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Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’


1 Kings 14: Death of Abijah

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The nameless woman returns to her city and as her foot touches the threshold . . .

This is a story which tells of the two kings of the split kingdom of David – Israel with her king Jeroboam in the north and Judah with her king Rehoboam in the south.  Notes, websites and histories can give us a visual of the lineages and a few are listed below.

What we miss when we read history without scripture is the detail, and we have it in abundance in this short chapter.  There is the child, Abijah, the two kings, the wife who is not named and Naamah, the mother who is.  There are other ancillary characters.  http://bible.cc/1_kings/14-1.htm

There are place names: Shiloh, Tirzah, Jerusalem.  Maps can help us find these places to see how they relate in space. http://bibleatlas.org/

We can put ourselves in the timeline and in the space to try to see, hear, smell and hear these sights and these people . . . but what strikes me is this . . . this is a story which might happen to any one of us.  And who am I?

Am I the nameless wife and mother who fears the death of her child?  Am I married to the son of Solomon who finds his kingdom split?  Am I the besieged king or the aggressor, the shield maker, the guard, the prophet, the chronicler?  Do I have a loyalty to the north or south?  Do I believe Jeroboam to be maligned or do I know him to worship idols?  Do I follow Rehoboam blindly or do I question?  In this vivid picture . . . Where am I?  Who am I?  What am I doing?

We know that Jeroboam feared re-unification of these split kingdoms because he would no longer collect the temple worship taxes which he now did since setting up his own capital.  We know that Rehoboam, son of Solomon, scrambled to keep these two territories united, fearing invasion from Assyria, Persia, Egypt and others.  We know that one king was buried with honor and the other was not.  And we know why.

I have such empathy for the nameless woman in this story.  She dies as she is bidden yet she is powerless before these men and apparently before her God.  She moves like a shadow.

I also have empathy for the woman Naamah whose son leads Judah to do evil in the sight of the Lord.  What does she think of the cult prostitutes the leadership has encouraged?  Does she agree that they are a means to worshiping God?  Does she dare to speak if she disagrees?

What do these women think?  What do they say?  What do they hold dear?

Today’s story calls us to think of our journey . . . do we travel light . . . do we travel alone . . . where do we stop along the way . . . what waters and feeds us?

The nameless woman in today’s story is told that her child will pass away as she returns home . . . so in that moment she knows that she will not see him again.  What does she feel?

The nameless woman in today’s story returns to her city and as her foot touches the threshold . . . her child dies.  What does she say?

The nameless woman in today’s story sees her child buried . . . with all of Israel mourning.  What does she pray?

Oh, Father in heaven, spare us from the tragedies which are too hard to bear.  Save us from the people from whom we might suffer irreparable damage.  Keep us always close to you.  Protect the ones we love.  Save us from harm.  Feed us.  Nourish us.  Be our column of smoke and fire and protect us on our way as you did the Israelites who journeyed out of slavery and into freedom with you always guiding.  Alert us to the dangers.  The noise of this world is sometimes so overwhelming.  Sound the alarm when we stray.  Hold us closely.  You are our rock and our refuge.  We give thanks to you, our awesome God.  Amen.


Written on January 13, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/naamah/

Other resources are: http://www.kchanson.com/CHRON/isrkings.html and http://www.bible-history.com/map_israel_judah/ and http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/files/OT_history/unit1/Unit1a_geography.htm and http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/directory/A/1 and http://bibleatlas.org/ and http://bibledictionaries.com/ and http://www.womeninthebible.net/

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Daniel 9: Gabriel and the Seventy Weeks

Sunday, November 17, 2019

“I was still occupied with this prayer when Gabriel came to me in rapid flight”.

“A pressing theological question asserts itself.  Does the writer of Daniel think God’s purpose in bringing history to its end can be changed merely by uttering human prayers?” (Mays 631-632) Commentary will enlighten this passage for us further but if time is brief today we might reflect on this one question: How do we react when we discover that a period of trial will last longer than we had first believed?  How do we manage pain that endures not seventy years but seven times that number?  Do we reject God in anger or do we go to God in faith?  Do we sink into private despair or do we turn to God in universal hope?  Do we lash out against those who bring us truth or do we react in love . . . even toward our enemies?  What do we do when we find out that our seventy years of pain are seven times that number?   How do we endure?

Daniel provides us with a model, a plan, a pattern we can follow when we receive the news that life is a string of trials interspersed with little triumphs.  Chapter 9 lays out a simple map.

I turned to the Lord, pleading an earnest prayer . . . We turn to God and pour our fears into God’s ear.  We tell him our worries with honesty.  We do not hide any of the details for God already knows them.

With fasting, sackcloth, and ashes . . . We make an outward sign to our inward selves that we have given over all control to God.  We put aside all pride.  We place ourselves fully into God’s hands for God already holds us firmly.

I prayed to the Lord my God, and confessed . . . We enter into an open and straightforward dialog with God.  We say all that is on our minds, all that weighs down our hearts.  We admit that we have erred and have sometimes adored false idols.

And we can turn to God because God is good.  We can be truthful with God because God is forgiving.  We can put away our fears, our defenses and our weapons because God is love.

Know and understand this . . . Jerusalem was to be rebuilt . . .

When we discover that our suffering will not be ending when we first believed it would . . . we can follow Daniel’s model and remember that God always loves, God is always present, God always forgives and welcomes his tired ones home.  God does, indeed, respond to human prayer . . . and he sends his messenger to bring us the news that God is with us.


More notes on Daniel 9: “The prophet Jeremiah (25,11; 29,10) prophesied a Babylonian captivity of seventy years, a round number signifying the complete passing away of the existing generation.  Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine.  However, the author of Daniel, living during the persecution of Antiochus, sees the conditions of the exile still existing; therefore in his mediation, he extends Jeremiah’s number to seventy weeks of years (v 24); i.e., seven times seventy years, to characterize the Jewish victory over the Seleucids as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy”. (Senior cf. 2, 1100-1101)

To re-visit our reflections on other portions of Daniel 9: We begin with Daniel seeking Ultimate Fulfillment in God; Daniel intones a Prayer in the Desert; then suddenly Gabriel Comes to Daniel in rapid flight.  A vision ensues through which Daniel understands that an end will come to the anguish he and his exiled nation suffer . . . but this end is further off than anticipated. 

To read more about this prophecy, go to the Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and Faithless page on this blog. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 631-632. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1100-1101. Print.   

A re-post from October 27, 2012.

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Luke 9:51-56: Being Resolute

Friday, October 25, 2019

James Tissot: Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem

Today’s citation is also the morning’s Gospel reading.  It gives us a great deal to think about beginning with the words he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.  Jesus knew what lay before him . . . and still he went.  So must we all.

We know that life of the body ends.  There is no avoiding it.  We cannot purchase immortality with our money or our wits.  We cannot out-fox death.  No amount of money can divert its advent.  We may delay or cheat death, but we cannot master it . . . except . . . unless we are willing to go to Jerusalem with Christ.

Another phrase strikes me: they would not welcome him because they knew his destination.  Being moved out of our comfort zones is a scary proposition.  Moving into an unknown land, into territory charted by only a few is a dangerous way in which to live.  Yet it is what Jesus did.  It is what he does each day when he knocks at the door of a stubborn heart.  We are all on our way to Jerusalem, but some of us are too fearful, or we do not understand what this means . . . and we do not welcome him.

A third idea moves me as I read.  Jesus rebukes his own disciples when they want to call down fire from heaven to consume [the Samaritans].  Anger is not the Christian way of life, but rebuking is.  We are to be merciful with one another but not lenient.  Honest but not strident.  Open rather than shrill.  We are to be just with one another and avoid insisting on our own agenda.  We are to discipline one another, but not at the expense of the Gospel.

We know our destination if we let ourselves believe and hope and love in Christ.

We must welcome Christ as he stops at our door each day in the guise of fellow travelers.

We discipline one another even as Christ disciplines us, this is the Way of Apostleship.

We must be resolute, we must welcome all who call, we must rebuke one another gently and mercifully as we move along the road of the way up to Jerusalem for that is our destination.  And it is in living in this way that we encounter our immortal selves.


Written on September 30, 2008. Edited and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://twoagespilgrims.com/pasigucrc/index.html/the-servant-sets-his-face-like-a-flint/

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1 Maccabees 11Alliance and War

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jonathan Maccabeus

Ptolemy VI, Demetrius, Alexander and Trypho – we watch these rulers exchange lies as easily as they shake hands.  Nothing and no one stand for what they say they do; the world into which we step with this Noontime is one of deceit and triple-speak.  It is a world that may seem familiar to us.

In this portion of the Maccabees story, Jonathan knows that his tiny kingdom is a simple pawn in the chessboard of the region yet he persists in his struggle to retain and hold secure the sacred city of Jerusalem and some districts of the former kingdom.  He seems to achieve and hold his goal . . . at least for a while.

Alliance and war, promise and conflict, peace and confrontation – these larger battles are reflections of the personal battles we wage each day.  The Euro-zone struggles, personal freedom is or is not guaranteed in Egypt, the debt crisis in the U.S. causes financial markets to totter; corruption in political and financial arenas is blamed for personal, national and global failure and depression.  News headlines today read much like this Maccabees accounting.  What has changed?

We like to think that humanity makes progress and our inventions might give us the impression that we do.  We communicate with one another across the globe in an instant; but do we hear one another any better?  We cure diseases that previously devastated entire nations; but do we cure the disease of greed and alienation?  We have world-wide conferences that give the appearance of ecumenism and openness; but do we tend to the soul any better than we did two thousand years ago?

Amid the hurley burley of human activity there is only one place to go when headlines distress us or when family and friends become prickly or insensitive.  The last verse of the chapter tells us where to go and what to do . . . Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem. High Priest-Warrior who follows in the footsteps of his slain brother Judas, Jonathan makes it clear where his center lies . . . he returns to Jerusalem.  Steadfast diplomat who manages to maneuver the tricks and fall backs of his opponents, Jonathan refuses shady deals and shaky terms to make clear where he focuses his energy . . . he returns to Jerusalem Through alliance and war, despite political setback and personal failure, Jonathan Maccabeus shoots like an arrow straight and true.  He homes toward the epicenter of his faith and hope . . . he returns to Jerusalem. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, abide with us as we worry our way through our days.  Keep us true to you as we avoid the temptation to give in to a false and passing alliance that brings nothing but death.  Teach us how to remain in touch with you when the clamor of the day and the fear of the night dull our senses and attacks our resolve.  Speak to us loudly and clearly when the road signs that point toward you have been washed away by slick talk and deceitful hands.  Pull us to you and hold us close when our inner turmoil and fear erode our confidence and hope. Keep us ever mindful of your care and love . . . and remind us that when the stricture of alliance clouds our vision or when the fog of war numbs our good judgment . . . we have only to cry out to you and ask that you return us to the safety of Jerusalem.  For it is there that we find eternal rest and boundless peace in you.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 23, 2011.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Apphus

For more information on Jonathan Maccabeus you might try these sites:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/353845/Jonathan-Maccabeus

 http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hasmoneans/

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Psalm 120Prayer for a Returned Exile

Soldiers marshaling people for a march

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today we consider this prayer by those who returned from captivity and exile to find their holy Temple and city in ruins. Today we also consider our own response to the challenge of rebuilding, and the gift of transformation. Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2009.

There is a cycle of Psalms that pilgrims began to sing when they made their journey to Jerusalem each spring.  This is the first of the fifteen Songs of AscentPilgrims to this day still refer to this journey as an ascent – a going up – to Jerusalem.  The holy city was God’s dwelling place, the new Sinai, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the temple’s Holy of Holies guarded by huge gold statues of cherubim – fierce and loyal winged celestial creatures.

Not only is this psalm an anthem of thanksgiving for having been rescued, it is also a petition for protection against the bands of attackers who lurked along the Jerusalem route to waylay and rob the innocent.  The victim who is helped in the Good Samaritan parable is on the road to Jerusalem.  The priest and the Levite pass by the wounded man and do not help him.  If they are on their way up to Jerusalem, they will not want to break their fast or become impure in any way before entering the Temple.  They leave the man in the ditch to be helped by the Samaritan.  Joseph and Mary leave the protection of their clan to travel alone back to Jerusalem in search of the lost child Jesus.  He is found with the elders of the temple discussing scripture.

Several years ago we reflected on this prayer during one of our Noontimes, and we spent some time with the following citation from the St Joseph Edition of Psalms.  “Human beings are born to be pilgrims in search of the Absolute, on a journey to God.  We advance by way of stages, from the difficulties of life to the certainties of hope, from the dispersion of cares to the joyous encounter with God, from daily diversions to inner recollection”. 

When we make our Easter journey toward Pentecost, we feel a certain vulnerability.  We have experienced friendship with Christ, and we have witnessed his death.  He has returned and we are joyful; yet he speaks of going away to send us the Advocate.  He reminds us that his love can never leave us.  We hear his words and experience this love; yet we feel that there is something more . . . there is something missing.  We lack an ingredient to an important lesson.

We have returned from exile with Christ’s resurrection.  His act of humility and love has set us free.  Let us thank him for our deliverance.  Let us ask him to protect us against the bands of marauders that assault our days and nights as we journey home.  In joy, we make our Prayer of Ascent.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening prayer last night, we pray: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who live lives of loveless loneliness: may we embrace them in our communities of love.  Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have mistaken power and possession for love: may they discover the truth through the witness of Christian believers: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have died: may they live forever in the kingdom of God’s love: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

Amen.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 17.5 (2009). Print.  

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Sirach 49:11-13: Heroes after Exile

Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016lessons-nehemiah

Over the last several days, we reflected on the idea of taking a dare on the strength of the relationship between God and humanity. Today we return to a favorite as we reflect on Nehemiah, a man who led his people out of exile and created an environment in which they might become heroes. How might we live our own lives as new Nehemiahs?

Nehemiah was the administrator who brought his own money, sweat and tears to the reconstruction of the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem.  He provided not only the structure, organization and the will, but the risk-taking attitude and perseverance to create the continuity between the pre and post exile worlds.  He created an environment for the Word of God to flourish in the post-captivity Jerusalem.  At various times over these several years as we have spent Noontime together, we have reflected on this man, this work, this wisdom, this patience, this persistence, this dedication and devotion to God.  These are all qualities necessary for discipleship.

As we go about our lives we are continually called to rebuild and to reconstitute ourselves and others.  We are called to Christ, the one who saves.

nehemiah's wall

Nehemiah’s Wall

True heroes are those who understand that the saving work they do – their amazing feats, their miracles – come from God.  They know that God is the source of all goodness and healing.  And they praise God unceasingly in the midst of turmoil and strife.  True heroes create structures and times and places in which God can dwell with the faithful.  True heroes find reward in the endless suffering that accompanies discipleship.  True heroes are rare.  When we find them, we best hold on to them . . . and follow.

Adapted from a favorite from May 9, 2008.

To reflect on the nature of optimism, watch Tari Shalot’s Ted Talk on The Optimism Bias. Enter the name Nehemiah into the blog search bar and explore this man’s determination and willingness to take a risk. Click on the image of Nehemiah’s wall above to learn about the archeological work at Nehemiah’s wall and gate. Or visit: http://www.biblicalarchaeologytruth.com/nehemiahs-wall.html

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Matthew 23Denunciation

Friday, November 20, 2015 tassels

How many of us like to widen our phylacteries and lengthen our tassels?  The footnotes for this chapter are extensive in the NAB and they are worth reading.  This is the list of Christ’s woes as recorded by Matthew and these words have the feel of prophecy.  Hypocrisy, lack of integrity when our words and actions do not match. This is what Jesus warns us about.

What do we do when the ugly green monster rears its head?  When jealousy strikes, as it always does, what is our reflex?  Do we allow ourselves to succumb to the temptation of taking credit even when it is due?  Do we put the emotion which overtakes us in its proper place and convert it to humility?

Verses 37 to 39 are Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, the city which ought to serve as a beacon to all, now drags her skirts in the mire as the prophets foretold.  Jesus himself cannot sway these leaders.  God’s own word cannot get their attention.  The final woe defines Jesus’ audience as murderers of prophets, of the holy ones.  This is scary stuff.  Chapter 24 follows with the foretelling of the destruction of the temple which actually occurred in 70 C.E.  This event was on the horizon and yet they did not listen.  Do we? How far do we have to go until God finally gets our attention?  Are we this dense?  We pray not.

And so we go to Jesus, hoping to learn how to avoid our own denunciation.

phylacteriesGenerous and faithful Jesus, may we narrow our phylacteries and shorten the tassels on our shawls. May we learn humility from your stories, and mercy from your actions. We ask this in your name. Amen.

 A favorite from January 28, 2008.

 

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Gerard Van Honthorst: nativity

Gerard Van Honthorst: Adoration of the Shepherds

Thursday December 25, 2014

Joy and Zechariah

Christmas Day

“The office of prophet was due to a direct call from God. It was not the result of heredity, just as it was not a permanent gift but a transient one, subject entirely to the divine will”. (Senior 877) Today joy comes upon us from the depths of fear as a people lifts hope high . . . waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

Full of symbols and imagery, this book of prophecy signals an impending change when a new Jerusalem will replace the vanquished one. Many of the ancients settled on the simple understanding that a new city would rise physically from the foundations of the old; and in so doing, they missed the greater portent of the Messiah’s coming. The apostle John (2:19) records Christ’s promise to raise up again the ruined temple in three days. And so does Jesus promise to return from the dead to rescue the faithful. This is an event to celebrate, even in the midst of despair and fear.

Verse 2:10: Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.

joyToday we celebrate the arrival of the master healer and we remember that joy is most sweet when it fulfills the age-old promise to arrive in the hour of sorrow. Christ’s joy offers new life in the face of death, and dims the memory of all suffering. For Christ’s joy is found in God’s infinite mercy and the power of the Spirit to bring us God’s never-ending love. Let us rejoice with the shepherds and angels at this marvelous entrance God makes into our lives . . . in the sweet person of Mary’s child.

Click on the Nativity image above for a site that hosts famous paintings of this event and others in the life of Christ, or visit: http://www.jesus-story.net/painting_birth_christ.htm

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urge you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 877. Print.

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KIng Zedekiah

King Zedekiah

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jeremiah 52:1-11

The End – Part I: Capture

Over the next days we will look closely at the end which came to Jerusalem, the end that Jeremiah predicted. We will examine the verses carefully, looking for a hint of lessons we might learn from this ancient people who would not heed a warning so clearly spelled out for them. We will explore our own temptation to deny the reality in which we live. And we will consider what lessons we might learn so that our own end becomes a new beginning rather than a final departure.

king-zedekiahZedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.

God says: Watch for the times when you believe you have all answers to all problems. When you learn to rely on yourself alone you draw hour heart away from me . . . and this is an end that is difficult to overcome.

His mother’s name was Hamutal, daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.

God says: Your parents bring you into this world and they tend to you while you are young. I tend to you for now, in the past, and into the infinite future. This is a relationship you will not want to ignore.

He did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord, Just as Jehoiakim had done.

God says: I do not ask much of you but I do ask is that you enact goodness in the world. In order to do this well it is essential that you listen for my word daily and that stay always close by and in me.

Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

God says: Be careful about the alliances you make and break. Use caution when you pledge yourself to another person or cause. These may be your undoing if you do not exercise great care.

In the tenth month of the tenth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem, encamped around it, and built siege walls on every side.

Jerusalem: Zedekiah's Cave

Jerusalem: Zedekiah’s Cave

God says: When the enemy threatens, turn to me. When the earth rumbles with the steady onslaught of forces that will surely overcome you, stay with me.

The siege of the city continued until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

God says: When you feel you can no longer go on, turn your struggle over to me.

On the ninth day of the fourth month, when famine gripped the city and the people had no more bread, the city walls were breached.

God says: When you struggle to lift your head and raise your arm, place your burden on my broad shoulders.

Then all the soldiers took to flight and left the city by night through the gate between the two walls which was near the king’s garden.

God says: When everyone else abandons you, remain in me. You are never alone for I am always with you.

Destruction of JerusalemWith the Chaldeans surrounding the city they went in the direction of the Arabah.

God says: Do not think that you can avoid or outrun me. Do not be anxious that you may be unworthy. I am waiting to heal and transform you, and for me all things are possible.

But the Chaldean army pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the desert near Jericho, while his whole army fled him.

God says: Even when you have strayed far from my precepts and my truth I will still welcome you home and celebrate your return. This is how much I love you.

Tomorrow, Part II . . . Destruction

To learn more about King Zedekiah, click on his images above and find study outlines at: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/bible-study-outlines/bible-study-outline-on-king-zedekiah/

Find video at: http://bibleseriesguide.com/episode5.htm#.VDb_L_ldWSo 

To learn about the enormous cave under the city of Jerusalem, how it came to be there, and why the Freemasons gather there every year, click on the cave image above or visit www.aboutjerusalem.com at: http://allaboutjerusalem.com/article/zedekiahs-cave-secret-cave-jerusalem to watch a brief, interesting video clip.

 

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