Monday: Hosea 6:7—7:7; Psalm 106:1-18; Acts 22:30-23:11; Luke 6:39-49
Hosea continues to catalogue Israel’s transgressions, which he traces back to their entry into the land in the Book of Joshua. Though God divided the waters of the Jordan at Adam, (Joshua 3:16), from that moment on the people began to violate the covenant. Gilead is the tribe that led revolts against fellow Israelites in the hill country and Shechem is where the revolt of the Northern tribes took place to divide the kingdom. All of them are corrupt, from the priests, who indulge in murder while on their way to perform religious duties, to all the whoring people of Ephraim (a metaphor now for the Northern Kingdom). They deal falsely with one another, with thieves breaking in and bandits raiding on the outside, all of which seems to make their king glad. Or, alternatively, they have gotten the king and his officials drunk in preparation for an attempted assassination (the text here is complex and can be read two ways). We now encounter four metaphors; hot oven, half-baked cake, silly dove and defective bow, whose rhetorical significance is obscure, at best. Heated oven seems to speak of their hot passion, but is it sexual, political, condemnation of the corrupt priesthood, or simply inebriation? The king’s court has become sick with wine and he has joined the mockers. Whatever the heat is, it is kindled as their hearts burn within them, smoldering through the night and erupting in full flame in the morning, its fire designed to devour their rulers. And even as they fall, they fail to call upon the Lord.
As Psalm 105 remembers God’s faithfulness to Israel, this psalm begins with the similar refrain, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” However, rather than a psalm of praise, this is a corporate confession of sin, remembering the numerous ways the people have remained faithless in the face of God’s steadfast love and care. “We and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.” The recital of sins begins in Egypt, where they ignored God’s wonderful works. Liberated from Egypt, they rebelled against God at the Red Sea, not trusting God to deliver them from the Egyptians. When God did save them from their foe they rejoiced and sang God’s praise, but then quickly forgot God’s works and counsel. Their cravings for food and water, their murmurings and various rebellions in the wilderness are recounted, as well as their jealousies of Moses and Aaron, and God’s judgments on them. Today the psalm ends with the judgment against Dathan and Abiram and their families for challenging the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16). The psalm continues with a list of other apostasies and rebellions, in chronological order, all of which are seen as justification for God allowing them to have been taken captive to Babylon. It concludes with a plea for the Lord to once again exercise his steadfast love, deliver them, gather them from among the nations, and return them to their home so that they may give thanks to God’s holy name and glory in God’s praise.
The Roman Commander wants to know what it is Paul is being accused of by the Jews and so releases him, orders the chief priests and council to convene and brings Paul to stand before them. Paul begins his self-defense, and as he does the chief priests orders that he be struck on the mouth. At this Paul, retaliates, threating the chief priest with God’s judgment and calling him a whitewashed wall—a form of Jewish curse. When told that Paul has insulted the high priest he stops, saying he did not realize he was the high priest. Then Paul notices that the council is made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees, and uses the opportunity to a start a theological argument among them which turns into minor uprising. Paul tells them he is a Pharisee and on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection, something the Sadducees denied because they could not find it in Torah. The assembly breaks out with the two groups contending with one another, the Pharisees siding with Paul, and the Sadducees becoming all the more set on doing away with him. As the scene becomes increasingly violent, the tribune orders the soldiers to rescue Paul, lest the council tear him to pieces. The soldiers rescue him and bring him, once again, to the barracks—this time for safety. That night Paul has a third reassuring vision, as the Lord appears and stand by him, telling him to keep up his courage. As he has testified to Jesus in Jerusalem, so too, he will bear witness to him in Rome.
Jesus brings his sermon on the plain to a conclusion with three parables: the blind leading the blind, a tree and the fruit it produces and the two men who built houses, one with a firm foundation, the other with none. Disciples are not above their teachers—free to avoid and ignore his teaching and discipline—but everyone who is fully qualified is like the teacher and his teachings. So, care for the boulder in your own eye before trying to remove the speck in your neighbors, lest you become a hypocrite. Notice that good trees produce good fruit, whereas bad do not. Good is produce out of the treasury of a good heart, whereas evil comes out of the treasury of an evil heart, and the mouth is simply what attests to the abundance of what is in the heart, be it good or evil. Then Jesus brings the sermon to its climax by asking the pointed question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord. Lord,’ and not do what I tell you to do?” Those who come to him and do as he teaches are like the man who, when building a house, dug deep until hitting rock, and then built his house on that foundation. When the flood comes, the house remains because it is well built. But those who come to him but do not act on his words are like a man who built his house on the ground with no foundation at all. When the river rose and overflowed its banks, it not only flooded the house, it washed it completely away.
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.