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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Law and the Evil Root: II Esdras 3 with poem by Ibbie McColm Wilson, The Sentinel of the Ages

Daily Readings
Psalm 130, Ezra 10, II Esdras 3, I Esdras 8:91-9:36

Daily Text: II Esdras 3

Law and the Evil Root
The crux of II Esdras 3 is the struggle the prophet sees in the hearts of men, that is within them is planted God’s Law and the evil root, side by side. The perplexity he experiences implicitly holds God responsible for this condition, for God does not hinder the human being from choosing to live out the evil and to ignore the good [cf. 540:181]. Adam lived in paradise with eternal life as his right, but being given one prohibition, he transgressed it and the Lord immediately appointed death as the result. The issue here is that righteousness leads to life and sinfulness leads to death. Following Adam all human beings participated in his transgression and repeatedly God tried to start over in different ways—the flood, choosing Abraham, Jacob, and David. The result was always the same and God always punished his people. Ezra is struggling with what seemed the reality that Israel, following God’s command imperfectly, suffered, while the remainder of the nations following God’s Torah not at all, flourished. Where’s the justice in this?

Chapters 3-14 are a manuscript to themselves, that is, chapters 1 and 2, 15 and 16 were added to the main body of this work. This work, 3-14, was probably written originally in Hebrew around 100 A. D. Ezra himself did not live until the 5th century, so he could not have been around in the 6th century, 557 B.C., as suggested in verse 1. It is likely that the book is coded to speak of Rome’s depredations on Jerusalem in 70 A.D., not Babylon’s in 587 B. C. Like in the book of The Revelation of Jesus to John, Babylon is a code word for Rome. Ezra’s struggle with sin is the same struggle Paul was having in Romans and that we have in our own day.

The Sentinel of the Ages
Ibbie McColm Wilson

Under shining, under shadow,
At the gates of every land,
All adown the lengthening ages,
Men have seen a Sentry stand;
Looming grandly on the beauty
Of the blue day’s crystal light,
Then anon, in darkness blending
With mystery of night;
It is not for his defection
That the Jew has met the sword:
Christians slay their fellow-Christians,
In the name of their own Lord.

Has he sinned—this Jew immortal?
Ay; but he is not alone;
Christ is crucified forever
In the House He calls His own.
Multitudes bow down before Him
And profess to own his sway,
While their hearts are filled with idols,
And they, Judas-like, betray
Him who comes, as their Messiah,
And their fealty would claim;
But they pierce His soul with sorrows,
Shouting praises to His name.

Sinned the Jew? Well; he has suffered.
When he saw his judgment come
He bowed meekly to his sentence;
Like the shorn lamb, he was dumb:
Bearing shame, contempt, revilings,
Grief and anguish, pain and death;
Only saying: “God is holy;
He is One,” with latest breath.
Like to Christ, in his submission
He has met a martyr’s fate.
But his resurrection cometh;
Though it tarry, he can wait.

Yes! Already we perceive him,
Rising up on every hand;
Gliding into power and station,
With the world’s wealth at command.
In the forum, in the senate,
Lo! he wins immortal fame,
Halls of learning, marts of commerce,
Ring with echoes of his name,
On each plane of high endeavor
He is foremost in the strife
Culling everlasting laurels
From the battlefields of Life.

So God’s ancient, chosen people
As His Sentinel still stands
With the standard of Jehovah
In the strong, uplifted hands;
With his jewelled breastplate gleaming
On his proudly heaving chest;
And a lamp forever burning,
On his helmet’s lofty crest;
While he welcomes the down-trodden
To his hospitable shores,
And in streams of richest bounty
Blessings on his brethren pours.

Standing thus, as great exemplar
To the world, the Jew appears;
Bringing hope, as well as warning,
To Humanity’s late years,
Showing how, as King, God ruleth,
When mankind would test His sway,
Yet is tender as a Father
When, as children, they obey.
Prophet, statesman, warrior, scholar,
Israel’s glories shall increase,
When he claims his royal birthright;
Brother to the prince of Peace.

Collect for the Day
Rescue us, O God for whom we wait, from the depths of depression and despair. May we trust in your mercy, know the fullness of your redemption, and share in the glory of your kingdom; through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

[476:888:130 Psalm prayer]


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