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Wrestling with the Word, episode 94: Lectionary 28 (20 Pentecost), Year C (October 10, 2010) September 26, 2010

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Lectionary 28 (Pentecost 20)

I can never understand why I periodically resent the teachings of the Bible. I suspect, though, that what bothers me is God’s generosity. You would think that God prefers people who are religiously connected, even properly religious people, like those of my own religion and denomination. But the Bible has a way of kicking my legs out from under me sometimes, and our lessons selected for this day prove I stand on unstable foundations.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 94: Lectionary 28 (20 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 111
This acrostic psalm is somewhat unusual in the sense that each half verse begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The forced structure, as with all acrostic psalms, leads to a rather uneven presentation of thoughts.  In a sense, the lack of flow matters little, because proverbial wisdom teachings (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”; cf. Prov. 1:7) do not require smooth transitions. More important is to remember the maxims through the sequence of the alphabet. In any case, the psalmist does achieve his goal of presenting an individual hymn of praise in which he lauds the redemptive work of God simultaneous with the role of God as Creator in providing food for the faithful.  Perhaps the connection with the first lesson is best made by the testimony “Great are the works of the Lord” (verse 2) and “He has shown his people the power of his works” (verse 6). Typical of wisdom teachings, the maxims can apply to human beings in general, although the reference to “his people,” “the heritage of the nations,” and “his covenant” are expressions Israel used of herself. Above all, however, the psalm’s call to praise the Lord (v. 1; cf. v. 10) resounds at the conclusion of the story about Naaman and Elijah and in the story of Jesus’ healing of the leper—both Gentiles.

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2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
God provides knowledge of himself to those outside the community of faith through the words of people and above all through the divine word itself.

OR
Reaching out to those beyond the covenant people of Israel, the Lord heals the Syrian leper and thereby provides the means for Naaman’s confession about the power and universality of Yahweh.

Context
Receiving the cloak of succession from Elijah, the prophet Elisha followed his mentor until that day when the whirlwind took Elijah up to heaven (2 Kings 2:1-12).  As evidence of his succession Elisha performed at the outset many of the same acts as the predecessor, including the miracle of the abundance of oil out of small beginnings, the raising from the dead the son of the Shunamite woman, and the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.  Furthermore, like his master his miracles and ministry extended to the Gentiles.

The omission of verses 4-6 from the pericope presents a problem of narrative flow because the mention of the king reading “the letter” (v. 7) has no background.

Key Words
V. 1.  “The Lord had given victory to Syria”:  The extension of the Lord’s power already reaches beyond the boundaries of Israel by this gift of victory to a commander of a non-Israelite army.

V. 7.  ha’elōhîm ’ānî lehāmît ûlehachavôt = “Am I god, to kill and to make alive,…?”:  The view that God alone was responsible for life and death is attested several times in the Old Testament.  In the Song of Hannah both weal and woe are the responsibility of the Lord who “kills and brings to life” (1 Sam. 2:6).  Also the familiar words of Job ring out here:  “the Lord gave, and the Lord had taken away” (Job 1:21).

V. 8.  weyēda‘  kî nā_bî’ beyisrā’ēl = “that he may know there is a prophet in Israel”:  (1) The expression “that someone may know” appears in the story of the exodus (Exod. 9:14; 10:2) and in the promises of the return from Babylon (cf. Ezek. 35:9; 36:11; 37:14) as indicating that through a salvation act of the Lord others will come to know who he is.  (2) What it takes for people to know there is a prophet is among them is quite different at Ezekiel 33:33 where the Lord promises such awareness when the people ignore the prophecies.

V. 14. “according to the word of the man of God”: The effectiveness of God’s word in accomplishing what it says is a key theological concept in the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua through 2 Kings). Significant is the use of a similar expression in the miracle that Elijah performed in raising from the dead the son of the Zarephath widow (1 Kings 17:24).

V. 15. hinnēh-nā’ yāda‘tî kî ’ên ’elōhîm bekōl hā’ārets kî ’im-beyisrā’ēl = “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel”: The confession of Naaman goes beyond the desire and promise of  Elisha in v. 8.  The knowledge of the Lord by people outside Israel serves as the motive for many divine actions in the OT: see, e.g., Exod. 14:18; Isa. 45:5-6; Ezek. 37:28.

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2 Timothy 2:8-15
In the midst of the people’s suffering and persecution, God promises salvation and eternal glory through Jesus Christ to all who endure in the Gospel.

Context
Encouraging Timothy to be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ and to rightly explain the word of God in the face of encroaching heresies, the author uses here what appear to be elements of a hymn. The content includes both the proclamation about the Davidic descent of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead along with the promise of our dying and rising with him (cf. Romans 1:1-3; 6:5).

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Luke 17:11-19
Jesus commends and heals the Samaritan who gave thanks to him and who praises God in response to the miracle of curing his leprosy and restoring him to his community.

Context
Luke’s division of Jesus’ itinerary from Galilee to Jerusalem into several parts is indicated by specific references to that journey.  The first occurred at 9:51 where Samaritans reject Jesus, the second at 13:22, and the third appears here at the beginning of the pericope.  In this instance Luke betrays his uncertain knowledge of Palestinian geography by his allusion to a location “between Samaria and Galilee” on the way to Jerusalem.

Key Words
V. 12.  hoi estēsan porrōthen = “who stood at a distance”:  The divine law established procedures whereby lepers would be separated and would warn other of their presence (see Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2-3).

V. 13.  Iēsou epistata = “Jesus Master”:  epistata is used only in Luke among the Synoptics and apart from this instance only by Jesus’ disciples (see 5:5; 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49, always in connection with a miracle.  In Greek literature the word is used for a “commander,” thus one who has authority.

V. 14.  epideixate tois hiereusin = “show yourselves to the priests”:  The procedure for reinstatement into the community involves examination by the priest plus physical and ritual cleansing (see Lev. 14:1-20).

V. 15.  dozazōn ton theon = “praising God”:  For giving praise as a response to a healing miracle, see 13:13; 18:43; as the shepherds’ response to the birth of Jesus (2:20); as the centurion’s response to the crucified Christ (23:47).

V. 18.  ho allogenēs houtos = “this other-race person”:  The expression occurs only here in the NT; in LXX is appears often for non-Israelites (see, e.g., Gen. 17:27).

V. 19.  hē pistis sou sesōken se = “your faith has saved you”:  Jesus addresses the words  to the woman of the city at 7:50; to the woman who touched Jesus’ garment at 8:48; to the blind beggar near Jericho at 18:42. The announcement of “salvation” to the Samaritan will loom larger as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem conspire against Jesus and succeed in executing him on religious grounds.

NEXT WEEK:
Psalm 121
Genesis 32:22-31
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Wrestling with the Word, episode 93: Lectionary 27 (19 Pentecost), Year C (October 3, 2010) September 25, 2010

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Lectionary 27 Pentecost 19

There is a four-letter word that ruffles feathers, pumps up blood pressure, and causes arguments. It’s the word W-A-I-T. It seems like a complete waste of time to you and me and countless others. Yet God reiterates promises that are worth waiting for and calls us to make productive use of our waiting time.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 93: Lectionary 27 (19 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 37:1-9
The content of the psalm with its proverbial wisdom teachings serves the acrostic structure of the psalm very well. Having to begin every verse (or in this case, every other line) with the succeeding letter of the alphabet challenges the poet to maintain a flow of movement for the poem, except when a series of short maxims make up the whole alphabet. The psalm is, in other words, a collection of wisdom teachings offered by an “old” man who has observed life for many years (v. 25). This “wise” teacher emphasizes the positive role of faith and trust in the Lord rather than fretting over the success of the wicked. According to his instruction, hope and trust in the Lord, waiting for the Lord, and taking refuge in the Lord are the ways of the righteous. The future reward for the righteous, first appearing in v. 9, is repeated 4 times as the psalm continues towards its end: “they shall inherit/possess the land/earth.” The promise flows from the lips of Jesus in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:5). Jesus promises and delivers that inheritance to “the meek,”as does v. 11 of the psalm.

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Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
In response to the prophet’s questions and complaints about the apparent injustices that God allows in the world, the Lord answers there is an end to the waiting and toward that end the righteous shall live on the basis of faithfulness.

Context
While the precise historical situation is difficult to determine on the basis of the evidence supplied, the mood and style of the book seem to reflect the period immediately prior to the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in 597 B.C.  In particular, the material in 1:2–2:4 represents a dialogue between the prophet and God, the words of Habakkuk expressed in terms and forms characteristic of a lament. 1:2-4: Habakkuk asks about the Lord’s apparent absence and lack of concern. 1:5-11: YHWH answers in terms of promised action. 1:12—2:1: Habakkuk continues his questions and challenge. 2:2-4: YHWH answers with divine assurance and calls for faithful waiting.

Key Words
1:2.  ‘ad-’ānâ = “how long”:  The question is a characteristic element in a lament; see Ps. 13:1; 74:10; 89:46; cf. Lam 5:20.  šivva‘tî welō’ tišmā‘ = “I cry for help but you do not answer”:  For the best-known example of the question, see Ps. 22:1-2, 11 (cf. Mark 15:34; Matt. 27:46).

2:4/  wetsaddîq be’emûnātô yichyeh = “but (the) righteous will live by their (his faithfulness”; cf. Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38.  For ’emûnâ = “steadfastness, loyalty, faithfulness” see Exod. 17:12; 2 Kings 12:16.

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2 Timothy 1:1-14
Having provided the opportunity for Timothy to grow up in the faith of his family, God through the apostle now challenges that same believer to hold firm to the true faith in spite of other teachings and even in the face of persecution.

Context
The authorship of the three pastoral epistles–1 and 2 Timothy, Titus–has been debated since the beginning of the 19th century. At present, many scholars believe they were written not by Paul but by an anonymous writer who addressed the church at Ephesus on a variety of issues.  The nature of this correspondence only enables us to conclude in general terms that the issues were Gnostic teachings finding their way into the church and the danger of the world’s antagonism toward the Christians of the time.  Further, the departure of many from Paul’s teachings indicates a falling away of Christians in the face of persecution (1:15-16). Many date the authorship sometime in the second century, probably in the first half.  The reference to Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (v. 5) see Acts 16:1) seems to indicate the sequence of three generations of Christians.  The challenge to Timothy is to maintain “the faith of the mothers” in the midst of some trials confronting the church at Ephesus.

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Luke 17:5-10
Addressing his disciples, Jesus Christ demands among the daily “duties” of Christian discipleship the avoidance of stumbling blocks (vss. 1-2), a boundless willingness to forgive (vss. 3-4), a faith that has power to accomplish the impossible (vss. 5-6), and a commitment to faithful service (vss. 7-10).

Parallel passage: Matthew 17:20 where the faith can move a mountain rather than a sycamore tree as here.

Context
Immediately after the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke has gathered into one place four separate sayings on discipleship.  Previous to our pericope are the first two, both addressed to “his disciples.” The first, vv. 1-3a, is a warning against inevitable stumbling blocks to faith.  The second, vv. 3b-4, deals with the limitlessness of Christian forgiveness.  Our pericope begins with the final two, both addressed to “the apostles.” The third, vv. 5-6, illustrates the power of faith.  The fourth, vv. 7-10, explains the duty of the servants of Christ.

Key Words
V. 1.  ta skandala = “stumbling blocks”:  The word appears often in LXX as a “stumbling block” or “snare” to someone’s fidelity to God:  see Josh. 23:13 (Canaanites);  Judg. 2:3 (gods of the Canaanites); Judg. 8:27 (a golden ephod, a fertility idol?).  For people enticing Christians away from the faith by lies and a false gospel, see Acts 20:29-30; Gal. 1:6-9. For Christians causes fellow believers to stray from their faith by offensive demonstrations of freedom, see Rom. 14:13. On the other hand, Paul portrays the cross of Jesus Christ as the stumbling block (skandalon) that causes people to stumble (Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11).

V. 5. prosthes hēmin pistin = “add to us faith”: Usually the word prostithēmi means to increase something that is already present. Unless insisting that the word here is used differently, the implication is that the apostles already have faith and that they are requesting an increase of faith. They are, after all, “the apostles” (see Luke 6:12-16).

V. 6.  ei echete pistin = “if you have faith”:  The present tense implies a “real” condition:  the apostles do have faith; some mss. read ei eichete pistin = “if you had faith,” implying that the apostles do not (so RSV/NRSV).  Strikingly, what follows, elegete = “you could say,” introduces a contrary-to-fact condition, supporting the variant reading “if you had faith.”

V. 10. douloi achreioi esmen, ho ōpheilomen poiēsai pepoiēkamen = “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we are obligated to do”: The duties of plowing and serving (vss. 6, 8) might reflect Pauline terminology for Christian disciples. For plowing and harvesting, see 1 Cor. 9:7b-12a. For the description of Paul himself and other Christians as “servants,” see Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:21-23; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1, etc. The function of shepherd will develop in such Johannine passages as John 21:15-17. Ultimately, the point of Jesus’ saying here is that even the everyday work of disciples does not earn God’s reward; our “unprofitable” labors cannot accomplish that. Only God’s grace accomplishes the reward—a contrast to the teaching of Psalm 37.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 92: Lectionary 26 (18 Pentecost), Year C (September 26, 2010) September 10, 2010

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Lectionary 26 (18 Pentecost)

The summer vacations have come to their annual end, and so have the emails or phone calls from family and friends that so often include the words “Wish you were here!” On the one hand, the cliché makes me jealous of their experiences. On the other hand, precisely because they are family and friends, I rejoice both over their good fortune and over the affirmation they give me by wishing I were there. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if they did not offer their love and concern with such words. I wonder also how many people in the world never hear those words “Wish you were here.” How many people go through life with the feeling that others wished they were not here? How many people are treated in such a way that their being here is not even noticed? Mother Teresa put it like this:

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody,
I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat…. We must find each other.”

Our lessons for today call on us to recall that God honors the unnoticed in the world and that God calls us to honor them as well by showing them we are delighted they are here.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 92: Lectionary 26 (18 Pentecost), Year C .

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Psalm 146
The psalm, like Psalms 113-118, qualifies as a Hallel psalm, that is, a psalm of praise that begins with “Hallelujah.” This praise begins (vss. 1-2) with a summons to one’s own “soul” to praise the Lord for a whole lifetime and to express those praises with song along the way. The individual then instructs an audience with the warning against putting trust in successful persons, because, like all humans, they and their strategies will perish (vss. 3-4). On the other hand, looking to YHWH for help and hope leads to blessing (v. 5), and the psalmist/teacher provides two reasons for that instruction. First, YHWH is the Creator of the universe and all living things on earth, and as Creator, God demonstrates faithfulness by executing justice for the oppressed and by feeding the hungry (vss. 6-7). Second, YHWH is the savior/deliverer who, as in Isaiah 42:7 and 62:1-2, sets prisoners free and opens the eyes of the blind (vss. 7b-8). Further, this God protects strangers in their wanderings and supports the vulnerable orphans and widows, but brings devastation upon the wicked that oppress them (v. 9). The psalm concludes with a summons to the people of Jerusalem to praise YHWH who “will reign forever” (v. 10). The combination of creation and salvation themes within the context of the reign of God betrays dependence on the preaching of Second Isaiah.

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Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Against those who trust for their security in their luxury and conceit, God promises a most insecure future.

Context
In the midst of a variety of judgment speeches, a series of woe-cries beginning with 5:18 describes the nature of the northern kingdom’s behavior which will lead to the inevitable result of disaster.

Key Words
V. 1.  hôy = “woe”:  A woe-oracle is introduced by this particle and always followed by a plural participle describing an action of an unnamed group which leads to God’s judgment. This woe-oracle addresses those who feel all too comfortable both in Jerusalem and in Samaria.

V. 1.  wehabbōtechîm = “and who trust”:  For the problem of trusting in things which give false security see Prov. 11:28; 14:16.

V. 2.  Calneh … Hamath … Gath:  These cities were conquered by the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III between 738 and 734 B.C.

V. 3.  hamenaddîm leyôm rā‘ = “who keep thrusting aside the evil day”:  The series of oracles requires that we assume a hôy = “woe” before the participle. For the “evil day,” see the interesting saying at Prov. 16:4: “YHWH.has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (leyōm rā‘ā).

V. 3.  šebet chāmās = “throne/seat or cessation of violence”:  For šebet (root šābat) as “cessation,” see Exod. 21:19; Prov. 20:3; šebet (root yāšab) as “that on which one is enthroned,” see 1 Kings 10:19 = 2 Chron. 9:18.

V. 4. haššōkebîm ‘al-mittôt šēn ûserûchîm ‘al-‘aršōtām = “who lie upon beds of ivory and sprawl upon their couches”: In light of the participles in the continuing series, the “woe to” must be read here, as it is in most translations.

V. 6. welō’ nechlû ‘al-šēber yōsēp = “but have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph”: Here lies the reason for the “woe.” In the midst of their luxurious lifestyles, they pay no attention to the suffering of the people who live in the territory that traditionally belonged to the tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh).

V. 7.  lākēn = “therefore”:  When following a description of the activity of people, “therefore” almost always introduces a judgment of YHWH.

V. 7.  berōš gōlîm = “at the head of the exiles”:  See the play on words with rēšît hagôyyîm = “head/first of the nations” in v. 1 and werēšît šemānîm = “head/first (finest) of the oils” at v. 6.

V. 7.  wesār mizrach serûchîm = “and the revelry of sprawlers will pass away”:  Note the play with “those who sprawl (serûchîm) upon their beds” to whom the “woe” is addressed in v. 4. Now it will “pass away.”

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1 Timothy 6:6-19
Exhorting Timothy to shun the false teaching about the love of money, the apostle instructs him aim at the qualities that God loves and to charge the rich to set their hopes on God in whom they can be certain of a sure foundation for the future.

Context
The apostle brings his epistle to a conclusion by giving Timothy advice regarding the dangers of loving wealth and a charge to the wealthy that they should express their faith by showing they are “rich in good deeds, liberal and generous.”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”  –Mother Teresa

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Luke 16:19-31
Addressing those who love money, Jesus warns of future shock by providing a story of eschatological transformations for the rich who neglect the poor and for the poor who are neglected.

Context
In chapter 15 Luke has Jesus telling the Pharisees and scribes the parable about the son who had squandered his wealth.  In chapter 16 (vv. 1-13) Jesus relates to the disciples the parable about the dishonest manager. There he includes the note about making friends by means of their unrighteous wealth so that “they may receive you into the tents of eternity.”  At 16:14-18 Jesus turns again to address the Pharisees, identified as “lovers of money,” on the continuing value of the Torah.  Now still speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus.

Key Words
V. 19.  anthrōpos de tis ēn plousios = “there was a certain rich man”:  The words are identical to 16:1, the beginning of the Parable of the Dishonest Steward.

V. 19.  euphrainomenos kath’ hēmeran lamprōs = “who kept on enjoying himself splendidly every day”:  On euphrainomenos as a favorite in Luke, see 12:19 (“be merry”); 15:23, 24, 29, 32 (“make merry”). While lamprōs appears in this form only here, see ta lampra = “splendid things” in which the rich delight at Rev. 18:14.

V. 20.  ptōchos = “a poor man”:  For the contrast between “rich” and “poor” in Luke’s Gospel, see 1:53; 6:20, 24; for Jesus as bringer of good news to the “poor,” see also 4:18-20; 7:22.

V. 20.  Lazarus:  a form of the Hebrew name ’El‘azar = “God has helped.” The Hebrew word for “help” is the one used at Psalm 146:5 (in parallel to “hope”) where blessing is promised to those who look to YHWH as their “help” “and hope.”

V. 22.  eis ton kolpon Abraham = “to the bosom of Abraham”:  For one’s bosom as a place of endearment, see the place of Christ at John 1:18 and the disciple Jesus loved at 13:23. In OT see Num. 11:12; Deut. 13:6; 28:54, 56.

V. 24, 30.  pater Abraam = “father Abraham”:  See John 8:33, 37 for the paternity claim of the Judaeans to Jesus.

V. 25.  nun de hōde parakaleitai = “but now he is comforted”:  The passive denotes that God is the comforter; see Isa. 40:1; 51:3; above all see 2 Cor. 1:3-4.

V. 26.  chasma mega estēriktai = “a great chasm has been fixed”:  Once again, Luke uses a theological passive. As for the chasm, contrast Gen. 28:12 where “the ladder” (actually “the mound”) connects heaven and earth.

V. 29. “They have Moses and the prophets”: The reference to Moses, of course, is to the Torah, the “book of Moses: and “the law of Moses” where laws about caring for the poor and afflicted abound; see, e.g., the Book of the Covenant at Exod. 21—23; the priestly laws at Lev. 25; the Code of Deuteronomy, especially Deut. 24. As for the prophets, their preaching against the injustice done to the poor and oppressed fill the pages of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Micah.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 91: Lectionary 25 (17 Pentecost), Year C (September 19, 2010) September 6, 2010

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Lectionary 25 (17 Pentecost)

I confess I become upset at some people’s lack of concern for others and at systems in the world that favor the rich and powerful. That anger presents quite a dilemma when I join others in expressing that God is the God of all people, that God loves everyone, and that God wants all humanity to love one another. I feel like Jonah, I suppose, in denying the grace and love of God to “obvious” sinners. All together, our lessons for this day provide some challenges to my thinking and some implications of confessing the universality of God’s love. They help us ponder how the unfathomable and exalted God lives up to the name of Creator of the world and all that lives on it. They also demonstrate how God holds the rich accountable for the poor and simultaneously calls on the poor to pray for the powerful.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 91: Lectionary 25 (17 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 113
The psalm is the first of six called the Hallel psalms because their purpose is to “praise God.” In Judaism this collection was used especially on such important festivals as Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. Verses 1-3 invite the worshipers of God in all times and places to extol the name of the Lord. Verses 4-6 explain the reason for that call to praise in two ways:  first, God’s place is far above all the nations of the earth and even above all the heavenly spaces where divine beings dwell and contest for acclaim; second, the Lord is incomparable among all creatures, divine and human. (The question “Who is like the Lord, our God…?” is used in various types of psalms in order to extol YHWH’s supremacy; see Ps. 89:6). Verses 7-9 point to the uniqueness of YHWH in another sense. Though YHWH is so exalted above earth and heaven, that same God bends down to protect and care for the lowly, even exalting them to sit with princes. This lofty God enables outcast barren women to bear children and thus become an integral part of the day’s society.

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Amos 8:4-7
To those who hasten to do dishonest business in order to further oppress the poor and the needy, God promises an unforgettable experience of judgment.

Context
In the middle of the eighth century B.C., Amos, from Tekoa near Bethlehem, was called to preach judgment against the northern kingdom Israel. As it turns out, his judgment speeches in the first two chapters of the book reached out to the nations that surrounded Israel and Judah on all sides. According to his own words, he had not been an official prophet, i.e., ordained into the prophetic guild, but a simple “herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees” (7:14) when the Lord sent him to prophesy to Israel, the northern kingdom.  The people up there held an optimistic view of the Day of the Lord, and they did so on the basis of YHWH’s actions for Israel in the past. Amos, however, turned the view of the Day into a threat of judgment: “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!” (5:18). The passage here consists of oracles which illustrate the vision of the fate of a basket of summer fruit (8:1-3).

Key Words
Vv. 4, 6.  ’ebyôn // ‘anivvê-’ārets … dallîm //we’ebyôn = “the needy // the oppressed of the land … the poor // and the needy”:  For oppression of these people by the rulers and rich of Israel, see 2:6-7.  In terms of YHWH’s ongoing concern for the vulnerable of the land, see also such random examples as Ps. 9:9-10, 18; 82:1-4; then as responsibility given to the Davidic king, see Ps. 72:1-4. 12-14; further as the responsibility given to the people see Exod. 22:21-24; 23:6-9; Deut. 24:10-15, 17-22.  Because the people failed to carry out this assignment, this prophet, along with others, delivers the Lord’s announcement of judgment (see. e.g., Isa. 3:13-15; Ezek. 16:49).

V. 5.  hachōdeš …wehaššabbāt = “the new moon … and the sabbath”:  For restrictions on sabbath activity, see Exod. 35:3; Num. 15:32-36; Jer. 17:21-27; and Neh. 13:15-22 where transacting business is expressly forbidden.

V. 5.  ’êphâ = “ephah”:  The word means a dry measure of about forty liters (a little over 36 quarts).  For laws about weights, see Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16.

V. 6. mappal bar = “refuse of the wheat”:  The noun mappal derives from the verb nāpal = “to fall,” thus wheat fallen to the ground, trampled, wet, inferior.

V. 7.  nišba‘ YHWH bige‘ôn ya‘aqôb = “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob”:  Previously in Amos, YHWH swears by himself (see 4:2; 6:8). As for “the pride of Jacob,” the words appear earlier at 6:8 in parallelism with “strongholds” of Israel and “the city”—all of which YHWH abhors. At Ps. 47:4 the expression stands parallel to “heritage,” that is, the land of Israel.

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1 Timothy 2:1-7
Since God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, the author instructs the leaders of the church to pray and give thanks for the emperor and other governmental authorities.

Context
The verses comprise the first instruction from the unknown apostle to Timothy, leader of the church. In the historical context of the 2nd century A.D., Christians were regarded by outsiders with suspicion and distrust. Above all, since the Christians confessed their faith in Jesus as Lord, their commitment to the emperor was questionable. The advice here (like that of Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 4:14-16) attempts to address this dilemma and ultimately to advance the spread of the gospel and the church within the constraints of the Roman Empire.

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Luke 16:1-13
Jesus calls upon his disciples to face the crisis of his kingdom preaching with the prudence with which those of this age use material possessions.

Context
Chapter 15 contains three parables about the lost and found, all addressed to the Pharisees and scribes. Continuing the theme of stewardship Jesus turns to the disciples to teach this parable of the Dishonest Steward (vv. 1-8a), several applications of the parable (vv. 8b-13), and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (vv. 19-31).

Key Words
V. 1.  anthrōpos tis ēn plousios hos eichen oikonomon = “there was a rich man who had a manager”:  The rich man was probably someone like the absentee landowner of 12:37-38, 42-47; 20:9-16, who put someone else like an oikonomos = “manager” in charge of his property.

V. 1.  diaskorpizōn = “squandering”:  The same word appears in the same sense of  the Prodigal Son (15:13). More generally, the word means to “scatter, disperse” (see Luke 1:51; Matt. 25:24, 26; 26:31 = Mk. 14:27; John 11:52).

V. 6.  dexai sou ta grammata = “receive your letters”:  The letters refer to the promissory note signed by the debtor.

V. 8.  hoti phronimōs epoiēsen = “because he acted prudently”; Note the expression phronimōteroi = “more prudently” in the second half of the verse. For phronimos used elsewhere of an oikonomos, see 12:42 where the “faithful and wise steward” will receive blessing at the homecoming of the master. At 1 Cor. 10:15 the expression appears as a compliment, but at 4:10 it is sarcastic.  See 2 Cor. 11:19 (sarcasm) and Rom. 11:25 (negative). At Matt. 25:2, 4, 8, the word stands opposite “foolish” maidens.

V. 8.  hoi huioi tou aiōnos … tous huious tou phōtos = “the children of this age … the children of light”:  The contrast is not between “worlds” or “places” but “times”: Christians are “the children of the New Day/age” (cf. Rom. 13:11-13; John 12:36; Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5.