopian Jews, many of whom have relocated to the State of Israel, where they have to contend with racism, a high rate of poverty, and allegations of being insufficiently Jewish.  The prediction of Jeremiah 31 has yet to come true.  The continued passage of time will render its verdict on that prophecy.

The prologue to the Gospel of John is a glorious and profound text.  It, like Jeremiah 31:7-14 and Psalm 72, speaks of acts of God.  Some of these acts have yet to occur.  Yes, the tense in the prologue is past, but consider, O reader, the following passage, the following passage:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.

–Verses 12-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This continues, does it not?  But to all who receive him….  This will continue, will it not?  But to all who will receive him….

God has acted.  God is acting.  God will continue to act.  As the United Church of Christ says,

God is still speaking.

God has not finished speaking or acting, so who among the ranks of mere mortals knows or can know how God will surprise people next or behave in a non-surprising way?  The passage of time will reveal the answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/devotion-for-january-5-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 25, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah 31, John 1, Psalm 72

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