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, May 11, 2006

Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 30 with poem by Francis Quarles, Deuteronomy 30.19

Daily Readings
Proverbs 12, Joshua 1, Deuteronomy 30, II Corinthians 7

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 30

Choose Life
Even should the people be scattered to the ends of the earth, returning to the LORD will create the context for His responding to them. Seven times in verses 1-10 the word shuv, return, is used. This is not the repentance of the prophets, who begged the people to repent before they lost everything. This return assumes that they have already lost everything and are coming back from a far away ‘place,’ a place outside of God’s presence. The rabbi’s taught that “When a person seeks to purify himself, he receives help in doing so” [498:739], that is, God prepares the way within them. And the core of that way will be through internalizing, perhaps even memorizing the Torah. According to Christensen, ‘Moses taught the Torah to the people by heart—in oral recitation, as a “musical” experience (498:743). It is very near to them (Romans 10:6-9) in their mouth and in their heart (Jeremiah 31:33).

These offerings of obedience leading to blessing and life, on the one hand, and disobedience leading to cursing and death on the other are reiterated in the third segment of Deuteronomy 30, verses 15-20. Moses is very clear, ‘Choose life.’ It is the only thing that makes sense. It still is.

Deuteronomy 30.19
Francis Quarles

The world’s a floor, whose swelling heaps retain
The mingled wages of the ploughman’s toil;
The world’s a heap, whose yet unwinnowed grain
Is lodged with chaff and buried in her soil;
All things are mixed, the useful with the vain;
The good with bad, the noble with the vile;
The world’s an ark, wherein things pure and gross
Present their lossfull gain, and gainfull loss;
Where every dram of gold contains a pound of dross.

This furnished ark presents the greedy view
With all that earth can give, or Heaven can add;
Here, lasting joys; here, pleasures hourly new,
And hourly fading, may be wished and had:
All points of honor, counterfeit and true,
Salute thy soul, and wealth both good and bad:
Here mayst thou open wide the two-leaved door
Of all thy wishes, to receive that store
Which being empty most, does overflow the more.

Come then, my soul, approach this royal Bourse,
And see what wares our great Exchange retains;
Come, come; here’s that shall make a firm divorce
Betwixt thy wants and thee, if want complains;
No need to sin in council with thy purse,
Here’s nothing good shall cost more price then pains:
But O my soul, take heed; if thou rely
Upon thy faithless Optics, thou wilt buy
Too blind a bargain: know, fools only trade by th’ eye.

The worldly wisdom fo the foolish man
Is like a sieve, that does alone retain
The grosser substance of the worthless bran:
But thou, my soul, let thy brave thoughts disdain
So coarse a purchase; O be thou a fan
To purge the chaff,and keep the winnowed grain:
Make clean thy thoughts, and dress thy mixed desires,
Thou art Heaven’s tasker; and thy God requires
The purest of thy floor, as well as of thy fires.

Let grace conduct thee to the paths of peace,
And wisdom bless thy soul’s unblemished ways;
No matter then, how short or long’s the lease,
Whose date determines thy self-numbered days:
No need to care for wealth’s or fame’s increase,
Nor Mars his palm, nor high Apollo’s bays.
Lord, if thy gracious bounty please to fill
The floor of my desires, and teach me skill
To dress and choose the corn, take those the chaff that will.

Collect for the Day
O gracious Father, who opens your hand and fills all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let your Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show your loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what you give, that men and women everywhere may give you thanks; through Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP:828:42]


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