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

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Holiness Strategy

Daily Readings
Proverbs 14 + Numbers 33 + Deuteronomy 26 + Romans 8

Quote of the Day
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD. Romans 8:35-39

Daily Text: Numbers 33:50-56
50 In the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 51Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their figured stones, destroy all their cast images, and demolish all their high places. 53You shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54You shall apportion the land by lot according to your clans; to a large one you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small one you shall give a small inheritance; the inheritance shall belong to the person on whom the lot falls; according to your ancestral tribes you shall inherit. 55But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides; they shall trouble you in the land where you are settling. 56And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.

Holiness Strategy
Prior to entering the land, Moses recites every step of the 40 year journey from Egypt to this place on the banks of the Jordan River. It is one of the traditions concerning the route they took and is in conflict with other descriptions [cf. Numbers 14:25, 20:14-21 and 21:4] that had the Israelites at Kadesh not long into the exodus, rather than marching for 38 years before arriving at Kadesh. Deuteronomy 2:1 clearly agrees with Numbers 14:25.
However, Numbers 33 came out of an oral tradition that may well have been preserved for generations before being put in writing. The basics are quite similar.

This recitation of the journey serves to bring the people to the jumping off place into Canaan, and Moses’ instructions are meant to not only preserve the land for the Israelites, but to preserve their faithfulness to the Lord. They are to do three things: 1) drive out the inhabitants, 2) destroy all of the pagan religious symbols, and 3) assign the land systematically to tribal groups with the ability to hold their inheritance. Only by doing these things will Israel be able to continue serving and pleasing YHWH. It is not an unreasonable plan and it harks back to the vision of Balaam that these people are to live alone, to be a separate and holy people.

Marching Song
Naphtali Herz Imber
Translated by Israel Zangwill

Like the crash of the thunder
Which splitteth asunder
The flame of the cloud,
On our ears ever falling,
A voice is heard calling
From Zion aloud:
“Let your spirits’ desires
For the land of your sires
Eternally burn.
From the foe to deliver
Our own holy river,
To Jordan return.”
Where the soft, flowing atream
Murmurs low as in dream,
There set we our watch.
Our watchword “The sword
Of our land and our Lord—“
By Jordan there set we our watch.

Rest in peace, loved land,
For we rest not, but stand,
Off shaken our sloth.
When the bolts of war rattle
To shirk not the battle,
We make thee our oath,
As we hope for a Heaven,
Thy chains shall be riven,
Thine ensign unfurled.
And in pride of our race
We will fearlessly face
The might of the world.
When our trumpet is blown
And our standard is flown,
Then set we our watch.
Our watchword, “The sword
Of our land and our Lord—“
By Jordan then set we our watch.

Yea, as long as there be
Birds in air, fish in sea,
And blood in our veins;
And the lions in might,
Leaping down from the height,
Shake, roaring, their manes;
And the dew nightly laves
The forgotten old graves
Where Judah’s sires sleep,
We swear, who are living,
To rest not in striving,
To pause not to weep;
Let the trumpet be blown,
Let the standard be flown,
Now set we our watch.
Our watchword, “The sword
Of our land and our Lord—“
In Jordan now set we our watch.

Friday, May 06, 2005


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.

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)


Baron Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay
(Tibud Maclay)
Comes and goes
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.)


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.


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

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Daily Readings
Proverbs 12 + Numbers 31 + Deuteronomy 24 + Romans 6

Quote of the Day
Fools show their anger at once,
But the prudent ignore an insult. Proverbs 12:16

Daily Text: Numbers 31:1-9, 25-30, 48-51

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2"Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people." 3So Moses said to the people, "Arm some of your number for the war, so that they may go against Midian, to execute the Lord's vengeance on Midian. 4You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war." 5So out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe were conscripted, twelve thousand armed for battle. 6Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phineas son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for sounding the alarm in his hand.
7 They did battle against Midian, as the LORD had commanded Moses, and killed every male. 8They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 9The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty.
25 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 26"You and Eleazar the priest and the heads of the ancestral houses of the congregation make an inventory of the booty captured, both human and animal. 27Divide the booty into two parts, between the warriors who went out to battle and all the congregation. 28From the share of the warriors who went out to battle, set aside as tribute for the LORD, one item out of every five hundred, whether persons, oxen, donkeys, sheep, or goats. 29Take it from their half and give it to Eleazar the priest as an offering to the LORD. 30But from the Israelites' half you shall take one out of every fifty, whether persons, oxen, donkeys, sheep, or goats--all the animals--and give them to the Levites who have charge of the tabernacle of the LORD."
48 Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, approached Moses, 49and said to Moses, "Your servants have counted the warriors who are under our command, and not one of us is missing. 50And we have brought the Lord's offering, what each of us found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and pendants, to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD." 51Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from them, all in the form of crafted articles.

With the account of the Midianite war we begin this scorched earth policy of destroying everything and everyone except the booty. Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the high priest, is sent as priest on this campaign. We have already seen Phineas at work (Numbers 25:7) in very zealous fashion and his presence highlights the ‘holy war’ this seems to be. We know that in this case and in the clearing of the land to come that this policy of killing all males and mature women was to create a place for the Israelites free of pagan worship and influence. If they allowed the women to live and the Israelite men married the pagan women they would be influenced by them in their religion as well as in other cultural ways. They almost never carried this holocaust out thoroughly, but the principle was in place and it was understood.

On this occasion they reportedly killed all the men and brought the women back as part of the booty. Moses is furious and commands them to kill all of the females who have had sexual intercourse. How they would know this, I can’t imagine unless they had already been raped by the Israelite soldiers—not at all an unlikely scenario.

War is a terrible process. Most folks shudder at descriptions like those in this chapter as well they should. But war is like killing meat for food. Lots of folks don’t like to think about it, but they eat meat regularly. This sort of terrible travesty is a part of war. When the U. S. invaded Iraq in 2002 we dropped leaflets telling people to come out of their homes with their hands up and they would be safe. But many are the accounts we have of their being mown down indiscriminately. There is no justification for it, but war is obscene, always. War is wrong, but war is culturally acceptable. Let’s not get superior over war tactics 3000 years ago.

Did God command the war or was Moses anger responsible for it? Was Balaam in Midian or was he in Mesopotamia? How were all Midianite males removed and yet Midian was able to continue as a nation that fought Israel (Judges 6-8)? The Midianites are completely subdued with no loss of life among the Israelite warriors! Why is it that many cultures treat the enemy as if he (and she) is less than human? In order to kill indiscriminately? Remember the phrase in the American Indian wars,“The only good Indian is a dead Indian?” I was in the Dominican Republic in 1965 when President Johnson sent in the troops and I heard an American soldier in Santo Domingo say that about Dominicans. By demonizing the enemy we overcome the religious and cultural prohibitions against killing. Christians may not demonize their enemies. The New Testament and Jesus are clearly against war. Instead, Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies. He didn’t say we wouldn’t have enemies, but we are to love them, and treat as we would be treated. The Church has seldom embraced Jesus' teaching completely, with notable exceptions like the Mennonites and Quakers, but it has tried to limit the atrocities that we see in Numbers 31 and Iraq with the Doctrine of Just War that imperfectly attempts to limit what can be done in war. These are huge issues for Christians and for Jews. Surely, the only appropriate posture is one of humility.

O God of Field and CityJohn Haynes Holmes

O God of field and city,
O Lord of shore and sea,
Behold us in Thy pity
Lift naked hands to Thee.
Our swords and spears are shattered,
Our walls of stone down-thrust,
Our reeking altars scattered
And trodden in the dust.

O God of law unbroken,
O Lord of justice done,
Thine awful word is spoken
From sun to flaming sun:
We hate and we are hated,
We slay, and lo, are slain;
We feed and still unsated
We hunt our prey again.

O God of mercy tender,
O Lord of love most free,
Forgive as we surrender
Our wayward wills to Thee.
Absolve our fell allegiance
To captain and to king;
Receive in full obedience
The chastened hearts we bring.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Subordinate Status

Daily Readings
Proverbs 11 + Numbers 30 + Deuteronomy 23 + Romans 5

Quote of the Day
For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10

Daily Text: Numbers 30:1-9

Then Moses said to the heads of the tribes of the Israelites: This is what the LORD has commanded. 2When a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
3 When a woman makes a vow to the LORD, or binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house, in her youth, 4and her father hears of her vow or her pledge by which she has bound herself, and says nothing to her; then all her vows shall stand, and any pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5But if her father expresses disapproval to her at the time that he hears of it, no vow of hers, and no pledge by which she has bound herself, shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her, because her father had expressed to her his disapproval. 6If she marries, while obligated by her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her at the time that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8But if, at the time that her husband hears of it, he expresses disapproval to her, then he shall nullify the vow by which she was obligated, or the thoughtless utterance of her lips, by which she bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her. 9(But every vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, by which she has bound herself, shall be binding upon her.)

Subordinate Status
The making of a vow is binding. Whether civil or religious, a vow, a solemn promise is an issue that becomes a religious matter. Presumably this is so because it involves integrity, telling and living out the truth, and whenever the truth is at stake, the nature of God is at stake, because God is truth and truth is one. I cannot say one thing and live another and be having anything to do with the truth. Another example of this is Proverbs 11:1 “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.” Lying or failing to carry through with a vow is an abomination, not just to those betrayed, but to the Lord.

It is thus that religious matters are entangled thoroughly with civil behavior. It is why they cannot be separated. It is why being religious on the Sabbath alone is not only impossible, it is anathema, and shameful.

In Numbers 30 men and women were required to live out valid vows. But for women the validity of their vows was limited by their subordinate status to men. Their fathers or husbands validated or invalidated their vows as they wished. Only a mature unmarried woman did not have this limitation when it came to vows. The Torah was moving toward equality in the sexes, but not very quickly. It continued to reflect the patriarchal, male dominated culture of which it was a part. In fact, it is probably fair to say that women were expected to obey all of the negative commandments, but were subject to men’s permission in following the positive ones. A good example of the movement in the Torah is that of the daughters of Zelophehad who we met in Numbers 27. They were given the freedom to inherit their father’s property, but only if they married within there own tribe. Men could not leave their own tribe no matter who they married. Women were the ones to leave. This remains visible today in Western society in the matter of names. Men keep their father’s or mother’s surname, the women change theirs to that of the husband. This male orientation is both blessing and bane. Blessing in the sense that it reflects that there must be a social order or chaos will result. Bane because in the present order women are almost always the subordinate ones, even though valiant efforts are made and will continue to be made to move toward their legal and religious equality.

Perhaps the status of women is one place where religion is not totally entangled with the civil life. For in the bible women do stand before God on their own responses. Ethical behavior, dignity, and matters of faith place women and men equal before God. However, as soon as one moves into the civil society, the civil rules apply. At a very deep level this is a violation of the integrity that God represents in our lives, and every person should work assidously at removing that conflict in their own and others lives. Whether all of the anomaly is correctable is a question. Like addressing the issue of poverty and wealth, to simply give all of ones wealth away to the poor neither corrects the imbalance or changes the social order. One simply has a newly impoverished person. Now poverty may be a religious issue for the one involved as it was for the rich young ruler in Jesus time, but as a corrective for the social imbalance it is useless. That is not to say that a government should not do all in its power to reduce those imbalances through just taxation, as our government generally has done until recent times, but the social is not correctable by private parties except by bringing about effective legislation. So with the matter of women’s subordination.

I Sit and Look Out
From “Leaves of Grass”
Walt Whitman

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful
after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these
sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to
preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor,and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—all the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Gate of the Year

Daily Readings
Proverbs 10 + Numbers 29 + Deuteronomy 22 + Romans 4

Quote of the Day
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, ….) Romans 4:16

Daily Text: Numbers 29:1, 2a, 7, 12, 39

On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, 2and you shall offer a burnt offering, a pleasing odor to the LORD….7On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and deny yourselves; you shall do no work.
12 On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. You shall celebrate a festival to the LORD seven days. 39These you shall offer to the LORD at your appointed festivals, in addition to your votive offerings and your freewill offerings, as your burnt offerings, your grain offerings, your drink offerings, and your offerings of well-being.

The Gate of the Year
The religious year of the Jewish people is recorded in chapters 28, 29 of Numbers and corresponds to the sort of religious calendar later adopted by the Church. However, while the Church is on a solar calendar with Easter being set by the vernal equinox, and the first day of the new year being the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Jewish calendar is based on a lunar calendar and is based on the new moon and a system of months that rotate roughly according to agricultural seasons. The first day of the seventh month thus becomes the religious new year, Rosh Hashanah, at the time of the autumn harvest. In that month, Tishri, they celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the day of Atonement on the 10th, a fast day, and a week long Feast of Tabernacles beginning on the 15th. In the first ordinal month, Passover is celebrated on the 15th of Nisan which falls in the Spring.

The lunar calendar is made up of 29 and 30 day months marked by the new moon with a leap month occurring seven out of every nineteen years to make up the eleven day loss in the solar calendar. Each month the new moon was celebrated with special sacrifices as noted in Numbers 28:11. The placement of the Sabbath in each seven day week was in conflict with the ancient lunar calendar and was one of the reasons why the Jews became so marked by its observance. It must have been difficult to even establish it in the midst of cultures who knew only lunar celebrations, but establish it they did until the Sabbath became the peculiar mark of this people who are better known for the observance of their faith than their genetic origens. It might be fair to say that God was at their center; for other peoples the nation was their center and their gods bolstered the nation. That is, for example, arguably true for the United States, as well, as is experienced by any clergy person who happens to speak out politically in a manner not embraced by his or her communicants. As a result the clergy tend to remain quiet about political matters. Not so the prophets of Israel even though it sometimes cost them their livelihood or even became a threat to their lives [cf. Jeremiah].

From the Gate of the Year 1
M. Louise Haskins, contemporary English

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone east.
So, heart, be still!
What need our little life,
Our human life, to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low
God hideth His intention.

1King George VI, of Great Britain, quoted the first five lines in his Christmas Broadcast to the World at the beginning of the second world war, 1939.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Animal Sacrifice

Daily Readings
Proverbs 9 + Numbers 28 + Deuteronomy 21 + Romans 3

Quote of the Day
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10

Daily Text: Numbers 28:1, 2

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2Command the Israelites, and say to them: My offering, the food for my offerings by fire, my pleasing odor, you shall take care to offer to me at its appointed time.

Animal Sacrifice
Animal sacrifice. It is in the 21st century United States an anomalous and uninteresting topic. But is it abhorrent? What is it about animal sacrifice that leaves us cold? Could it be the primitive nature of sacrifice? The idea that killing an animal for a cultic mean is crude and without feeling? For the Jew of the eighth century B.C. it was a way to place the worshipper into a thoughtful, even prayerful relationship with God. In the case of the offerings described the worshipper brought the animal to a designated holy place and there made the sacrifice, sharing the meat with temple or tabernacle priests and Levites, and then sitting with family and friends for a meal of the sacrificed animal. Among the devout it was always understood that repentance and amendment of life must accompany these sacrifices to make them efficacious. Is it unlike a Lenten discipline? Do we really think giving up sugar without some spiritual intention that is actively pursued will do us or anyone else any good, beyond some ephemeral weight loss?

No, we continue to have feasts, not unlike the ones held in ancient times, feasts when family and friends gather around a roast lamb or side of beef. What has changed are the religious overtones and the fact that we have someone else do the dirty work, that is, the slaughtering.

The primitive nature of the sacrificial system often had to do with the idea that the gods wanted to see blood, or even eat the sacrifice. In Numbers 28: 2 the emphasis is on the god claiming the offerings as his own, and the pleasure taken in the ‘pleasing odor.’ At Gilgamesh there was found a parallel:
“The gods smelled the savor,
The gods smelled the goodly savor,
The gods gathered like flies over the sacrificer” [185:67]
But this has little to with Hebrew worship. In Psalms 50 this matter is addressed directly:
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.”

A change in world view is what affects us most directly and in order to read any ancient text and get any meaning out of it, one must intelligently suspend judgment on someone else’s world view, and understanding that, find meaning within their own. It is the most difficult of matters in reading holy scripture. One can neither adopt their world view or reject it and make sense for our time out of these writings. To accept these writings in some literal fashion is to hold the holy up to ridicule. To drop kick them into comic comments is to treat them similarly. Both of these attitudes is all too common in our own supposedly enlightened age. With Plaut we might readily say, “This does not mean that our age ought to be ready for any reconsideration of cultic sacrifice. It does suggest that when seen in its own context the biblical order of animal offerings was a genuine form of worship that cannot be quickly dismissed with prejudicial contemporary judgements.” [185:1218]. God has always reached out for his own in terms of the culture of the time. Alter that culture where necessary to be faithful, but accept it as the only way a people can live with sense and practicality in any age.

Meditation Twenty-Five
Second Series

Edward Taylor

One Lamb shalt thou offer in the Morning, and the other at Even.
And on the Sabbath day two Lambs etc.

Guilty, my Lord, what can I more declare?
Thou knowst the case, and cases of my soul.
A box of tinder: sparks that falling o’er
Set all on fire, and work me all in shoals.
A pouch of passion is my pericard.
Sparks fly when o’er my flint and steel strike hard.

I am a dish of dumps: yea ponderous dross,
Black blood all clotted, burdening my heart,
That anger’s anvil, and my bark bears moss.
My spirits soaked are drunk with blackish art.
If any virtue stir, it is but feeble.
Th’ Earth magnet is, my heart’s the trembling needle.

My Manna breedeth worms: thoughts flyblown are.
My heart’s the temple of the God of Flies.
My tongue’s an altar of forbidden ware
Fancy a foolish fire enflamed by toys
Perfumed with reeking offerings of sins
Whose steaming reeks delight hobgoblins.

My Lord, is there no help for this with thee?
Must I abuse, and be abused thus?
There morn, and even sacrifices be:
To cleanse the sins of day, and night from us.
Christ is the lamb: my prayer each morn and night
As incense offer I up in thy sight.

My morn, and evening sacrifice I bring
With incense sweet upon mine altar Christ,
With oil and wine two quarters of an hin
With flower for a mean offering all well spiced
On bended knees, with hands that tempt the skies.
This is each day’s atoning sacrifice.

And thou the Sabbath settledst at the first
And wilt continue it till last. Wherefore,
Who strike down Gospel Sabbaths are accursed.
Two lambs, a meat, and drink offering God more
Conferred on it than any other day
As types the Gospel Sabbaths to display.

Here is atonement made: and spiritual wine
Poured out to God: and sanctified bread
From Heaven’s given us: what! shall we decline
With God communion, thus to be fed?
This Heavenly fare will make true grace to thrive.
Such as deny this thing are not alive.

I’ll tend thy Sabbaths: at thine altar feed.
And never make thy type a nullity.
The ceremonies cease, but yet the creed
Contained therein, continues gospelly,
That make my feeble spirits will grow frim
Hence I in Sabbath Service love to swim.

My vespers and my matins I’ll attend:
My Sabbath service carry on I will.
Atoning efficacy God doth send
To sinners in this path, and grace here stills.
Still this on me until I glory gain.
And then I’ll sing thy praise in better strain.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Daily Readings
Proverbs 8 + Numbers 27 + Deuteronomy 20 + Romans 2

Quote of the Day
If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? Deuteronomy20:19

Daily Text: Numbers 27:12-23
12 The LORD said to Moses, "Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. 13When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled with me. You did not show my holiness before their eyes at the waters." (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)
15 Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16"Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation 17who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep without a shepherd." 18So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; 19have him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20You shall give him some of your authority, so that all the congregation of the Israelites may obey. 21But he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the decision of the Urim before the LORD; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the Israelites with him, the whole congregation." 22So Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation; 23he laid his hands on him and commissioned him--as the LORD had directed through Moses.

Moses will not be going across the Jordan into the land. So consistent is this prohibition and so oft repeated that it strikes one as being important in way not expressed. It certainly makes crystal clear the reality that before God there are no special privileges for leaders. They are not above the law, one might say. Their actions carry consequences. Much sympathy accrues to Moses, however into the land he does not go. If editors were creating this story, Moses would be going into the land at the head of his people. That he does not speaks volumes for the historical veracity of this recital.

But there will need to be leadership and Moses cognizant of that asks God to appoint someone. Joshua is selected and commissioned with the laying on of hands, an age old tradition that continues to this day in the ordination of rabbis, Christian priests and other orders. A midrash says, “Moses laying his hands on Joshua may be compared to one candle lighting another. No light is lost to the former.” For the Christian deacon, priest or bishop there is the realization that the laying on of hands looks back to Jesus’ laying hands on Peter. Since then it has been hand to head throughout the intervening generations. With Joshua’s ordination we may extend that with the realization that both of these men named as saviors of their people experienced similar ordinations. For Jesus it was at the hands of John Baptist. The importance here is not the act, but that God ordained the act. Joshua was a man of spirit [Numbers 27:18]. The laying on of hands did not transfer the spirit to him. For Jesus that was obviously true as well. We can only pray that ordination today continues in that line, not believing that the bishop conveys something, but rather recognizes God’s spirit within the person, including those confirmed following their baptism. We are a people of spirit, of a holy spirit, having God’s spirit within us.

A Poet-Preacher’s Prayer
From Paradise Lost, Book I
John Milton

O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st;..
What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the highth of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.