Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 2, 2016
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23He said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart,
41 ‘Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name 42—for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, 43then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.
As discussed in a previous “Bible Tuesday”, throughout Hebrew Scriptures, there are two threads of how the Israelites should treat non-Jews, (aka goyim in Hebrew, and ethnos in Greek). The first thread is represented here, and in God’s covenant with Abram throughout the book of Genesis. “All the nations of the world will be blessed through you.” The Israelites are God’s chosen people, chosen for the purpose of representing God to all the peoples of the world. In this way, all the peoples of the world may know, love, worship God, and become God’s faithful people too.
The second thread is represented most clearly in the books of Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah. In this thread, the Israelites should keep themselves away from the nations of the world, so as not to be perverted, or led astray by them. Jews are only to marry Jews, do business with other Jews, and live in Jewish communities.
Notice how this very issue, evangelize and live among the non-believer vs. keep away from the non-believer so as to keep one’s self pure, is debated in every religion all across the planet even today.
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous works among all the peoples.
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Honour and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in holy splendour;
tremble before him, all the earth.
This psalm tells of a new song. The nations of the world, the ethnos, the goyim, worshiping God, Yahweh, as the only god. Following neither the inclusive or exclusive threads, this psalm merely adjures the families of the world to recognize God’s glory and strength through worship of God in the courts of the Temple.
Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the members of God’s family* who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel* from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant*of Christ.
11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters,* that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Salutation: The first two verses of this pericope are the salutation of Paul’s letter to the congregation in Corinth. This is classic Roman writing. Paul not only identifies himself but also states his credentials. In modern writing, Paul might instead write this letter on letterhead with his own title, or include his credentials in his signature line, or both. Note that Paul also writes and greets on behalf of “the members of God’s family who are with me.”
Paul wastes no time in scolding the congregation in Galatia. At the time of this letter, there was no “orthodox teaching” about Jesus, other than the eye witness accounts given by the disciples and Apostles. None of the gospels had been written, save possibly Mark, but this earliest church had no “holy Scriptures” to read other than the Hebrew Scriptures, which only prophesy about the messiah, but do not relay his teachings. Paul writes to this fledgling congregations to admonish them for their incorrect teachings and give them correct teachings in written form. Paul’s letters were not only read and reread, but also widely copied and passed around from house church to house church before they were ever considered Holy Scripture.
After Jesus* had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
Here we have a clear story of the thread of the first type, as mentioned above. Capernaum was a Jewish community, a fishing town, occupied by the Romans. A Roman centurion was a soldier who commanded a unit of 100 troops. Though the centurion is the occupying force, nevertheless, the Jews like him because he is good to them, builds them a synagogue.
The centurion has a slave whom he values greatly. This slave may be Jewish but no ethnicity is specified. The centurion asks a favor of the synagogue leaders to go ask a miracle of Jesus. If Jesus does, indeed, go and enter this non-Jew’s house, Jesus will be ritually unclean and unable to worship at synagogue or Temple for seven days. But the gospel does not tell us there was a breath of hesitation on Jesus’ part to go to this Roman’s home and do his bidding.
The gospel procession of Jesus, his disciples, and the Jewish leaders, is interrupted by messengers from the centurion’s house. “The centurion does not want you to come to the house of a goyim and put yourself in an awkward position. Just say the word from where you stand, and the Roman knows what you command will be done.”
It is not the centurion or the crowds who are surprised in this miracle story, but Jesus. Of all the Jews in Israel that Jesus has met, none trusted God like this Roman! Jesus hasn’t even healed the slave yet, and the Roman has complete faith that he will. Wow!