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Posts Tagged ‘harvesting sword’


Jeremiah 47Coping With the Philistines

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Capture of the Ark by the Philistines

Jeremiah’s title is Prophet of the Nations and in chapters 46 to 51 we read the Oracles to the Nations.  In this portion of his prophecy, Jeremiah describes the coming judgment of Yahweh.  “Why Philistia is included at all in the list of enemies is not clear . . . What is certain is that the attack ultimately comes from warrior YHWH . . . The poem provides no clear reason for the attack, but it ends with “the song of the sword”.  In a poignant personification of YHWH’s weapon, an unidentified speaker begs the sword to be still but recognizes that the sword is unable to countermand YHWH’s plans for it”.  (Barton 523)

This commentary points out in the previous page that today we have an aversion to “the theological themes of vengeance, anger and retribution” (522); yet these images are meant to call Israel back to Yahweh, and to lay out a kind of case here in which God’s justice is seen for what it is. . . the natural playing out of the covenant conditions.

A few weeks ago we looked at Ezekiel’s song of the harvesting sword which held out a similar promise to the faithful: God’s justice is swift, God’s love is healing.   Today the object of this “Justice Sword” is the Philistines, a tribe of people whose history is intertwined with that of the Hebrew tribes.  More can be read about them at: http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/P/PHILISTINES/   Several weeks ago we read about the Philistines’ dilemma with the Ark of the Covenant which they had taken from the Jewish people (1 Samuel 6).  They believed that once they had physical control of this “magic” box that they could manipulate God and have him wait on them.  This, they found out, is not how God operates, and so they looked for a quick and clever way to return the Ark – the presence of God whom they did not understand.

Philistines Entering the Levant

Today we look at the prophecy Jeremiah pronounces for this Philistine people . . . and it is bleak.  When we take in all that is predicted, we realize that there is only one way to interact with Philistines: We must call on God alone for guidance and protection, and as New Testament people we will want to intercede for the Philistines in our own lives.  We will want to consider how the old covenant with Moses as mediator is fulfilled and superseded by the new covenant with Christ, the new mediator.  And so we will want to ask Christ to redeem and heal the modern Philistines . . . and the many faithful that they injure.  As we consider the implications of all of this for us today, let us pray . . .

Just and Merciful God, You know that we live side by side with those who do not revere you, and with those who believe they revere you when they do not.  Help us to step away from our anxieties and fears when we come up against the Philistines in our lives.  Teach us to take our large and small problems to you, and to trust in you alone to find the best solutions.  Encourage us as we look for ways to be faithful to you.  Help us to persevere as we place all hope in you alone.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, the New Mediator of your eternal covenant with the faithful.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 3, 2011.

Images from: http://www.goodsalt.com/details/pppas0162.html

 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 522-523. Print.

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Ezekiel 21:12-22Song of the Sword

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Written on January 5 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Much of this prophecy is full of dramatic images, and this one of the Lord wiping one hand against the other in dismissal is striking.  It tells us that we ought not doubt God’s power to save.  In the New Testament, Jesus brings to us God’s amazing power to heal.  What we see in the old as castigating and just, we see in the new as compassionate and merciful.

Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

This puts me in mind of today’s Gospel, Mark 6:45-52, in which Jesus comes to calm the storm which tosses the apostles in their fishing boat.  He meant to pass by them.  As a child I always imagined how Jesus moves quietly in our lives calming storms that are too much for us to take.  They were . . . terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  Even as the storm abates, it is all too much for us, and we remain frightened.  And Jesus cannot move past us without reassuring us.  He speaks with us rather than to us.  We are his dearly loved sisters and brothers.

Earlier in Ezekiel (Chapter 9) we have read and reflected on how those are saved from the slaughter who are marked with “the sign of thau,” the cross that designates them as one of the faithful.  We receive this cross on our forehead at baptism and are grateful for it when the sword begins its indiscriminate work.  This mark is not a free pass to do as we like, certainly; rather, it is a reminder to us of how we are to act.  Neither is this to say that the unbaptized are not equally valued in God’s eye and equally redeemed by Jesus.  What Ezekiel reminds us of today is this:  God’s word is certain, God’s promise is sure; we are to call out for help as do the apostles in the storm, and this God we love and who loves us will let us know God’s presence.

When the harvesting sword begins to sing, we will remember to turn to God who is our source and our goal, our north star and our protection.  When God wipes one hand against another in a gesture of dismissal, let us not be afraid, for . . . at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” 


A re-post from November 2, 2011.

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Isaiah 66:18-24God Sets a Sign

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Witten on March 4 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

For I know their works and their thoughts . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God sees all; there are no secrets.  Just a few days ago we heard the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke telling us that what is whispered in the dark will come to light.  It is impossible to hide from God for God is omniscient and all-knowing.

And I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is all powerful; he can do all things.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Jesus tells us that what is impossible with men is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26)  It is impossible to conquer God who is omnipotent and eternal.

And they shall come and shall see my glory . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is awesome; in the Old Testament we are told to fear, or to stand in awe of God for this reason.  Jesus tells us that once we walk in God’s way, nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20) that his glory is our glory. This is the measure of God’s might and love. It is impossible for God to be or do evil for our compassionate God is goodness itself.

And I will set a sign among them.

Isaiah reminds us that God knows the faithful just as the faithful know God.  Jesus tells the Father that he has come to gather in those faithful.  When we bear witness to evil, we also bear the sign of God on our foreheads.  It is impossible for God to forget or neglect us for God is love itself.

Isaiah lived at a time of deep and corrosive corruption and he understood the damage this kind of erosion has on people.  He warned against the decay and fire that envelops those who neglect God’s way.  His words continue to instruct us today.  Jesus too, teaches us the lessons we need to know in order to be numbered in those who know and recognize God with ease.

St. Paul writes to the people of Philippi (4:8) one of the simplest yet truest and most beautiful descriptions of Christian living.  Once we take these words in and own them, we have no need to fear the dire consequences we see in Isaiah today.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  If we can say that we seek truth, purity, and beauty, if we act in honor and justice, if we live grace-filled days . . . we need not fear the harvester’s sword.

God has set a sign among us.  That sign is Christ.  We need not fear Isaiah’s predictions when we respond to God’s call as St. Paul urges.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . . this is excellence . . . this is worthy of praise . . . this is worthy of our time . . . this is God among us . . . this is Christ.  Amen.


A re-post from August 18, 2011.

Image from: http://omgzi.blogspot.com/2010/10/ichthys-sign-of-fish.html

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