Week of 4 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of King Solomon

Promises and Conditions

FEBRUARY 1, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying,

I am about to the way of all the earth.  Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the LORD may establish his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons take heed of their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel.”

Then David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.  And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years at Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.  So Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Psalm 132:10-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10  For your servant David’s sake,

do not turn away the face of your Anointed.

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  “A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  “This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Mark 6:7-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he called to him the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  And he said to them,

Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.

So they went out and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

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We have come to the end of David’s story, according to 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings.  David gives happy, righteous advice in the portion from 1 Kings 2 the Canadian Anglican lectionary specifies.  But open a Bible and read 1 Kings 2:5-9, in which the dying king advises Solomon to kill Joab, or as the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition renders one line, “not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace” (6b).  “Obey God,” David says, “and kill Joab very soon.”  I do not feel better.

Anyhow, it is vital to understand the nature of 1 and 2 Kings.  As Ziony Zevit wrote in the introduction to 1 Kings in The Jewish Study Bible,

Kings is not a history in the contemporary sense of the word, that is, a factual description of past events and an explanation for their occurence that a modern reader might expect.  It is, in the main, an extended theological essay, written by a person of persons with passionately held beliefs, convinced that the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the fall of the southern one were due to the misguided policies of their kings.  The author described past events selectively, commenting or summarizing them as illustrations that he believed they taught.

The author maintained that the LORD, the God of history, made His will known to Israel with regard to specific key issues, that punishments are preceded by warnings through prophets, and that people are responsible for the consequences of their choices.  He further maintained that kings were responsible for the fate of their people.  For him, it was axiomatic that those ruling over the tribes of Israel were obligated to maintain the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple as the unique place where offerings acceptable to God might be made and to eliminate the illegitimate worship of any deity other than the LORD.  The author’s composition demonstrated how all northern and most southern kings failed to follow their obligations and how all adversity, from minor disasters to the final catastrophe, followed as a consequence of this failure.  (Page 669)

I side with the existence of authors, not a single author, by the way, but let us not quibble.  Rather, may we focus on the main idea.

And what is the main idea?  Thank you for asking.  The main idea is that, according to 1 and 2 Kings, originally one book on two scrolls, Solomon laid the foundation for the division of the kingdom after his death and the downfall of each successor kingdom.  We will get to details as the lectionary takes the grand tour of 1 Kings during the Weeks of 4 Epiphany and 5 Epiphany (at this weblog, obviously) and Propers 5, 6, and 7 (at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, to which I plan to return after updating this weblog for this church year then doing the same for LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS).  There will also be a healthy sampling of major and minor prophets, an understanding of whose writings and dictations depends on a grasp of the books of Samuel and Kings.

The key aspect of 1 Kings 2 to remember is that the promise of God to fulfill the promise to David was conditional.  The Davidic line would not end if members of it it governed properly.  “If” is a very big word, despite consisting of only two letters.

There is an application for you, O reader, and for me today.  God loves us always; nothing can change that.  But an overly indulgent parent is a bad one, hence the necessity of proper discipline.  We err, and we reap consequences of our actions, but God gives us another chance.  What will we do with it?  Also, our choices will affect others, for we are social creatures.  So our decisions are not purely individual.  What will we decide?  Whatever it is, may it be wise.

I dwell on the social justice end of the Christian spectrum.  My Lord and Savior has commanded me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  This entails caring about my neighbors’ needs then acting, as I am able and circumstances present opportunities.  It is no accident that the U.S. Civil Rights Movement was related closely to many churches in the Twentieth Century and Abolitionism to Christian work in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.  Morality consists of far more than being careful of what one does and with whom, although that is part of it.  Moral living is inherently public, concerned with those Jesus called “the least of these.”

In the 1990s I read an interesting news story in an early 1980s issue of The Christian Century.  Staffers of the denominational headquarters of the Church of Brethren, one of the historic peace churches, pooled the money they received from the Reagan tax cuts.  They bought thirty pieces of silver and mailed them to the White House with a letter protesting increased military spending and decreased funding for social programs.  They received a bland letter thanking them for their concern. At least they spoke up.  Their example remains germane in the United States of June 2011, when I write these words.

The greatest failure of most of the kings of Israel and Judah was that they did not act in the best interests of their poor and vulnerable subjects.  Instead, they sought dubious foreign alliances, some of which backfired terribly, wasted their money on foreign wars, and delivered the bill for all this to those who could least afford to pay.  If this sounds contemporary and scary, it is.

KRT

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