Archive for the ‘Psalm 94’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 14, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Importune Neighbour, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

Getting Off Our Values and Getting to Work

AUGUST 8, 2021


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


Judges 19 (portions) or Jeremiah 13:1-11

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 4:13-25

Luke 10:38-11:13


We have quite a collection of readings this Sunday!

  1. Judges 19 gives us a tale of rape, death, dismemberment, and the prelude to genocide, played out in Judges 20 and 21.
  2. Stay away from God’s bad side, as in Jeremiah 13 and Psalm 94.
  3. Romans 4 reminds us of the importance of living according to faith.
  4. The executive summary of the lesson from Luke is to learn from Jesus (even to violate social conventions to do so) and to act according to those teachings.

Judges 19, the first portion of a section spanning chapters 19-21, contains enough material for many posts, given its background, its literary contexts, and the ink many exegetes have spilled regarding the story.  However, my purpose in this post entails reading Judges 19 in the context of the other lessons.  One note from The Jewish Study Bible (2nd. ed.) offers a useful sentence:

The story depicts a unified society, sensitive to the problems of ethics and serving the LORD.


The society Jeremiah critiqued was insensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  On the other hand, St. Mary of Bethany, St. Paul the Apostle, and the author of Psalm 94 were sensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  So was St. Martha of Bethany, also insistent on being a good hostess who offered proper hospitality, a Biblical virtue.

Prayer comes attached to action in Luke 11:9-13.  That is an important lesson:  pray then, as able, act to effect positive change.  Self-serving politicians who offer “thoughts and prayers” after terrible events then do nothing, even though they have the power to do so, make a mockery of the teaching in Luke 11:9-13.  One of the lessons my father taught me is that prayer should have feet whenever possible.  Be salt and light in the world, Jesus still commands us.

I recall an editorial from a Roman Catholic periodical during the middle 1990s, when many politicians beat the drum of “family values” with more words than deeds.  As I remember, the title of the editorial was,


Talk is cheap.  We need to get off our values and get to work.  After all, faith, in the theology of St. Paul the Apostle, is inherently active.











Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Boaz--Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Boaz, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Responsibilities, Insiders, and Outsiders

NOVEMBER 8-10, 2021


The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-22 (Monday)

Ruth 3:14-4:6 (Tuesday)

Ruth 4:7-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 94 (All Days)

1 Timothy 5:1-8 (Monday)

1 Timothy 5:9-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:16-30 (Wednesday)


The Lord will not cast off his people:

nor will he forsake his own.

For justice shall return to the righteous man:

and with him to all the true of heart.

–Psalm 94:14-15, The Alternative Service Book 1980


The composite pericope from 1 Timothy comes from a particular place and time, so some of the details do not translate well into contemporary Western settings.  May we, therefore, refrain from falling into legalism.  Nevertheless, I detect much of value in that reading, which acknowledges the existence of both collective and individual responsibilities and sorts out the boundary separating them in a particular cultural context.  One principle from that text is that relatives should, as they are able, take care of each other.  Another principle present in the reading is mutuality–responsibility to and for each other.

The lack of a support system, or at least an adequate one, is a major cause of poverty and related ills.  The support system might be any number of things, including:

  1. the social safety net (the maintenance and strengthening of which I consider to be a moral imperative),
  2. friends,
  3. relatives,
  4. neighbors,
  5. the larger community,
  6. a faith community,
  7. non-governmental organizations, or
  8. a combination of some of the above.

In the Book of Ruth Naomi and Ruth availed themselves of effective support systems.  They moved to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner but Naomi had relatives.  The women also gleaned in fields.  There Ruth met Boaz, a landowner and a kinsman of Naomi.  He obeyed the commandment from Deuteronomy 24:19 and left grain for the poor.  The story had a happy ending, for Ruth and Boaz married and had a son.  Naomi, once bitter, was thrilled.

One hypothesis regarding the Book of Ruth is that the text dates to the postexilic period.  If this is accurate, the story of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz functions as a criticism of opposition to intermarriage between Hebrews and foreigners and serves as a call for the integration of faithful foreigners into Jewish communities.  The Jewish support system, this perspective says, should extend to Gentiles.

Sometimes the call to exercise individual responsibility and to fulfill one’s role in collective responsibility becomes challenging, if not annoying.  One difficulty might be determining the line between the two sets of responsibilities.  Getting that detail correct is crucial, for we are responsible to and for each other.  The Pauline ethic (as in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15) which holds that those who have much should not have too much and that those who have little should not have too little is a fine goal toward which to strive, but who determines how much is too much and how little is too little?  And what is the best way to arrive at and maintain that balance?  These seem like communal decisions, given the communal ethos of the Bible.

If all that were not enough, we might have responsibilities to and for more people than we prefer or know we do.  John Donne wrote,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

Do we dare to live according to the standard that anyone’s death diminishes us?  Do we dare to recognize foreigners and other “outsiders” as people whom God loves and whom we ought to love as we love ourselves?  Do we dare to think of “outsiders” as people to whom and for whom we are responsible?  If we do, how will we change the world for the better?









Week of Proper 10: Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Against “Majestic Pride and Overbearing Arrogance”

JULY 13, 2022


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.


Isaiah 10:5-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):


Assyria, rod of My anger,

In whose hand, as a staff, is My fury!

I send him against him an ungodly nation,

I charge him against a people that provokes Me,

To take its spoil and to seize its booty

And to make it a thing trampled

Like the mire of the streets.

But he has evil designs;

For he means to destroy,

To wipe out nations, not a few.

For he thinks,

After all, I have kings as my captains!

Was Calno any different from Carchemish?

Or Hamath from Arpad?

Or Samaria from Damascus?

Since I was able to seize

The insignificant kingdoms,

Whose images exceeded

Jerusalem’s and Samaria’s,

Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images

What I did to Samaria and her idols?

But when my Lord has carried out all his purpose on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, He will punish the majestic pride and overbearing arrogance of the king of Assyria.  For he thought,

By the might of my hand I have wrought it,

By my skill, for I am clever:

I have erased the borders of peoples;

I have plundered their treasures,

And exiled their vast populations.

I was able to seize, like a nest,

The wealth of peoples;

As one gathers abandoned eggs,

So I gathered all the earth:

Nothing so much as flapped a wing

Or opened a mouth to peep.

Does an ax boast over him who hews with it,

Or a saw magnify itself above him who wields it?

As though the rod raised him who lifts it,

As though the staff lifted the man!

Psalm 94:5-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  They crush your people, O LORD,

and afflict your chosen nation.

6  They murder the widow and the stranger,

and put the orphans to death.

7  Yet they say, “The LORD does not see,

the God of Jacob takes no notice.”

8  Consider well, you dullards among the people;

when will you fools understand?

9  He that planted the ear, does he not hear?

he that formed the eye, does he not see?

10  He who admonishes the nations, will he not punish?

he who teaches all the world, has he no knowledge?

11 The LORD knows our human thoughts;

how like a puff of wind they are.

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

Matthew 11:25-27 (An American Translation):

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding all this from the learned and the intelligent and revealing it to children.  Yes, I thank you, Father, for choosing to have it so.  Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one understands the Son but the Father, nor does anyone understand the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 10:  Wednesday, Year 1:


The Assyrian Empire was brutal, a regime built on force, coercion, and violence.  There were, in fact, successive Assyrian Empires, so I must be precise in my language.  Mesopotamia has been home to neighboring civilizations and a succession of empires since ancient times.  Keeping track of them can be challenging.  The Assyrian Empire of this day’s text from Isaiah was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  It had begun to expand its borders and influence by 856 B.C.E.  All of the hard work of conquering and oppressing people ended by 605 B.C.E., with the division of the empire between the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the next great empire in that region, and the Medes, who, along with their senior partners, the Persians, eventually conquered the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians and formed an even greater empire.

Empires rise and fall, but life goes on, as does the work of God.  And, for us, living daily should constitute far more than merely completing a succession of tasks, errands, and chores; it should be prayer and a series of acts of worship.  This thought has been on my mind recently, as I have watched the video Canadian politician Jack Layton’s funeral repeatedly.  Layton’s pastor quoted the late leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition as saying that he (Layton) considered how he spent each day as an act of worship.  Such living leaves no room for the ruthless violence for which the Assyrians were notorious.

The text does require some explanation.  First, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Samaria, and Damascus were cities the Assyrians had conquered.  And there is a bilingual pun in the text.  (I adore plays on words!)  We read “I have kings as my captains!” in verse 8.  The note in The Jewish Study Bible explains:

Heb[rew] “sar” is cognate to the Akkadian word for king.  Vassal kings did serve the Assyrian king as military commanders or captains.

Double entendres aside, the point of the reading is that hubris led to the fall of Assyria.  Hubris, of course, is that which goes before the fall.  It puffs one up unduly and leads one to become and remain overconfident.  It is something to guard against in the life of any empire or nation-state.

We, as individuals, ought also to avoid hubris.  We all need God; if we are wise, we will acknowledge and accept this without hesitation.  Jesus went to those who were ready to accept him and to embrace his message.  Pride did not hold them back, so they benefited from him.  More could have done the same if they just surrendered their hubris.

Pride can be difficult to surrender.  Sometimes circumstances leave us no choice, but it is better to live simply, humbly, and in the light of God voluntarily.


Week of Proper 1: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Temptation and Repentance



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.


James 1:12-18 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the man who stands up to trial!  Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.  No one when tempted should say,

I am being tempted by God;

for God cannot be tempted by evil and does not himself tempt anyone.  Temptation comes when anyone is lured and dragged away by his own desires; then desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown breeds death.

Make no mistake, my dear friends.  Every good and generous action and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who created the lights of heaven.  With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows.  Of his own choice, he brought us to birth by the word of truth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creation.

Psalm 94:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:


he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,


He asked,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,


He said to them,

Do you still not understand?


The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 1:  Tuesday, Year 1:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2:

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:


From time to time I hear really bad theology.  I would hear more of it, except for the fact that I choose not to listen to certain preachers whose programs populate radio and television waves.  Nevertheless, much bad theology has permeated the laity.  There, from time to time, I hear that God is testing people’s faith by doing something like creating false yet convincing-looking rock layers which contradict Creationism.  First, I am a Theistic Evolutionist and one who affirms the veracity of geological layers, so I have expressed my opinion of Creationism; it is foolishness.  Can we join the scientific age now?  But, to the point of God making rocks look older than they are:  If one accepts that (A) the rocks are younger than they seem and that (B) God has pulled off this deception, what is one saying about God?  Is one saying that God tempts people to believe something that is objectively false?

I hope that is not what some people are saying, but it sounds like that.

James is one of my favorite books.  Martin Luther famously dismissed it as an “epistle of straw,” but he was mistaken on that point.  (In fact, I have heard more than Lutheran pastor speak critically of James.  It must be all that talk of the importance of works in the epistle.)  The Letter of James is full of practical advice and common-sense comments, such as the one that God does not tempt us.  Instead, God calls us to repentance, literally turning around or changing our minds.  And, as we think, so we are.  This makes sense, for our attitudes lead to our actions, barring accidents.

Desire is powerful.  There are many physical desires, including but not restricted to those related to sexuality.  Food, for example, is the subject of many desires, some of them unhealthy.  The existence of desire is morally neutral, although what one does with it is not.  There is no moral error is savoring a well-cooked meal, for example.  Indeed, the taste buds provide much wonderful pleasure, and one ought to enjoy blessings, including food.  There is not even anything wrong with savoring an occasional cheeseburger, but a steady diet of them leads to negative consequences.  (I have greatly reduced my consumption of cheeseburgers and replaced them with healthy alternatives.)  As James points out, we should control our desires; they ought not do drag us away to sin and death.  Sometimes that death is spiritual; other times, physical; other times, both.

Resisting temptation can be very difficult.  If I were to tell you, O reader, that I have mastered the resistance of temptation, I would lie to you.  It is true, however, that, by grace, I have improved.  There is much room for further improvement, and there is also plenty of grace available.  Thanks be to God!


Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 6 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 24, 2012

Week of Proper 25: Saturday, Year 1   18 comments

Above:  A Heraldic Chair

Image Source = Rodolph de Salis

Of Humility, Honor, and Shame

NOVEMBER 4, 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.


Romans 11:1-6, 11-12, 25-29 (Revised English Bible):

I ask then:  Has God rejected his people?  Of course not! I am an Israelite myself, of the stock of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected the people he acknowledge of old as his own.  Surely you know what scripture says in the story of Elijah–how he pleads with God against Israel:

Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.

But what was the divine word to him?

I have left myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.

In just the same way at the present time a “remnant” has come into being, chosen by the grace of God.  But if it is by grace, then it does not rest on deeds, or grace would cease to be grace.

I ask then:  When they stumbled, was their fall final?  Far from it!  Through a false step on their part salvation has come to the Gentiles, and this in turn will stir them to envy.  If their false step means the enrichment of the world, if their falling short means the enrichment of the Gentiles, how much more will their coming to full strength mean!

There is a divine secret here, my friends, which I want to share with you, to keep you from thinking yourselves wise:  this partial hardening has come on Israel only until the Gentiles have been admitted in full strength; once that has happened, the whole of Israel will be saved, in accordance with the scripture:

From Zion shall come the Deliverer;

he shall remove wickedness from Jacob.

And this is the covenant I will grant them,

when I take away their sins.

Judged by their response to the gospel, they are God’s enemies for your sake; but judged by his choice, they are dear to him for the sake of the patriarchs; for the gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.

Psalm 94:14-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Luke 14:1, 7-11 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.

(sabbath healing–a text for the previous post–here)

When he noticed how the guests were trying to secure the places of honour, he spoke to them in a parable:

When somebody asks you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honour.  It may be that some person more distinguished than yourself has been invited; and the host will come to say to you, “Give this man your seat.”  Then you will look foolish as you go to take the lowest place.  No, when you receive the invitation, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say, “Come up higher, my friend.”  Then all your fellow-guests will see the respect in which you are held.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who ever humbles himself will be exalted.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Honor and shame are social concepts, for we have only the amount of each that other assign us.  This fact forms part of the backdrop of the parable from Luke 14.  The fact remains that we are more likely to cause socially awkward situations for ourselves by seeking honor and glory than permitting others to bestow it on us.

But I propose that there is a better way, which is not seeking honor and glory as others define it, but finding them in God.  Each of us in the human race bears the image of God.  Some of us are unaware of this fact, but that does not change our reality.  So, if we play with the metaphors, Yahweh is our father is some ways and our mother in others, Jesus is our brother, and saints (living or dead, canonized or not) are family members.  Jesus died as a criminal, in a way meant to bring dishonor to one.  Before that he left Heaven to become fully human.  (He was already fully divine.)  St. Peter died when crucified upside down, a crown stoned St. Stephen to death, and martyrdoms have continued to the present day.

So, in the Kingdom of God, honor, glory, and shame have very different meanings than they do elsewhere.

St. Paul the Apostle (himself beheaded by order of Emperor Nero) wrote eloquently and at length of the importance of grace.  By grace God has not given up on those–Jews included–who have not recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  And, also by grace, God has grafted Gentiles onto the tree of salvation.  I am a Gentile, so it follows that, by grace, God has grafted me onto the tree of salvation.  Of course, Paul’s definition of faith includes the act of responding positively to God, who has initiated the salvific actions.  This positive response is one of free will, which we have because God has placed it there.  So everything goes back to God.

So Paul’s only spiritual boast was in Christ, as is mine.  This is an attitude of humility, which is quite separate from self-degradation.  Claiming to be lower than pond scum is an example of self-degradation.  No, I am a bearer of the image of God because God has placed it within me.  As a member of the human species, my basic problem is one of sin–pf course–but I am higher than pond scum.  Humility, rather, is having a realistic self-estimate then acting on it.

The proper source of my identity is God.  My honor comes from God and is in and through the same.  I could be in the most degraded hellhole on earth (Fortunately I am far from it.) on the account of Jesus, and I would remain remain undefiled by earthly notions of shame.

Years ago I read an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He repeated a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard forced the Jew to clean the toilets, which were especially disgusting.

Where is your God now?

the Nazi taunted the Jew.

Right here beside me in the muck,

he replied.