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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Purging Evil: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 16:18-17:20 with poem by Robert Herrick, To His Conscience

Daily Readings
Psalm 71, Numbers 22:41-23:30, Deuteronomy 16:18-17:20, Matthew 21

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 16:18-17:20

Purging Evil
Justice is an overriding concern for Israel, because it is for Israel’s God. Twice in this passage (17:7, 12) we read the words “So you shall purge the evil from (your midst) Israel.” This is the divine concern that underlies the rule of law and the drive for justice. The Deuteronomist sets up a structure for policing evil: locally appointed judges and officials, centrally located Levitical priests and a cult judge and finally, though not required, a king. At the very lowest level there are guidelines for rendering just decisions:
• Do not distort justice
• Show no partiality
• Accept no bribes
“Jewish law came to be known as halachah, ‘the way to go’ to fulfill the divine intent. Giving meticulous attention to its minutiae was to be doing His will, and, while in time this preoccupation often became extreme, its ultimate purpose was never in question: it was and remained to carry out Israel’s obligation under the covenant to perfect the kingdom of the Almighty. Conversely, to act with loving kindness was to act justly, for such was one’s obligation. Tzedek, the word for justice, and tzedakah, the word for giving to others, express the same objective” (185:1461). Justice faithfully done insured that evil was kept at bay.

To His Conscience
Robert Herrick

Can I not sin, but thou wilt be
My private Protonotary?
Can I not woo thee to pass by
A short and sweet iniquity?
I’ll cast a mist and cloud, upon
My delicate transgression,
So utter dark, as that no eye
Shall see the hugged impiety:
Gifts blind the wise, and bribes do please,
And wind all other witnesses:
And wilt not thou, with gold, be tied
To lay thy pen and ink aside?
That in the murk and tongueless night,
Wanton I may, and thou not write?
It will not be: And, therefore, now,
For times to come, I’ll make this vow,
From aberrations to live free;
So I’ll not fear the Judge, or thee.

Collect for the Day
Holy God, be our strength and our salvation, that we may never be ashamed to praise you for your mighty acts. We ask this through Jesus Christ. [476:797:71 psalm prayer]


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