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Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 35; Revelation 9:13-21; Luke 10:38-42

The Lord is taking the people to court for their infidelity and calls upon the mountain and foundations of the earth to be witnesses. With the plaintive “O my people, what have I done to you?” the text begins a series of rhetorical questions remembering how the Lord has intervened again and again on Israel’s behalf. The court scene then turns to judgment on their worship, asking what it is the Lord most needs from the people. “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?” Not burnt offerings, not calves a year old, not a thousand rams or ten thousand rivers of oil—the massive numbers are exaggerations for effect. “My first born,” is the condemnation of the practice of child sacrifice that was practiced by people surrounding the Israelites, and took place in Israel on occasion (Judges 11:29-40; 2 Kings 3:26-27; 16:1-4; 21:6). The text then reaches it zenith with its resounding “No!” “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what the Lord requires: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” Some suggest that the last phrase is better translated, “walk wisely with your God.” This is the hallmark of the book of Micah and one of the high-water marks of all biblical prophecy.

This prayer for deliverance from enemies is filled with petitions for the Lord to rise up, to act, to see, to put to shame and dishonor those who seek the psalmist’s life. “Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers” is an urgent request, not only for protection, but for the enemy to be utterly destroyed. The language is familiar in the way it describes the psalmist’s distress and enemies, and falls into three broad categories: those who plan evil in secret against him, those who maliciously lie and bear false witness against him, and those who are treacherous and hate him. Each of these sections ends with a petition: “let ruin come on them unaware,” “How long, O Lord? Rescue me.” “Put to shame all those who rejoice in my calamity.” Then each petition is followed by a vow of loyalty and praise. The psalmist even includes his supporters in his petition, asking that they be able to shout for joy and be glad with him, evermore able to say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant.” As is often the case with such psalms of petition, it ends promising that upon deliverance, his tongue shall tell of God’s righteousness and sing God’s praise all day long.

The sixth trumpet is blown and a voice from the horns of the altar tells the angel to release the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates. Having been held at the ready for this moment, they are released and kill a third of humankind. Their cavalry is massive in number, and they are portrayed with vivid images of destruction: breastplates of the color of fire, their horses’ heads like those of devouring lions breathing smoke, sulfur and fire, the horses’ tails like serpents inflicting harm. Behind this lies the empire’s fear of the Parthian barbarian hordes east of the Euphrates that the Romans were never able to conquer. But the remaining two-thirds of humanity do not repent or give up worshipping demons and idols, or turn away from their murdering, sorceries, fornications or thefts. Notice that throughout this judgment section of the book, the judgment comes creating opportunities for those spared to repent, but they do not; their evil only increases.

Luke introduces us to the sisters, Mary and Martha who welcome Jesus into their home. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet in deep devotion, while Martha scurries about the household attending to matters of hospitality. In utter frustration at being left to do all the work by herself, Martha complains to Jesus, clearly expecting him to tell Mary to join her in preparation for a meal. Jesus replies that Martha has allowed herself to become distracted and worried by many things, while only one is needed—devotion to him. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her. This story is not about the value of the contemplative life over the active one, but rather, is told to warn the readers of this Gospel about the worries and distractions that get in the way of their devotion to Jesus. Also notice the sub-theme of women as Jesus’ disciples.


Posted October 26, 2012

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The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson

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.

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