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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Micah 3:9—4:5; Psalm 119:25-48; Revelation 8:1-13; Luke 10:17-24

Repeating his indictment against the rulers and the priests in Jerusalem, Micah reminds them that they are deceiving themselves when they say “the Lord is in our midst,” simply because the Temple is on Mt. Zion. The judgment is that because of their corruption, Jerusalem will be plowed as a field and become a heap of ruins, its mountain (the Temple mount), a wooded height. But in the midst of all that condemnation comes a word of hope: “in the days to come,” more often translated “in the last days” (KJV” or, “in the latter days,”—turning this into prophecy about consummation—the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains. All the nations will come saying, “let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that we may learn his ways and walk in his paths.” From this comes the conviction that in the end, all nations shall recognize Israel’s God is the only God, and shall come to them to learn the Lord’s ways. It is why Judaism has never been invested in evangelism or proselytizing. The deep conviction remains that ultimately all people will see the truth in Zion. Then words appear in verses one through three that are also on the lips of Isaiah of Jerusalem: “The Lord shall judge between the nations. They shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks.” War shall cease, with all of its calamity. None shall be afraid. Each shall enjoy the work of one’s hands and the fruit of one’s own vines. The curious phrase, “for all people shall walk in the name of its god while Israel walks in the name of the Lord forever,” is a recognition that this time has not yet come and still lies on the distant horizon. Only Jerusalem walks in the way of the Lord.

We return to another portion of this, the longest psalm in the Bible, a wisdom psalm composed using the acrostic pattern. Verse 25 begins with the letter D (dalet) with the theme of “the way” of the Lord, praying “teach me your statutes. Make me understand the way of your precepts.” As the psalmist’s soul melts away in sorrow, she pleads for God’s word to strengthen her and put "false ways,” far away from her. She speaks of clinging to God’s decrees lest she be put to shame. The psalm is filled with rich liturgical language: “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statues, and I will observe it to the end.” This theme is repeated in various expressions using verbs like “lead,” “turn,” “confirm,” culminating in the psalmist reminding God that she has longed for his precepts and pleads, “in righteous give me life.” The psalm then turns to letter W (Vav) and two new themes emerge: God’s steadfast love comes through the keeping of God’s law, and, rather than restrict, the law brings full life. God's statutes create liberty, delight and reverence, and so, she meditates on them continually.

The seventh seal is broken, and all falls silent in heaven for about thirty minutes. Seven angels stand before God’s throne and are given seven trumpets. There is in this book a series of “sevens”—the complete number, in which one expects the culmination with the seventh event, such as the breaking of the seventh seal. But, rather than seeing the culmination, it folds into another series of sevens, as the seventh seal folds into seven trumpets. It is the books way of saying the culmination is near, but not yet here. In the silence, prayers are being offered by the saints. The silence is broken by the blowing of the first four trumpets (four being the earth number), revealing the troubles on the earth: fire consuming a third of the trees and vegetation, great mountains burning (volcanos?) exploding and dissolving into the sea, stars falling from heaven drying up rivers and streams, and a third of the cosmic lights being extinguished. These seven trumpets are announcing and unleashing seven plagues. As God used plagues to free the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, these plagues are God’s forerunner to the redemption of the world. At the end of the four, there is a brief interlude as an eagle (symbol of wisdom and high intelligence), flies two and fro carrying “Woe, woe, woe” (the number three being the heavenly number, making this a heavenly warning), to the inhabitants of the earth for what is to come as the other three angels blow their trumpets.

The seventy return, rejoicing in what has been happening through them in Jesus’ name. Even the demons submit to them! Jesus responds that as they did their work he watched Satan fall from heaven, marking the beginning of the decisive defeat of him and all of his forces of evil. Satan no longer stands in God’s presence making accusations against humankind. The limitation of his power in Jesus’ name has already been demonstrated in his own healing work, and now in their own. Jesus then explicates the authority he has given over to them. However, they are not to rejoice in this power, but rather, that their names are written in heaven. And now Jesus himself turns to rejoicing, offering a prayer of thanksgiving to his Father, that what has heretofore been hidden from human eyes—especially the wise and the intelligent—has now been revealed to infants—such is God’s gracious will. All that is the Father’s has been handed to the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father or the Father except those the Son chooses to know him. Concluding his thanksgiving, Jesus turns to the disciples and blesses them, telling them many prophets and kings have longed to see what they are now seeing and hearing.

Posted October 24, 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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