bible blog 735

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:

WWF report: humanity uses annually 50% more resources than its ecosystems produce.

Leviticus 26:27-42

27 But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me,28I will continue hostile to you in fury; I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins.29You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.30I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense-altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you.31I will lay your cities waste, will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odours.32I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it.33And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you; your land shall be a desolation, and your cities a waste.

34 Then the land shall enjoy* its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy* its sabbath years.35As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it.36And as for those of you who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues.37They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand against your enemies.38You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall devour you.39And those of you who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies because of their iniquities; also they shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.

40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me—41so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,42then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

This horrific statement of God’s anger raises a major issue:

How would a Jewish person, remembering the holocaust, interpret this passage? Might they not ask if that terrible destruction was God’s doing and if they thought it was, how could they continue to worship such a monster?  On the other hand, if the passage should not be interpreted this way, what on earth does it mean? The theology of a God who gives worldly rewards to those who obey and worldly penalties to those who don’t here shows its ugly and unacceptable face: a God who can force you to eat your children. Lest we feel an easy superiority to the writers of the Torah, we should recognise that they only invented this theology because outside of worldly rewards and punishments they couldn’t give any meaning to the idea of God’s justice. Christian believers should ask if it’s really an improvement to shift the holocaust of God’s anger into a last judgement.

My own conviction is that John’s gospel explains this matter best: “the light came into the world, but (some) people preferred the darkness”. Human beings are judged by their own refusal to accept God’s love, in that the divine wisdom and peace is absent from their lives. Love, even God’s love, will not impose itself on an unwilling partner, either now or in eternity. God respects human freedom even when it rejects him. The result may be the terrifying judgement described by St Irenaeus: He will leave them in the darkness they have chosen. We can see this happening in this world, for example in our overuse of the earth’s resources, our carelessness with our fellow creatures and our poisoning of the ecosystem. If we reject God’s warnings, he will not intervene to prevent the disastrous consequences of our folly.

Matthew 22:41-46

The Question about David’s Son

Samuel anoints David

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:42‘What do you think of the Messiah?* Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit* calls him Lord, saying,
44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,    until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Matthew uses this anecdote to question the current Jewish teaching about the Messiah. The awaited “Mashiach” (anointed one) was called “Son of David” because he was supposed to be a fulfillment of God’s promise to David that his dynasty would bring success to Israel. Prophets like Isaiah had spoken of an anointed one who would grow from the stump of David. Luke’s gospel is careful to show the birth of Christ in the light of this prophecy: Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Bethlehem because he was “of the house and lineage of David.” The messianic hope of most Israelities was of a divinely inspired leader who would restore sovereignity to Israel while offering justice to all peoples.

 Matthew shows Jesus questioning this concept with a simple point: if David, in his Psalm, calls the anointed king, “My Lord”, how can he be David’s son? This leaves the true status of the Mashiach  a mystery. Jesus hints that if the Mashiach is son of anyone it must be someone more important than David. God’s true anointed is not bound by the conventions of human kingship. It may seem to Christian believers a point which hs little relevance to their concerns. They should ask themselves whether worldly ideas of power have not from time to time crept into their image of Jesus. The British PM recently talked about the strength of being a Christian nation-doubtless he meant kind of Christian nation which not so long ago had a world empire. Some US politicians talk about Christ making America strong-doubtless meaning strong enough to be THE superpower as it was only twenty years ago. Some evangelists teach that Christian faith makes you successful in business. These are all variations of the “messiah-son-of-David” whom Jesus rejected.

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