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

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Song of the Sword: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 20:45-21:32 with poem by Gilbert K. Chesterton, O God of Earth and Altar

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 5 Judges 16 Ezekiel 20:45-21:32 Tobit 14

Daily Text: Ezekiel 20:45-21:32

Song of the Sword
In Ezekiel 20:45-21:32 the prophet claims that his fellows accuse him of making allegories and God responds by giving him an interpretation that turns the riddle of fire in the non-existent forests of the Negeb into the sword falling upon Jerusalem. Note that the two prophecies are linked by the mirror images of 20:46 and 21:2. The song of the sword is as beautiful as it is frightening if the singer is the object. The image of the two roads beginning from a wye somewhere in Babylonia with a signpost pointing to Riblah in one direction and to Jerusalem in the other has a ring of reality. Archaeological finds have included such signs. At the wye Nebuchadnezzar reads the omens and the lots fall on Jerusalem. The two allies, Ammon and Judah will both fall, but Jerusalem will fall first. In Jerusalem, Zedekiah, the king, is singled out for explicit scorn as a vile and wicked prince whose day is come. All will be turned upside down in the invasion and the Davidic dynasty will end ‘until he comes whose right it is: to him I will give it' (italics added, vs. 27). Such a messianic promise is found in the midst of destruction prophecied for Jerusalem, Riblah and eventually Babylon (vss. 30-32)!

O God of Earth and Altar
Gilbert K. Chesterton

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not Thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honor and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
The priest and prince and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to Thee.

Collect for the Day
To you, Creator of nature and humanity, of truth and beauty, I pray:
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations.
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war.
Hear my voice when I beg you to instil (sp.) into the hearts of all human beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice and the joy of fellowship.
Hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice, to need with the sharing of self, to war with peace.
O God, hear my voice, and grant unto the world your everlasting peace.
[489:226 Pope John Paul II]


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