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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - July 7, 2013



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.


Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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2 Kings

The two books of Kings were originally one. They continue the story of the monarchy begun in 1-2 Samuel. 1 Kings begins with the enthronement of Solomon and the death of David. 2 Kings continues the story of the monarchies of Israel and Judah. It covers the period from about 850 BC to about 585 BC. During this period, Israel fell to the Assyrians (in 721 BC) and Judah to the Babylonians (586 BC). While these books read like a political history - in which some kings are judged good and others bad - they trace the apostasy that led to the loss of national identity and autonomy.


2 Kings 5:1-14

Neither the “king of Aram” (Syria) nor the “king of Israel” (v. 5) are named but they are likely Ben-hadad and Jehoram. If so, the date is about 850 BC. The story tells us that Israel's God has made Aram more powerful than Israel: first, note “the LORDhad given victory to Aram” (v. 1). “Leprosy” translates a Hebrew word for a number of skin diseases, some incurable. Sufferers were quarantined, but only in advanced stages of the malady. The captive Israelite “young girl” (v. 2, called a little maid by one scholar – in contrast to the mighty Naaman) serves Naaman’s wife. “Samaria” (v. 3) is the city (not the land) where Elisha lives. It was normal to bring gifts when approaching a prophet (v. 5). The “gold” weighs about 70 kg (150 lbs); it is of great value. The king of Israel tears his clothes (v. 7) in shock and dismay, unable to handle the situation: an enemy is seeking help! But Elisha is confident: he counsels that here is an opportunity for Naaman to learn about God through him (v. 8). Naaman does not deign to enter Elisha’s house (v. 9), so Elisha does not come out to meet him: he “sent a messenger” (v. 10).

Naaman is commanded to wash completely (“seven times”) in the Jordan. V. 11 shows his misconception about how a prophet of God operates; he expects him to behave like a pagan prophet. Elisha’s prescription is too simple for him, so he almost rejects it (v. 12). (The “Abana” and “Pharpar” rivers run near Damascus.) Naaman does accept advice from below, as he has listened to the advice of the “young girl”. In v. 15, he returns to Elisha and says “‘I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel’”: he acknowledges God as the god of all.


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 30

The psalmist clearly praises God for his recovery from grave illness, but this psalm may also be allegorical: its title says that it was sung at the dedication of the Temple, which was desecrated in 164 BC and rededicated in 161 BC. “Sheol”, “the Pit”, (v. 3) was thought of as a place under the earth where the dead existed as mere shadows. In vv. 4-5, the psalmist invites all present to join in giving thanks. In vv. 6-10, he recounts what happened to him. He had felt perfectly secure and healthy (v. 6), but he fell from God’s favour (God “hid”, v. 7, from him) – he became ill. Feeling near death, he prayed to God, pointing out that if allowed to go the Sheol, no one, not even God, could hear him. God did hear his prayer and restored him to health and favour (vv. 11-12): his sorrow was turned to joy, even to liturgical “dancing”. He will praise God for the rest of his life.


Galatians

There were some teachers in Galatia who claimed that a convert to Christianity must first embrace Judaism, that a Christian must observe Mosaic law. Paul wrote this letter to rebut this argument, to insist that one comes into union with God through faith in Christ, and not through ritual observances. This book is a charter of Christian liberty; it was instrumental in transforming Christianity from a sect of Judaism into a world religion. Galatia is in central Turkey, and was settled soon after 300 BC by Celts. In 25 BC, the province of Galatia was extended southwards. (Modern-day Ankara is in Galatia.)


Galatians 6:(1-6),7-16

Paul has written that we are called to freedom, but not licentiousness (5:15). He calls on the Galatians to live by, and be guided by, the Spirit (5:25). True Christians (those “who have received the Spirit”, v. 1) should gently help those who stray into sin (but even the upright can stray!) The “law of Christ” (v. 2) is the norm of mutual love. While each person is expected to bear the normal duties and stresses of daily life him or herself (except for teachers lacking time to support themselves financially, v. 6), we are expected to take on, in love, excessive “burdens” (v. 2) for each other. We should not think of ourselves as more than we are (v. 3). Evaluate your own conduct, loving yourself as you should (v. 4). God is not fooled: our works now will determine whether we will have “eternal life” (v. 8). We should do good deeds for all people, and especially for fellow Christians.

So far, Paul has dictated his letter to a scribe. Unused to writing, he now writes in “large letters” (v. 11). V. 12 speaks of Judaisers, infiltrators into the Christian community who influence members into thinking that by keeping parts of Mosaic law they can avoid the need to live an ethical life. The Judaisers want to look good, thus avoiding persecution by fellow Jews and Judaisers. They want to be able to boast of their own success (“about your flesh”, v. 13) in converting members to their way of thinking, but Paul boasts only in the death, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ (“the cross”, v. 14) – by which the old order (the Law) has been eliminated, and he has been freed from it. He and other Christians have entered into the “new creation” (v. 15), the new way – of being shaped by Christ – called “this rule” in v. 16. The Law (“circumcision”, v. 15) has become irrelevant. Christians are the “Israel of God” (v. 16), the new children of Abraham.


Symbol of St Luke

Luke

Three gospels in the New Testament offer similar portraits of the life of Jesus; Luke is the third of them. Its author, traditionally Luke the physician who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, draws on three sources: Mark (via Matthew), a collection of sayings (known as Q for Quelle, German for source) and his own source. It is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Women play a more prominent part than in the other gospels. Luke never uses Semitic words; this is one argument for thinking that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.


Luke 10:1-11,16-20

As Jesus has sent out the twelve disciples on a missionary journey within Israel. he now sends others on a mission beyond, for “seventy” is the traditional Jewish number of nations of the world. The seventy are “like lambs into the midst of wolves” (v. 3): (1) they are defenceless before hostile people; and (2) Christ inaugurates an era of peace and reconciliation in which “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together” (Isaiah 65:25). They need to commence without delay (“carry no purse ...”, v. 4) and concentrate on the mission (“greet no one ...”). When you find a receptive person, a person of peace, God’s peace will be on him or her (v. 6). Accept their hospitality (“the labourer deserves to be paid”, v. 7) and “eat what is set before you” (v. 8, i.e. ignore Jewish dietary laws). Show by action (healing people) and by telling them the good news that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9): it’s partly already here! Vv. 11-16 tell the seventy how to handle hostile situations: tell such people that they will be ignored; the kingdom has come anyway. At the end of the era, they will be judged harshly (v. 12). Then v. 16: in hearing the good news from a disciple, people hear Jesus; if they reject a disciple, they reject Jesus and the Father (“the one who sent me”).

When the seventy return, they tell of their surprise that they have power over evil (v. 17), a power Jesus has explicitly given to the Twelve. Jesus has seen their victory over evil forces; he has given them “authority” (v. 19) over Satan (“the enemy”). (To Jews, “snakes and scorpions” were known sources of evil.) Exorcism, in itself, is not a sign of the arrival of God’s kingdom (v. 20).

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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