Deuteronomy 32: The Song of Moses

Second Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019


Yesterday we considered our Lenten Journey and how we might create for ourselves and our loved ones a physical sign of this promise of fidelity to the Living God who is Alive Among Us. Today we spend time with Moses’ words as he calls the Israelites to conversion and urges them to consider a change of heart and habit.  Moses calls his people, and he calls us, to a love that will endure forever. He calls us to love as God loves.

From commentary: In the style of the great prophets, the speaker is often God himself.  The whole song is a poetic sermon, having for its theme God’s benefits to Israel (vv 1-14) and Israel’s ingratitude and idolatry in turning to the gods of the pagans, which sins will be punished by the pagans themselves (vv 15-29); in turn, the foolish pride of the pagans will be punished, and the Lord’s honor will be vindicated (vv 30-43).  (Senior 222)

Who are these gods of the pagans to whom we turn?  Our obsession with immediate and empty gratification?  Our desire to put ourselves first and others last?

Jesus reminds us that in the Kingdom the world is turned on its head. The meek will inherit, the first will be last, what is empty will be full.

Where do we see our own foolish pride?   In the pumping up of self?  In the building of self rather than the building of Kingdom?

Jesus lays out for us the life and work of his disciples so that we might see that we are to act in servant leadership with salvific love. 

How is this foolish life punished?  The unwise are destined to become enslaved by the chains they put on others.  The reckless eventually find themselves enveloped in the same dangerous plots they weave for others.

Jesus shows us that forgiveness and compassion are the tools he uses to engender a love that endures forever and cannot be outdone. 

Moses makes a final appeal to the people, asking that they take to heart all the warning.  Let us too, take up the counsel to root out our foolish pride and banish false gods.  Let us climb our own Mount Hor to see the Promised Land from a distance . . . and then let us ask the Living God for safe passage in this journey of conversion of the heart.

A re-post from March 19, 2012. Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.222. Print.   

For more on The Song of Moses click on the image above or go to: http://www.revelation-today.com/song1.htm

Deuteronomy 31:24-30: Alive Among You

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

We have spent the past few days looking at how the Israelites struggle to remain faithful to Yahweh, the Living God who led them from slavery to freedom, from the desert to a land of promise.  We can see ourselves in these stiff-necked people as we turn to and away from God as the season suits us.  We read the story of how an unassailable enemy eventually falls once the Israelites turn themselves over to Yahweh’s ways.  And we can see ourselves being delivered from adversaries we once thought unbeatable.  The Israelites are such simple and predictable people that Moses knows they will fall away from the covenant they have entered into; and so he tries to prepare them for the days when they will yield to temptation. We too, know that we will be lured by the many attractions the world holds for us . . . and so in our Lenten journey we may want to spend a bit of time reflecting on how to best cleave to the promises we make to this amazing God who persists in loving us into goodness.

Take this scroll of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord, your God, that there it may be a witness against you.  The Law of the New Covenant, the New Testament, is not complicated.  It is brief, universal and compelling: Love one another as I have loved you.  Perhaps this weekend we can write out a simple promise to love God by loving others – even and especially our enemies – and put it in a special place that we will see each day as a reminder . . . a witness to ourselves.  A new ark of a new promise made in a new hope of conversion.

I already know how rebellious and stiff-necked you will beAnd the Living God loves us despite these faults.

Even now, while I am alive among you, you have been rebels against the LordAnd the Living God who loves us so fiercely has returned as the Christ to save us.

Assemble all your tribal elders and your officials before me, that I may speak these words for them to hear, and so may call heaven and earth to witness against you.  Perhaps we can gather our family or a group of trusted friends and agree together to turn ourselves toward the goal of living the law of love.  Perhaps we can support one another in our hope of softening our stiff necks, in our Lenten journey of conversion.

We are blessed to have the Lord always among us each day, all day.  As New Testament people we experience Eucharist with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the abiding protection and love of the Living God.  Let us take a moment today to think about the passage we make from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, the passage that we call Lent.  And let us pause to give thanks to the God who loves us so well . . . and who is always alive among us.

A re-post from March 16, 2012. 

If you are able, spend some time today with the  A Journey of Return – Repentance reflection on this blog.  Tomorrow we will ponder the words of Moses’ prayer: The Song of Moses

For more on The Ark of the Covenant click the image above or go to: http://bible-blog.org/what-is-the-significance-of-the-ark-of-the-covenant.php

Isaiah 21: Fall of Babylon

Friday, March 15, 2019

Francesco Hayez: Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

Today’s reflection follows yesterday’s Noontime reading and here we see the Babylonian Captivity is a seminal episode in our Judeo-Christian history; it is an experience against which we measure many others.

A cruel site, revealed to me.  Trauma, upheaval, betrayal, suffering, turmoil – this is what Isaiah sees coming.  The conqueror will be conquered.  This is unimaginable.

I am too bewildered to hear, too dismayed to look.  Terror, shock, horror, panic, dread – this is what we fear is around the corner, up the street, in our own backyard.  We turn away confused by what we see and hear.  Nothing makes sense.

My mind reels, shuddering assails me.  We are so upset that we make ourselves ill.  This is an experience we know.  We also know that we cannot endure unless someone somehow brings us relief.  We struggle to stay afloat; we flail our arms to remain upright.  We cannot believe we are in this situation.

For thus says the Lord to me: Go, station a watchman, let him tell what he sees.  We pull ourselves together and decide that rather than fall completely to pieces we have to trust someone.  Tentatively we put out a hand to God.

And I stay at my post through all the watches of the night.  As long as nothing more happens we can stand erect watching, waiting for our deliverance.  We scan the horizons to see how God will come to our rescue.  We wait and keep watch, fearful yet hoping.

Francesco Hayez: The Babylonian Exile

Here he comes now: a single chariot, a pair of horses; he calls out and says, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon, and all the images of her gods are smashed to the ground.  We hear the news we never thought we would hear.  The impossible has taken place.  An old foe has fallen.  A former enemy begs forgiveness.  We are stunned and know how to respond as the truth of our deliverance seeps into our consciousness.

Oh my people who have been threshed, beaten on my threshing floor!  What I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I have announced to you.  At first we think we have miss-heard, misunderstood but it dawns on us that God has brought about the impossible.  God has answered our prayer.  And although others may encourage us to take revenge upon a vanquished opponent we choose to react as Jesus asks.  We give thanks, and we heed the words of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-14).

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, we are tempted to crush the enemy we see fallen; but we know that you call us to intercede for those who have plotted our downfall.  The enemy who wished to annihilate us has in turn been vanquished; you have saved us from destruction.  Help us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Remind us to bless as we have been blessed.  Let us love as we have been loved.  Amen. 

A re-post from March 15, 2012.

For more reflections on The Book of Lamentations click on the images above or go to: http://tndickersondiaries.blogspot.com/2011/01/lamentations-highlights.html

Also see The Book of Lamentations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/lamentations-surviving-ruin/

For more on the Book of Isaiah, go to the Isaiah – God of time and Space page on this blog at https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/isaiah-god-of-time-and-space/

Numbers 14:39-45: This Cannot Succeed

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Near the Biblical site of Hormah

God always gives us plenty of warning.  Yet somehow we blunder forward, believing ourselves more knowledgeable than the one who invented and then brought into being all of creation.  God sends us teachers, prophets and even the Messiah; still, we put down our head, shove our shoulders forward and stubbornly insist on moving a boulder that we are meant to climb over.  In this portion of Numbers we see the Israelites suffer great remorse yet still they persist in going up against great odds without God.  Why are we such a stiff-necked people?  It seems we are adamant about suffering defeat, unyielding in wanting to live life our own way; we are resolute in being beaten back as far as HormahWe must learn to discern God’s voice.   We must listen when the wise one cries out: This cannot succeed!  And when we are beaten back to the limit of our own endurance, we must pick ourselves up, ask forgiveness, and journey home from Hormah where we have sent ourselves.

Lent is a time for re-thinking and re-aligning.  It is a time of sorting and organizing.  It is a time of turning and returning.  God awaits each of us with open arms and full heart; we can always expect a welcome from God.  The first steps of the going home again are ours to take; but first we must heed God’s voice when it says to us: This cannot succeed. 

And so we pray Psalm 51: The Miserere.  It is believed that this psalm was written by David when his illicit relationship with Bathsheba was brought to light.  (2 Samuel 11 and 12)  We pray today, asking forgiveness for the most recent time that we have gone astray.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not our intention to go against your suggestions – we just have a way of thinking that we know our lives better than you do.

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

We do not set out to wander away from your guiding hand – the circumstances of our lives influence us more than you do. 

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not our aim to put ourselves above you or to pretend that we have better judgment than you – rather it is that we find the influence of our friends to be greater than our awareness of you. 

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

It is not that we disbelieve you so much as we succomb to our own fear.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not that we do not love you enough – rather it is just that we have difficulty trusting your wisdom.

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

When we are calm and away from anything that might threaten us we are able to have a clear understanding of how much you love us.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

Help us to remain in you, guide us in hoping in you, bring us back from Hormah.  Bring us back to loving you. 

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

A re-post from March 14, 2012.

For more photos taken near Hormah, click the image above or go to: http://www.openbible.info/geo/photos/hormah 

Numbers 14:11-38: The Lord’s Sentence

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tissot: The Grapes of Canaan – The scouts return from the Promised Land

Written on April 22, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In the Old Testament God measures out rewards and punishments and today’s reading is an example of this kind of relationship that humans have with the creator.  This is a story about trust, fidelity and awe (or fear) of the Lord.  Jesus and the New Testament tell us a broader story, one of forgiveness, compassion and love.

I do not believe that God really means to strike down his own people in this episode; rather, I believe that he gives his creatures the opportunity to enter into dialog with him and to speak on their own behalf.  What I like most about this story is first, the way that Moses steps up and speaks frankly with God and second, the way God responds in fairness.  It is easy to see that fidelity and trust are paramount in God’s kingdom.  These are qualities that bring Caleb and Joshua to the Promised Land.  They are also qualities that bring serenity to us today if we can only believe that God provides all that we will need in life.  And this is the sentence he delivers to each of us . . . God always gives us guarantee of mercy, forgiveness and love.

A re-post from March 13, 2012.

For more on the Book of Numbers, visit the Numbers – Arrangement of the Tribes page on The Book of Our Life tab on this blog.  Tomorrow we will reflect on the Israelite’s’ Unsuccessful Invasion.

Caleb and Joshua are interesting players in today’s story and for more information about this pair we might go to http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Story-of-Joshua-and-Caleb&id=19374

Visit The Stones Cry Out site to take a walk through the Bible.  Click on the link or the image above or go to: http://thestonescryout.com/the_bible/walk_through_the_bible

Job 12: The Undisturbed

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The undisturbed esteem my downfall a disgrace . . . yet the tents of robbers are prosperous, and those who provoke God are secure.  I imagine that each of us has wondered at one or another how it is that the sleek and flourishing experience success while the downtrodden suffer endlessly.

Job tells us that the beasts of the earth and sea and sky understand that God is in charge.  They do not credit themselves with victory in life but rather understand that the world is ordered from a point outside their control.  In his journey of sorrow and pain Job will learn that the trust he has placed in God is warranted; and he suggests that we take a lesson from these creatures: But now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds of the air to tell you; or the reptiles on earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you.  Which of these does not know that the hand of God has done this?  In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mankind.  Job continues to delineate God’s power in clear terms.  There is no power greater than God’s; there is no understanding more deep, no prudence more sensible.  As followers of Christ we especially know that there is no love more forgiving and more enduring than God’s.

In his reply to Zophar, Job attempts to describe the enormity and omnipotence of God.  And in speaking to his friend Job assure himself – and us – that even though he suffers innocently he is not forgotten by his all-knowing and all-powerful creator.  Job knows that with patience and an open heart, he will gain the insight of a life lived well: So with old age comes wisdom, and with length of days understanding.  These are gifts from God that we receive through suffering . . . and this is something that those who live undisturbed lives will never learn.

Job is not the only one in scripture to warn us about the opposing worlds of the troubled and the undisturbed.  Paul writes to Timothy: Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.  (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

The prophet Jeremiah also understands the irony of justice in the world. He recounts the Lord’s words: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.  He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season . .  . [The wicked] grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek.  They go their wicked way; justice they do not defend by advancing the claim of the fatherless or judging the cause of the poor.  (Jeremiah 17:5-6 and 5:27)

In the book of Wisdom it is the wicked who say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.  To us he is a censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us.  (Wisdom 2:12-14)

Scripture is full of advice about how to behave and how to align our lives; but the story of Job is one we will want to hold close, especially when we undergo trials while the successful and cozened lead seemingly charmed lives.  Job’s story – and in particular this response to Zophar – tell us that the dichotomy between the just and the unjust is real.  It is a trial to be borne.  It is a misery to be endured.  Yet through this suffering we receive a gift that the undisturbed will never have.  It is the gift of fully knowing and experiencing God’s great and abiding love.

A repost from March 12, 2012.

Image from: http://erumiou.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/wealth-vs-poverty-in-which-lies-true-happiness/ 

John 2:13-25: Clearing the Temple

Monday, March 11, 2019

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Today’s Gospel from John tells us that: Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” Jesus clears out the holy precinct and turns it over to the one who creates all.  This is an apt reading for the Lenten season because these words call us to the work of our Easter journey.  They call us to clear out the temple of our interior, to make all ready for the indwelling of the Spirit, to prepare for the Word to take up residence within.

Spend some time today with The Jesus Bridge reflection on this blog and examine how we prepare our own temple to receive the Word.  Do some of our relationships need mending?  Do we know someone who looks for companionship as they struggle to put a first foot on the path to reconciliation?  Have we really begun our journey to wholeness?

We remind ourselves that we are all traveling up to Jerusalem with Jesus.  How do we prepare?  What is our attitude as we step off into the morning mist?  And when we reach our destination, are we willing to clear out the temple and rid ourselves of old addictions?  We will only know once we spend some time with God today.

This is a season of journeys and paths. As you reflect, enjoy the photos at this link . . . and begin to clear out the Temple.

You may want to explore amazing paths in: amazing-paths 2019-march 11 images received from a friend earlier this month.

A re-post from March 11, 2012.

Image from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20090309JJ.shtml 

2 Samuel 2: Abner

2 Samuel 2: Abner

First Sunday of Lent, March 10, 2019


Written on March 5, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Abner was Saul’s general – a courageous and loyal man.  He found himself serving Saul at the time that the power and prestige of the House of Saul was waning while that of the House of David was waxing.  After Saul’s death, Abner and David reconcile, but one of Saul’s remaining sons, Ishbaal, trumps up charges about Abner and Rizpah (one of Saul’s concubines).  We see peace and unity again threatened by plotting and division.  Abner is murdered, David laments.  We can see what happens to Ishbaal in the next chapter, but what we see here is an ever-resent theme in the human drama: Humans always seem to succumb to envy and greed.

What do I do when I meet the Abners, Ishbaals, Joabs, Davids and Sauls in my life?  What do I do when presented with the possibility of union with people from whom I have (with good cause) previously kept my distance?  How do I know if an enemy heart has been converted?  How do I respond to the hand offered in peace?  How do I know if that hand is truly offered in peace?  We do not have the human answers to these questions; but we know what we must do.  We must trust God.

From today’s morning prayers and readings:

Isaiah 40:1: Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . .

Isaiah 49:13: The Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.

Psalm 103: The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.

Psalm 145: The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.  The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

We have no way of reading human hearts and minds.  We can rely on our gut reactions to people and circumstances, we can imagine what someone may be thinking or doing . . . but we cannot know for certainty what occurs deep within someone else’s mind, heart and soul.  That is for God to know . . . that is for God to handle.

David and Abner

In today’s reading, David asks that the Lord requite the evildoers in accordance with the sin committed.  This is an Old Testament response.  We are New Testament people, so how do we respond to acts of betrayal?  By moving into intercessory prayer for those who have done us harm, by relying on the goodness and mercy and justice of our God, by asking for this mercy and justice for ourselves and for our enemies.

The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  

We are God’s word as adopted brothers and sisters of Christ.  We are God’s works in this world where we have been planted.  How do we respond to the Abners, Joabs and Ishbaals in our lives?

For more on this story click on the images above or go to: http://patty-patcards.blogspot.com/2010/12/people-multiple-choice-in-what-city-did.html and http://sharingknowledge.org/wb/pages/bible-studies/history-of-the-characters-of-the-bible/king-david.php#wb_section_423

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.5 (2008). Print.  

A re-post from March 10, 2012.

Ezekiel 18: A New Heart and a New Spirit

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Written on December 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Jacob Willemsz de Wet: Workers in the Vineyard

The prophet Ezekiel foreshadows the story Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 about the vineyard owner who pays the same wage to the worker who has worked for but an hour as he does to the one who has worked all day.  We are cautioned by both prophet and Messiah not to complain about God’s generosity – we may one day hope to benefit from this abundance.

The prophet also foretells the story Jesus describes in Luke 15 who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go in search of the one that is lost.  We are told by both prophet and Savior that we are as precious to God as that one sheep.  This story is told as an illustration of God’s determination to call us – we may one day have need of this persistence.

Ezekiel tells the people in exile that they must move beyond these old proverbs and customs of believing that the sins of one generation are visited upon another.  He foresees what Jesus tells, that there will be a Messianic Age when we are released from the old and given a new heart and a new spirit – this spirit is forgiveness – this heart is love.

This is wonderful news!  Yet, it brings with it a reality that we may not want to hear.   With this newness comes the responsibility to return and repent.  We cannot expect that the good we have done will somehow outweigh the bad; yet we have the certain knowledge that all Ezekiel has foretold is true.  God will persist in calling out to us as we wander lost and alone.  And God has a heart large enough to repair any damage that has been done either by us or to us – for we have this promise from the prophet Ezekiel that we see fulfilled in our brother the Christ.  Jesus has died yet lives.  Jesus returns for us . . . so that we might live.  The Spirit abides with us . . . and brings us this new heart . . . this new spirit . . . as a gift from God.  All we need do is reach out our hands, and open our hearts.

 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.  Return and live!

A re-post from December 16, 2011. 

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/jacobwillemszdewetdasm11.jpg and http://www.ideachampions.com/heart/archives/quotes/index.shtml

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