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

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Unraveling of Creation: Bible Comment on Zephaniah 1 with poem by Jonathan Swift, The Day of Judgement

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 9, I Samuel 18:28-19:26, Zephaniah 1, Romans 7

Daily Text: Zephaniah 1

The Unraveling of Creation
Zephaniah was apparently the great great grandson of Hezekiah, King of Judah. His days as a prophet were lived out during the reign of Josiah, sometime between 640-609 B.C. Whether he wrote during that same period or whether his oral prophecies were recorded at a later date is open to question. But for the sake of our thinking and believing, his words reflect those late days of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

“The book of Zephaniah is a study in intertextuality. A highly literate work, it shares ideas and phraseology with other parts of the Hebrew Bible to such an extent that at times it may appear as nothing more than a pastiche of borrowed verses and allusions…. The general effect is the creation of a strong link between this otherwise obscure prophet and the rest of the canon—not only the Prophets, but also the Torah and the Psalms. Zephaniah participates in the textual world of the Hebrew Bible. This suggests that this textual world, in one form or another, was known and accepted by the book’s first audience (whether that audience was in the time of Josiah or later), for only then would invoking it be rhetorically effective” [Raabe, Obadiah 514:31].

The message of Zephaniah 1 begins with a prophecy of the Day of the LORD that will rain a storm of destruction upon the whole earth, the whole creation. In poetic terms it is the unraveling of creation. But in the second strophe of this poem, it is the population in Jerusalem that is targeted with punishment as an illustration of God’s unhappiness, and it is the wealthy that are singled out for unique attention. For it is these, these who spend their time nursing the wine bottle, and these who seek to aggrandize themselves first of all, who have the attitude that God is a paper tiger, one who makes a lot of noise, but will actually not act for good or ill. The prophet’s ringing tones gainsay such an attitude: “…in the fire of his (the LORD’s) passion the whole earth shall be consumed” [1:18b].

The Day of Judgement
Jonathan Swift
With a whirl of thought oppressed
I sink from revery to rest.
An horrid vision seized my head,
I saw the graves give up their dead.
Jove, armed with terrors, burst the skies,
And thunder roars, and lightning flies!
Amazed, confused, its fate unknown,
The World stands trembling at his throne.
While each pale sinner hangs his head,
Jove, nodding, shook the heavens, and said,
“Offending race of human kind,
By nature, reason, learning, blind;
You who through frailty stepped aside,
And you who never fell—through pride;
You who in different sects have shammed,
And come to see each other damned;
(So some folks told you, but they knew
No more of Jove’s designs that you)
The World’s mad business now is o’er,
And I resent these pranks no more.
I to such blockheads set my wit!
I damn such fools! Go, go, you’re bit.”

Collect for the Day
We saw pictures on the television of…
Lord God, be the strength
of all those who are in terrible sorrow,
that they may be helped in their despair
and find your light,
even where all seems to be utter darkness.



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