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

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Shalom

Daily Readings
Psalm 78:40-72 + Joshua 21 + Amos 9 + Philemon

Quote of the Day
Not one of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:45

Daily Text: Joshua 21:1-3, 41-45

Then the heads of the families of the Levites came to the priest Eleazar and to Joshua son of Nun and to the heads of the families of the tribes of the Israelites; 2they said to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, "The LORD commanded through Moses that we be given towns to live in, along with their pasture lands for our livestock." 3So by command of the LORD the Israelites gave to the Levites the following towns and pasture lands out of their inheritance. 41The towns of the Levites within the holdings of the Israelites were in all forty-eight towns with their pasture lands. 42Each of these towns had its pasture lands around it; so it was with all these towns.
43 Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to their ancestors that he would give them; and having taken possession of it, they settled there. 44And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. 45Not one of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Shalom
Following God’s command to set up cities of refuge, the Levites come and ask for their cities of residence. Note that they have to ask, and two, they do not ask for their inheritance for they are to receive none. They have been promised only cities within which to reside and grazing rights. Their work is to be that of priest, acolyte and teacher in the communities of Israel. So restricted were the rights of the Levites in these cities that they were not even given agricultural rights, only pasture for their animals. They evidently were to live from the offerings of their fellow citizens to the worship of YHWH.

The six cities of refuge are also named as levitical cities. That is, those cities, Hebron, Shechem, Golan, Kedesh, Bezer and Ramoth serve triple duty. They belong to the clan and tribe assigned, and they serve as a city of refuge and one of the forty-eight levitical cities. In this way they became even more prominent than they were initially. For example, Hebron was the single major city given to Caleb. He would have retained possession, but its significance increased overnight by its being named as a city of refuge and levitical place of residence.

Verses 43-45 may be the primary theological summary for the book of Joshua. Everything following is appendix. The LORD had completed all of his promises covenanted with Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Not only that in a practical sense God had given them the ‘rest’ he always intended for the children of men. This rest was a complete trust in His promises. Israel should have no doubt that YHWH meant what he said when he said it. Not only that, but ‘rest’ was also rest from war—the land had been pacified, their enemies placed within their power. That Israel failed to follow the LORD’s commands to drive out those enemies was not God’s responsibility. They could have done so.

Two matters here for Christians. The first has to do with the support of its own ‘levites,’ that is, those in ordained ministry. From this time on there has been a cadre of minister’s understood to deserve support for the ministry they have with the congregation, and support comes from the gifts, tithes and offerings of the people given in response to their own covenant with God. This works well when the people carry out their own responsibility. It may well be that the Levites often took on government responsibilities in Israel, because the people were not faithful in their relationship to God. Christians simply fail to complete the ministries God has called them to when they fail to live up to the divine expectation of tithes and offerings. Having precedents in Israel should provide no comfort. The second matter has to do with the complete trust we too could have in the LORD’s provision through Jesus Christ. We too could be ‘at rest’ if we trusted enough to live out God’s expectations for us. For if we do, all of God’s promises will come to pass and we will enjoy the peace, the shalom, the rest of God, for which we all long.

O God, in Restless Living
Harry Emerson Fosdick

O God, in restless living
We lose our spirits’ peace.
Calm our unwise confusion,
Bid Thou our clamor cease.
Let anxious hearts grow quiet,
Like pools at evening still,
Till Thy reflected heavens
All our spirits fill.

Teach us, beyond our striving,
The rich rewards of rest.
Who does not live serenely
Is never deeply blest.
O tranquil, radiant Sunlight,
Bring Thou our lives to flower,
Less wearied with our effort,
More aware of power.

Reeptive make our spirits,
Our need is to be still;
As dawn fades flickering candle
So dim our anxious will.
Reveal thy radiance through us,
Thine ample strength release.
Not ours but Thine the triumph
In the power of peace.

We grow not wise by struggling,
We gain but things by strain.
We cease to water gardens,
When comes Thy plenteous rain.
O, beautify our spirits
In restfulness from strife;
Enrich our souls in secret
With abundant life.
407:1461

2 Comments:

Blogger nolesrock said...

"We too could be ‘at rest’ if we trusted enough to live out God’s expectations for us." Can you expound on this?

From a superficial reading, it seems that what you're saying is, "Measure up and be blessed/at rest." Am I misreading you? Because that would be very me-based/works-related and limit God's infinite grace.

I guess I'm most bothered by the "expectations" part. Can you explain what you perceive to be God's expectations?

3:52 PM  
Blogger Fr. James said...

Dear cmtidoyle,
For me the concept 'rest of God' is one that may be traced throughout scripture, from Gen. 2:1-3, the institution of Sabbath in Exodus, the Eucharist and in Hebrews 4. The author to the Hebrews asks his readers to 'strive' to enter to enter into that rest--one which the Hebrew people of God failed to do and I think he is suggesting that Christians often fail to do. It has to do with coming to a place of complete trust. "Works" can be seen anywhere if you look for them. Even the need to have faith could be interpreted as 'doing something' to receive grace. So while I don't see seeking God's 'rest' as works, I can see how another might. Good comment.

8:25 PM  

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