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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category


Jeremiah 18:18-23: A Prayer for Revenge

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Yesterday we considered the words of Jeremiah and how a marvelous inversion takes place when we allow God to move in our lives.  The sorrow of the Good Friday grace becomes the Easter joy of new life.  Today we share with you a reflection written on February 16, 2008.  It is Jesus’ call to a new kind of life, a life of turning the other cheek, a life of intercession for our enemies.

My mother was so wise.  Her mantra was: Kill your enemies with prayer.  Kill them with kindness.  Her words have always served me so well.  Today as we let the poetry of these lines filter through us, we can also look at the words of the one who fulfilled this prophecy of Jeremiah.  The words of Christ brought to us in Matthew’s Gospel . . . which happens to be the Gospel reading for today’s Mass.

Jeremiah: Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. 

Jesus: You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 

Jeremiah: Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life?

Jesus: But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Jeremiah: Forgive not their crime, blot not out their sin in your sight!

Jesus: For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  . . .  And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?

Jeremiah: For they have dug a pit to capture me, they have hid snares at my feet; but you, O Lord, know all their plans to slay me. 

Jesus: So be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.

This perfection which Jesus speaks of is the New Law which fulfills the old Mosaic Law.  It is the perfection which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 . . . it is Love . . . patient, kind, enduring, bearing all things, longing for unity and not separation.

Today’s Morning Prayer in MAGNIFICAT gives us more to reflect on from Romans 12: Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them.  Do not repay anyone with evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.

The MAGNIFICAT Morning Intercessions lead us to intercede for those who hurt us most . . .

Let us pray for those with whom we do not live in peace; asking God through the intercession of Mary:

Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who have hurt or harmed us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who dislike us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who look down on us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who refuse to speak to us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

Amen.


A re-post from April 23, 2012 .

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 2.16(2008). Print.

For more insight about killing our enemies with insight, click on the image above or visit The Daily Awe.com at: http://www.thedailyawe.com/2010/10/kill-them-with-kindness/

For more on the book of Jeremiah, go to the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog.

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Jeremiah 50 & 51: Against Babylon

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A re-post from the Third Sunday of Easter, April 22, 2012

Eastertide is the traditional time in the liturgical year when we rejoice that we are loved and rescued by God, that we are redeemed and saved by Jesus, that we are consoled and nurtured by the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate our new life; we give thanks that we are not forgotten.  Our Noontime Easter journey has taken us, however, in a different direction: we have re-visited the Tales of the Diaspora; we have gone into exile and remained remnant; and we have heard the news that even when we feel abandoned and defeated.  We hear that especially at these times God abides with us in our sorrow and pain.  Rather than be downcast when we are held captive, we have every reason to experience Easter joy because we know that Christ’s love for us pierces the darkness of addiction and obsession.

Babylon appears to be the winner as she conquers little Israel; but as always we see that God abides with the little and the oppressed, the sorrowing and the broken-hearted.  We have been swept away into captivity and exile; but God has remained with us.  The tiny remnant becomes the messenger of good news.  The rejected lover becomes the cornerstone of the new kingdom.  Let us join our voices with Jeremiah’s as we watch mighty Babylon fall . . . as we come to understand that God resides with the homeless; God heals the grieving and wounded; God loves us infinitely . . . and calls us to witness to this amazing love.  Jeremiah predicts the fall of the empire that has deported and held captive the people of Israel.  He also predicts the coming of the one who will release all nations on earth.

In today’s Gospel Luke (24:35-48) tells the story of Jesus’ appearance on Easter Sunday night when the two disciples who had met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus joined the apostles to describe their experience with the risen Christ that day.  While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you”.  But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? 

We too often tremble in hidden places hoping to escape the notice of oppressors.  Jesus comes to us to ask us as he asked the disciples, Why do questions arise in your hearts? 

We too suddenly accept gloom and refuse to find hope when all is dark.  Jesus comes to us to show us his wounds as he showed them to the disciples as he says, Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. 

We too quickly accept the last words of a bully or tyrant as the ultimate outcome in a conflict or as a final decision that will last forever. Jesus comes to us as he came to his apostles and he says, It is written that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations . . . You are witnesses of these things

And so we pray with the words of Jeremiah as we retell the story of the risen Jesus.

Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord with covenant everlasting, never to be forgotten . . .  and let us turn to Christ who comes to us through the locked doors of our hearts.

Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds mislead them, straggling on the mountains . . . let us follow Christ who gathers us up to lead us to our peaceful home with him.

For Israel and Judah are not widowed of their God, the Lord of hosts . . . we have not been left behind by Christ.

You are my hammer, my weapon for war . . . you are Christ’s faithful ones, you are witnesses to the goodness he has done . . . go and tell what you have seen.  Amen.


Image from: http://rosemaryl.blogspot.com/2010/09/light-in-darkness-blog-carnival-round-2.html

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Psalm 102: Distress

Monday, May 6, 2019

“The psalmist, experiencing psychic and bodily disintegration (4-12), cries out to God (1-3).  In the temple precincts where God has promised to be present, the psalmist recalls God’s venerable promises to save the poor (13-23).  The final part (24-29) restates the original complaint and prayer, and emphasizes God’s eternity”.  (Senior 715)

Easter Sunday has passed but if we observe Easter as a liturgical event, we are reminded that Easter itself lasts for seven days, and the Easter Season for fifty days.  This makes it the longest celebration of the year . . . and we need it, as our psalm today reminds us.  Even though we have just witnessed the Resurrection as evidence of the fact that God keeps his promises, we who are poor in spirit and strength need an Easter Monday reminder that God saves.

God has shattered my strength in mid-course, has cut short my days.  I plead, O my God . . .

The joy of Easter brightens our days temporarily; the pain of our suffering still gnaws at us, refusing to let loose its grip.  The psalmist reminds God that we suffer . . . even as we await redemption and rescue.

Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry come unto you.  Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress.  Turn your rear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

Often we feel that doing the work named for us brings us more pain and less understanding than we can bear; we drift while others celebrate.  We await the time of joy for all.

All my day long my enemies taunt me; in their rage, they make my name a curse . . . Because of your furious wrath, you lifted me up just to cast me down.  My days are like the lengthening shadow; I wither like the grass.

At these times of disintegration, as in all times, when others celebrate yet we feel as though we watch through a thick plate of glass, we turn to God, asking his help.

But you, Lord, are enthroned forever; your renown is for all generations.  You will again show mercy . . .

We are about to enter the third week of Easter joy so let us remember those who still feel left behind, and let us gather them into the fold where all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the Lord [whose] years last through all generations. 

When we feel that we are disintegrating while all around us in coming together, let us call out to our maker and ask that he change all hearts, our own and those of our enemies.  May he soften our hearts of stone, may he warm our hearts that are cold, may he change our hearts that feel his absence and yearn for his radiant presence, may he rescue us and keep us in his everlasting presence: Of old you laid the earth’s foundations; the heavens are the work of your hands.  They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; like clothing you change them and they are changed, but you are the same, your years have no end.


A re-post from April 21, 2012.

Image from: http://www.tariqweb.com/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature-32-pics/awesome-hearts-in-nature-18/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.715. Print.   

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Daniel 1-6: Tales from the Diaspora Part III

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rembrandt: Return of the Prodigal Son

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Today we conclude our reflection on stories of those who find themselves in alien places struggling against insurmountable odds; and we hear an important message that we will want to carry with us always.   At times in life we are the prodigal son who returns home.  At times we are the jealous brother who remained and who does not understand the father’s joy.  And at times we are the grateful parent who runs to meet the returned lost sheep.   All of these stories are the tales of our own captivity, our own exile and our own Diaspora.

We all find ourselves in pagan lands from time to time, seized and taken captive, dragged from our places of sanctuary . . . from the people who guide us, the codes that protect us . . . unfamiliar with the language and not understanding what is happening to us in this new and strange terrain, we can become lost for a time, we can follow the wrong voice.  In the end, we are all Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah at least once in our lives . . . cut off, set adrift, surrounded by hostile people who covet our relationship with God . . . who wish to bend us to their own will . . . who make sport of belittling their fellow creatures . . . who experience a rush when they are controlling and manipulating others.  This will happen when we respond to the Lorelei voices that would lead us astray but this will also happen when we witness to Light and Truth.  This will happen to disciples who hear the Call and respond in faith and hope and love.  In all times of aloneness, frustration and difficulty we must do as these young people do . . . trust God . . . remain faithful to God . . . even if it means our extinction from this life.  Why?  Let us look at the words of Azariah and pray with him who admits his nation’s guilt of turning away . . . and who seeks to return to Yahweh . . .

For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper . . . For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you . . . For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins . . . But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

In Easter joy in this season of thanksgiving, let us sing with Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah as we turn and return to God . . .

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . . for he has delivered us from the netherworld, and saved us from the power of death; he has freed us from the raging fire.  Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. 

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Amen.


A re-post from April 19, 2012. 

For more on prodigal returnings, click the image above or go to: http://marikablogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/prodigals-paradigms-and-proof-that.html

For more on the Diaspora click the image below and explore the PBS FRONTLINE site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

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Daniel 1-6: Tales from the Diaspora (Part II)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Early Christian Martyrs

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

The verses in chapter 3 will reveal something special for us.  Nebuchadnezzar asks, “Who is the God who can deliver you from my hand?”  Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah reply so simply: If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your hand, O king, he will do so; but [even] if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.  

This demonstration of dying to self in love for the Creator is so simple yet so eternal.  Why do we find it difficult to give ourselves over to God when we know that we are here to serve, know and love this God who so loves us that he dies to self for us in the person of Jesus Christ all day every day?  Why do we serve the pagan gods of fame, fashion, fortune, power and control?  Why do we succumb to the gods of addictions to behaviors that are so damaging to self and others?  Why do we preserve self and neglect those to whom we are sent?  These young men speak to us down through the years in both their words and actions when they make their bold statement and step forward to witness to their vocation: Even if their God sees best that they be consumed in the fires of this furnace which is meant to reduce bodies to ash they will not abandon this God.  They will not refuse to witness to this God . . . for they know and understand that this God is greater than all else.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

We find further examples of human fidelity to God from the days of the early Christian Church when we explore the PBS FRONTLINE site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/why/pliny.html   Here we see how Christ’s early followers gain strength from the adversity they experience.  Pliny the Younger and the Emperor Trajan exchange correspondence and agree that some of the Christ followers must be punished yet they are cautious, knowing that this Jesus movement will likely outlast them all.

The fidelity of these early Christians and other martyrs on the site is impressive.  Nothing can make them turn away from God.   As we read we wonder at the human capacity to endure such pain, the human ability to refuse the temptation to seek revenge, and the human spirit that exalts what is good in the face of wickedness.   And so we pray . . .

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

We are God’s works, faithful and true.  Let us act as though we believe in this truth.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

We are God’s art, varied and vibrant.  Let us speak as though we believe this is so.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

We are God’s children, frightened and small.  Let us love one another as the father loves us.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

Amen. 


A re-post from April 18, 2012.

Image from: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/timeline_09.html

For more information on Diaspora, click the image to the right and explore the PBS FRONTLINE site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

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Daniel 1 – 6: Tales from the Diaspora (Part I)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Click this image to follow a link to the PBS FRONTLINE site on the Jewish Diaspora for more about what it means to Christ’s followers

During the Easter Octave this verse of Daniel, and others surrounding it, are recited in thanksgiving for the Easter Miracle.  In this second week of Eastertide let us examine one of the church’s most popular and most powerful prayers.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Over the many months that we have shared Noontimes, we have reflected on this apocalyptic prophecy nearly two dozen times, and about half a dozen of those times have been from The Tales of the Diaspora, the first six chapters of this book.  These chapters have roots in Israel’s wisdom literature and they are pedagogical in nature, the characters providing role models of fidelity to and trust in Yahweh, the one true god and creator of all.  Daniel was also a figure mentioned in Canaanite texts of the fourth century B.C.E. (his name was Dnil) where he is described as a righteous judge and hero.  He is seen as one who communicates with God through angels and understands information about the future of the world.  Because of his virtue, his words and deeds – along with those other Jewish youth held in captivity – these stories remain with us today, and they serve to help us in our own times of trial – our own fiery furnaces and lions’ dens. They were recorded between the years of 167 and 164 B.C.E. (Mays 623-629)

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

As a child, I loved the stories of the four young Jewish boys, Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  I was stunned by the fact that they had to abandon their Jewish names to take on new, foreign ones, Balthazar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I was frightened by the fact that they were not only torn from hearth and home but were also being forced to abandon their God.  It was actually this story which caused me to want to know and understand other languages, realizing that one day I might find myself snatched from all that is familiar to wake up in a daze in foreign territory . . . and I would want to know what these strange people were saying about me and my destiny.  I also remember realizing that it was not the linguistic ability, the intelligence, the strength or the bonds of family or friendship which sustained these young people when they found themselves controlled by pagan foreigners and taken from their temple, their home, their families and community . . . their physical and spiritual places of comfort.  When they were completely separated from the things which most of us cling to in times of crisis and stress, they relied on the one thing which sustained them through the trial of a fiery crematorium and exposure to hungry lions . . . they had Yahweh . . . they had their trust in Yahweh . . . and they had their fidelity to Yahweh.  This alone fed them, rescued them, and restored them to a place of dignity and honor.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .


A re-post from April 17, 2012.

Image from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

Tomorrow we will reflect more on Tales from the DiasporaFor more information on what the Jewish Diaspora is and what it mean to Christians, click on the image above or go to the PBS FRONTLINE site at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 623-629. Print.

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2 Maccabees 1 and 2: The Ark Hidden During Captivity

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

Written on July 19, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY gives a wonderful exegesis of all four books of the Maccabees, but today we look at just these first 2 chapters of 2 Maccabees which the Douay Version refers to as the incident of the hidden temple fire or as “The Hidden Ark during the Captivity”.  All of this sets me to thinking about the wonder of our creation, about the mystery of our personal and collective evolution, and about how and when we go into captivity . . . how and when we return from exile.

We all experience captivity.  Some say that life here on earth is nothing more than that – an exile, a place of suffering and pain.  Optimists see life as a series of experiences, gifts, blessings and celebrations.  Still others see life as a combination of many opposites, dichotomies, bifurcations and amalgamations.  From any of these perspectives, when we look honestly and carefully, we see that each life has its own Captivity with its own Ark in which reposes the Fire of the Spirit.  This fire is the very breath of God at our creation, the mission for which we are destined, the karma for which we are to live, the potential gift God offers to the world as an act of love.  And when we are led away into captivity, all of this is held hidden for a time to be called forth at a precise moment.

Recently I have come to understand that Captivity is not all bad.  It can be a time of suffering and separateness, and it can also be a time of forced retreat, a time of letting go and giving over to God, a time of healing and restoration.  Taken this way, we understand that exile is a time to be hidden, to be held confined for a time away from something we have thought we desired, to be held safely just long enough that we reach the precise point in our pilgrimage where we see something clearly for the first time.  Captivity of the Spirit endures long enough for us to cease thrashing against the world and against ourselves.  It lasts to the precise tipping point at which we jettison all that has pained us . . . because there is nothing else to do.

And all the while that we have been apart and away, the spark of our creation has burned as brightly as ever even though it appears – as we read today in Maccabees – to be mud and water.  Nothing has diminished; rather, all has been clarified, magnified.  All that was captive and hidden now glorifies God more than before.  Imagine our surprise when we, like the Jews who rededicated their temple, lay the tinder to offer holocausts to our God and we realize that we have ignited the offering with the mud from the hidden place of our exile.  Suddenly we see our captivity as gift rather than punishment.

There is a need from time to time to go into exile, to find the place that is to remain unknown and to hide away in this secret place the tent and tabernacle, the altar of incense and fire, and the ark.  We are meant to block this place off and to seal it up so that the hidden spirit and temple fire might be rediscovered when God calls it forth.  And this tabernacle, with its sacred fire appearing as mud, is meant to be reopened and rededicated.

We have learned to fear captivity and the restriction it symbolizes.  How much better we will be when we come to see it as a quiet time in which the living fire of our soul learns to rekindle in God.  Like the people in today’s reading, once we begin to look for resurrection in loss, we will be amazed that the fire of our spirit comes forth from the mud and we will see as gift what we thought to be punishment.  We will marvel that God again resides in the Ark of our lives and we will finally come to understand . . . that he was never truly gone.


A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

Image from: http://www.mishkanministries.org/theark.php

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

Tomorrow we will reflect on Captivity Ended

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Jeremiah 25:1-14: Captivity

Easter Saturday, April 27, 2019

Here Jeremiah foretells the continuing conflict between warring nations in the Middle East.  As we have observed before, the political environment has not changed much over the millennia despite the changing of political systems and figures, and the names of sovereign nations and their leaders. Cultures, religions, and peoples continue to clash.  And Jeremiah uses the round number of 70 to say that the present generation may not return – they must die and a newer, perhaps more faithful generation, will renew Hebrew history. Notes from the ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE tell us more (Zondervan 1234).

  • Since the numeric systems in this region of the world at this time were often based on ascending groups of six, the logical maximum number of measurement would be 60.  The amount of 70 indicates a number of major proportion – and importance.  In this case it represents the fact that the present generation must die out before the exile will end.
  • Jeremiah foresees a time when Judah will serve Babylon, and that following this time Babylon herself will serve another nation.  This history plays out as Jeremiah predicted.  Judah became a vassal state of Babylon in 604 B.C.E. and although the arithmetic is inexact, almost 70 years later Babylon was taken over by Persia.  The people of Israel will return home from exile under the Persian king Cyrus as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • Another calculation that may be seen as predicted from this prophecy is the span of time between the physical destruction of the temple in 586 B.C.E. and its re-dedication in 515 B.C.E.
  • In either case, Jeremiah predicts an exile which outlasts the present generation and thus serves as a punishment for the wayward Israelites.  The exile Jeremiah describes does take place.  And exile will occur in each of our lives in some way at some time.

This we can also predict.

I have come to understand that periods of separation and loss in our lives cannot be avoided.  No amount of planning or good behavior exempts us from the sort of exile that Jeremiah forecasts for his people.  The prestige of nations will rise and fall almost whimsically; power will ebb and flow.  This is something we cannot avoid.  Our personal influence and authority will likewise rise and fall.  We may even be held captive for a time by invader ideas; new policies and procedures, new fads and crazes will overtake us.  We have only to stand still for a day in our fast-paced world and the advances of technology fly past us to leave us feeling disconnected.  Some of us self-impose this kind of exile while others are forced into it by economics and talent.

We can never have control over the cataclysmic changes that happen around and to us.  In reality we seldom control much more than the small details of our lives and for some of us even that is a reach.  We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we have made the most of life by choosing the proper career and the proper life partner when our personal and economic status is often chosen for us; our political destiny is driven by many whom we do not even know exist.

So is there anything we can do about who we are and how we live?  Absolutely.  Is there any way we can control nature?  Not much.  What are our options when it comes to our political and civic lives?  Depending on our nation of origin we have various degrees of input.  Some of us live in flourishing democracies while others live in closed societies that stifle any cry for freedom.  What do we do about improving our status and making a difference in the world?  When we join in the struggle to build God’s kingdom . . . all the rest falls into place.

Jeremiah speaks to an ancient nation but he also speaks to us when he describes the coming whirlwind that threatens on the horizon. When we see the impending peril and sense the advent of our own bitter captivity, what are we to do?

We will spend some time during the rest of this Easter Week reflecting on our options.


A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

Image from: http://thephotoexchange.wordpress.com/

“The 70 Years of Captivity.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

For more on the gifts that come out of captivity, go to Ultimate Fulfillment at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/09/ultimate-fulfillment/

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Judges 10 & 11: Jepthah’s Vow

Easter Friday, April 26, 2019

John Everett Millais: Jepthah

A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

We have sinned against you; we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.

Did not the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Midianites oppress you?  I saved you from their grasp and still you forsook me and worshiped other gods.  I will save you no more.  Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen; let them save you now that you are in distress.

We have sinned.  Do to us whatever you please.  Only save us this day.

The Lord grieved over the misery of Israel. 

This dialog between the Creator and the created takes place countless times not only in scripture but in our contemporary lives.  We stray from God’s goodness and protection, we become enslaved to some small and ugly god, we cry out for help, and God rescues us.  We know this cycle and we wait for the predictable sequence to take place in today’s story but something different happens here.  “For the first time, Israel actually repents (10:10, 15-16), but God does not, as at other times, raise up a deliverer in response to Israel’s cry for help.  The Gileadite elders appoint Jepthah their leader (11:4-11) and only later does God confirm their choice (11:29)”.   (Mays 233)

A number of circumstances make Jepthah’ story memorable.  He had lived in exile from his tribe having been cast out by jealous half-brothers but he is called forward because of his military acumen and success in battles.  As the Gileadite leader he tries diplomacy before war but is unsuccessful.  Full of God’s spirit he leads his soldiers into combat, vowing that if they are victorious he will sacrifice the first person who comes to greet him on his return home.  When his young daughter, his only child, runs out to meet him he is desolate but follows through with his vow.  We cringe at the tragic ending and we search for meaning.  Human sacrifice was not an accepted Hebrew custom and was, in fact, condemned (Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 12:31); yet here is this story that goes against all custom, and we are given no context.  We grieve along with this long-ago family and we wonder how and why they and we will manage.  And so we remember . . .

The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many times we sink below what we thought to be our limit, and so we remember in our sorrow . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many schemes take us further than we had intended to go, and so we remember in our disbelief . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many friends betray us even as Judas betrayed Jesus, and so we remember in our heartache . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many good intentions lived for our own satisfaction drive us past blatant warning signs, and so we remember in our incomprehension . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many well-meant promises lead us down a path we had not meant to trod, and so we remember in our mourning . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

In yesterday’s Gospel from John (20:11-18) we hear again that Mary Magdalene did not recognize Christ who sought to console her . . . she turned around, saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.  When he speaks, she suddenly comprehends that he was with her during her grief.  He had never really disappeared. It is her own perception that had fails her.

We will struggle with today’s story just as we struggle with the heartbreaking events of our lives.  We must remember that when we feel the most bereft we are closest to God.  When we feel the most empty we are vessels waiting to be filled by the Spirit.  And when it seems that all have deserted us and that everything we hold dear is lost, Christ draws us forward away from the horror.  We have only to take the offered hand and follow.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 233. Print.

Image from: http://hoocher.com/John_Everett_Millais/John_Everett_Millais.htm 

For more on the meaning of these stories, see the Judges – The Cycle page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/judges-the-cycle/

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