Bible Tuesday for Lent III, 2018
Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder.14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The Ten Commandments are known as “The Ten Words” in Hebrew, as in “I wonder if I might have a word with you.” Note that there are no punishments or ramifications for breaking the commandments given. The motivation to keep the commandments is a recognition of God’s supreme power and a desire to live in harmony with God. This law is unique among ancient religions in that it is given by God, not a king or his adviser. This reinforces God’s intention that Israel not have a king, because God is their king. Last week I wrote about God’s covenant with Abraham in which God promised many things but Abraham need only circumcise himself and all males in his house for perpetuity. This week, in the above text, we finally receive the human half of the God/human covenant.
The Decalogue can be read as two groups, the first are laws which pertain to the God/human relationship. The second set are laws which pertain to the human/human relationship. Note that all are important to and commanded by God.
If one reads the above passage of Exodus and counts every time God give a command, one does not arrive at 10. That same is true if one reads the parallel passage in Deuteronomy. So, why are they called The Ten Commandments and The Decalogue? Because they are referred to elsewhere in the Bible, both Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, as The Ten Commandments.
In the first commandment, God gives His credentials, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Therefore, since I, God, saved you without aid of any other gods, you shall only worship me. God’s demand that the Hebrews be mono-theists made them quite unique and very unpopular in the ancient world.
1The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
9the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.
13Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
This psalm is used by Jews as a prelude to the Saturday morning worship service. How delightful the way the psalmist depicts all creation praising its maker. The moon, stars, and sun praise God by running their appointed orbits. The psalmist sees this as a wordless depiction of praise of God’s wisdom and perfection, which is described in the middle verses. Finally, the psalmist prays that he/she might be purified through prayer, confession, and repentance, so as to live in harmony with and praise of God.
1 Cor 1:18-25
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Here Paul lays bare the crux of Christianity. If you were never exposed to Christianity until you were an adult, say in your 30’s, the whole God came to earth as a human and allowed himself to be publicly tortured and executed in order to save all creation really does sound dumb. If God is all powerful and truly did create everything, then why the cross of all things?!
What Paul says is that God in Jesus lived completely opposite of what everyone thought the messiah would and should be. The Jewish leaders and the disciples thought “suffering and death at the hands of the Jewish leaders, but on the third day be raised again” was nonsense and pointless self sacrifice. Complete foolishness! But at the worst of Jesus most painful suffering, when even God abandoned him, Jesus/God showed the complete intimacy and vulnerability of God. God does not rule creation with power, God suffers with humanity and is completely honest, vulnerable, and approachable with humanity. This is what Luther called The Theology of the Cross. And from this, Jesus suffering revealed the true nature of God, comes the doctrine that we encounter God in those suffering, because God suffers with them. As Jesus says in Matthew, “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”
3The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
“…up to Jerusalem” – Jerusalem is constructed on two hills, Mount Moriah and Mount Zion. You quite literally have to go up hill to get to the city. As a result, no matter if you are going to Jerusalem from the north, south, east, or west, you are said to be going “up to Jerusalem.”
Why was there a currency exchange and livestock market in the Temple courtyard? Animals first. Notice that the animals being sold are all animals that were typically sacrificed. As this was Passover time and Jews were coming from all over the Roman World to Jerusalem, they all had to offer sacrifices at the Temple but were not going to bring sacrificial animals from home. They would need to buy sacrificial animals in Jerusalem.
What Jesus decried is that these animals were being sold, not by farmers in the open air market, but by agents of the Chief Priest in the Temple, at a market up price, with the profits going into the Chief Priest’s pocket. The Chief Priest was profiting from his congregation’s religious activity, despite his receipt of lavish pay and housing. That would be like me charging the whole congregation for their bread and wine at the door of the church! Demanding a fee for baptismal water and Ash Wednesday ashes! So, Jesus broke open the pens and drove the animals out of the Temple.
Now, the money changers. I have explained previously that Roman currency had the emperor’s bust on it, just like our coinage does. However, when the emperor was crowned, he was believed to be imbued with divine blessing and wisdom, a sort of junior god. Jews obviously rejected that whole notion about the emperor and held distaste for Roman coins. It was seen as blasphemous and not allowed in the Temple. In order to give a monetary offering, one had to exchange Roman coinage for Temple currency, which had no images of humans or animals on it, only plants, like the backs of our wheat back pennies. But, instead of having currency exchange booths around Jerusalem with honest exchange rates, the Chief Priest had the only currency exchanges in town in the Temple with dishonest exchange rates which, once again, lined the pockets of the Chief Priest and his henchmen. In this way also, the Chief Priest profited from the tithes of his parishioners, the very money which paid his lavish salary and furnished his lavish home! No wonder Jesus dramatically put a stop to all this!
“What sign can you show us for doing this?” – In the second lesson discussed above, Paul says “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom.” “Sign” is the word that the writer of John’s gospel gives to miracles. In this case, a “sign” is a form of credentials, miraculous or not. What is the sign that Jesus gives them? A foretelling of exactly what will happen.
Since we believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, summarized in the Decalogue, and since the Temple is the holy ground on which the faithful strove to fulfill the Law, then one could argue that Jesus is the new Temple. Faithful Jews went to the Temple to be with God and to seek grace, mercy, forgiveness, life, and peace. But since the Chief Priest and the Temple Authorities killed Jesus, but God raised Jesus in three days, believers now go to Jesus for grace, mercy, forgiveness, life, and peace. Jesus becomes the new Temple.