Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, May 06, 2005

Interests

Daily Readings
Proverbs 13 + Numbers 32 + Deuteronomy 25 + Romans 7

Quote of the Day
In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4

Daily Text: Numbers 32:1-5

Now the Reubenites and the Gadites owned a very great number of cattle. When they saw that the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead was a good place for cattle, 2the Gadites and the Reubenites came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3"Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon-- 4the land that the LORD subdued before the congregation of Israel--is a land for cattle; and your servants have cattle." 5They continued, "If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; do not make us cross the Jordan."
Now the Reubenites and the Gadites owned a very great number of cattle. When they saw that the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead was a good place for cattle, 2the Gadites and the Reubenites came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3"Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon-- 4the land that the LORD subdued before the congregation of Israel--is a land for cattle; and your servants have cattle." 5They continued, "If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; do not make us cross the Jordan."
33 Moses gave to them—to the Gadites and to the Reubenites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph—the kingdom of King Sihon of the Amorites and the kingdom of King Og of Bashan, the land and its towns, with the territories of the surrounding towns. 39The descendants of Machir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were there; 40so Moses gave Gilead to Machir son of Manasseh, and he settled there. 41Jair son of Manasseh went and captured their villages, and renamed them Havvoth-jair.* 42And Nobah went and captured Kenath and its villages, and renamed it Nobah after himself.

Interests
The issue here is whether or not these two and one-half tribes will continue loyal to the whole community and the LORD, or will selfishly abandon the enterprise in their own interests. Moses, in his anger, sums this up quite succinctly. In his mind there is no question but that this action could bring the Lord’s wrath down upon the whole congregation once again.

In response the Reubenites, the Gadites and presumably the Machirite clan (remember the daughters of Zelophehad) from the tribe of Mannasah clearly commit themselves to the congregation and offer to send all of their fighting men as the vanguard of the army that will conquer Canaan. In doing this they ameliorate the questionable ethical issues that surround the volatile notion of tribal and national ‘interests’ that seem to motivate most peoples in most generations, certainly including our own.

The whole notion of acting primarily in one’s own interest, conflicts with the message of God in scripture. That is, God is one who cares for all. The Israelites were to be a nation of priests to minister to the world. Likewise, the Christians, and in no place in Scripture is there the notion that nations are not required to follow God. They, like individuals, are called to serve. They are not excused for their bad behavior and they are judged or blessed according to their behavior. One is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, that is, we are to look out for the interests of others in as primary a way as we do our own. Enemies are to be loved and treated as well as friends! Submission is required long before domination becomes a possibility. This is abhorrent to human nature, but we are to take on the nature of God. The whole point in Jesus’ coming and dying was to create that reality. Paul in Romans 7 addresses that as the dividing issue between the law and the freedom offered by Christ’s death and resurrection. Sin, that is, acting as if you are the center of the universe when by definition only God can be, is aroused by law and seen for what it is in the light of God’s love showing through the sacrifice of Christ.

Place Names
Thomas Merton

Jair the son of Manasseh went and seized the encampments
And called them the Encampments of Jair
Nobah went and seized Kenath
With its outlying villages
And called it Nobah
After himself
(Numbers 32:41-42)

1871-1883

Baron Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay
(Tibud Maclay)
Comes and goes
Exploring
Recording the language
As a reward for hospitality
Leaves the coast with
To further honor
The place where he landed
He called it “Constantine Harbour”
(Grand Duke Constantine
President of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society
Had paid for the trip.)

1878

Australian gold-prospectors
Put in at Bongu
In the good ship Dove
But leave at once
Forgetting to name the place
“Dove Harbor”
But there is a “Dove Point”
A hundred miles up the coast.

1884

Herr Finsch
Representing the Neu Guinea Kompagnie
Hoists the German flag
Over “Bismarck (naturally)
Archipelago” “Kaiser
(Of course) Wilhelmsland”
and last but not least
“Finschhafen.”
395:158

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