Friday: Hosea 13:9-16; Psalm 17; Acts 28:1-16; Luke 9:28-36
The oracle of destruction continues asking, “Who can help you? Where is your king now?” God reminds them that he alone is their king. Yes, they asked for a king and in his anger, God gave them a king. Look what has come of it. God’s wrath has taken their king away. Ephraim is like a child in the womb about to be born, who is breached, or who refused to come forth head-first out of the womb. God asks a rhetorical question about rescue from Sheol—the underworld where all who have died now “exist” in a state of nothingness—should God do this? The verse can be translated two ways: 1) God will do it, or 2) God will not. The open ambivalence is apparent in the world the NRSV translates “compassion” as it can also be translated “vengeance.” As always, in Hosea, in the midst of the oracle of judgment, God still holds out the possibility of redemption. But, then the destruction of Samaria is announced. She who has herded and chased after the wind will now be destroyed by an east wind blowing in from the hot, dry wilderness to parch and consume all that is there—every precious thing. The child that is breached within the womb shall not come forth. Because of her guilt and rebellion against God, Samaria will fall by the sword in especially vicious and cruel warfare—the children being dashed to pieces and the pregnant women torn open, killing them and their unborn child.
This psalm is a plea for deliverance that begins with the lament of the innocent, calling on God for deliverance, and it ends with assurance that God will do it. The psalmist declares innocence, with lips free from deceit, and invites God’s night visitation to try his heart and test him. God will find no wickedness in him. He has avoided the ways of the violent and held fast to God’s paths. And so, he calls upon God to listen, to show steadfast love and guard him as “the apple of your eye,” hiding him “in the shadow of your wings;” both are powerful poetic images of God’s intimate care. The one who prays is surrounded by pitiless enemies who speak arrogantly and like a lion track him down as their prey, eager to ambush and tear him apart. And so the call comes for God to “rise up, confront and overthrow them! “By your sword deliver my life from the wicked.” Their only concern is their bellies; fill them with what you have in store for them—your vengeance!
The diary account continues now that they have reached land, with everyone safe. They learn that they are on Malta where the local people show them unusual kindness. Wet and cold, as it begins to rain they build a fire and in the course of it, Paul gathers some brushwood and places it on the fire. As he does a viper, driven out by the heat, fastens itself to Paul’s hand. Seeing this the people assumed Paul a murdering being punished by fate. He may have escaped death at sea, but now the viper will rectify that. Paul simply shakes the viper back into the fire and suffers no harm. At that the people are astonished. They had expected Paul to swell up and die from the poisonous bite. When that did not happen, the people conclude that rather than a criminal, Paul is a god. The leading man of the Island, named Publius, provides hospitality for Paul and his companions for three days. Publius’ father is sick with dysentery and fever, and so Paul visits him, prays, lays hands upon him and heals him. When this becomes known, others from the island come to Paul for healing and are cured. The result is that many honors are bestowed on them by the people of Malta, and as they prepared to sail on to Italy, they were given all the provisions they needed. Three months later, they board an Alexandrian ship named after the twin children of Zeus, who were thought to be the patrons of sailors. The ship had wintered in Malta, and after stopping in Syracuse, an important port in Sicily, they sailed on to Rhegium, the port at the foot of Italy. When a south wind arose, they sailed on to Puteoli, a port on the Gulf of Naples, where they found a group of believers who invited them to stay with them. After seven days, Paul, the centurion and his companion(s) moved on to Rome. When the believers there heard that Paul had come to Rome, they gathered to meet him, coming from as far away as the Forum of Appius, some 40 miles away. Upon seeing these brothers and sisters, Paul rejoices and thanks God for his protection and care. Paul is allowed to live by himself under house arrest, but is able to continue his work.
Peter has confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, now, eight days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him up a high mountain to pray. Mountains were regarded as “thin places” where the membrane between heaven and earth was especially porous, and where a theophany might take place. While Jesus is in prayer, the appearance of his face changes, his clothes become dazzling white, revealing his inner identity, and suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear, and are engaged in conversation with him. Interestingly enough, we are not told how the three know who these other two men are; they simply know! What we are told is that they appear “in glory”—their heavenly state. Remember that Elijah was assumed bodily into heaven. There is also a non-biblical tradition that says Moses did not die, but was also bodily assumed into heaven. The conversation between the three is about Jesus’ departure (the Greek word is “Exodus”) he is to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter, James and John, though exhausted, manage to stay awake through this and see it all. As Moses and Elijah appear to be taking their leave, Peter suggests building three booths, one for Jesus and one for each of the two heavenly visitors. As the words are coming out of Peter’s mouth, a cloud surrounds them (another sign of theophany), which is why we are told they are terrified. Then from the cloud comes God’s voice saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen (some manuscripts include “my Beloved,”), listen to him! Immediately thereafter, the heavenly visitors are gone, and Peter, James and John are left alone with Jesus, pondering in silence what they have seen. They will remain silent about this until after the resurrection.
Author: The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.