Week of Proper 7: Tuesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  King Hezekiah and the Prophet Isaiah

A Time for Introspection

JUNE 26, 2018

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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.

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2 Kings 19:9-36 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

But the [king of Assyria] learned that king Tirhakah of Nubia had come out to fight him; so he again sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying,

Tell this to King Hezekiah of Judah:  Do not let your God, on whom you are relying, mislead you into thinking that Jerusalem will not be delivered into the hands of the king of Assyria.  You yourself have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, how they have annihilated them; and can you escape?  Were the nations that my predecessors destroyed–Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the Bethedenites in Telassar–saved by their gods?  where is the king of Hamath?  And the king of Arpad?  And the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?

Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it.  Hezekiah then went up to the House of the LORD and spread out before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD of Hosts, Enthroned on the Cherubim!  You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You made the heavens and the earth.  O LORD, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see.  Hear the words that Sennacherib has sent to blaspheme the living God!  True, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have annihilated the nations and their lands, and have committed their gods to the flames and have destroyed them; for they are not gods, but man’s handiwork of wood and stone.  But now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hands, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that You alone, O LORD, are God.

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah:

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  I have heard the prayer you have offered to Me concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria.  This is what the word of the LORD has spoken concerning him:

Fair Maiden Zion despises you,

She mocks at you;

Fair Jerusalem shakes

Her head at you.

Whom have you blasphemed and reviled?

Against whom made loud your voice

And haughtily raised your eyes?

Against the Holy One of Israel!

Through your envoys you have blasphemed my Lord.

Because you thought,

“Thanks to my vast chariotry,

It is I who have climbed the highest mountain,

To the remotest parts of Lebanon,

And have cut down its loftiest cedars,

Its choicest cypresses,

And have reached its remotest lodge,

Its densest forest.”

It is I who have drawn and drunk the waters of strangers;

I have dried up with the soles of my feet

All the streams of Egypt.

Have you not heard? Of old

I planned that very thing,

I designed it long ago,

And now I have fulfilled it.

And it has come to pass,

Laying waste fortified towns

In desolate heaps.

Their inhabitants are helpless,

Dismayed and shamed.

They were but grass of the field

And green herbage,

Grass of the roofs that is blasted

Before the standing grain.

I know your stayings

And your goings and comings,

And how you raged against Me.

Because you have raged against Me,

And your tumult has reached My ears,

I will place My hook in your nose

And My bit between your jaws;

And I will make you go back by the road

By which you came.

And this is the sign for you:  This year you eat what grows of itself, and the next year what springs from that; and in the third year, sow and reap, and plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  And the survivors of the House of Judah that have escaped shall regenerate its stock below and produce boughs from above.

For a remnant shall come forth from Jerusalem,

Survivors from Mount Zion.

The zeal of the LORD of Hosts

Shall bring this to pass.

Assuredly, thus said the said the LORD concerning the king of Assyria:

He shall not enter this city;

He shall not shoot an arrow at it,

Or advance upon it with a shield,

Or pile up a siege mound against it.

He shall go back

By the way he came;

He shall not enter this city

–declares the LORD.

I shall protect and save this city for My sake,

And for the sake of My servant David.

That night an angel of the LORD went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp, and the following morning they were all dead corpses.

So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and retreated, and stayed in Nineveh.  While he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sarezer struck him down with the sword.  They fled to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon succeeded him as king.

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

Matthew 7:6, 12-14 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not give what is sacred to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces….Therefore you must always treat other people as you would like them to have them treat you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Go in at the narrow gate.  For the road that leads to destruction is broad and spacious, and there are many who go in by it.  But the gate is narrow the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that find it.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 7:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/week-of-proper-7-tuesday-year-1/

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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The Canadian Anglican Lectionary has skipped ahead.  So here is a summary of what you, O reader, have missed:

2 Kings 17 continues by condemning Judah.

The Assyrians resettled Israel, where religious syncretism became commonplace.

King Hezekiah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E. according to The Jewish Study Bible–dates are uncertain), son of Ahaz, reigned for 29 years.  He abolished shrines and smashed pillars.  The text tells us that

He trusted only in the LORD, the God of Israel; there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him. (18:5)

That catches us up to the point of Chapter 19, in which God delivers Judah from an Assyrian invasion.  It is a happy ending for Hezekiah and his kingdom, yet we readers know that, later in 2 Kings, Babylonians will destroy the city.

The books of Samuel and Kings are not primarily historical, and their authors did not pretend that they were.  Indeed, my academic study of history has taught me that objective history is like the Loch Ness Monster; one hears much about it yet hard evidence does not exist.  Two historians can write about the same topic, agree factually, and arrive at different conclusions.  I can think of a few examples of this quite quickly.

The books of Samuel and Kings are theological works using the past to demonstrate certain points.  Among those points is this:  Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.  We ought not overgeneralize, for the fact of national collapse does not necessarily indicate divine judgment any more than national success indicates divine approval.

But the editors of the final version of Samuel-Kings worked in the context of return from the exile of Judah.  They, like historians at any time, understood the past in the context of their present day.  These editors applied spiritual retrospection to their cultural and national past.

You, O reader, might wonder, “What is the devotional value of this day’s reading from 2 Kings?”  Here is my answer:  Each of us needs, as an individual, to reflect on our relationship with God over time.  What has been right with it?  What has been wrong with it?  And we also need to do the same collectively.  The collective might be a family, a couple, a book group, a Bible study group, or a religious congregation or commune.  After all, the focus in these readings has been collective, not individual, except when the narrator has been discussing monarchs and prophets.  And, when we have prayerfully identified our weak spots, what is the best way to strengthen them?

KRT

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