Week of Proper 29: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Ruins of Babylon in 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Trusting God in Difficult Times

NOVEMBER 27, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.



Daniel 1:1-20 (Revised English Bible):

In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, came and laid siege to Jerusalem.  The Lord handed King Jehoiakim over to him, together with all that was left of the vessels from the house of God; and he carried them off to the land of Shinar, to the temple of his god, where he placed the vessels in the temple treasury.

The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring into the palace some of the Israelite exiles, members of their royal house and of the nobility.  They were to be young men free from physical defect, handsome in appearance, well-informed, intelligent, and so fitted for service in the royal court; and he was to instruct them in the writings and language of the Chaldaeans.  The king assigned them a daily allowance of fine food and wine from the royal table; and their training was to last for three years ; at the end of that time they would enter his service.  among them were certain Jews:  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  To them the master of the eunuchs gave new names:  Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Michael Meshach, and Azariah Abed-nego.

Daniel determined not to become contaminated with the food and wine from the royal table, and begged the master of the eunuchs to excuse him from touching it.  God caused the master to look on Daniel with kindness and goodwill, and to Daniel’s request he replied,

I am afraid of my lord the king:  he has assigned you food and drink, and if he were to see you looking miserable  compared with the other young men of your age, my head would be forfeit.

Then Daniel said to the attendant whom the master of the eunuchs had put in charge of Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and himself,

Submit us to the this test for ten days:  give us only vegetables to eat and water to drink; then compare our appearance with that of the young men who have lived on the kings’ food, and be guided in your treatment of us by what you see for yourself.

He agreed to this proposal and submitted them to this test.  At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who had lived on the food from the king.  So the attendant took away the food assigned to them and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables only.

To all four of these young men God gave knowledge, understanding of books, and learning of every kind, and Daniel had a gift for interpreting visions and dreams of very kind.  At the time appointed for the king for introducing the young men to court, the master of the eunuchs brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar.  The king talked with them all, but found none of them to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the royal service.  Whenever the king consulted them on any matter, he found them ten times superior to all the magicians  and exorcists in his whole kingdom.


Canticle 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Song of the Three Young Men 29-34 plus the Trinitarian formula)

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.


Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.


Luke 21:1-4 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus looked up and saw rich people dropping their gifts into the chest of the temple treasury, he noticed a poor widow putting in two tiny coins.

I tell you this,

he said:

this poor widow has given more than any of them; for those others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all she had to live on.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Last week we read about one way of handling attempted assimilation into a Gentile culture:  insurrection.  However, in Daniel 1, we have an example of nonviolent resistance on a small scale.

The Chaldeans, a.k.a. Neo-Babylonians, had consigned the Kingdom of Judah to history in 587 B.C.E.  Daniel and his fellows found themselves forced into the service of King Neuchadnezzar II against their will, but they made the most of a bad situation.  In the process they retained their Jewish identities despite Chaldean attempts to the contrary.  Consider the renaming, for example.  Daniel, or “El has judged,” became Belteshazzar, or “Protect the king.”  Hananiah, whose name meant “Yah has been gracious,” received the name Shadrach, which was probably Persian for “shining.”  Mishael, literally, “Who is what El is?,” became Meshach, a name derived from the Zoroastrian deity Mithras.  And Azariah, whose name meant “Yah has helped,” became Abed-nego, or “Servant of Nabu,” Nabu being the Babylonina God of Wisdom.

There were royal power plays at work.  Changing the mens’ names signified not only assimilation but dependence on the king, as did assigning food and wine from the king’s table.  Yet these four men followed an invisible and more powerful king, who enabled them to survive in difficult circumstances.

Now I turn toward the lesson from Luke.

I have already covered the Markan version of this story and provided a link to that post.  Yet a grasp of the Lukan telling requires me to back up a few verses, into Luke 20:45-47, immediately before 21:1-4.

In the hearing of all the people Jesus said to his disciples:  “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk up and down in long robes, and love to be greeted respectfully in the street, to have the chief seats in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’ sake they say long prayers; the sentence they receive will be all the more severe.”

Now read Luke 21:1-4 again.

The widow put two lepta into an offering box at the Temple.  A lepta was 1/128 of a day’s wage, or a denarius.  So the widow was really poor.  Now reconsider the words of Jesus; did the praise the widow or lament her action?  The text does not indicate his tone of voice, but lament seems to be the more likely dominant option.  Certainly he did not want her to starve.  And her meager offering helped support the Temple system off which the corrupt religious establishment lived and from which it derived its power.  Yet the widow did trust God and practice religion piously, as she understood it.  One can, with justification, understand Jesus to have praised her humble piety, which stood in stark contrast to the false holiness of those he had just condemned.

Let us be clear.  Luke 21:1-4 is no more an instruction to give away all the money one has to pay bills and buy food than Daniel 1 is a vegetarian tract.  Yet a common thread runs through them:  We must trust and follow God.  This is easy when times are good, but difficult when circumstances are harsh.  Certainly exile following the destruction of one’s nation is harsh.  Truly grinding poverty is harsh.  “Woe to those who create and maintain such harsh conditions,” Biblical prophets said again and again.  “God loves the orphans and the widows,” they said; and the author of Luke-Acts did, too.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look up “widow” and “widows,” focusing on Luke and Acts.  Then read those passages.

With this post I near the end of this series of devotions.  It will end with “Week of Proper 29:  Saturday, Year 1,” after which I will return to ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS and blog there for a few months.  I mention this because the temporal relationship of this post to Advent is germane.  During Advent we will focus on the approaching Incarnation of God in human form, Jesus of Nazareth.   His birth constituted, among other things, an affirmation of the dignity of human beings, including the poor and the downtrodden, such as today’s widow.

Regardless of your economic situation, O reader, I encourage you to trust and follow God.  By the way, I hope for your sake and that of your family, if you have one, that your economic situation is excellent and improving.  This is a prayer I say for everyone:  May all have all that they need and the good judgment to use it properly.  And may they thank God for it in words, deeds, and attitudes.  Furthermore, may we function as agents of God in helping each other achieve and retain this reality.



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