Archive for the ‘Baal’ Tag

Devotion for September 1, 2, and 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   15 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Radical Inclusion in Christ

TUESDAY-THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1-3, 2020

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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:

1 Kings 18:1-19 (September 1)

1 Kings 18:20-40 (September 2)

1 Kings 19:1-21 (September 3)

Psalm 110 (Morning–September 1)

Psalm 62 (Morning–September 2)

Psalm 13 (Morning–September 3)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–September 1)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–September 2)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–September 3)

Ephesians 1:1-23 (September 1)

Ephesians 2:1-22 (September 2)

Ephesians 3:1-21 (September 3)

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What I have written briefly of this above will explain to you my knowledge of the mystery of Christ.  This secret was hidden to past, generations of mankind, but it has now, buy the Spirit, been made plain to God’s consecrated messengers and prophets.  It is simply this:  that the gentiles are  to be equal heirs with his chosen people, equal members and equal partners in God’s promise given by Christ Jesus through the gospel.

–Ephesians 3:4-6, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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The account from 1 Kings boils over with peril–for Obadiah, for Elijah, and for all those who worshiped Baal and other false gods.  The body count is staggering–four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal in 18:40 and an undisclosed number of idol worshipers in 19:18.  The underlying reason for hostility to  many Gentiles in the Old Testament was that many Hebrews succumbed to Gentile false gods and cultic practices, thereby ceasing to be a light to the nations.  But was a massacre the right way to shine positive light?  Of course not!

There were, of course, as I have written in other posts, faithful Gentiles.  Ruth comes to mind immediately.  She even became an ancestor of David and Jesus.  But she adopted the Hebrew religion.

That provides a nice segue into Ephesians.  Paul or someone writing as Paul or revising dictations of an imprisoned Paul wrote of unity in Christ.  In Christ God reconciled with people and brought about human unity.  The church was (and is) the chosen instrument of this unity.  In Christ, the great epistle says, all other divisions fall away.  All of us in Christ are children of God, so we will receive a great inheritance.

This is grand and lofty theology.  So why have we of organized Christianity turned on each other so often?  Why have we even slaughtered each other sometimes?  We do not understand.  Or, if we do understand, we reject the message.  We (broadly speaking) use God as a blunt weapon to marginalize those whom God has called “insiders”, so many who have thought of themselves as insiders have betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Inclusion in Christ  is too radical a notion for many people to accept, for hurdles to jump through make us confortable.  They provide labels which reassure many falsely.  These labels are idols, in fact.  But Jesus jumped through the hurdles and knocked them down; may we cease to re-erect them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I, KING OF SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/radical-inclusion-in-christ/

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Week of Proper 6: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  King Joash (Jehoash) of Judah

Examples, Good and Bad

JUNE 19, 2020

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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 11:1-4, 9-20 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, learned that her son was dead, she promptly killed off all who were of royal stock.  But Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly took Ahaziah’s son Joash away from among the princes who were being slain, and [put] him and his nurse in a bedroom.  And they kept him hidden from Athalian so that he was not put to death.  He stayed with her for six years, hidden in the House of the LORD, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

The chiefs of hundreds did just as Jehoiada ordered:  Each took his men–those who were off duty that week–and they presented themselves to Jehoiada the priest.  The priest gave the chiefs of hundreds of King David’s spears and quivers that were kept in the House of the LORD.  The guards, each with his weapons at the ready, stationed themselves–from the south end of the House to the north end of the House, at the altar and the House–to guard the king on every side.  [Jehoiada] then brought out the king’s son, and placed upon him the crown and insignia.  They anointed him and proclaimed him king; they clapped their hands and shouted,

Long live the king!

When Athaliah heard the shouting of the guards [and] the people, she came out to the people in the House of the LORD.  She looked about and saw the king, standing by the pillar, as was the custom, the chiefs with their trumpets beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets.  Athaliah rent her garments and cried out,

Treason, treason!

Then the priest Jehoiada gave the command to the army officers, the chiefs of hundreds, and said to them,

Take her out between the ranks and, if anyone follows her, put her to the sword.

For the priest thought:

Let her not be put to death in the House of the LORD.

They cleared a passageway for her and she entered the royal palace  through the horses’ entrance; there she was put to death.

And Jehoiada solemnized the covenant between the LORD, on the one hand, and the king and the people, on the other–as well as between the king and the people–and they should be the people of the LORD.  Thereupon all the people of the land went up to the temple of Baal.  They tore it down and smashed its altars and images to bits, and they slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, in front of the altars.  [Jehoiada] the priest then placed guards over the House of the LORD.  He took the chiefs of hundreds, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land, and they escorted the king from the House of the LORD into the royal palace by the gate of the guards.  And he ascended the royal throne.  All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet.  As for Athaliah, she had been put to death in the royal palace.

Psalm 132:11-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  ”A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  ”This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Matthew 6:19-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not store up your riches on earth, where moths and rust destroy them, and where thieves break in and steal them, but store up your riches in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.  But wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also.  The eye is the lamp of the body.  So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be light, but if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be dark.  If, therefore, your very light is darkness, how deep the darkness will be!

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/week-of-proper-6-friday-year-1/

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Since the Canadian Anglican lectionary skips eight chapters, I begin with a summary of them:

  1. Elisha worked wonders.
  2. Elisha anointed Jehu as King of Israel, thereby completing a task God had assigned to Elijah.
  3. Jehu overthrew King Ahaziah, son of Ahab.  Ahaziah of Israel died.  Jezebel died.  Many other members of that dynasty died.  Jehu ordered the killing of many followers of Baal and the destruction of the temple of Baal in his kingdom.  Yet, according to the text, he did not go far enough in combating idolatry.  Jehu died after reigning for 28 years.  His son Jehoahaz succeeded him as king in 814 B.C.E.
  4. In the Kingdom of Judah King Jehoram (Joram) reigned from 851 to 843 B.C.E.  He married Athaliah, a sister of King Ahab of Israel.  The text says that Jehoram (Joram) “followed the practices of the kings of Israel” and displeased God.  Judah also lost territory during the reign of Jehoram (Joram).
  5. His son Ahaziah (Jehoahaz) reigned for one year, ending with his death.

That brings us to the reading in 2 Kings 11, set in 842-836 B.C.E.

The authors of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings did not envision a multicultural western liberal democracy with freedom of religion.  I, of  course, support the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  Yet I understand that it is a product of political thought subsequent to the time of the biblical writers.

History demonstrates that theocracy is detrimental to the alleged heretics.  Certain post-Constantinian Roman emperors persecuted the adherents of schools of Christian theology they considered heretical.  Later, in Europe, some Protestant potentates persecuted Roman Catholics, many Roman Catholic potentates did the same to Protestants, and both despised the Anabaptists actively.  And, in Puritan New England, authorities hanged Quakers and exiled other dissenters, notably Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.

The Bible is many things, but not an authoritative treatise on political science.  The Kings of Judah and Israel (except for the few who were puppets of foreign powers) were absolute monarchs. They lived in a pre-Enlightenment world, one which had not enshrined the principle of liberty of conscience.  So we ought not to apply the worldview of the authors from the Old Testament times to today, for to so is to advocate theocracy, the murder or execution of religious dissidents, the suppression of alleged heresy, and the union of church and state.

Books such as 1-2 Kings did not exist in their current form until centuries after the events they describe.  The final editing of these texts occurred in the wake of the Babylonian Exile and the return from it.  Those who produced the final drafts believed that idolatry had been the downfall of the Jewish kingdoms.  So it is no wonder that 1-2 Kings, originally one book, tell the story this way.

I propose that the failing of many of these monarchs with regard to idolatry was to encourage it.  They were not solely responsible for the worship of other deities, a practice embedded deeply in the culture.  They could have, however, modeled good behavior and sound practice.

As for we commoners today, we can, each in his or her own setting, model good behavior and sound practice.  May we do so.  If we are already doing this, may we continue to do so.

KRT

Week of Proper 6: Thursday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  Elisha

“Your Kingdom Come!”

JUNE 18, 2020

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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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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 48:1-14 (An American Translation):

Then the prophet Elijah arose like fire,

And his word burned like a torch;

He brought a famine upon them,

And made them few by his zeal,

By the word of the Lord he shut up heaven;

In the same way, he brought down fire three times.

How glorified you were, Elijah, in your wonderful acts,

And who can glory like you?

You who raised one who was dead, from death,

And from Hades, by the word of the Most High;

Who brought kings down to destruction,

And distinguished men from their beds.

Who heard rebukes at Sinai,

And judgments of vengeance at Horeb;

Who anointed kings to exact retribution,

And prophets to succeed him;

Who were taken up in a whirlwind of fire,

In a chariot with fiery horses;

Who, it is written, is to come in rebuke at the appointed time,

To quiet anger before it becomes wrath,

To turn the heart of the father to his son,

And to reform the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who saw you,

And those who fell asleep in love;

For we will surely live.

When Elijah was sheltered by the whirlwind,

Elisha was filled with his spirit.

In all his days he was not shaken by any ruler

And no one overmastered him.

Nothing was too wonderful for him,

And when he had fallen asleep, his body prophesied.

In life he did signs,

And after his death he worked wonders.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Matthew 6:7-15 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/week-of-proper-6-thursday-year-1/

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There is a famous roll call of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  Many of my coreligionists might not know, however, that Sirach/Ecclesiasticus offers a more extensive and an older honor roll of the righteous, beginning in Chapter 44 and terminating in Chapter 50.  There we read summaries of the careers of Elijah and Elisha, praised for bringing glory to God, even though idolatry persisted in the land.  That, however, was not their fault.

I have found this recent line of Old Testament lessons increasingly tedious.  “More Baal worshipers are dead?  This is old news.  Same song, fifth verse!” I exclaim to myself within my cranium.  The only way I can make any spiritually helpful sense of all this is focusing now on this day’s reading from Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and connecting it to Matthew 6:9:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Elijah and Elisha had their faults, as all of us do.  Yet they served YHWH, the only deity.  They sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to end the worship of other gods so that people in the Kingdom of Israel would worship only YHWH.  We must not bow down to idols and imaginary gods, which distract us from God.  May anyone who takes note of us say that we worship God alone, love God fully, and love our neighbors as ourselves.  That is a difficult calling, one we can accomplish by grace.

KRT

Week of Proper 5: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Image = A screen capture from a DVD

Revenge and Violence

JUNE 11, 2020

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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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1 Kings 18:40-46 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Elijah said to them,

Seize the prophets of Baal, let not a single one of them get away.

They seized them, and Elijah too, took them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Elijah said to Ahab,

Go up, eat and drink, for there is a rumbling of [approaching] rain,

and Ahab went up to eat and drink.  Elijah meanwhile climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, crouched on the ground, and put his face between his knees.  And he said to his servant,

Go up and look toward the Sea.

He went up and looked and reported,

There is nothing.

Seven times [Elijah] said,

Go back,

and the seventh time, [the servant] reported,

A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising in the west.

Then [Elijah] said,

Go say to Ahab, “Hitch up [your chariot] and go down before the rain stops you.”

Meanwhile the sky grew black with clouds; there was wind, and a heavy downpour fell; Ahab mounted his chariot and drove off to Jezreel.  The hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah.  He tied up his skirts and ran in front of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Psalm 65:1, 8-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told “You shall not murder,” and “Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.”  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother “You cursed fool!” will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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 5:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Bring Peace to Earth Again:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/bring-peace-to-earth-again/

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Jesus quoted the commandment forbidding murder.  Then he took the principle further.  A good understanding of this requires the explanation of some technical details.

“Raca,” or “empty-headed fool” or “airhead,” was a very strong insult in Jesus’ culture.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Them is fightin’ words.”  To call someone a “raca” was to express extreme contempt.

Just as there is more than one type of love in the New Testament, there is more than one variety of anger there.  The anger Jesus condemns is that which leads one to plot revenge.  Violent acts, such as murder, flow from such anger.  So Jesus says not even to think about murdering, committing any other violent deed, or causing harm of any sort to anyone.

Revenge, a common plot element in many works of fiction (including Star Trek II), and the desire for it are ubiquitous in real life.  All one has to do to hear of them is follow the news closely.  Yet revenge can never restore life to the dead, undo injuries which have resulted in amputations or paralysis, or erase psychological damage.  We need justice, not revenge, but many of us confuse the two categories.

Jesus, of course, did not, according to the canonical Gospels, refrain from all anger.  He did expel money changers from part of the Jerusalem Temple and excoriate certain religious leaders.  But he did not plot revenge on anybody.  He even asked divine forgiveness for those who crucified him and looked on approvingly.

So far the texts seem holy.  Then we return to 1 Kings 18, where, in verse 40, Elijah kills the 450 prophets of Baal.  This is the conclusion of the “My God can set fire to this altar” showdown.  The lectionary skips verse 40, beginning with verse 41 and the end of the drought.  The chapter itself devotes only one verse to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, an event which might slip unnoticed between the dramatic contest and the end of the drought.  But let us not look away from uncomfortable Bible verses.

How should we understand the slaughter of Baal’s prophets? I found comments in three study Bibles I checked.  The note in The Jerusalem Bible reads:

In this war between Yahweh and Baal those who serve Baal suffer the fate of the conquered in the warfare of the time.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that Elijah was “faithful to the deuteronomistic perspective” by ordering the execution of false prophets, per Deuteronomy 13:1-18.  (Read the verses for yourself, O reader; they do command violence.)  Then there is the note from The NIV Study Bible:

Elijah, acting on the authority of the Lord, who sent him, carried out the sentence pronounced in the Mosaic law for prophets of pagan deities (Dt 13:13-18; 17:2-5).

I have a t-shirt I wear from time to time.  “Who would Jesus bomb?” it asks.  (I know; it should say “Whom would Jesus bomb?”)  The question, regardless of whether one uses the objective case, answers itself, does it not?  As an intellectually honest Christian, I seek to follow Jesus more nearly each day.  My success is mixed, but I persist in the effort.  So, to paraphrase the t-shirt, “Whom would Jesus slaughter?”  Nobody, of course; he might use justifiably harsh words, but he would neither condone nor commit the taking of anyone’s life.  And he would neither condone nor commit revenge either.  And Jesus is the Master.  So I side with my Lord.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/allegedly-sacred-violence-part-one/

Week of Proper 5: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Sacrifice Consumed by Fire

Image Source = Cadetgray

Choices, Real and Imagined

JUNE 10, 2020

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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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1 Kings 18:20-39 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Ahab sent orders to all Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.  Elijah approached all the people and said,

How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!

But the people answered him not a word.  Then Elijah said to the people,

I am the only prophet of the LORD left, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men.  Let two young bulls be given to us.  Let them choose one bull, cut it up, and lay it on the wood, but let them not apply fire; I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, and will not apply fire.  You will then invoke your god by name, and I will invoke the LORD by name; and let us agree:  the god who responds with fire, that one is God.

And all the people answered,

Very good!

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal,

Choose one bull and prepare it first, for you are the majority; invoke your god by name, but apply no fire.

They took the bull that was given them; they prepared it, and invoked Baal by name from morning until noon, shouting,

O Baal, answer us!

But there was no sound, and none who responded; so they performed a hopping dance about the altar that had been set up.  When noon came, Elijah mocked them, saying,

Shout louder!  After all, he is a god.  But he may be in conversation, he may be detained, or he may be on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.

So they shouted louder, and gashed themselves with knives and spears, according to their practice, until the blood streamed over them.  When noon passed, they kept raving until the hour of presenting the meal offering.  Still there was no sound, and none who responded or heeded.

Then Elijah said to all the people,

Come closer to me;

and all the people came closer to him.  He repaired the damaged altar of the LORD.  Then Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob–to whom the word of the LORD had come:

Israel shall be your name

–and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD.  Around the altar he made a trench large enough for the two seahs of seed.  He laid out the wood, and he cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.  And he said,

Fill four jars with water and pour it over the burnt offering and the wood.

Then he said,

Do it a second time;

and they did it a second time.

Do it a third time,

he said; and they did a third time.  The water ran down around the altar, and even the trench was filled with water.

When it was time to present the meal offering, the prophet Elijah came forward and said,

O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel!  Let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your bidding.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God; for You have turned their hearts backward.

Then fire from the LORD descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the earth; and it licked up the water that was in the trench.  When they saw this, the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out,

The LORD alone is God, The LORD alone is God!

Psalm 16:1, 6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives my counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Matthew 5:17-19 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not suppose that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to do away with them but to complete them.  For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not one dotting of an i or crossing of a will be dropped from the Law until it is all observed.  Anyone, therefore, who weakens one of the slightest of these commands, and teaches others to do so, will be ranked lowest in the Kingdom of Heaven; but anyone who observes them and teaches others to do so will be ranked high in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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 5:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

O Thou to Whom in Ancient Time:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/o-thou-to-whom-in-ancient-time/

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I took notes for this post and drafted my comments a few days ago.  Now, as I type the final version, I have the first part of Mendelssohn’s Elijah playing.  It is appropriate timing, for the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is about to begin.

There was a real choice between Yahweh and Baal.  This day we have part of the account of the account of the duel of a sort between Elijah, speaking for Yahweh, and 450 prophets of Baal.  Yahweh wins despite seemingly improbable odds.  A fire on a drenched altar? Who had heard of such a thing?

The prophets of Baal, for all their pleading, dancing, and bloodletting, failed.  How could they not?  Baal was imaginary.  This was an unambiguous victory for Yahweh.  Yet the idolatry continued for centuries.  Some people are just stubborn, apparently.

“The Law,” in the context of the Gospels, has layers and aspects.  There are, for starters, the letter (economically and culturally specific to circumstances, which change and therefore fail to apply after a while) of the law and there is the spirit (not tied to circumstances) thereof.  There is the Law of Moses and then there are elaborations upon it which people have added over time.  Jesus is consistent with the best of these traditions (the spirit of the law), not the persnickety details the Gospel writers quote him as contradicting.

The audience for Matthew was Jewish Christian, so this was an important point for the author of that text to make clear.  Jesus was an observant Jew, albeit neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee.  For Jesus performing merciful deeds was legal and commendable on every day of week.  In contrast, strict Pharisees allowed only the most basic first aid on the Sabbath, delaying more advanced medical attention until the next day.  “Do the most good you can everyday,” Jesus said with this words and deeds, “including on the Sabbath.”

There is nothing sinful about that.

The choice between goodness and the Law and the Prophets, when one interprets the latter correctly, is an illusion.  When one follows our Lord and Savior’s admonition to love God fully and one’s neighbor as one’s self, the two commandments on which all the Law and the Prophets hang, one keeps the Law.

It is that simple–and that challenging.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/idolatry-again-elijah-versus-prophets-of-baal/

Week of Proper 5: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

baal

Above:  Baal 

Yahweh:  Accept No Substitutes

JUNE 8, 2020

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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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1 Kings 17:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Elijah the Tishbite, an inhabitant of Gilead, said to Ahab,

As the LORD lives, the God of Israel whom I serve, there will be no dew or rain except at my bidding.

The word of the LORD came to him:

Leave this place; turn eastward and go into hiding by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.

He proceeded to do as the LORD had bidden:  he went, and he stayed by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  The ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and every morning, and he drank from the wadi.

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

Matthew 5:1-12 (An American Translation):

When Jesus saw the crowds of people he went up on the mountain.  There he seated himself, and when his disciples had come up to him, he opened his lips to teach them.  And he said,

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them!

Blessed are the mourners, for they will be consoled!

Blessed are the humble-minded, for they will possess the land!

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness, for they will be satisfied!

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called God’s sons!

Blessed are those who have endured the persecution for their uprightness, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you, and falsely say everything bad of you, on my account.  Be glad and exult over it, for you will be richly rewarded in heaven, for that is the way they persecuted the prophets who went before you!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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 5:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Remember Your Servants, Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/remember-your-servants-lord/

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HISTORICAL INFORMATION:

With this post the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following returns to 1 Kings.  The last time I was here via this reading plan was at this URL:  http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-2/.  So it is appropriate to begin with grounding in the narrative.  The dates come from The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), page 2111.

Reigns of the Kings of Judah (Davidic Dynasty):

Rehoboam (928-911 B.C.E.)–17 years

Abijam, a.k.a. Abihah (911-908 B.C.E.)–3 years

Asa (908-867 B.C.E.)–41 years

The text criticizes all these monarchs, frequently for idolatry.

Reigns of the King of Israel:

House of Jeroboam:

Jeroboam I (928-907 B.C.E.)–22 years

Nadab (907-906 B.C.E.)–2 years–overthrown in a palace coup

House of Baasha:

Baasha (906-883 B.C.E.)–23 years

Elah (883-882 B.C.E.)–2 years–overthrown by a chariot commander, Zimri

House of Zimri:

Zimri (882 B.C.E.)–1 week–overthrown by the army commander, Omri

House of Omri:

Omri (882-871 B.C.E.)–12 years

Ahab (873-852 B.C.E.)–22 years

The text criticizes all these monarchs, frequently for idolatry.

Now we are ready to begin the devotional text.

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Baal, a Canaanite deity, was allegedly responsible for sending the rains.  So what better way, according to the narrative in 1 Kings, for Yahweh to demonstrate the imaginary nature of Baal than to impose a drought upon Israel, where Baal worship was widespread?  This Yahweh, by the way, also protected and fed his prophet, Elijah, who delivered the prophesy of the drought.

The Matthew version of the Beatitudes, in Edgar Goodspeed’s An American Translation, includes this line:

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.

But perhaps the New Living Translation (first edition, 1996) offers the best rendering:

God blesses those who realize their need for him,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

(The second edition (2004) of the New Living Translation, by the way, has a different rendering of the first Beatitude, an odd hybrid of the first line of Matthew and Luke Beatitudes.)

We human beings are inherently religious.  Even varieties of Atheism are merely types of Fundamentalism.  Just listen to militant Fundamentalists, who are evangelical in their unbelief.  For much of human history polytheism was the nearly universal default mode.  Monotheism, a great moral and theological advance, did not gain immediate and widespread acceptance in the corners where it existed.  For much of the Old Testament most Hebrews were polytheists, a reality against which biblical prophets inveighed.  The worship of Yahweh was widespread, but many of his devotees also bowed down to Baal, Astarte, and other deities.  The message of the prophets was to worship Yahweh alone.  The fault with the great bulk of spiritual seekers was that they sought to fill their spiritual needs at too many venues. The blessed spiritual seekers of Matthew’s first Beatitude are those who, if you will pardon my analogy, fill up their gas tanks at God’s gas station only.

May the first Beatitude, not the condemnations from 1 Kings, describe us. May we love and honor the one God who loves us.  There is a God-shaped hole inside each of us; may we fill it with God alone.  May we accept no substitutes.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/yahweh-accept-no-substitutes/