Saturday: Hosea 14:1-9; Psalm 21; Acts 28:17-31; Luke 9:37-50
The Book of Hosea ends with God pleading with Israel to return. God promises to forgive all their disloyalty and again love them freely—God’s anger has turned away from him. The imagery of abundance and fruitfulness is used to speak of the blessings upon their return: they shall flourish like a garden and blossom like the vine, words that play off against the false promises of Baal. The oracles of judgment, after all, have been issued to warn more than condemn, and to appeal to Israel to return to the Lord. That means not only rejection of Baal, its sexual and idol worship, but also their alliance with Assyria. The final two verses point the reader to God’s righteousness, and assert God’s justice, and may have been added later, for indeed, Israel did not harken to these words of Hosea and Samaria was ultimately destroyed in 722 BCE by Assyria as it turned Israel into a province.
This royal psalm offers praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the strength and victory he has given to the king. God has given the king his heart’s desire, met him with rich blessing, and set a crown of gold on his head. The king has asked for and been given length of days. His glory, majesty and splendor are great because of what God has done for him. The king professes trust in the Lord whose steadfast love shall establish him forever. The psalm then turns to the king’s enemies invoking God’s wrath on them and upon their children, who he asks be put to flight. The psalm ends with an affirmation and prayer that the Lord will be exalted and victorious in all that is coming, with a promise to continue to sing God’s praises and praise God’s power.
This final portion of the Book of Acts has Paul in Rome. Three days after his arrival, Paul calls together the local leaders of the Jews to explain his circumstances in Jerusalem and Caesarea and how it is that he was forced to appeal to the emperor—even through there were no charges against him. The Jewish leaders reply that they have received no letters from Judea about Paul and none coming from Jerusalem that have reported or spoken any evil against Paul. That said, they would like to hear from Paul what he thinks about “this sect we know that everywhere is spoken against.” They set a day for them to come and again meet with Paul at his lodging. On that day when they return, Paul spends the day explaining the gospel to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the prophets. Some are convinced, while others refuse to believe. In disagreement, they leave Paul, and as they do, Paul makes one final statement to them, quoting Isaiah 6:9-10. Then, once again, he repeats the formula he has used in synagogue after synagogue: “Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” The book concludes telling us that Paul continued to live in Rome at his own expense, two more years, welcoming all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. The book closes with Paul preaching the gospel at the very center of the Roman Empire.
As Jesus and the three disciples come down off the mountain they encounter a great crowd that has come out to meet him, including a man who has come to beg him to look at his son who is possessed by what looks very much like epilepsy. He has begged the disciples to cast it out, but they could not. Jesus speaks deridingly of a faithless and perverse generation, wondering how much longer he must be with them and bear them. Is he speaking to the crowd, or is he speaking of his followers who have not been able to exorcise the spirit? Probably both! Jesus asks to see the boy and as he is being brought to him the demon dashes him to the ground in convulsions. Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit, heals the boy and gives him back to his father, and all watching are astounded. Turning to his disciples he says, “Let these words sink in—“The son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But again, they do not understand. Luke defends the disciples’ ignorance by saying the meaning of this was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it, and that the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus what it meant. This is followed by the argument among the disciples about which one of them is the greatest. Jesus, aware of what is going on, puts a little child among them and says, “Whoever welcomes this child welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest—a slightly different tack than Mark has taken with this incident. John responds that they have seen someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and they tried to stop him because he is not among them as one of Jesus’ followers. Jesus tells them not to stop him, for “whoever is not against us is for us.” The disciples are still struggling with the shift in world view that Jesus requires of his followers. They are still locked into conceptions of hierarchy, power, honor and shame that the world operates out of and have yet to grasp what the kingdom of God is really all about. This brings to a conclusion Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
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.