Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 7, 2016
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her—
11 that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious bosom.
12 For thus says the Lord:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies* shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants,
and his indignation is against his enemies.
The prophecy of Isaiah is generally divided into three parts. The first part is chapters 1-39 and is likely written by a prophet living in Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE. It is a prophecy to the Southern Kingdom of Israel before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylonia. Chapters 40-57, commonly called second Isaiah, prophesy to Israel immediately before, during, and after the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, 584 – 587 BCE. Third Isaiah is chapters 58-66 and addresses the return of the Israelites exiled in Babylon and the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the rest of the kingdom.
Immediately prior to the pericope, God has told the Israelites that God will do a miracle. “Before her [Israel’s] labor, she delivered; before her birth pangs, she brought forth a son.” God is telling Israel that God will restore it in no time at all; no pregnancy, no labor, just delivery.
For this wonder, the above text calls for rejoicing. God will feed his people from the bounty of Jerusalem. Note God’s maternal side in verse 13.
To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.
1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.’
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7 who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
8 Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.
While this psalm lavishes rather general praise on God, it was chosen to accompany the above Isaiah text because it can be interpreted as praising God for the return of the exiles from Babylonia and the rebuilding of the Temple. References are made to miracles God wrought throughout Israel’s history, such as the parting of the Red/Reed Sea.
My friends,* if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil* the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads.
6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which* the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.15For* neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
A pastor friend of mine once said, “All comparisons of ourselves to others are, at their root, sinful, save one; the comparison of ourselves to Christ. This one comparison drives us to our knees at the foot of the cross.” This is a sound summary of Paul’s admonitions in verses 1-5. Do not compare yourself to others, or even compare one person to another. Instead, love and forgive one another in gentles.
Verse 6 is an admonition to pay those whose livelihood is teaching the gospel.
Starting at verse 11, Paul employs a common Hellenistic practice. While Paul dictated the body of the letter, he adds a postscript in his own hand. However, Paul’s postscript is much more than the customary “Give my love to ________.” Here, Paul summarizes his letter to this errant congregation. Ignore those Jewish Christians who say you must be circumcised [made Jewish] before being Christian and becoming part of the body of Christ. It is not outward signs that save you anyway. To be a follower of Jesus, you must put the whole of your being into faith in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit makes a new creation of you through that faith!
After this the Lord appointed seventy* others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”* 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”* 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’
17 The seventy* returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
While last week’s text illustrated how very difficult and confusing following Jesus can be, nevertheless, Jesus still has 70 disciples (including the 12 apostles?) to deploy in pairs as his fore teams.
Why 70? Some manuscripts say 72! Genesis 10 lists the nations of the world generations after the flood. They number 70 in the Hebrew manuscripts and 72 in the Septuagint (the more ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures). Jesus is symbolically sending out disciples to all nations of the world.
As all farmers know, there is urgency in gathering the harvest at its peak. Jesus reflects that urgency in his admonitions to the 70 to travel light and keep to themselves on the road so as to not be delayed in socializing.
Deployed disciples are to grant peace, eat what is provided, cure the sick, and proclaim the Kingdom of God. This is exactly the mission carried on by Jesus thus far. Now that Jesus has predicted his death and “set his face toward Jerusalem,” the disciples must hone their missionary/evangelism skills.
The chastisement of towns is an example of what happens when God/Jesus is rejected. Jesus sends out the disciples in the most important and urgent of labors, to exemplify the love of God. If folks reject it, Jesus will reject them. Verse 16 even puts this into the legal language of the day.
When the disciples return, they rejoice at their effectiveness! Jesus’ statement, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening,” could be an exclamation of evil flagging in the face of this new work of the disciples. It could also be an actual report, however puzzling. Serpents and scorpions are traditionally seen as images for Satan. Jesus grants the disciples authority over all such things. However, interpreted the success of the disciples is also the downfall of evil, and “signals the reign of God on earth.” (New Interpreter’s Bible)
No matter what power the disciples now have, Jesus cautions them that this power is not the point, but instead a symptom of a wonderful truth, their salvation in Christ is assured.