Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 4, 1027
In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
The book of the prophecy of Jeremiah takes place after the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. When Babylonia conquered/assimilated Assyria, it marched on many lands, including the Southern Kingdom of Israel which consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Jeremiah prophesies to the Southern Kingdom before, during, and after Jerusalem falls to Babylonia.
The above passage takes place after Jerusalem fell to Babylonia. At that time, the Temple in Jerusalem was sacked. The gold lampstand, the golden incense bowl, and the other vessels of precious metals and gems, were taken as booty to Babylon, as were the King, Queen mother, courtiers, artisans, and other educated elite of Judah. Left behind were the farmers, lower government workers (priests, scribes), peasants, etc. A new king was put into place by Babylonia, King Zedekiah, who struggled to be both faithful to Yahweh, and keep the oppression of Babylonia at bay.
Years before this passage, God told Jeremiah to prophesy that the people of Judah would wear the yoke of captivity because they no longer loved God but only went through the motions of the law as good luck charms. When Jeremiah proclaimed this prophecy, he put on an ox yoke, which he always wore when out in public. Hananiah is a false prophet who predicts that, after only two years, God will release all the Israelites from King Nebuchadnezzar’s captivity, or as he puts it, yoke. Jeremiah says, “I hope you are right! However, that is not what I am hearing from God. We will see which prophecies come true in the months ahead.” Hananiah was so insulted by this that he went up to Jeremiah, took the ox yoke, and smashed it
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord,* for ever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2 I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
3 You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
4 “I will establish your descendants for ever,
and build your throne for all generations.” ’
15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
16 they exult in your name all day long,
and extol* your righteousness.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favour our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
This psalm was written during or shortly after the Babylonian exile, which means it is a contemporary of Jeremiah. The psalmist is praising God for God’s faithfulness and at the same time, pleading with God to show faithfulness and restore the Kingdom of Israel in Jerusalem.
“Our horn is exalted” – whether this refers to a shofar (ram’s horn exterior used as a bugle of sorts) or not is unclear, but “horn” is an implement of war.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments* of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments* of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.* For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is a continuation of the last two week’s readings form Romans. Paul has made clear that when we were baptized into Jesus (in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!), we were drowned to sin but given new life in Jesus. The above passage continues to explain how that plays out in daily life.
“No longer present your members to sin” – Certainly one can imagine Paul writing to Gentiles who practiced all manner of pagan religious rituals before becoming Christian (ie: having sex with priestess/prostitutes, participating in orgies, seeking oracles from priestesses, drinking of the milk running from the Diana statues’ breasts, etc.) and admonishing them in the above passage. However, Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome not as a reply to their letter, but rather as a letter of introduction of himself and his theology. So then, this passage may refer to pagan religious practices, but it also does refer to anything that we have confessed on Sunday mornings in church but resume as soon as we close our hymnals and head home for another week.
Sanctification – “Being made holy.” What does “holy” mean? “Set apart for God’s purpose.” Therefore, being sanctified means being set apart for God’s purpose, letting go of the desire to march in our own direction and instead grasp God’s hand and follow him.
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
These are the final verses of Jesus’ instructions to the 12 disciples before he sends them out to “heal the sick, raise the dead, and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.” Two weeks ago we heard that “if any do not welcome you, shake the dust from your sandals as a protest against them.” In the above passage, we return to the idea of “welcome”.
In western culture, and especially in US culture, the individual stands alone more so than in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. This comes to bear quite strongly in understanding the above passage. “Positive outcomes allows the one showing hospitality to reciprocate good treatment by the person in question as well as his kinship network. Keeping kinship networks in view is important, since ancient Mediterranean societies were not individualist. They had what is called a "dyadic" view of personality: every person is embedded in other persons (especially the family) and derives his/her sense of identity from their group to which he/she belongs. Thus people can be stereotyped (see Mark 6:3; 14:70; John 1:46; 7:52; Titus 1:13) because it is expected that family or place of origin or occupation encodes what is needed in order to know what a person is. It is also assumed that identity, character, and patterns of behavior exist in and are shaped by this web of interconnected relationships. Exactly this kind of dyadic relationship is assumed here. [p. 92] (Malina & Rohrbaugh Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels)
“In the name of” – This is rather like “Mom said so!” A child serves as Mom’s agent and invokes Mom’s name and authority. In the case of the above quote from Jesus, the name/status of a prophet is invokes as one grants welcome as if that person were a prophet. Jesus’ point is that the name/status of God are invoked and honored when one grants welcome to a statusless one.