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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The One and the Many

Daily Readings
Proverbs 24 + Joshua 7 + Jonah 2 + Ephesians 2

Quote of the Day
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy (KJV). Jonah 2:8

Daily Text: Joshua 7:1, 6-11, 20a, 24-25

But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the LORD burned against the Israelites.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the ground on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7Joshua said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all, to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us? Would that we had been content to settle beyond the Jordan! 8O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has turned their backs to their enemies! 9The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will you do for your great name?"
10 The LORD said to Joshua, "Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face? 11Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings. 20And Achan answered Joshua, "It is true; I am the one who sinned against the LORD God of Israel. 24Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, with the silver, the mantle, and the bar of gold, with his sons and daughters, with his oxen, donkeys, and sheep, and his tent and all that he had; and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25Joshua said, "Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD is bringing trouble on you today." And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast

The One and the Many
Achan’s sin is Israel’s sin. This notion that the entire community is affected by the acts of one is common throughout biblical theology and extends easily into the New Testament [Cf. Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 5, and his image of the body]. In Hebrew conception the personality of one person extended far beyond his own person to that of his family, his possessions, his tribe, his people. A man’s soul or nephesh is not “conceived as but one part of man’s being, but the complete personality as a unified manifestation of vital power; it represents what Pedersen as called ‘the grasping of a totality.’ Likewise “…a man’s personality is thought of as extending throughout his , ‘house’ or ‘household’. …Accordingly, in Israelite thought the individual, as a nephesh or centre of power capable of indefinite extension is never a mere isolated unit; he lives in constant reaction towards others” [420:4-7].

Israel lost the battle, and did so in an obviously overwhelming fashion, not to be characterized as the simple loss of 36 soldiers out of 3,000, but more likely a much larger percentage. It was serious and Joshua responded in despair. His prayer is not only desperate, but he charges God with failure. Verse 9 could easily be seen as a taunt, “What will you do for your great name?” The loss of one’s name is a further extension of the view seen in paragraph one above. Lose your name and your loss is complete. So the taunt is that if Israel is lost, God will be lost from the stage of humankind. YHWH’s response is immediate and peremptory. He is not happy with Joshua, “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant….” Achan has sinned, Israel is implicated and by reference so is Israel’s God. The power of one person! But that person’s power is as great when it is for good. So we ought never to see ourselves as simply one among many. We are both one and many.

The H. Communion
George Herbert

Not in rich furniture, or fine array
Nor in a wedge of gold,
Thou, who from me wast sold,
To me dost now thy self convey;
For so thou shouldst without me still have been,
Leaving within me sin:

But by the way of nourishment and strength
Thou creepst into my breast;
Making thy way my rest,
And thy small quantities my length;
Which spread their forces into every part,
Meeting sins force and art.

Yet can these not get over to my soul,
Leaping the wall that parts
Our souls and fleshly hearts;
But as th’ outworks, they may control
My rebel-flesh, and carrying thy name,
Affright both sin and shame.

Only thy grace, with which these elements comes,
Knoweth the ready way,
And hath the privy key,
Op’ning the souls most subtle rooms;
While those to spirits refined, at door attend
Dispatches from their friend.

Give me my captive soul, or take
My body also thither.
Another lift like this will make
Them both to be together.

Before that sin turned flesh to stone,
And all our lump to leaven;
A fervent sigh might well have blown
Our innocent earth to heaven.

For sure when Adam did not know
To sin, or sin to smother;
He might to heaven from Paradise go,
As from one room t’another.

Thou hast restored us to this ease
By this thy heavenly blood;
Which I can go in, when I please,
And leave th’ earth to their food.


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