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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday: Hosea 4:1-10; Psalm 105:1-22; Acts 21:27-36; Luke 6:1-11

Hosea now turns his prophecy directly on the people of Israel, as the Lord formally issues an indictment against them for their own harlotry. There has been no faithfulness and consequently no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery and bloodshed have been the result—the violation of the Ten Commandments. Consequently the land mourns; all who live in it languish, including all forms of animal life. The indictment includes the priesthood and the guild of prophets, whose job it is to teach the people and speak for God. Their failures have resulted in the people’s ignorance and their turning to idols and pagan gods. The result is God’s judgment: the more they increased, the more they sinned, feeding on the sins and iniquities of one another. Now all of them, people, priests and prophets alike, are to be punished for their ways and repaid for their deeds. They shall eat but not be satisfied; they shall continue to whore after other gods but not increase, because they have forsaken the Lord and devoted themselves to whoredom.

This psalm of praise calls everyone to make known God deeds among the people. The language of praise dominates the first portion of it: “give thanks,” “call,” “sing,” “glory” and “rejoice.” It then recounts the reasons for this praise: God’s faithfulness to Israel. It begins citing God’s initial covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel—a covenant made forever—making them God’s “chosen ones.” Then the psalm remembers their past: few in number and of little account and nomads in the land, a famine took them to Egypt, where God had, beforehand sent Joseph. Joseph’s trials are remembered until he gained the king’s pleasure and became lord over all of Pharaoh’s house, not only to govern, but to teach his elders wisdom.

On the seventh day of purification, some Jews from Asia see Paul in the temple and stir up the crowd, naming him as the man teaching everyone everywhere against their people, their teachings and their temple. To make matters worse, he has actually brought Greeks into the Temple. Though they were wrong about this latter charge, the entire city erupts and the people rush Paul, drag him out of the Temple, whose doors are immediately shut behind them, and they begin to beat Paul and attempt to kill him. Word reached the tribune of the Roman cohort, and soldiers under the command of centurions are dispatched to quiet the mob and bring order. When the people see the tribune and soldiers, they stop beating Paul, who is immediately attested, bounds with two chains and examined as to who he is and what he has done. The crowd, of course, cannot be silenced, and soon one is shouting one thing, while others, another. Unable to hear in the uproar the tribune orders Paul brought to the barracks, but the mob is such that Paul cannot walk through it. Rather, he must be carried by the soldiers, while the following crowed keeps shouting “Away with him!”

It is the Sabbath. What follows is a demonstration of Jesus challenging the new things the Pharisees have added to the Law. Torah is clear: we have six days in which to labor and do our work; the seventh is to be set aside in rest for the Lord. Anyone who works on the Sabbath is to be put to death (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:14-15; 35:2). As Jesus and his disciples walk through a grain field, his disciples pluck some heads of grain, rub them in their hands to shuck them, and eat the grain. The Pharisees see it and ask what they doing—this is work, of sorts. Do they not know that it is not lawful to do this kind of thing on the Sabbath? Really? Is this really what Moses hand in mind? But this is what has happened under Pharisee leadership. Jesus responds by pointing to their legalisms’ distortions of the law and reminds them that even David, when he and his companions were hungry, entered the tent of the meeting and ate the Bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priest to eat, and gave it to his companions as well. Having earlier identified himself as the Son of Man, Jesus reaffirms that with another connection—he is lord of the Sabbath! We do not get told of the Pharisees’ and scribes’ response to that. Rather, Luke simply tells another sabbath story to continue to illustrate the building tensions. On another Sabbath, Jesus enters a synagogue to teach and therein encounters a man with a withered right hand. The Pharisees and scribes are watching closely to see if Jesus will cure on the Sabbath in order that they might have an accusation against him. Even though Jesus knows this, or perhaps better still, because he does know what they are thinking, he heals the man. But first, before doing so, he asks, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, to save life or destroy it?” Of course it is; it is lawful to do the Lord’s work on the Lord’s day. The commandment to set aside a day to the Lord, free from daily labor in order to rest and be refreshed has been narrowed to a scrupulosity that is all but impossible, becoming a burden rather than a gift. Jesus commands the man to stretch out his hand, the man does, and it is immediately restored. Seeing this, the Pharisees and scribes are filled with fury and begin to consider what they can do to stop Jesus.

Posted October 4, 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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