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

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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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