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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Monday, September 18, 2006

Spying For God: Bible Comment on Zechariah 1:1-17 with poem by William Blake, In a Myrtle Shade

Daily Readings
Sirach 9:1-16, II Kings 2, Zechariah 1:1-17, Jeremiah 22

Daily Text: Zechariah 1:1-17

Spying For God
Zechariah 1 declares the beginning of the prophecy in 519 B.C. His ancestors have ignored the Lord’s warnings and been lost in the mists of time. His contemporaries hear and repent recognizing that “The LORD of hosts has dealt with us according to our ways and deeds, just as he planned to do.” Once again, this prophetic voice enunciates the conditional nature of the LORD’s favor. Our ways are critical.
The first of seven visions establishes the context for them all. This is first received by Zechariah in mid-February, 519 B.C. That is almost seventy years after the destruction of the temple in 587/6 B.C. and becomes the framework for the prophecy. Unlike Jeremiah whose reference to seventy years is the Exile, this prophecy relates to the temple and its rebuilding. In his vision, Zechariah sees a glen filled with myrtle trees, low and dense, having their leaves even in winter, providing cover for the horsemen. Persia had an excellent intelligence system marked by spies around its dominions. Here the LORD uses fleet horsemen, to fan out along the excellent Persian roads, presumably at night, to gather intelligence for Him. This image of spying for God perhaps symbolizes His omniscience—the best intelligence of all [527:128]! YHWH is not happy with the nations for the way they have treated his people even though he has used them for his own purposes. Compassionately he turns to his newly repented people and promises the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (vs. 16), in fact, the image of the measuring line suggests the rebuilding of the entire city. Not only that, along with the rebuilding will come a new prosperity that will fill up those cities to overflowing, perhaps, the imagery suggests, spilling over the brim of the walls [528:158]. This is indeed blessing.

In a Myrtle Shade
William Blake


O, how sick and weary I
Underneath my myrtle lie,
Like to dung upon the ground
Underneath my myrtle bound.

Why should I be bound to thee,
O my lovely myrtle tree?
Love, free love, cannot be bound
To any tree that grows on ground.

Oft my myrtle sighed in vain
To behold my heavy chain.
Oft my father saw us sigh,
And laughed at our simplicity.

So I smote him and his gore
Stained the roots my myrtle bore.
But the time of youth is fled,
And grey hairs are on my head.
395:458

Collect for the Day
God help us to find our confession,
The truth within us which is hidden from our mind,
The beauty or the ugliness we see elsewhere
But never in ourselves;
The stowaway which has been smuggled
Into the dark side of the heart,
Which puts the heart off balance and causes it pain,
Which wearies and confuses us,
Which tips us in false directions and inclines us to destruction,
The load which is not carried squarely
Because it is carried in ignorance
God help us to find our confession.
Help us across the boundary of our understanding.
Lead us into the darkness that we may find what lies concealed.
That we may confess it towards the light,
That we carry our truth in the centre of our heart;
That we may carry our cross wisely
And bring harmony into our life and our world.

[489:227:December 16]

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