Wednesday: Hosea 8:1-14; Psalm 128; Acts 23:23-35; Luke 7:18-35
The Lord continues to describe Israel’s apostasy charging that she has violated the covenant, and that the kings and sanctuaries they have chosen for themselves have never been authorized by the Lord. “They have made kings, but not through me.” In addition, they have fallen into idolatry, making graven images. “The calf of Samaria” refers to two golden calves that Jeroboam had placed in the sanctuaries at Dan and Bethel, “Samaria” now being an inclusive term for the nation of the Northern Kingdom. “For they sow the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads, it shall yield no meal; if it were to yield, foreigners would devour it.” Israel, in its foreign alliance with Assyria is described as a “wild ass wandering alone.” Though they have sacrificed and called on God’s name, he does not know them nor accept their worship. They shall be punished because they have forgotten their maker. They will return to Egypt—until now, the ultimate symbol of slavery and bondage.
A Song of Ascents,” tells us that this was part of an entrance liturgy to the Temple that was employed as men made their three annual compulsory visits to Jerusalem to worship during one of the three major feasts. It is a wisdom psalm with a message very much like Psalm 1: those who walk in God’s ways receive God’s blessing—the negative is not even considered! It may have been offered by the pilgrim himself, or, it may have been invoked on the pilgrim as he entered the temple. But, whereas Psalm 1 is general in its application this one is more personal, expressing the blessings and their impact on one’s wife and children. It is a general blessing, first on the worshipper, then on Jerusalem, and finally on all of Israel itself.
We are watching Roman rule be exercised, as we finally learn the name of the Roman tribune; it is Claudius Lysias. He writes to the governor, Felix and explains how it is that Paul is being sent to him. Notice how the Romans looked upon the Jews and their internal controversies over matters of their Law. Jews were permitted to live within it so long as it did not encroach on Roman law, and as best Claudius can tell, Paul has done nothing deserving death. Claudius has learned of a plot to kill Paul and so he is being sent to the Governor while Claudius is ordering his accusers to appear before the Governor as well in order to state their case before him. The cohort of soldiers make it to Antipatris, a point mid-way between Jerusalem and Caesarea, now clearly in Gentile territory, and so all but the horsemen return to Jerusalem, with the former taking Paul on to the Governor. After reading the letter from Claudius, Governor Felix, (probably Antonius Felix, who was procurator from 52-60 CE), asks Paul what province he is from. When Paul tells him he is from Cilicia, Felix agrees to given him a hearing, but only after his accusers arrive. Until them, Paul will be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters there in Caesarea.
Word of Jesus’ ministry reaches John the Baptist through some of John’s disciples and John sends two of them to Jesus to ask “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another. Luke then inserts a report about all that Jesus has done. When asked, Jesus replies, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” These are clear signs that the Messiah has come. And then Jesus adds, “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” When John’s disciples leave, Jesus asks those following him who it was they expected to see when they went out to the wilderness to see John; a reed shaken by the wind or someone dressed in soft robes and living in royal palaces (reference to Herod, whose palace with in that wilderness region)? Is that what they saw? No, they saw a prophet, but one who is more than a prophet. Then Jesus names John the one Isaiah had spoken of as the forerunner (Isaiah 40:3). Among those born of a women no one is greater than John, he even the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John! The kingdom has arrived and is reversing all worldly standards. The tax collectors and all others who had gone to John for baptism were acknowledging this. But the Pharisees and lawyers, who refused John’s baptism, were actually rejecting God’s purposes for themselves. Jesus then employs an illustration from a popular child’s game, “Dancers and Mourners,” and says that the religious authorities are like children who simply simply cannot take God’s “yes” for an answer. John came as an ascetic and they said he was possessed, and Jesus has come eating and drinking, and they call him a glutton, drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners. They want it both ways. But, “wisdom is vindicated by all here children,” God’s work and purposes are being revealed in both John and Jesus, and those who oppose them are opposing God.
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.