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.

Name:
Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, June 25, 2005

No King in Israel

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 + Judges 21 + Tobit 10 + Mark 10

Quote of the Day
I learned, too, that to condemn others is a grave mistake, since hatred, and even the wrong kind of criticism, is an evil which recoils upon its author and poisons every human relationship.

That does not mean we should be blind to the weaknesses or wickednesses of others, any more than to our own, but that we should learn to look on them as the limitations of birth and circumstance, limitations which it is our duty to help them to rise above. In this I have found that example and service are more helpful than advice or preaching. Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953) [429:40]

Daily Text: Judges 21:1-3, 5, 9, 19-23, 25
Now the Israelites had sworn at Mizpah, "No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin." 2And the people came to Bethel, and sat there until evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. 3They said, "O LORD, the God of Israel, why has it come to pass that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?" 5Then the Israelites said, "Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?" For a solemn oath had been taken concerning whoever did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, "That one shall be put to death." 9For when the roll was called among the people, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 19So they said, "Look, the yearly festival of the LORD is taking place at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah." 20And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying, "Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21and watch; when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, 'Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.'" 23The Benjaminites did so; they took wives for each of them from the dancers whom they abducted. Then they went and returned to their territory, and rebuilt the towns, and lived in them. 25In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

No King in Israel
Two vows were taken by the Israelites around the sin of Gibeah. 1)No tribe will give its daughters to Benjamin, and 2)Anyone that does not fight against Benjamin will themselves be put to the sword. The first vow was an ineffective, spiteful one, that was seen as such almost immediately. If they wanted to punish Benjamin the first vow wouldn’t do it. So they chose to go to war and the second vow was thus punitive to coerce complete acquiescence. It evidently worked except in Jabesh-gilead, the inhabitants of which had Rachel as an ancestor, Rachel the mother of Benjamin. They also may have seen that results of punishing a whole tribe for the sins of a few hotheads might themselves be rather disastrous. They were of course.

But self-righteousness knows no bounds. Having killed all of Benjamin with the exception of 600 warriors, Israel was faced with the complete loss of the tribe. After all they couldn’t give their daughters! So to honor a silly vow, they invoke the punitive one and carry out the civil war against another clan, killing them all with the exception of 400 virgins. So the unmarried daughters of Jabesh-gilead, who supported the Benjaminites, now become their wives by force, with a lifetime of grief to accompany them. To provide the other 200 the leaders play games with their silly vow and with the daughters of many tribes, and with their covenant with God. They instruct the remaining 200 Benjaminites to abduct by force a virgin for a wife. How would they find these virgins? They would sneak up on festivities surrounding a covenantal assembly in Shiloh, where Israel gathered to worship and honor the LORD and when the young, unmarried women, virgins by definition, danced their praise to the LORD they would snatch them and run. Were there no depths to which the leaders in Israel would not stoop to work their will on the people? Certainly, they could not be trusted.

A king was needed, obviously, and ironically one was provided in this despicable set of actions, for Saul, the first king of Israel was a Benjaminite. Therefore, the last verse suggesting that a king is needed, is also the first verse of the books of Samuel, the last judge who himself discovered and anointed Saul king at the command of the LORD.
But after the assembly at Shiloh, at the conclusion of all their machinations, the leaders, leaving all the pain they had created for others, simply went home—each “to their own territories” (vs. 24).

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

From Ash Wednesday
T. S. Eliot

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.
[428:384]

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Civil War Engaged

Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 11 + Judges 20:8-48 + Tobit 9 + Luke 1:57-80

Quote of the Day
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78, 79

Daily Text: Judges 20:8-9, 11-13, 24-29, 35
8All the people got up as one, saying, "We will not any of us go to our tents, nor will any of us return to our houses. 9But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot. 11So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one.
12 The tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, "What crime is this that has been committed among you? 13Now then, hand over those scoundrels in Gibeah, so that we may put them to death, and purge the evil from Israel." But the Benjaminites would not listen to their kinsfolk, the Israelites. 24So the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites the second day. 25Benjamin moved out against them from Gibeah the second day, and struck down eighteen thousand of the Israelites, all of them armed men.
26 Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went back to Bethel and wept, sitting there before the LORD; they fasted that day until evening. Then they offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of well-being before the LORD. 27And the Israelites inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, "Shall we go out once more to battle against our kinsfolk the Benjaminites, or shall we desist?" The LORD answered, "Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand." 29So Israel stationed men in ambush around Gibeah. 35The LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel; and the Israelites destroyed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin that day, all of them armed.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Civil War Engaged
Benjamin had no intention of being disciplined by the tribal coalition. And initially, at least they appeared to be more than competent to inflict great causalities on the far larger army of Israel. But continuing to seek God’s leading at Bethel, the coalition is reassured that they are to discipline Benjamin. They do so almost wiping out the entire tribe by mounting an ambush behind the city of Gibeah.

The impression drawn in this chapter is of a majority faithful to the God of Israel, arraigned against the unfaithful few of Benjamin. It is undoubtedly a misapprehension. There is a correction here, for in spite of the chaos, in spite of the internecine struggles, there is a sense that the people are attempting to follow Yahweh. Could it be that the motivation for the book of Judges is to create the justification for a monarch in Israel? At almost every point of chaotic struggle in this book there is the notation that ‘there was no king in Israel’ and for that reason the people did what was right in their own eyes, making the case for a strong monarchy. Judges demonstrates that a loose federation will not work. YHWH in the succeeding centuries demonstrates that a monarchy works little better in creating and keeping a people faithful to their god.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

From Song of Myself
Walt Whitman

34
Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,
(I tell not the fall of Alamo,
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,)
‘Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and
twelve young men.

Retreating they had form’d in a hollow square with their
baggage for breastworks,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy’s, nine times
their number, was the price they took in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,
They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv’d writing
and seal, gave up their arms and march’d back prisoners
of war.

They were the glory of the race of rangers,
Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,
Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,
Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,
Not a single one over thirty years of age.

The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads
and massacred, it was beautiful early summer,
The work commenced about five o’clock and was over by
eight.
None obey’d the command to kneel,
Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and
straight,
A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and
dead lay together,
The maim’d and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers
saw them there,
Some half-kill’d attempted to crawl away,
These were despatch’d with bayonets or batter’d with the
blunts of muskets,
A youth not seventeen years old seiz’d his assassin till two
more came to release him,
The three were all torn and cover’d with the boy’s blood.

At eleven o’clock began the burning of the bodies;
That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve
young men.
[428:146]

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The King They Need is God

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 10 + Judges 19:1-20:7 + Tobit 8 + Mark 9

Quote of the Day
Blessed are you because you have made me glad.
It has not turned out as I expected,
but you have dealt with us according to your great mercy. Tobit 8:16

Daily Text: Judges 19:1-4, 20-30
In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite, residing in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. 3Then her husband set out after her, to speak tenderly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. When he reached her father's house, the girl's father saw him and came with joy to meet him. 4His father-in-law, the girl's father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days; so they ate and drank, and he stayed there. 20The old man said, "Peace be to you. I will care for all your wants; only do not spend the night in the square." 21So he brought him into his house, and fed the donkeys; they washed their feet, and ate and drank.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him." 23And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. 24Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing." 25But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26As morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light. 27In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28"Get up," he said to her, "we are going." But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out for his home. 29When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30Then he commanded the men whom he sent, saying, "Thus shall you say to all the Israelites, 'Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day? Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.'"


Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

The King they Need is God
Continuing the downward spiral of wickedness in the book of Judges we come to Gibeah. Most of the wickedness that we seen in this book has been related to other nations, but beginning with Abimelech and continuing with the Danites we see Israel becoming like those whom God hates—idol worshippers, those who do not follow the LORD, God of Israel, and those who do not follow the commandments given at Sinai. Beginning with this chapter, the authors and editors dwell only on the wickedness of Israelites and Israel.

The horror of Sodom is replayed in this chapter, both the lack of hospitality and the desire on the part of the men of the city to sexually ravage a visitor to the city. As in Sodom the host offers the men two women to satisfy their lusts and the mob fever. Here, as in Sodom, they refuse. But suddenly, the Levite, our central character, violently shoves his own concubine out to the men and then goes in to bed. He wakes in the morning and finds his concubine dead on the doorstep having crawled there to die after being sexually mauled all night by the mob. The horror of this for us is nothing to what it must have been for this woman of Israel! It is so foreign to our consciousness that it is probably impossible to sort out what actually happened here. The culture was so different, the expectations so foreign. For some reason hospitality was given to the men, and it could be sacrificed for women if it protected the men! This reduces the status of women to that of chattel slavery. The Levite is so angry when he arises and discovers his concubine dead, that he packs her on his donkey, takes her home, cuts her up and sends the pieces to the tribes of Israel as a provocation to revenge his loss with the Benjamites who had caused her death. His own callousness is enough to stop our blood cold. Presumably he cared not at all what she went through, since he gave her to the men in the first place, and slept the night through. So it is her death, her inhospitable death that fires his outrage. In the resultant assembly at Mizpah, nobody seems upset by the Levite’s behavior, though to be frank he does not tell all of his own part in this matter.

It is indeed a sorry day in Israel. They need a king; the king they need is God; the king they seek eventually is not God.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

from The Present Crisis
James Russell Lowell

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-struggle in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,--
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
427:316

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Employee Priests and Bullying Israelites

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 9 + Judges 18 + Tobit 7 + Mark 8

Quote of the Day
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. Mark 8:34, 35

Daily Text: Judges 18:1, 27-31
In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking for itself a territory to live in; for until then no territory among the tribes of Israel had been allotted to them.
27 The Danites, having taken what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, put them to the sword, and burned down the city. 28There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with Aram. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. They rebuilt the city, and lived in it. 29They named the city Dan, after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was formerly Laish. 30Then the Danites set up the idol for themselves. Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity. 31So they maintained as their own Micah's idol that he had made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Employee Priests and Bullying Israelites
The statement in 18:1 that no territory had been allotted to the Danites is somewhat questionable since Zorah and Eshtaol had been cities among others given to them and recorded in Joshua19:40-46. But Judges 1 indicates that the Amorites had pressed the tribe of Dan back from the plains into the hills. Zorah and Eshtaol were the cities known to Samson and his family, also Danites. However, for whatever reason these families of Dan were on the move. The statement at the beginning of this passage that there was no king in Israel is one way of expressing the lack of security, order and religious fidelity in Israel at the time. As Judges winds down, the stories become more and more filled with heinous acts. This one is characteristic.

Two things occur. Micah’s gods and priest are confiscated, the sense being that they move from one unfaithful house to a larger unfaithful retinue. While on the one hand, Micah is served his justice, the Danites simply enlarge on his unfaithfulness. The second is the attack on a peaceful, unwarlike and undefended city outside of the God-given boundaries of Israel. These men of Dan claim God’s promises, but since they are living so far outside of the covenant, it seems clear that the author of Judges is damning them with undisguised and well-known references to the LORD’s expectations. They attack Laish, a city without walls, put the entire population to the sword, burn the city to the ground and then rebuild on the site. How this is different from what the early tribes did is not commented upon, since Israel took all of its land from others. But the unspoken notion here is that these men from Dan fell upon a completely unsuspecting people, and their need for the city was a need created by their own unwillingness to take and hold the land God had originally given them because the inhabitants were warlike and strong. That is, they did not trust God to give them their allotment, but waited until they found those who could not defend themselves. It seems clear that God is not with them as He has been with the early tribesmen and with the judges themselves. The proof of the pudding for Israel is not ‘success,’ but faithfulness to the God of Israel. That their priest was a grandson of Moses is even a bigger shame for obviously this Levite is for sale to the highest bidder. It is one of the problems with having an entire tribe without inheritance. Obviously, the original intention that the Levites would all serve religious needs and thus help maintain a high level of faithful service is not working. The Levites themselves may continue to serve a religious function, but they serve at the lowest common denominator of cultic religious practice. Even for them, YHWH is no longer God or king. For whatever reason, perhaps lost to us, they are not conduits of the Torah, but employees of those able to pay them.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

From The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star
Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone at the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone
Selected Poems, p. 78

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

Good Intentions

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 8 + Judges 17 + Tobit 6:1b-18 + Mark 7

Quote of the Day
Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the human heart is fully set to do evil. Though sinners do evil a hundred times and prolong their lives, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they stand in fear before him, but it will not be well with the wicked, neither will they prolong their days like a shadow, because they do not stand in fear before God. Ecclesiastes 8:11-13

Daily Text: Judges 17:1-2, 5-6, 13
There was a man in the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2He said to his mother, ‘The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and even spoke it in my hearing—that silver is in my possession; I took it; but now I will return it to you.’* And his mother said, ‘May my son be blessed by the LORD!’ 5This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest. 6In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes. 13Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.’

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Good Intentions
Chapter 17 is a collection of materials about one Micah and a Levite, perhaps named Jonathan (cf. 18:30). The materials are not all from the same source. 17:1-4 tell of one Micahu who like the Prodigal Son takes his inheritance from his mother before her death. When she discovers the ‘theft,’ Micahu confesses, and she like the father of the Prodigal forgives him and blesses him! However, unlike the father of the Prodigal, this mother practices a flawed worship of the LORD, the God of Israel and with 200 pieces of silver she has a molten idol cast.

17:5,6 are a transitional passage to introduce Jonathan the Levite. In these verses, and for the rest of the chapter Micah’s name is shortened. Presumably the editor determined not to bring the second Micah story into conformance, but used the extant materials as they were. The editor is obviously saying in verse 6—look at how degraded the worship of the LORD is during this time in Israel’s history!

It is easy to be critical of the idols, since we know that the first and second commandment prohibited such practices. On the other hand, by the time of Josiah in the 7th century, and this may well fit into that pattern, the knowledge of the commandments had been largely lost and even well-meaning folk were guilty of transgression. It is my assumption that Micah’s confident assertion of future blessing in verse 13, because he was doing things right, was innocently come by. That is, he was following a practice widely modelled by his mother, by the Levites of the time and probably by much of the Israelite population. It was part of the price of living in a heterogeneous religious culture--a culture the LORD had warned them against many times in centuries past. Lest we judge too quickly, we need only look at the Christian church today to see how far we have innovated in line with our culture and out of step with Holy Scripture. Still, good intentions will not stay judgement. They were no more ready for the accusations of a prophet than we are.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

Retribution
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807-1882
The mills of the gods grind late, but they grind fine. Greek poet

Though the mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting,
With exactness grinds he all.
407:118

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

Monday, June 20, 2005

By the Hair of His Head

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 7 + Judges 16 + Tobit 5:1-6:1a + Mark 6

Quote of the Day
See, this alone I found, that God made human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes. Ecclesiastes 7:29

Daily Text: Judges 16:17-22
17So he told her his whole secret, and said to her, "A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head were shaved, then my strength would leave me; I would become weak, and be like anyone else."
18 When Delilah realized that he had told her his whole secret, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, "This time come up, for he has told his whole secret to me." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. 19She let him fall asleep on her lap; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. He began to weaken, and his strength left him. 20Then she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" When he awoke from his sleep, he thought, "I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him. 21So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles; and he ground at the mill in the prison.
22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

By The Hair of His Head
“God, when he gave me strength, to show withal
How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.”
from Samson Agonistes by John Milton, 409:394

Amazing how Samson identified his vow with his hair. Perhaps, this was because it was the only part of the vow he kept. As he broke another part of it with a woman, he succumbed to one who had three times proved her untrustworthiness; Taken by his enemies and having his eyes gouged out, he slaved in a mill. Samson, the one who was the very image of the freedman and the freeing Moses, became a virtual slave.

“Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave,
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains, and wrongs,
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
Life in captivity among inhuman foes.”
from Samson Agonistes by John Milton, 409:395

I say virtual slave, for as his hair grew so did his perception of the returning spirit of the LORD. Even though a slave, he was not bound by the slave's accompanying mental condition. He could imagine and pray outside the box. He continued, even at the expense of his life, to imagine the work of God to which he was called. That may have been the killing of Philistines, but then that seemed requisite in the continued freedom of Israel.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

Samson
from Samson Agonistes
John Milton

Oh! wherefore was my birth from heav’n foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an off’ring burn’d,
As in a fiery column charioting
His god-like presence, and from some great act
Or benefit reveal’d to Abraham’s race?
Why was my breeding order’d and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Design’d for great exploits, if I must die
Betray’d, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this heav’n-gifted strength? O glorious strength
Put to the labor of a beast, debased
Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke.
(409:393)

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fully Alive

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 6 + Judges 15 + Tobit 4 + Mark 5

Quote of the Day
Give some of your food to the hungry, and some of your clothing to the naked.
Give all your surplus as alms, and do not let your eye begrudge your giving of alms. Tobit 4:16

Daily Text: Judges 15:18-20
18 By then he was very thirsty, and he called on the LORD, saying, "You have granted this great victory by the hand of your servant. Am I now to die of thirst, and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" 19So God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came from it. When he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore it was named En-hakkore, which is at Lehi to this day. 20And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Fully Alive
Rushed upon by an entire contingent of Philistine’s screaming like Banshees, Samson, in the power of God’s spirit, shrugs off his bindings as if they were burning flax, that is, withering away against the power of his flexed strength. Here is a man who has not yet grown up. Here is one who blame-casts and seeks vengeance on father-in-law, friend, enemy, whoever crosses him. Except for this day when he listens to the Judahites, that simpering mass of countrymen who are unwilling to cross their oppressors. Allowing them to bind him suggests a man who has, at this one point at least, considered the welfare of others over his own. And now, as the story informs us, he picks up the jawbone of an ass and slays his opponents, afterward thirsty to the point of death. So he calls on the LORD for the first time in our text, and the LORD responds by splitting open a rock surface providing abundant water to slake his thirst. I wonder if he recalled then the story of Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness. I wonder if his privilege as a Nazarite dedicated from his mother’s womb was recalled at that moment. What was it that brought to his eyes a light, and to his young mind a new thought? For though the translation suggests only that he revived, the Hebrew text hints that at that moment he became fully alive (Boling [424:240]). Like the children of Israel who became aware of the steadfast love of the LORD and renewed their covenantal vows, Samson for the first time lived into his promise as saviour and deliverer in Israel. Is it happenstance that the editor immediately inserts, “And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years” (15:20)? Perhaps for the first time he caught a glimpse of the beauty of what the LORD was doing for Israel through him. Perhaps the Judahites came alive as well, for now they could see, that far from being a problem to Israel, Samson was the LORD’s champion in and for Israel. Would that we could see that the LORD has that in train for us as well [John 14:12].

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

The Young Samson
Edgar Fawcett

In Zorah dwells no youth like him,
So fleet of step, so firm of limb.

His long gold hair is bright as dawn;
His throat is like a stag’s for brawn.

He lets the winds blow east and west
On the brown thews of his bared breast.

With artless fancies, boyish hopes,
He roams the cool Judaean slopes.

At doors of tents, when he has passed
Where swarthy idlers moved or massed,

The murmured words his ears have won
That praised him as Manoah’s son.

A babe whose birth, ere yet it fell,
The Lord of Israel did foretell,

By sending down, in mighty grace,
The angel with the star-like face!

Grim soldiers, that across their wine
Growl curses at the Philistine,

Will soften, if he come by chance,
The eyes where lurk the wolfish glance,

And mutter low, with smile or nod:
“’Tis he—the Nazirite of God!”

But day by day the careless child
Will wander far, will wander wild.

He does not dream what webs of doom
Are weaving on the future’s loom!

He only feels that life is fair
As heaven’s unsullied arch of air;

He only knows the peace intense
That broods o’er boundless innocence!

Yet sometimes he will shrink and cower
With wonder at his own strange power.

For once a vast loose rock had rolled
Where grazed a shepherd’s frightened fold,

And he with one hand caught it up,
And tossed it like an acorn’s cup!

And once, half tired, against an oak
He leaned, when lo! its huge frame broke!

And gayly, once a stone he threw
That pierced the clouds, and died from view!
411:142

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.