Archive for the ‘Zedekiah’ Tag

Proper Context   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who seest that we are prone to bring back the troubles of yesterday,

and to forecast the cares of tomorrow:

give us grace to throw off our fears and anxieties, as our Lord hath commanded;

that, this and every day, we may by kept in thy peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Jeremiah 23:1-4

Ephesians 5:1-10

Mark 10:17-22

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Personal peccadilloes are important moral issues, of course, but hopefully one does not restrict moral outrage to them.  Perhaps one thinks of certain men who committed criminal behavior related to the Watergate Scandal (1972-1974).  One may recall that some of them had few personal peccadilloes yet demonstrated a lamentable lack of public morality.  Or perhaps one ponders bad Kings of Judah (in the case of Jeremiah 23, Zedekiah), described as terrible shepherds.  Great responsibility comes with great power.

High position is no excuse for pride; it is faith and love that are everything, and these must come before all else.

–Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 6, translated by Maxwell Stanforth and Andrew Louth

The story of the pious rich man in Mark 10:17-22 reminds us not to become too attached to that which is temporary–in this case, wealth.  The call of Jesus is to follow him.  Those who respond faithfully to that call must put Jesus first and sacrifice much.  Details vary according to one’s circumstances, but the principle is universal.

Perhaps the most difficult attachments to lay down are those to intangible factors, such as ego.  Pride–hubris, actually–does go before the fall.  Often we like to define ourselves as insiders, as members of the company of God’s favored people.  Frequently we do this by wrongly defining many people as outsiders.  But what if our self-estimate is mistaken?  Admitting that may be devastating psychologically.

We need to rein in our appetites, whether for matters tangible or intangible–if we are to serve God properly.  This does not mean becoming killjoys.  No, we are correct to enjoy life and revel in blessings.  We need, however, to put everything in proper context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Being Good Soil, Part II   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

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:

Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24 or Daniel 4:1-37

Psalm 7

Matthew 14:10-17 (18-33) 34-35 or Mark 4:1-25 or Luke 8:4-25; 13:18-21

Ephesians 4:17-24 (26-32; 5:1-2) 3-7 or 2 Peter 2:1-22

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Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

–Ephesians 4:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Much of the content of the assigned readings, with their options, functions as commentary on that summary statement.  To borrow a line from Rabbi Hillel, we ought to go and learn it.

The commission of (First) Isaiah might seem odd.  Does the text indicate that God is commanding Isaiah to preach to the population but not to help them avoid the wrath of God?  Or, as many rabbis have argued for a long time, should one read imperative verbs as future tense verbs and the troublesome passage therefore as a prediction?  I prefer the second interpretation.  Does not God prefer repentance among sinners?  The pairing of this reading with the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation seems to reinforce this point.  I recall some bad sermons on this parable, which is not about the sower.  The sower did a bad job, I remember hearing certain homilists say.  To fixate on the sower and his methodology is to miss the point.  The name of the story should be the Parable of the Four Soils, a title I have read in commentaries.  One should ask oneself,

What kind of soil am I?

Am I the rocky soil of King Zedekiah (in Ezekiel 17:11-21) or the fertile soil of the betrayed man in Psalm 7?  A mustard seed might give rise to a large plant that shelters many varieties of wildlife, and therefore be like the Davidic dynastic tree in Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Nebuchadnezzar II in Daniel 4, but even a mustard seed needs good soil in which to begin the process of sprouting into that plant.

One might be bad soil for any one of a number of reasons.  One might not care.  One might be oblivious.  One might be hostile.  One might be distracted and too busy.  Nevertheless, one is bad soil at one’s own peril.

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-6-year-d/

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Spiritual Responsibility   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)

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The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good Figs   1 comment

Sycamore Figs

Above:  Sycamore Figs, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00721

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation from

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 24:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 29:10-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 16:1-12 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 16:13-24 (Tuesday)

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of then wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

–Psalm 1:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In the readings from Jeremiah the national and religious existence of Judah would continue via faithful elites.  The motif of

I will send the sword, famine, and pestilence against them

applies to Judeans left in Judah after to the fall of the Kingdom, to King Zedekiah, and to his officials in Chapters 24 and 29.  The prophet, channeling God, likens faithful exiles to good figs and the latter group to bad figs.  Good figs turn back to God.  Bad figs face annihilation.

St. Paul the Apostle spent 1 Corinthians 16, the final chapter of that epistle, on personal, not heavy-duty theological matters.  There was a collection to help the Christians of Jerusalem.  The Apostle discussed travel plans and commended certain co-workers.  He emphasized the point that he wrote with his own hand; nobody took dictation this time.  And he wrote the following:

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.

–Verses 13 and 14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That sounds like a description of what one must do to be a good fig.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Four Kings   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 24:18-25:21

Psalm 120

1 Corinthians 15:20-34

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Too long have I had to live

among the enemies of peace.

I am on the side of peace,

but when I speak of it, they are for war.

–Psalm 120:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Two of the three readings today include much doom.  Psalm 120 is overwhelmingly gloomy, as is the pericope from 2 Kings.  The reign of King Zedekiah (born Mattaniah) as the vassal King of Judah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.) marked the bitter end of that kingdom.  Mattaniah (literally “gift of YHWH”) did not even get to keep his name, for his political master was Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  So Mattaniah became Zedekiah (literally “YHWH is righteousness”).  The regnal name indicated the semblance of respect for Jewish traditions while simultaneously reminding the monarch that he was a vassal.

St. Paul the Apostle understood the death and resurrection of Jesus to have been literal events.  The Apostle also used them as spiritual metaphors, such as dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ.  Jesus will reign, we read, but only until he has conquered all enemies, the last of which is death, which he is in the process of conquering.  At the end Jesus will become subject to God the Father (YHWH).

Trinitarian theology developed over centuries, and St. Paul wrote near the beginning of that process.  His epistles do not stand up well to strict scrutiny according to the conclusions of the Council of Nicaea (325).  Neither do writings of other Ante-Nicene Church Fathers.  I refuse to judge them according to an ex post facto standard.

As for St. Paul’s christology, I refer to William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther, authors of The Anchor Bible volume on 1 Corinthians (1976):

Paul has not developed a trinitarian doctrine, but his christology is nonetheless a remarkable achievement.  overwhelming as is the work of salvation in the resurrection, it must be seen within the context of the purpose of the creator God.  Paul meticulously maintains his Jewish monotheistic tradition:  therefore the son himself is finally subjected, a statement that must be read, not from the perspective of a subordinationalist christology, but from Paul’s position, which is determined to set forth God as the all in all.

–Page 334

There were four kings.  Zedekiah was subject to Nebuchadnezzar II.  Sorting out the question of the subjection of Jesus to YHWH entails cutting through filters such as subsequent Trinitarian theology.  St. Paul was correct in asserting the supremacy of God, for, in the original scheme of things, YHWH was supposed to be the only King of Israel anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/devotion-for-monday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Reconciliation, Part I   1 comment

Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Above:  In Memory of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Who Gave His Life for Another Human Being Near Selma, Alabama, in 1965

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 19:10-14 (Monday)

Isaiah 27:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 144 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (Tuesday)

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May there be no breaching of the walls, no going into exile,

no wailing in the public squares.

Happy are the people of whom this is so!

happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

–Psalm 144:15-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Old Testament readings use the imagery of vineyards to describe the people of God.  In Ezekiel 19 this is the meaning of that metaphor, with the Kingdom of Judah as a vine therein and the ill-fated King Zedekiah as a stem.  Exile came, of course.   And we read in Isaiah 27 that the future vineyard will be a glorious and Godly one, that redemption will come.  Yet the consequences of sin will stay play out.

Redemption via Christ Jesus is the topic in the readings from 1 Peter 2 and 2 Corinthians 5.  Christ reconciles us to God.  Jesus is the innocent Lamb of God, the cornerstone of faith for Christians and a stumbling block for others.  Our spiritual tasks as the redeemed include functioning as agents of divine reconciliation.  Grace is free, but not cheap.  As I consider the honor roll of reconcilers in the name of Jesus I notice the names of many martyrs and other persecuted people.Jesus is there, of course, as is St. Paul the Apostle.  In recent decades martyred reconcilers have included Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (died in 1980) and Jonathan Myrick Daniels (died in 1965) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (died in 1968), of the United States.  Others, such asNelson Mandela (died in 2013) spent long terms in prison then did much to heal the wounds of their societies.

Judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible.  The first comes then the second follows; that is a recurring pattern in the Old and New Testaments.  Reconciling, not seeking revenge, is the way to break the cycle of violence and to start the cycle of love and peace.  Relinquishing our bloodlusts can prove difficult, but the price of not doing so is both avoidable and terrible.

May we reconcile with God and, as much as possible, with each other.  The latter will prove impossible sometimes, due to conditions such as the death, inability, or unwillingness of the other party or parties.  In such cases at least one person can surrender the grudge; that is progress, at least.  And grace enables not only that but reconciliation in other cases.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-22-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part XIII: Sins of Omission   1 comment

miguel_angel_crucifixion_la_redonda_logrono_spain

Above:  The Crucifixion, by Michelangelo

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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 37:1-21 (November 18)

Jeremiah 38:1-28 (November 19)

Psalm 51 (Morning–November 18)

Psalm 54 (Morning–November 19)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–November 18)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–November 19)

Matthew 27:33-56 (November 18)

Matthew 27:57-66 (November 19)

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 27:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday/

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Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 BCE) was not the legitimate King of Judah.  That office fell properly upon his nephew, Jehoiachin (reigned 597 BCE), per 2 Kings 24:17.  Zedekiah, as the Chaldean-appointed regent, had a title but little power.  He could not even protect Jeremiah fully.  But Zedekiah, to his credit, did consult the prophet.  Nevertheless, the time to save Judah from destruction had passed; the kingdom’s fate was sealed, as was that of Zedekiah, who disregarded much of Jeremiah’s advice.

Our Lord’s fate seemed to be sealed.  He was dead–made a great and terrible, very public example of by the forces of the Roman Empire.  The charge, as in the case of Jeremiah, was false–treason.

Frequently good people (Jesus being the best person) became caught up in the perfidious schemes of others.  But God is with the persecuted righteous people, even when they die, have to go into exile, or must suffer another cruel fate–without resurrection in all but one case.  The fact that good people find themselves in these difficult situations reflects badly on those who can prevent or could have prevented such situations.  Oppressors cannot oppress by themselves.  No, they have the passive aid of those who look the other way, who say or do nothing when they can confront.  It is safer (for some) to be or remain passive.  But such passivity hurts many more people.

May we confess our sins of omission, trusting God to complete the list with those we have forgotten and those we have never recognized.  Then may we change our ways–repent–and perform a greater number of good deeds, thereby preventing even more injustice and reducing the amount thereof already extant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/devotion-for-november-18-and-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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