Archive for the ‘Sovereignty of God’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 5 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Paying the Tax with a Coin from the Fish

Image in the Public Domain

The Sovereignty of God

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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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 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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Genesis 27:1-10, 18-19, 26-33, 38-40

Psalm 12

Acts 4:23-31

Matthew 17:24-27

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O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

The wicked prowl on every side,

and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.

–Psalm 12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the primary challenges understanding the Bible is the fact that we moderns come from different cultural and intellectual backgrounds than the ancients did.  The Biblical texts leave much unwritten because members of the original audiences did not require the explanation of every germane assumption.  Consider, O reader, blessings and curses.  By curses I refer not to profane and coarse language, but to the opposite of blessings.  One assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that spoken blessings and curses have power.  Oral blessings and curses are motifs in the Old Testament.  In this case the second son steals the blessing (due to the first son) by fooling an aging and blind father.  The stolen blessing, however, still has power.  Furthermore, God works through the blessing and the act of stealing it.

The theme of the sovereignty of God continues in the readings.  The promises of God are sure in Psalm 12, even though people exalt vileness.  In Acts 4 religious persecution becomes an opportunity certain early Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the faith boldly.

The Gospel reading requires much explanation.  A standard exegesis is that the tax in question was the Temple tax.  However, Father Raymond E. Brown questions this conclusion in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  He proposes that, since Matthew 17:24-27 does not identify the tax as the Temple tax, it might have been a different tax–perhaps the census tax mentioned in Matthew 22:15-22.  Or, if one assumes that the tax in Matthew 17:24-27 was the Temple tax, one might surmise that post-70 C.E. realities inform the telling of the story.  With the destruction of the Temple and the continuation of the Temple tax, the purpose of said tax had shifted to support the temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

The real issue is the sovereignty of God.  The Roman destruction of the Temple could not overcome the sovereignty of God.  Imperial power might extend even to fish, but God could place the coin to pay the tax inside a fish.  For the sake of avoiding public scandal Jesus pays the tax with money God has provided, but God is still more powerful than the Roman Empire.

We who follow God should acknowledge divine sovereignty.  Our relations to the state might be strained.  I acknowledge the moral legitimacy of political revolution sometimes, especially when the system oppresses those who seek to change it peaceably.  In all circumstances, we ought to, in the words of Jesus,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and God what belongs to God.

–Matthew 22:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God, who is sovereign over empires and republics, wants us.  That is fair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 4, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Draw the Circle Wider

Above:  The Cover of a Small Book the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Publishes

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Trusting and Obeying God (Or Not)

JUNE 4 and 5, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:13-26 (Monday)

Exodus 16:27-36 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-72 (Both Days)

Romans 9:19-29 (Monday)

Acts 15:1-5, 22-35 (Tuesday)

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Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will pour forth mysteries from of old,

Such as we have heard and known,

which our forebears have told us.

We will not hide from their children,

but will recount to generations to come,

the praises of the Lord and his power

and the wonderful works he has done.

–Psalm 78:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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One reads of the sovereignty, mercy, and judgment of God in Psalm 78.  Other assigned passages for these two days pick up these elements.  We read of God’s mercy (in the form of manna) in Exodus 16 and of divine sovereignty and judgment in Romans 9.  We read also of human fickleness and faithlessness in Exodus 16 and of human faithfulness in Acts 15.

Exodus 16’s place in the narrative is within recent memory of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  One might think, therefore, that more people would trust God, who was demonstrably faithful to divine promises.  But, no!  Bad mentalities many people had remained, unfortunately.

The Council of Jerusalem addressed the major question of how much the Law of Moses Gentile Christians had to keep.  Did one have to become a Jew in order to be a Christian?  This was a major question of identity for many observant Jewish Christians.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was, according to Jewish scriptures, negative and had led to the downfall of kingdoms.  The final position of the Council of Jerusalem was to require only that Gentile Christians obey Leviticus 17:8-18:30, which applied to resident aliens.  Gentile Christians were to abstain from three categories of behavior which offended Jewish sensibilities:

  1. Eating food sacrificed to idols,
  2. Drinking blood and eating meat from animals not quite drained of blood, and
  3. Engaging in fornication, most rules of which related to sexual relations with near relatives.

Underlying these rules is a sense of respect:

  1. Acting respectfully toward God is a virtue which requires no explanation here.
  2. Blood, according to the assumptions regarding food laws, carries life.  To abstain from consuming blood, therefore, is to respect the life of the source animal.  (Hence the Christian theology of Transubstantiation, foreshadowed in the Gospel of John, is scandalous from a certain point of view.
  3. And, as for sexual relations, one must, to be moral, respect one’s body and the body of any actual or prospective sexual partner.

As generous as the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem was, it proved insufficient to satisfy the pro-Law of Moses hardliners.  Generosity of spirit, which sets some boundaries while abolishing stumbling blocks, tends not to satisfy hardliners of either the left wing or the right wing.  Yet, as the French say, C’est la vie.  In my Christian tradition hardliners exist, and I am at odds with many of them.  I try to ignore the rest.

Nevertheless, I ask myself if I have become a hardliner of a sort.  If the answer is affirmative, the proper spiritual response is to ask myself whom I am excluding improperly and, by grace, to pursue corrective action–repentance–changing my mind, turning around.

Trusting God can prove difficult, given our negative mentalities.  Seeking to hoard material necessities leads to excess and is one expression of faithlessness.  Another is comforting oneself with false notions of who is “in” and who is “out,” with oneself being part of the “in” crowd, of course.  But what if God’s definition of the “in” crowd is broader than ours.  How does that affect our identity?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/trusting-and-obeying-god-or-not/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 24, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Daniel's Answer to the King

Above:  Daniel’s Answer to the King, by Briton Riviere

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Sovereignty

OCTOBER 21, 2020

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:1-28

Psalm 98

Matthew 17:22-27

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In 539 B.C.E. King Cyrus II (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet the author of Daniel 6 wrote of one “Darius the Mede,” whom he listed as a king who reigned between the fall of Babylon and the time of Cyrus II.  As I wrote in the previous post, the chronology of the Book of Daniel makes no sense.  Evangelical-oriented resources in my Biblical studies library struggle to explain this historical discrepancy.  One even suggests that “Darius the Mede” might have been the regnal name of Cyrus II in the former Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, but Daniel 6 lists “Darius the Mede” and Cyrus II as separate people.  Yet I, unlike the author of those works, do not labor under the false notion of Biblical inerrancy or infallibility.  So “Darius the Mede,” most likely (at least partially) a backward projection of Darius I (reigned 522-486 B.C.E.), a successor of Cyrus II, never existed as the Book of Daniel presents him.  The application of Ockham’s Razor to this issue leads one to avoid needless intellectual gymnastics based on a false assumption.

Here is a summary of the story:  Daniel, who had worked for the Chaldeans, went to work for the Persians, the text tells us.  (He must have been really old!)  Daniel was loyal, but court intrigue led to a charge of treason, hence the lion’s den.  Our hero survived unscathed (as had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Chapter 3), of course.  And, as in Chapter 3, the monarch changed his mind and recognized the power of Yahweh.

The main point of this story, I suppose, is to trust God, who is sovereign over nations, kingdoms, empires, and rulers.  That, at least, is the point of the tale of Daniel in the lions’ den shares with the pericope from Matthew 17.  There God provided the money for a tax payable to the Roman Empire.  The display of divine power in both stories was the unmistakable.

To trust God in mundane circumstances can prove difficult.  To do so in dire and extreme circumstances might seem impossible or nearly so.  Yet the latter context is when grace becomes more obvious.  Grace is always present, of course, but it is like a lamp in a room; the light is more obvious in the darkness.  That has been my experience.  Deliverance did not arrive immediately, but at least I had excellent company while I waited.  And that company, present before darkness fell, remained with me.  And I have been more conscious of it since then.  Trusting God has become much easier for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR MACARTHUR, COFOUNDER OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/divine-sovereignty/

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Devotion for November 7 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

AgnusDeiWindow

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church, Set in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VI:  The Sovereignty of God

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2019

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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 11:11-23

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening)

Matthew 24:1-28

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The author of Psalm 62, in the context of persecution because of his holiness, wrote:

Yet be still my soul, and wait for God:

from whom comes my hope of deliverance.

–verse 5, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

I detect echoes of the Jeremiah and Matthew readings in the Psalms appointed for today.  The above quote is just one example of that.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, fulfilled his unpleasant duty faithfully while arguing with God.  The prophet announced doom for idolatry and a host of social injustices–in short, breaking the covenant with God, per Deuteronomy 30:15-20.  The prophet placed himself in harm’s way by doing this.  He likened himself to a docile sheep led to the slaughter and asked God to avenge him.

That image of a lamb led to the slaughter is one which Christian tradition has applied to Jesus, although he was hardly docile in Matthew 24 and elsewhere.  Our Lord and Savior was far from docile in Matthew 21 (“the Temple Incident,” as New Testament scholars call it) or in John 18 or in Matthew 26.  Yet the image of a lamb, when applied to Jesus, works well, for he was both the high priest and the sacrificial animal, metaphorically speaking.

In Mathew 24 Jesus warned the Apostles against, among other ills, false prophets and religious persecution:

You will be handed over for punishment and execution; all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.  At that time many will fall from their faith; they will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many; and as lawlessness spreads, the love of many will grow cold.  But whoever endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to  all nations; and then the end will come.

–verses 9-14, The Revised English Bible

This is a devotion for November 7, at the latter part of the Season after Pentecost.  Advent is not far away from November 7–less than one month, in fact.  (Advent can begin as early as November 27 and as late as December 3.)  By November 7 the Sunday readings in the Revised Common Lectionary have taken a dark turn.

Yet, in the darkness of the tail end of Ordinary Time there is hope.  Yes, Jeremiah suffered greatly, but God proved him correct.  And nobody who tried to kill the prophet succeeded.  Yes, sometimes there is persecution for following Jesus, but God still wins in the end.  And God is faithful to the faithful, some of whom will lose their bodies in service to God but none of whom will lose their souls thereby.  And Advent is around the corner.  Christmas will follow.  The summary of the hope of which I write is the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-vi-the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Balaam and the Angel

Numbers and Luke, Part X:   Obedience to Our Sovereign God

MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2020, and TUESDAY, JUNE 2, 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:

Numbers 22:1-20 (Monday)

Numbers 22:21-23:3 (Tuesday)

Psalm 5 (Morning–Monday)

Psalm 42 (Morning–Tuesday)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–Monday)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–Tuesday)

Luke 22:1-23 (Monday)

Luke 22:24-46 (Tuesday)

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Parts of the readings from the Book of Numbers prove to be inconsistent with my Western and scientific worldview and mindset, which I have inherited from my post-Enlightenment culture.  What influence might one non-Israelite prophet’s curse have upon them?  And we all know that donkeys lack the capacity for human language.  But these details are trivial matters; the main point of the Balak and Balaam narrative is to affirm the sovereignty of God.  Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites on behalf of Balak, the King of Moab, disobeys God by setting with Balak’s agents.  The the prophet receives divine permission to continue on the journey but only to speak as God, not Balak wishes.

To digress briefly, who stops Balaam and his donkey in their tracks?  The narrative, in 22:22-26, uses a Hebrew term for “the adversary,” or the Satan.  The theology of Satan changed from the beginning of the Bible to the New Testament.  Here, in the Book of Numbers, as in the Book of Job, the Satan was an angel who worked for God.  Free agency, such as we see in the New Testament, came later.  This is a well-documented pattern of facts, one which serious study of the texts reveals.  There are even entire books on just this subject.

While I am wearing my higher criticism hat….

Luke 22:24-27, set immediately after our Lord’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Last Supper, bears a striking resemblance to Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, both of which follow on the heels of James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking for high status for themselves (or their mother, our Lord’s aunt, asking for them, depending on the account one reads) in the Kingdom of God.  And the passages from Matthew and Mark precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost immediately.  Such discrepancies did not trouble the Church Fathers who approved the New Testament canon, so I will not permit them to disturb me either.  Besides, I know that the Gospels are not documentaries.

Anyhow, the theme of obedience we find in Numbers 22 runs through Luke 22 also.  Jesus obeys God.  Those who defy the Greco-Roman system of age and patronage, a system which oppressed people while impressing them with moments of generosity, obey God.  Those who stand by Jesus obey God.  Even Judas Iscariot played his part in salvation history.  If nobody had betrayed Jesus, would he have suffered, died, and risen?  Again we see the sovereignty of God playing out in the texts.

Sometimes agents in these dramas of the sovereignty of God are less than savory characters.  Consider the Numbers and Luke readings for examples of this, O reader.  Balaam, for example, obeyed God until he did not; consult Numbers 31:16.  And, elsewhere in the Bible, the narrative presents the Assyrians and the Babylonians as agents of divine sovereignty and punishment–agents those texts also condemn.  The fact that you, O reader, and I have roles to play in divine plans does not necessarily bode well for us.  Yet may we be on God’s side.  It is better for us, and I propose that God prefers it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-x-obedience-to-our-sovereign-god/

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