February 28, 2006

Nu 13-15 / Folos / Eve of Lent / Jehovah’s Witnesses

(For discussion of Luke 2:29-32, February’s seasonal canticle, see the February 1st Biblog post and the background information for February’s readings.)

Numbers 13-15 narrates the people’s arrival at Kadesh and the first of the events there. Chapter 13 tells how the twelve spies explored the land and reported back; Joshua and Caleb are especially important to note. The other ten spies spoke against God by saying that they could not take the land, the implication being that they could not take it even with God’s help. Thus, chapter 14 reports how the people rebelled against God (and His servant Moses!) and incited God’s wrath. Note well how Moses intercedes for the people, how God forgives them, and also how there are consequences for the people’s sin. I am struck by how God uses the people’s own words in 14:2 against them in 14:28-35. The forty days of exploration are the type on which the forty years of desert wanderings are based (and the type for Lent). Chapter 15 gives more details of offerings the people will make once they inherit the land, and God’s continued promise that they would inherit the land is to be understood as mercy and grace despite their rebellion against Him.

Today I have two Biblog folos, and the first regards yesterday’s post about Psalm 84. A reader emailed to comment and ask, “The rules for service appear to be pretty strict. Might the psalmist have been temporarily disqualified?” Yes, the psalmist might have been disqualified for a time from serving at the Temple by any number of things. Though our speculation is as good as any commentator’s, I checked another commentary, and that one suggests that Psalm 84, like Psalms 42-43, are from the time that David and his court were away from Jerusalem during Absalom’s rebellion. The reference to the pilgrims in 84:5-7 can be taken as reinforcing the notion of exiles returning to Jerusalem. So, the two commentators agree that the Levitical psalmist was exiled in one way or another from Jerusalem, but they disagree as to the time frame of the psalm. We can consider ourselves temporary exiles from heaven and pray the psalm with not just the Divine Service in view but also the eternal worship of God in heaven.

Another Biblog folo has to do with a link in Saturday’s post that dealt with scientists dissenting from Darwin’s theory of evolution. One reader emailed to say the following.

Thanks for the link to the Spectator article. I followed it to “Survival of the fakest” and discovered that, as a biology major I'd seen all of that, from Haekel's “embryos” to Darwin's finches. … But my biology prof also graduated from my college, in the time when the only course of study was pre-seminary. So we got “theory” where the secular colleges present “facts”. We were further insulated with “Rel. Stud. 101: OT”, which all freshmen were required to take.

My last biology class was a long time ago in public high school, and my teacher was pretty careful how he handled evolution, leaving plenty of latitude for Christians in the class. Another reader emailed this following comment.

The article by Wells should be required reading for all; but we know that will never happen. I find it amazing that so much data is available that anyone with a hint of common sense could see the difference between micro- and macro-evolution, but we never hear mainstream media ever even mention the distinction. Instead, the differences are ignored and all that is ever discussed is “evolution”. I believe it’s more a push against Creation than it is a push for evolution.

The distinction is surely an important one, and I’ll resist the temptation this time to defend the mainstream media!

Though today is the eve of Lent, you probably have been hearing for weeks about the final celebrations before this penitential season starts. Carnival and Mardi Gras are both in full tilt now, and Pastor Sullivan alluded in his sermon Sunday to their connection to Lent. “Carnival” is a festival that gets is name from the Latin for saying “farewell” to meat. “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday” and has to do with indulging as much as possible before the Lenten fast begins. Today is also known as “Shrove Tuesday”, which has to do with making individual confession before Lent begins. Some congregations have pancake suppers as part of their Shrove Tuesday observances, and on the same occasion members collectively burn their palm branches (from the previous Palm Sunday, which palm branches had been placed behind religious art in their homes). The ashes from those palm branches are used for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Another part of Shrove Tuesday observances can be the putting away of “Alleluia” until the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord at Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday services. An appropriate hymn on that occasion is “Alleluia, song of gladness” (HS98 #819, which hymn is also expected to be in the new Lutheran Service Book). The hymn sees our life in this world (or at least the season of Lent) as a form of exile like Israel’s exile in Babylon, and it anticipates an eternal Easter celebration with all the saints in heaven.

Recently some Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by my home, and I either was away or did not rise from my slumber to answer their knock. They left a little tract for me titled, “Would you like to know more about the Bible?” The tract made such promises as “If you harmonize your life with the standards set out in the Bible, God will give you everlasting life” and “The godly principles in the Bible show us how to live in a way that brings physical benefits.” Nothing but law and false teaching! (Jesus did not get a single mention in the tract.) The tract offers to arrange convenient Bible studies, but with that kind of an understanding of the Bible I’m sure the help they offer is useless. I am learning more about the Bible through my use of the Daily Lectionary, and I pray you are, too. What could be more convenient than reading on-line in places and at times that are opportune for you? You don’t even have to go door to door to share the Good News, you can send the link to a friend via email!

A wrong link in Saturday’s post now has a substitute link. Thanks as always for emails about the posts and readings. I haven’t received any questions about the readings lately—remember all of you are welcome to ask any question you have! You cannot be embarrassed, as your question remains anonymous to the other readers. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 27, 2006

Ps 84 / Nu 10-12 / Tidbits

Psalm 84 is another one of my favorite psalms, for it expresses so well the desire the Holy Spirit creates in me to be in the Lord’s Presence in the Divine Service, where He freely blesses me with the forgiveness of sins through Word and Sacrament. The psalm is said to originate from a Levite who normally served at the Temple but may have been kept from the Temple by a military threat to the city. The psalmist envies the birds that have better access to the whole Temple complex than he does, and he envies the pilgrims who journey to Jerusalem (though why the pilgrims can go but the psalmist cannot is not clear). The psalmist and we long to dwell in the Lord’s house forever (Psalm 23:6; 27:4), not to work there but to dwell as members of the royal family. The "Valley of Baca" in verse 6 can be understood as "Valley of Weeping" and gives us “Vale of Tears” as in Dr. Luther’s Small Catechism explanation to the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. The psalmist recognizes the role of the king (v.9) in making it possible to worship God and thus prays for him (even today our rulers have a role to play in protecting our freedom to worship). In verse 10, the contrast is between serving one day in the courts of the Lord's Temple and living 1,000 days elsewhere (implied in the KJV and ASV but explicit in the NASB and NIV), such as in the tents of the wicked.

As we today read Numbers 10-12, we quickly finish the details of Israel’s preparations at Sinai and then hear of the events of Israel’s journey to Kadesh. Chapter 11 marks a bit of a turning point in Numbers, as previously the people had pledged and demonstrated obedience to the Lord, but now they begin to complain to God and provoke His wrath, fires possibly started by lightning strikes. The “mixt multitude” (KJV and ASV, “rabble” NIV and NASB) of non-believers who came with the Israelites from Egypt frequently stirred them up against God, making Egypt sound better than it was. Moses interestingly blames God for the people he has been called to lead. God shows mercy by giving him help in leading the people, but he also teaches the people a lesson by giving them more than enough of what they wanted and striking down some of those who ate it. Chapter 12 tells how Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ older siblings, challenged Moses’ leadership and how God reacted. They complained about Moses’ wife (either Zipporah or a second wife taken after she died), but their real complaint was about Moses’ close relationship to God. The Lord Himself responds to their complaint and makes it clear that because He reveals things directly to Moses that they should not have challenged Moses. The affliction from the Lord produces the fruit of repentance, which is followed by forgiveness—a good example from which we can also learn.

I have just a few tidbits for you today. Worship Sunday in a Detroit church went on despite gunfire. … Though the fight against abortion is being waged elsewhere, apparently we shouldn’t expect a new battle in Texas. … Since someone else already introduced the port management issue in this forum, I just want to direct you to some context on the story that dramatically changed my position. … Although British Roman Catholic schools apparently are ready to teach other religions, elsewhere in Europe there appear to be limits to tolerance. I’ve often said that the “tolerance” pushers tolerate everything but intolerance. As for immigration and assimilation, perhaps the relatively young age of the United States is a strength in this regard. On the other hand, our own history somewhat belies the Statue of Liberty’s supposed invitation: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” … And, there are allegations the idea for “The Da Vinci Code” was stolen; either way its bad.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 26, 2006

Ps 83 / Nu 7-9

Scholars think Psalm 83 is from the period after King Solomon ruled and before King Menahem was threatened by Assyria. This prayer for God to destroy His enemies sees all of the surrounding nations aligned together against Israel (especially vv.5-8), though the historical accounts in the Bible do not seem precisely to relate this occasion. The specific prayer is made in verses 1-4 and again in verses 13-16; verses 9-12 also plead for God’s help but specifically on the basis of His previous help. Verses 17-18 conclude the prayer, and we see how the ultimate goal is God’s glory and confession by all the people of the world.

As with the first two days of reading this book, Numbers 7-9 tells of the events as the people of Israel at Sinai prepared to go to the Promised Land. Today we continue to read of God’s commands for the people to be pure. Adding detail to Exodus 40, Numbers 7 details the offerings given when the Tabernacle was dedicated. The people’s gifts, given by tribe in the order of their march, follow as a response of thanksgiving and praise from the Lord’s blessing them through Aaron (6:22-27). Chapter 8 tells of the lamps being set up and the Levites set apart for their work, much as Aaron and his sons had been set apart for the priesthood (Leviticus 8). Chapter 9 narrates the “second” celebration of the Passover and the Lord’s Presence with and guidance of the people through the pillar of cloud or fire over the Tabernacle. For more on the “second” Passover see this previously posted Q&A. Whenever we read of the Passover and its various provisions, we are always reminded of Jesus, the fulfillment of the Passover provisions and the true Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (see, for example, how Numbers 9:12 and John 19:36 correspond). The people’s later disobedience of God despite His dramatic presence among them in the pillar is all the more striking. The Service of Light in the order of Evening Prayer in Lutheran Worship directs us to pray as follows (with a somewhat haunting chant setting).

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who led Your people Israel by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Enlighten our darkness by the light of Your Christ; may His Word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path; for You are merciful, and You love Your whole creation, and we, Your creatures, glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

You surely recognize the references to Scriptures about the pillar of cloud and fire. Other Scripture references include John 8:12 and Psalm 119:105.

God bless your day, especially as you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 25, 2006

Ps 82 / Nu 4-6 / Ten Tidbits

Psalm 82 seems to picture God presiding over a heavenly courtroom and calling into account bad rulers of the people who failed to protect the weak and oppressed. Those rulers may be leaders of Israel or the kings of the nations surrounding Israel, which kings may have fancied themselves to be “gods”. In any event, these rulers did not administer justice the way they should have administered justice. The rulers’ ignorance results in them disturbing the order of the world (v.5), and one commentator suggested we can hear the music that would have accompanied the psalm crescendo at this point to a forte. Verses 6-7 suggest God regarded them as chosen servants but that they failed to acknowledge Him and serve Him properly and thus will be destroyed. Verse 8 is the psalmist’s short prayer based on this picture for God to hurry to execute the judgment described in the earlier verses. Note that Jesus in John 10:34 and verses following seems to use Psalm 82:6 as a defense against the charge of blasphemy for which the Jews were going to stone Him. The idea is that if God could call “sons” those to whom His revelation and some earthly authority were given, then all the more could the true Son of God be called a “son” without blaspheming.

Numbers 4-6 continues to tell of the events as the people of Israel at Sinai prepared to go to the Promised Land. Today we finish the details of the census (chapter 4) and begin to read God’s commands for the people to be pure (chapters 5-6). Chapter 4 focuses in more narrowly on the Levites old enough to serve in regards to the Tabernacle, as opposed to chapter 3’s count of those older than one month. Then, the three main families of the Levites are broken down: the Kohathites carry the sacred furnishings and vessels, the Gershonites the curtains and the like, and the Merarites the framework and bases for the curtains. Chapter 5 seems to move from the more-obvious things that made people impure and unclean to the lesser-obvious things. The larger share of the chapter is given to a “trial by ordeal” through which God was to reveal whether a wife had violated her marriage bed, “the most intimate of relationships”. Chapter 6:1-21 describes the Nazirite, an individual who as a show of devotion to God voluntarily sets him or herself apart in terms of diet, appearance, and relationships—either for a set period of time or for his or her whole life. (The Hebrew word itself means “separated” or “dedicated”.) The Nazirite’s vows are somewhat likened to your and my maybe giving up something for Lent. Notable Nazirites are Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptizer (Judges 13:4-7; 1 Samuel 1:11; and Luke 1:15, respectively). Numbers 6:22-27 reports God’s direction for Aaron to bless the people with a Trinitarian blessing—and some say God doesn’t care how we worship Him!

Ten tidbits--the perfect and complete number--for you today. Another U.S. military chaplain is in trouble for praying in Jesus’ Name. ... As another battle is waged in the “intelligent design” war, scientists register their dissent from Darwin. ... A bigamist judge Friday was removed from a Utah bench. ... Here’s one analysis of why the South Dakota abortion ban won’t lead the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe. ... A Roman Catholic study group is under fire as it continues to condemn homosexuality. ... Roman Catholics are upset over a queer studies minor at the United States’ largest Roman Catholic university. ... Officials say they are close to cracking the Alabama church arsons, while White House silence over the whole matter is drawing fire. ... The FCC is fining several major U.S. broadcast networks for indecency. ... “Desperate Housewives” advertisers are going to be targeted for a boycott. ... And, reading of a census in Numbers, how about this figure?

God bless your day today, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by making use of His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 24, 2006

Ps 81 / Nu 1-3 / Folo / Tidbits

Fresh from reading about the ram’s horn heralding the Jubilee Year, you might think, as I did, that Psalm 81 makes reference to that festival. Better scholars than I am, however, conclude this psalm was most likely composed for and used both at the New Year festival, which started with a new moon, and at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, which started with a full moon. Psalm 81 seems to have two parts: in the first the people are called to worship God (vv.1-5) and in the second God speaks to them through the psalmist (vv.6-16). In the first half, note well the joyous music that accompanies the praise of God (vv.1-2). In the second half, notice again the prominence given to the testing at Meribah (v.7 and see Exodus 17:1-7). How earnestly God longs to feed His people with Word and Sacrament, but all too often we are unwilling to be so fed.

Reading Numbers 1-3 begins a new book for us, so you may want to read the background material on the book available here or as a PDF to download here. The first quarter or so of the book narrates the events of the people of Israel at Sinai preparing to go to the Promised Land. Today we begin to read the details of the census, a section that we will finish tomorrow. You may know that the “numbers” of the people give the book its Greek and English names. The census of chapter 1 was primarily for military purposes (1:3 and some fourteen other references in chapter 1). Numbers 1:20-43 definitely has formulaic repetition, with rounded numbers for each tribe, and the numbers present other difficulties, with some people opting for symbolic or other interpretations. Note that Levi’s descendants are not counted in the military census because of their priestly work (for example, 1:47-53) but have their own census (chapter 3) and that Joseph’s descendants are split according to his two sons, in keeping with Genesis 49:22-26 (1:32-35). Chapter 2 tells how the Lord ordered the camp to be configured, repeating the number and leader of each tribe. According to one source I consulted, each tribe had its own banner, which Jewish tradition says corresponded in color to the high priest's breastplate, and each triad of tribes had its own standard, which Jewish tradition said used images of a lion, man, ox, and eagle, respectively for Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan (which images also correspond to the living creatures Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 1:10, and thus to the symbols usually associated with the four evangelists). Chapter 3 gives details about Aaron’s family and the work assigned to the other various Levites (note the distinction between Aaron’s priestly descendants and the other Levites). (For more on the possible meanings of 3:4, see the Biblog post for Leviticus 10:1-3.) The Levites’ census counts all males older than one month, since their service differed from the military service requiring 20 years of age. No denigration of women should be read into the counting of just the men; the women had their God-given vocations that differed from those for which the two censuses were linked.

Today’s Biblog folo comes in response to yesterday’s post. A reader emailed to say that there are some religious country music songs that “talk about Jesus, His amazing grace, His power to change our lives, [and] the importance of His Word in our lives”. The emailer suggested I was prejudiced against country music, which I think is too harsh. Let’s just say country music isn’t my preference, and I would hope the songs like Willie Nelson’s I linked yesterday are no Christian’s preference.

I have a variety of tidbits for you today. A policy decision last week in Ohio is regarded as another blow for “intelligent design”. ... South Dakota has a bill heading to the governor banning nearly every abortion in that state, and five other states may soon follow. ... A recent poll of British Muslims produces some “alarming” findings. ... Scientists in France are trying to determine if relics might really be remains of Joan of Arc. ... New developments regarding gay marriage in Canada are reported here. ... Two Episcopalean priests in same-sex relationships are up for bishop of California, further fueling the feud in that denomination. ... And, my “take-homes” today are be careful what you put on your blog and what you say on your lunch break!

If you wanted to see Michael Card’s lyrics for "Jubilee", I have fixed the link in yesterday’s post, or you can just click here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 23, 2006

Ps 80 / Lev 25-27 / Folos / Tidbits

Psalm 80 continues some of the circumstances and themes we have been finding in the psalms immediately preceding it. An example of a similar theme is in verse 1, where God is addressed as the “Shepherd of Israel” and located on the Ark of the Covenant as well as on His heavenly throne. An example of similar circumstances is the exile of the northern kingdom. Ephraim, Benhamin, and Manasseh in verse 2, tribes of the northern kingdom, may be present and praying in Jerusalem after the Assyrians took the northern kingdom into exile (see 2 Kings 17:1-6). The phrasing in this psalm draws on the formation of the people as they marched with the Ark (see Numbers 10:21-24). Verse 3 is a refrain of sorts in this psalm, found also in verses 7 and 19, that echoes the Aaronic benediction (see especially v.25 of Numbers 6:24-26) and in its three-fold repetition invokes the Holy Trinity. The vine metaphor used in Psalm 80:8-16 is familiar if you read with us such passages as Isaiah 5:1-7. Israel once flourished as God’s transplanted vine, but God stopped defending the vineyard, and now the people pray God to care for His vine again. In verse 15 translations differ in how they render the Hebrew ben, with the KJV and ASV translating “branch” and the NIV and NASB both translating “son” but putting “branch” in the margin as a figurative meaning (see also Genesis 49:22). Though two commentaries I checked do not mention it, as I read verse 17, I thought of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man Who ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty and Who identifies Himself as the “true vine” (John 15:1, 5).

Reading Leviticus 25-27 we cover three sections and finish the book. Chapter 25 details the Sabbath Year, Year of Jubilee, land tenure, and reform of slavery. Chapter 26 tells of the blessings and curses for, respectively, obeying and disobeying the covenant. Chapter 27 has more regulations for offerings vowed to the Lord but given in the form of money. Leviticus 25:10 should be familiar if you have ever seen the Liberty Bell. The name “Year of Jubilee” comes from the horn or trumpet used as described in verse 10. Note in 25:6-7 how God will provide enough food for two years and in 25:21-22 God will provide enough for three years. In 25:25 we read of the kinsman-redeemer, who will be important in Ruth 4:1-4. Redemption is a theme throughout chapter 25, and these types of redemption are finally fulfilled in Jesus Christ. (Contemporary Christian songwriter and singer Michael Card understands this fulfillment well in his song “Jubilee”.) Blessings and curses like those in chapter 26 are found elsewhere in the Pentatuch, too. God has done His part (26:13), and now the people are to do theirs, motivated by faith in God and by the Holy Spirit working in them. The curses allow opportunities for the people to repent and promise increasingly worse consequences if they repeatedly fail to repent. The curses are prophetic, in a sense, as the people eventually seem to fulfill each offensive act and God follows with the consequences. Leviticus 27:34 ends the book by stating that God gave all of the preceding commands at Mount Sinai, preparing us for the continuation of the narrative at the beginning of Numbers.

The first of today’s three Biblog folos comes as a reader emailed in response to the topic of partial-birth abortion in yesterday’s Biblog post, commenting as follows:

If I understand this correctly, the issue is not allowing the baby to take its first breath, because then it would have to be protected as a "live birth." To prevent that, they manipulate the child so as to present feet first, so they can pierce and destroy the brain before "delivery." That is a greater risk to the mother from the outset. If they are worrying about the mother's health, they shouldn't be doing the "procedure" at all.

The previous Supreme Court ruling said that the health exception for the mother is necessary if "substantial medical authority supports the medical necessity of the procedure in some instances." At the time Congress passed the ban it found medical opinion did not support the necessity of the exception, but now opponents of the ban say that medical opinion has shifted. There is no talk at all, of course, regarding a mother’s sacrificial love that would lay down her life to save the child. (That’s not even to mention that abortions in general are not necessarily safe for the mothers, as the Blackmun Wall purportedly testifies.) As far as the child is concerned, the emailer commented the following:

How can you destroy a child in the third trimester which has been viable for two months or more and not call it murder?

The case is a little different if the abortion is done in the second trimester, as the same emailer noted.

They have pushed the "viability" of “wanted” babies back to five-and-a-half months, but there are so many medical problems that some question the wisdom of it. (Part of the reason for that effort is trying to see how far they can go, in my humble opinion.)

It would seem to me that the earlier in pregnancy a “fetus” is deemed to be viable the fewer abortions that will be allowed. “Medical opinion” is a changing thing, of course, and, to use the old journalism cliché, time will tell what doctors say when the Supreme Court hears the case, likely in the term starting next October.

Today’s second Biblog folo is a clarification. In Tuesday’s Biblog post I wrote that on Oscar night we should vote with our clickers, and a reader emailed asking me to explain that comment. I meant that we should use our remote controls to either find something other than the Oscars to watch or to turn the TV off.

Today’s third and final Biblog folo follows! You don’t have limit your enjoyment of the $4 million, 7-volume St. John’s Bible (mentioned in yesterday’s Biblog post) to the internet, you can see it in person this summer at the Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas, from June 8 to September 3. The Bible is the first hand-written Bible commissioned in some 500 years.

Today’s tidbits seem to center on religion and government. In the wake of the cartoon violence, Muslims are asking the United Nations to protect their religion from criticism. ... The controversy in the Indiana State House of Representatives over prayers in Jesus’ Name is spreading to the United States Congress. ... A bill in Connecticut’s state legislature would force hospitals to give rape victims the so-called “morning after” abortion pill, and that bill has Roman Catholic leaders worried. ... Two new Roman Catholic cardinals named Wednesday are from two much conflicted archdioceses. ... A report for France’s parliament recommends no gay marriage or same-sex parenthood. ... A nearly 20-year-old gay-agenda battle plan is proving to be prophetic. ... And, supposedly-conservative country music stars are recording gay-themed music. Willie Nelson’s song seems to have gotten the most attention, and you can find its lyrics here. Another reason not to like country music?

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:06 AM

February 22, 2006

Ps 79 / Lev 22-24 / Tidbits

Like the one before it, Psalm 79 comes from well past the time of David. In this case, Judah, standing for the southern kingdom, has been attacked and the temple leveled. Judah deserved God’s discipline and pleads for forgiveness (v.9). The enemies, however, were more than willing to be God’s rod against Judah; they were motivated by their own contempt for God. Thus, Judah also prays that God would execute His wrath on the enemies (vv.6-7). The people praying this psalm likely were in exile, where they were prisoners of a sort, kept from returning to their land by threat of death (v.11). They were guilty of unfaithfulness, and their unfaithfulness was the final straw that resulted in the people's exile. God was not punishing them for their ancestors’ sins but for their own; their petition in verse 8, however, is to contrast their repentance in verse 9 with their ancestors’ impenitence. (Note again the sheep imagery present in this and the previous two psalms.)

Today’s reading of Leviticus 22-24 finishes the section giving regulations for the priests and their work and completely covers another section dealing with various punishments. You will find some degree of repetition in chapter 23 from what we have read already in Exodus and Leviticus and will read more of in Numbers; remember that the repetition helped fix the details in the hearts and minds of those who heard God’s Word. Permit me to highlight a couple of details. The Feast of Weeks was known as Pentecost in the New Testament, even before the events of Acts 2, though those events certainly fulfilled that which the older festival symbolically prophesied. In the Feast of Tabernacles you might notice the importance of the eighth day. Though the showbread of Leviticus 24:5-9 belonged to Aaron and his sons, David and some of his men ate it one time (1 Samuel 21:1-6)—an event Jesus recalled when challenged about His disciples “working” on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-27; Luke 6:1-5).

I have a few tidbits. As of yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States is letting a New Mexico “church” use an otherwise illegal drug as part of a ritual to “connect” with its god. In addition, the nation’s highest court yesterday said it will take up the legality of Congress’ partial-birth abortion ban. Also on the topic of abortion, Massachusetts has ordered Wal-Mart to carry the “morning after” abortion pill; I guess government can tell businesses what to sell and what not to sell. (Note that the link in yesterday’s post was about FDA approval of the drug over the counter, while the Wal-Mart story has to do with the prescription version.) … And retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu says what the World Council of Churches' ears were itching to hear, ignoring the importance of unity in doctrine for unity of the church and ignoring God’s condemnation of sin. Join me in a "Lord, have mercy"?

There are two new Questions and Answers here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 21, 2006

Ps 78 / Lev 19-21 / Folos / Tidbits

Many of the events recalled in Psalm 78 will be familiar to you, if you have been reading Exodus with the Daily Lectionary, and other events will soon be coming up in Numbers. (With very veiled references such as in v.17, the psalmist even expects us to more or less on our own recall events such as Exodus 15:24.) Overall, the psalm instructs us to learn from past mistakes and to remember God’s past and present salvation—not just us, but also our children as we teach them. Verse 2 is understood by the divinely-inspired St. Matthew as prophecy of Jesus’ teaching in parables (Matthew 13:35). Verse 65 is not to be understood as if God was really sleeping but rather as contrasting God’s action during the time of David compared to the preceding era. Again note the flock and sheep imagery (vv.52, 70-72), and see how that imagery in some ways ties this psalm to the preceding one (77:20) and puts David in the same category as Moses and Aaron. The mention of David (vv.70-72) and emphasis on Ephraim (vv.9-16) suggest the psalm comes from the time that David’s kingdom was divided into the north (where the tribe of Ephraim was prominent) and the south. The northern kingdom was less faithful and unfaithful sooner than the southern, and here its sin is related to that of its forbearers, that is, betraying God’s covenant (v.10). The people of Israel repeatedly sinned against God despite His loving mercy and blessings, but He continued to forgive them (v.38); we, too, continue to sin against God despite His love and mercy, yet He continues to faithfully forgive us all our sins for Jesus’ sake.

Leviticus 19-21 finishes a section dealing with additional moral laws and begins a section dealing with regulations for the priests and their work of making sacrifices and celebrating feasts. Chapter 19 expands the Ten Commandments; you can probably see how many of the various provisions fit under particular commandments. Note God’s care for those in need (for example, v.10, which will be important in Ruth 2). Leviticus 19:28 should be noted by those today who are so quick to tattoo and 19:31 by those who seek out supernatural direction by the means described there! (God is to be consulted instead, through His chosen representatives.) Chapter 20 repeats many of chapter 18’s prohibitions but adds penalties for violating the moral code—one penalty frequently given is death (as one example, note how in v.13 it is the penalty for homosexuality). Chapter 21 details rules for priests, and we might also think of the somewhat corresponding passages in the New Testament, such as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Though these provisions are specifically given for Old Testament priests and their New Testament equivalents, these provisions can be said to apply to all to the extent that spiritual leaders are to be examples for all and that all are priests in some sense.

I have included four Biblog folos today. The first relates to the February 15th post about South Dakota’s efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. One email had the following comment.

The problem with "causes" is that, if they meet with success, the paid workers have to find something else to do. The rewards of the cause are partly seeing your name quoted in the media, I think, and that may be the hardest part to give up! (Volunteers, nameless and unpaid, can always find something [else].)

And speaking of abortion, another email brought this link to how the liberals are uniting under the abortion cause, though seemingly breaking some boundaries of the realm of reason to do so. And, here is more on the Plan-B, so-called “morning after” pill, discussed previously in the February 6th post.

The second Biblog folo came about when a reader followed a link I posted on February 16th to this page, which was emailed to me with the comment that Chinese leases of ports on both ends of the Panama Canal are also somewhat shocking. The latest on the ongoing controversy over the Arab port management can be found here.

The third Biblog folo has to do with Dr. James Dobson and his support of a measure similar to a measure that would give benefits to same-sex partners. Apparently by the time my February 16th post was published, a link that worked when I wrote the post was no longer valid, but instead one reader found an apology for the piece to which I had tried to link. The same site also posted a Focus on the Family rebuttal to the piece, but, sadly, the site did not leave the piece itself up for readers to see what was being rebutted! Dobson went on the defensive through other media, as well (click here and here).

The final Biblog folo relates to another link I included in the February 16th post, one regarding sexual situations in high school. That linked article prompted one reader to email that such a result was the goal of sexual education classes begun 40-50 years ago. The reader also commented that the linked article repeated more than was necessary to make its point, almost as if the author himself wanted to titillate.

For tidbits today I offer the following. There are new theories about the settling of America. … Amid yet another interesting twist in the cartoon violence story, the Vatican is trying to bring about healing over the crusades. … The founder of Domino’s pizza is reportedly building a Roman Catholic community in Florida, though not without controversy. … “Brokeback Mountain” continues its decline at the weekend box office, with the number of theatres falling as well (it showed at 366 fewer theatres this past weekend). (Compare the spin here.) While “Transamerica” is up in the number of theatres where it is showing, that movie has not broken into the list of the top 28. Though “Brokeback” did well at the British film awards, perhaps we can all let Hollywood know what we think of this type of entertainment by voting with our clickers on Oscar night, in two weeks. Gay activists, meanwhile, plan to take their agenda to Jerusalem this summer. … And, if you are looking for more edifying “entertainment”, check out the St. John’s Bible—a modern Bible being done in old-world style.

Thanks for your patience on things while I was away and resting up, and thanks also to those who contributed comments, links, and questions. All are invited to do so! God bless all y’all’s day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 20, 2006

Ps 77 / Lev 16-18

In Psalm 77 the psalmist wrestles with what appears to be God’s not answering prayers. Remembering how God in His mercy has previously answered the psalmist’s prayers at first makes it harder for the psalmist to deal with the present situation, but then the psalmist remembers the bigger picture of God’s faithfulness to His people, specifically the redemption or deliverance of Jacob and Joseph’s descendants (here representing all of Jacob’s descendants). We can remember more than God’s miraculous power demonstrated in His deliverance of Israel from Egypt; we also remember God’s miraculous power demonstrated in His delivering us from slavery to sin by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. God led His people like a flock then by Moses and Aaron, and He leads His people now through pastors, undershepherds of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Today’s reading of Leviticus 16-18 includes a section dealing with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the importance of worship at the Tabernacle (chapters 16-17) and begins a section covering other moral laws. In chapter 16 the “scapegoat” (vv. 8, 10, 26) is from where we get our expression, but far more important to note is the use of blood for atonement. In case you are wondering, Jews in our time still observe Yom Kippur, though they cannot complete the full ritual since Tabernacle and Temple worship stopped when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Chapter 17 tells how sacrifices were really only to be offered at the central place of worship, and the chapter again emphasizes the connection between blood, life, and atonement. The ban against eating blood did not end with Old Testament times but the Apostolic Council in Acts 15 continued to apply this provision to Christians. At the same time, however, though God forbade the people of the Old Testament to eat blood in the false hope of enhancing their lives, God now invites us to drink the blood of His Son with the sure hope of enhancing our temporal and eternal lives. In fact, in some ways it is necessary for us to consume His blood (John 6:53); when we believe, we want to receive God’s forgiveness in this way. Chapter 18 lists moral laws relating to sexual relations. I’ve previously noted that these run both vertically (for example, parents or children) and horizontally (for example, siblings); these restrictions apply to people related through actual bloodlines and to people brought into relationships with those in the actual bloodlines. Leviticus 18:22 is a clear statement against homosexuality, a condemnation that still has force today, though forgiveness is available to repentant homosexuals as to all sinners. Note also the close relationship between the people’s sin and the land (18:24-18:28). One might say the Jews do not deserve the land they once had, and one could also say that by this standard we hardly deserve our land. The land that really matters, of course, is our eternal inheritance in heaven.

I thank God that I am home safe from my trip to Phoenix for an academic conference, and I pray that I soon will catch up on your questions and comments on previous Biblog posts and the readings. Thanks also go to our webmaster for publishing my posts for me while I was away from my computer and for all his work on our site. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 19, 2006

Ps 76 / Lev 13-15

Psalm 76 celebrates God’s protection of Jerusalem (“Salem” in v.2), which specific protection tradition has identified with the attacks of Sennacherib in 2 Kings 19:35. Notice in verse 9 the identification of “judging” with “saving”. Translations of verse 10 differ as to whom the wrath belongs: either human beings’ wrath against God, which wrath He crushes, or God’s wrath crushing His enemies—either way God’s people respond with praise. We can think of God’s protection for us now in His Church and of His ultimate protection of the heavenly Jerusalem, and therefore we also respond with praise.

Leviticus 13-15 finishes the section begun yesterday dealing with the laws of cleanness. Chapter 13 deals more with the beginnings of various skin diseases, and chapter 14 tells of the ritual for skin disease that had been cured. Chapter 15 tells of various bodily emissions that make a person unclean. As with the sacrifices and other laws, we do not want to get too bogged down in the details here. The ceremonial cleanness provisions no longer apply to us, as people of the New Testament. With my having said that, we still can be edified by considering a few details here. The ceremonial water that cleanses (such as in 14:7) points to Baptism. The eighth day as a day for ritual cleansing, and thus re-creation (as in 14:23), is one reason why Baptisms were often done on the eighth day.

God bless your day, especially as you let Him make it holy for you through His Word and Sacraments.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 18, 2006

Ps 75 / Lev 10-12

Psalm 75 is said to consist of two main parts: verses 2-5 “a reassuring word from heaven” and verses 6-9 “a triumphant response from earth”. The “word from heaven” may be a new revelation, or it may be a summary of God’s earlier prophetic revelations. A central message is the Lord’s judgment and its own time. In verse 8, the cup of foaming wine (ASV, NIV, NASB; “red” KJV [only translated “red” here, elsewhere “troubled” and the like]) is a picture of God’s wrath, made more intoxicating by the mixture of spices, that the wicked people of the earth will have no choice but to “drink” completely, because the Lord pours it out. Verse 10 may be the Lord speaking again. We do well to hear heaven’s reassuring word and triumphantly respond as the psalmist does.

Leviticus 10-12 finishes the details about the priests and begins details on the laws of cleanness. Chapter 10 narrates the deaths of Nadab and Abihu and their aftermath, which fits the context of chapter 9’s ordination and installation, if not necessarily the precise chronology of events. Aaron’s oldest sons were killed for offering “strange” (KJV, ASV, NASB) or “unauthorized” (NIV) fire with their censers. Precisely how their action warranted death is not clear, though speculation includes their not kindling the fire from the right source (perhaps the unauthorized or strange incense in this passage is similar to the incense improperly mixed being “strange” incense in Exodus 30:9) or their not making the incense offerings at a designated time. Presumably as part of his mourning, Aaron does not keep strictly to the requirements about eating the food, but Moses is satisfied with that excuse. We have seen reference to clean and unclean animals before chapter 11’s listing, as in Genesis 7’s account of the flood (see my answer here to a question about that reading). There may have been health reasons behind God’s distinctions, but the reason He gives is to keep the people holy, or set apart, as He is holy. Chapter 12 deals with various provisions related to cleanness after the birth of a child, male or female.

God bless your day, and may you let God make tomorrow holy for you by the right use of His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 17, 2006

Ps 74 / Lev 7-9 / Clergy & Politicians

Psalm 74 prays God to help His people, most likely after the Babylonians had entered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. The psalmist asks “why” they were suffering (v.1), but we might say the answer is implicit in the psalm: the people had been unfaithful (note the multiple illegitimate places of worship in v.8, opposed to the one Temple as commanded), and the destruction was a consequence of their sin. Despite their unfaithfulness, the psalmist calls for God to again help His people, and the psalmist emphatically reminds God of all He had done creating the world and saving His people previously (vv.13-17). The psalmist shares God’s concern for “the poor and needy”, those likely to suffer the most under any circumstances. Ultimately the psalmist appeals to God’s own “pride” as a reason for God to act (vv.22-23). God did answer the prayer of this psalm by rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple after the Babylonian captivity, and God answers this psalm as we pray it, too, it only seems like it takes Him “forever” (v.1).

Leviticus 7-9 finishes details about the Israelites’ five main offerings and begins details about priestly ordination and installation and work. Chapter 7 provides additional regulations about some of the major types of offerings, especially regulations pertaining to the consumption of the offerings. For example, the regulation about eating the meat relatively quickly likely had to do with how quickly meat would spoil and thus become imperfect and thus ceremonially impure. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with the ordination and installation of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood. For them, the ordination and installation rites were one and the same, but today we usually make a distinction between ordination and installation, where ordination is viewed as conveying the Office of the Holy Ministry, and installation the particular place of that ministry. (Aaron and his sons only ministered at the Tabernacle/Temple and did not move around from congregation to congregation.) As with Aaron (9:23), newly ordained pastors often will pronounce the benediction as one of their first official acts, though the acknowledgment of their ministry is hardly as spectacular as the Lord’s acknowledging Aaron’s and his sons’ (9:24). (Of course, the assembled congregation is supposed to say “Amen!”)

Today I offer you a few tidbits about clergy and politicians. Two conservative Virginia Episcopal congregations have left their liberal church body behind, while the man at the center of that denomination’s gay clergy controversy has checked into rehab. … The relatively liberal Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) next month will try a woman for marrying two lesbians. … And, prayers in the Indiana State House of Representatives at least have the support of the House members; earlier this week a resolution supporting the body’s long-time practice passed unanimously. Hmm, politicians are in some cases more religious than clergy? Must be a sign of the end!

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 16, 2006

Ps 73 / Lev 4-6 / Family tidbits

Book III of the Psalms begins with Psalm 73, in which the psalmist (Asaph, the leader of one of David’s three Levitical choirs, or one of his descendants) contrasts the destinies of the wicked and the righteous. After what might be called “An almost fatal trial of faith”, verses 1-14 tell how the psalmist’s troubles made him fixate on how the wicked seemed to succeed (especially vv.4-5). The wicked act as if God has no knowledge of what they do (v.11), and the righteous can almost give up on the notion that their faith matters (vv.13-14). Yet, being in God’s presence and thus being instructed by the Holy Spirit in the Divine Service keeps faith and hope alive (vv.16-17). The wicked only seem to prosper; in fact, they can be swept away quite quickly (vv.18-20). The psalmist is led to recognize God’s hand in everything (v.23) and that God is all that really matters (v.25). Those understandings the psalmist vows to “tell” (v.28, understand as “praise”).

Leviticus 4-6 continues details about the Israelites’ five main offerings. Notice in chapter 4’s and 5’s treatment of the sin offering that there are different “classes” of people with different corresponding offerings (two options in the case of the poor) and that ignorance of the law is no excuse. As Hebrews 5:1-3 and 7:26-28 remind us, Jesus is a perfect high priest Who did not need to make atonement for His own sin but perfectly offered Himself for us (“Himself the victim and Himself the priest”, TLH #307:1 line 4). Leviticus 5:1-4 gives examples of unintentional sins, though by our standards the first example may not seem to be an unintentional sin but more of an intentional sin of omission. Leviticus 5:14-6:7 tells of the “trespass offering” (KJV, ASV) or “guilt offering” (NIV, NASB), which is also sometimes called the “sin offering” (for example, 7:7), though the guilt offering and the sinoffering can be distinguished in that the guilt offering was also made with restitution and the sin offering was made where restitution was not possible. The rest of chapter 6 gives more details on the major types of offering already described in some detail, adding regulations pertaining to the consumption of the offerings. Again, try not to get too bogged down in these offerings but remember that Jesus’ offering atones for all of our sin and that all we offer now are the sacrifices of confessing the faith and praising God’s Name (Hebrews 13:15, and see Deuteronomy 23:23).

I have a few family tidbits for you. There are new claims in Florida and New York that the homosexual agenda is harming traditional families, and there has been what could be termed an unusual concession to that agenda from an unlikely source (who is drawing some pretty heavy criticism). … A potential danger from children getting exposed to internet porn while doing homework is described here. … Sexual issues in high school weren’t like this when I was that age. … And, in plenty of time for next February 14th, Texas children are now supposedly free to share religious Valentines.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 15, 2006

Ps 72 / Lev 1-3 / Tidbits

Psalm 72, ascribed to or written for Solomon, David’s son and successor to the throne, may be placed after Psalm 71 because that Psalm was thought to be from David’s old age near the end of his reign. Regardless, Psalm 72 had use beyond Solomon as petitions for other kings of Judah and finally as a description of the Anointed Savior. Notice how the needs of the afflicted, especially the children, are addressed (vv.2-4, 12-14). Verse 10 was fulfilled in Solomon’s day, but the verse is sometimes also connected with the visit of the magi to the child Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12), though the magi were not necessarily kings (see the January 6th and January 7th Biblog posts). The main idea is that even those outside of Israel will come and worship and be blessed through David’s Son. Verse 20, incidentally is not really a part of this psalm, nor do we think that every psalm preceding it was written by David or that there are no other psalms of David following it.

As we begin Leviticus, you may want to read the background information on the new book offered here and also available as a downloadable PDF here. Leviticus 1-3 begins a seven-chapter section dealing with the five central offerings the Israelites were to make to God. Remember that all these offerings point us to Jesus Christ, Who, to make us holy, sacrificed Himself once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). For example, the burnt offering described in chapter 1 had to be without blemish in order to make atonement; Jesus was without sin and thus could atone for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). The grain offering described in chapter 2 is said to be “the only bloodless offering”, and it in part supported the priesthood, even as our offerings today support the ministry of the Church. The “peace offering” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “fellowship offering” NIV) described in chapter 3 was shared between the person making the offering, the priest, and God; the offering effected peace and showed that they were at peace with and thus had table fellowship with one another (as in the Sacrament of the Altar).

A trio of tidbits tidbits today. There's reportedly been a copycat church arson in Alabama. ... "Brokeback Mountain" is reportedly not the pride of Alberta, where it was filmed, though the movie is said to be helping Wyoming's tourism, where the 1960s gay sheepherding movie is set. ... And, South Dakota's legislature is trying to create a law that could lead to a case that could overturn the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. Let us pray it does.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 14, 2006

Ps 71 / Ex 39-40 / Jesuit intolerance / Folos / Valentine’s tidbits

Psalm 71 may be a psalm of David written in his old age near the end of his reign (vv.9, 18). As in so many of David’s psalms (and all the psalms), we find here prayer and praise, though the structure of this psalm includes some repeated elements: the initial appeal for help is followed by the basis for that appeal, a more specific prayer, a vow to praise, a confession of the Lord as his hope, and another vow to praise. The Lord’s love and care for us does continue throughout our lives (vv.5-9, 17-18). Note how the psalmist confesses the Lord as the source of his troubles (v.20), but the psalmist continues to trust that the Lord will resurrect him (see the similar sentiment in Job 13:15). There is a close connection between the Lord redeeming us and our singing praise to Him (vv.22-24); it should almost be impossible to keep silent!

As with yesterday’s reading, Exodus 39-40 reiterates more of the details regarding worship arrangements from earlier in Exodus, though, as it finishes both the subsection on the building of the Tabernacle and the book’s long section on Divine Worship, it also tells of the inspection and assembly of the Tabernacle and the Lord dwelling in it. You might notice that the Tabernacle was erected on what, for the Jews, was essentially New Year’s Day (40:2). As you finish this long section on worship, reflect on how blessed we are to have God’s Presence with us through His Word and Sacraments and to know that we can draw near to Him to be blessed with the forgiveness of sins.

On a different topic, I was emailed a report of students at Roman Catholic Gonzaga University trying to insult players from the opposing basketball team by yelling “Brokeback Mountain”, the title of a Oscar-nominated movie about two gay sheepherders in 1960s Wyoming. Now, I’m not saying the students should insult visiting players, and, if you read this Biblog regularly at all, you know I’m not a fan of the movie. What struck me about the report was the following statement by a student at the University.

I simply do not understand how a student body claiming to live by Jesuit principles of acceptance and respect for all can allow an incident like this to happen and remain silent.

The student making that statement clearly has not learned her Jesuit history very well. The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, began in the 16th century in the wake of the Lutheran reformation. Though founded “for the propagation of the faith”, the Jesuits fought against the Reformation. Though more recent Roman Catholicism has taught various forms of universalism, true Jesuits hardly accept and respect all—if anything we should speak well of Jesuit intolerance. When I responded to the person who sent me the link about this student’s statement, the link-sender rightly commented that such people do not know what it is to confess the faith as the Jesuits did, but rather for them, “The god of tolerance has trumped all other gods including the real God.”

Today’s Biblog folos begin with a reader’s comment that people should not assume the arsons at Alabama Baptist churches (linked yesterday) are racially motivated. Indeed, as the investigation continues into the ten arsons, the fires are now thought to have some anti-religious motive. (Incidentally, in the wake of yesterday’s post I found a more explicit expression of forgiveness for the arsonists here.) The next Biblog folo relates to the tidbit on Sunday about Darwin’s birthday: a measure introduced in Wisconsin to prevent teaching Intelligent Design could also end up preventing the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution. (That's probably not the birthday present they might have intended it to be!) The last Biblog folo has to do with British public opinion about what is being called there the “cartoon row”, which has also been a topic in a number of recent posts: the Brits think the cartoons should be published, and they are not at all happy with extremists’ threats in their wake nor do they think peace will be reached any time soon. (Not until the Second Coming, I'd say.)

My Valentine’s tidbits for you are one person’s history of St. Valentine’s Day (though with the skeleton it almost seems like Halloween instead!), a unique way to observe the Day as a Day of Purity, and, after a much-publicized split, good (?) Valentine news that Ken is trying to get Barbie back.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:35 AM

February 13, 2006

Ps 70 / Ex 37-38 / Forgiveness in Alabama?

Psalm 70 is a short petition for urgent help (note the first and last verses). The psalmist anticipates that the Lord’s speedy coming to help will have two different results according to whether an individual is hostile to the psalmist and thus the Lord (vv.2-3) or whether an individual seeks the Lord (v.4). Though a specific answer to prayer for help might not have such a significant impact, to the extent that we pray this psalm and that the Lord’s coming is His return in glory, the Lord’s coming will truly have the two different results the psalmist anticipates. Jesus Himself saw such a division as a result of His coming in the flesh. The division between unbelievers and believers exists already (see John 3:18), though it will not be made clear to all until the Lord’s glorious coming.

Permit me one other reflection on this psalm. Any one of us might pray this psalm feeling, no doubt as the psalmist did, that we are near the breaking point, that we cannot stand any more of the affliction we are facing. God, of course, knows our needs even before we pray, and He knows how much we can endure. St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:13 remind us that with the temptation (or in this case the word perhaps could be better rendered “trial” or “testing” to prove our character, faith, or holiness) God will provide an escape, that is to say, He will enable us to bear it with His help. There is no promise the affliction will be removed or that we will have an easy life as Christians. On the contrary, we follow our Crucified Savior on the way of the cross.

Exodus 37-38 repeats more of the details of the Tabernacle and its furnishings as it continues the subsection on the building of the Tabernacle that is part of the book’s long section on Divine Worship. You may recall that the cherubim and other heavenly creatures are associated with God’s presence and heavenly worship (as in Isaiah 6:1-7, for more on which see the December 10th Biblog post) and that in the Divine Service we join “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven”.

Forgiveness in Alabama? As flames burned again this weekend and investigators continue to try to figure out who is behind the string of arsons at Baptist congregations in that state, I was pleased to hear on radio news yesterday morning (about 1:05 into the clip) Annie Hodges Gunner, secretary of Dancy First Baptist Church, one of the congregations, say she would pray for the arsonist. She did not say, at least not in the soundbyte, that she would forgive the arsonist, but her statement was still a pretty good witness to what the Gospel is all about. Too often people who have been wronged say they are unwilling to forgive the person who has sinned against them. The woman I heard, however, may have remembered that if we are unwilling to forgive those who sin against us, then God is unwilling to forgive us (Matthew 18:34-35).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 12, 2006

Ps 69 / Ex 34-36 / Tidbits

Are you ever afraid of drowning? Psalm 69 might give voice to some of your fears, as David cries out to God for mercy. The psalm is one of the most quoted in the New Testament, with the psalmist’s words most appropriate on the lips of Jesus, Who suffered righteously for us. Verse 9 is especially true of Jesus in the cleansing of the temple (for example, John 2:17), and verse 21 is seen as fulfilled in Christ’s suffering on the cross (Matthew 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23, 36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29). In verse 12 those who sit at the gate are the elders of the community, so the verse means that the psalmist is mocked by everyone in the community, from the best to the worst. Verse 18, a prayer for redemption, comes near the center of the psalm. The psalmist is, as usual, confident that the prayer will be answered, as evidenced by the vow to praise (vv.30-33) and the call to praise (34-36).

Exodus 34-36 continues the long section of Exodus dealing with Divine Worship. Chapter 34 wraps up the subsection on false worship, and chapters 35-36 begin the final subsection on the building of the Tabernacle. The Lord, having agreed to forgive the people for their almost immediate breaking of the Covenant, writes out two new stone tablets. (Incidentally, Lutherans usually put the First through Third Commandments, those dealing with love of God, on the first table or tablet; the Fourth through Tenth Commandments, those dealing with love of neighbor, usually go on the second table or tablet.) Note the Lord’s self-revelation in 34:6-7, but do not think that He ultimately punishes any sinner for anything other than his or her own unbelief, which unbelief prevents a sinner from receiving forgiveness. The close connection between sexual immorality, immorality, and sacred meals is highlighted in 34:15-16 (as well as the command for believers not to marry unbelievers). Moses’ glowing face of 34:29-35 is recalled in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. Exodus 35:4-39:43 repeats almost word for word some of the details from chapters 25-28, though the organization of the content and tense of the verbs used to express it are different; the repetition helped people hearing the Word of God remember it.

I have a few interesting tidbits for you. The Archdiocese of New Orleans is reconfiguring in the wake of Katrina. … Swedish Christians escape charges in death threats against prominent homosexuals because Bible quotations were used. … The Lord’s Prayer is at the center of a controversy in Ohio. … Supposedly Christian Churches are celebrating Darwin’s birthday today. ... And starting tonight some Jews are observing Jewish Arbor Day, a non-Biblical holiday that seems to have connections with Kabbala.

God bless your day, and may you let God make it holy through His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 11, 2006

Ps 68 / Ex 31-33 / Tidbits

Psalm 68 is thought to be a processional psalm that retells of God’s move from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion and was understood to be ultimately fulfilled by Christ’s ascension to heaven and His victory over the powers of evil in the world. See how v.1 calls for God to arise and lead His people forth from Sinai and how v.35 has Him in His Sanctuary in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. There are a couple especially applicable verses along the way. The first half of verse 6 can speak of God’s providing Christian brothers and sisters for those of us who for one reason or another do not have spouses living with us and our own children. Verse 18 is quoted by St. Paul in Ephesians 4:8-13, though the “receiving” gifts is there turned into “giving” gifts (beware of your Bible’s translation of Ephesians 4:11-13; the KJV is best), and St. Paul’s understanding is instrumental for how the New Testament church has understood this psalm. Verses 19-20 speak well of Jesus carrying our sins and thereby saving us from the eternal death of hell.

Exodus 31-33 continues a 15-chapter-long section of the book that deals with Divine Worship, today finishing the subsection dealing with the Tabernacle (sometimes called the Tent of Meeting, which also sometimes refers to a temporary structure used until the Tabernacle was finished); today’s chapters also begin a section dealing with false worship. Chapter 31 tells how the Lord provided craftsmen to adorn the Tabernacle and established the Sabbath as a day to be set apart as holy. Chapter 32:1-33:6 tells how the people started to worship a golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai and how Moses destroyed the tablets of the covenant when he saw the calf, the destruction of the tablets symbolizing the people of Israel’s breaking of the covenant (perhaps about as quickly as the man and the woman sinned in the garden, and with a similar blame game). The rest of chapter 33 tells how God promises to be present with His people and how Moses saw the Lord’s glory.

I have a few interesting tidbits for you (thanks to those who sent a couple of them). Canada may have to use a special legislative measure to preserve traditional marriages. … Approval of same-sex marriages is splitting the United Church of Christ (note that this link is to a gay newspaper’s site). … A Roman Catholic sermon from Advent sounds remarkably Lutheran on salvation by faith alone. … There reportedly are new guidelines for Air Force chaplains conducting public prayer, but not everyone is happy. … A Christian activist says President Bush and his advisors do not really understand Islam. … And a religious journalist finds some humor in journalists’ lack of understanding of religion.

Remember that I welcome your questions about the readings! Do not hesitate to ask (use the link on the left), and you do not have to worry about what people think about your question, since the questions will be kept anonymous and answers posted on this site. God bless your day, and may you permit the Lord to make tomorrow a holy day through the right use of His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 10, 2006

Ps 67 / Ex 28-30 / Cartoon violence / Tidbits

Reading Psalm 67 immediately brings to my mind the Aaronic benediction (Numbers 6:24-26) that ended Old Testament worship and ends the historic Christian liturgy of the Divine Service. Bible scholars think Psalm 67 was itself used in the Jewish liturgy either before or after the benediction. Notice throughout the psalm how God’s favor to His people draws others to Him, and we see that fulfilled in the Divine Service: believers are blessed with the forgiveness of sins, and unbelievers are therein drawn to the faith by the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacraments, creating faith when and where He pleases.

Similar to yesterday’s reading, Exodus 28-30 continues a 15-chapter-long section of the book that deals with Divine Worship, nearly finishing the subsection dealing with the Tabernacle (remember it is sometimes instead called the Tent of Meeting). In reading chapter 28 about the priestly garments, you might think of how clergy today properly wear clothing that sets them apart for their unique role in serving God and His people. The Urim and Thummim (for example, 28:30) are generally thought to be “lots” used to determined God’s will, a practice continued in at least one case in the New Testament (Acts 1:26) and perhaps worth continuing in some cases today. Priests then had a unique consecration, and pastors today have unique ordinations; no sacrifice is needed any longer, however, as Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all. The incense of 30:1-10 and 34-37 could also still be used today; our liturgy speaks of incense (Vespers, for example), in part as symbolic of the prayers of the people (Psalm 141:2 and Revelation 8:4). (With the Exodus from Egypt fresh in your mind, you might be interested in a new discovery of an intact tomb from Egypt’s height of power.)

On the topic of the cartoon violence, Roman Catholic statements say everything except that Christianity is the true faith and Islam is not. If you have any doubt that Islam is a far cry from Christianity, check this out. Christianity is about the forgiveness of sins, and Islam clearly is not--so much for “turn the other cheek”, “Father, forgive them”, “as we forgive those”, etc. One might argue that Islam’s treatment of Jesus as only a prophet and not as the Son of God is blasphemous. Good thing we are more forgiving? Editors of a New York paper quit instead of forgiving their managers for refusing to publish the cartoons. (I couldn’t find the article itself on the New York Observer’s website, and this is all I could find on the New York Press’ site.) And, you might notice that msnbc.com, which previously had not shown the cartoons, is now providing an image of at least some of the cartoons. Meanwhile in Iran, a newspaper is planning a contest to generate cartoons on the Nazi Holocaust to see how far western free speech really goes; I guess we’ll see.

Some tidbits follow. A Roman Catholic spokesman speaks against Anglicans ordaining female bishops. ... Virginia tries to keep gay groups off high school campuses. … An Illinois newspaper finds pro-life ads too graphic to print. … Hot cross buns are too religious for English public schools. … A female author claims feminism has hurt America. … And finally, someone (a Republican, no less) who goes by “God” in Pennsylvania is about to lose his driver’s license.

God (the real one) bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 09, 2006

Ps 66 / Ex 25-27 / “God’s green soldiers” / Media Tidbits

Psalm 66 is a joyous song of praise apparently after the psalmist’s prayer was answered. The psalmist calls all to join in the praise. The psalmist recalls God’s deeds, such as the parting of the Red Sea (v.6), but verse 5 can especially be applied to God’s sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus, for us, and verse 5 can also be applied to the ways that God continues to give to us the gift of forgiveness Jesus won: His preached Word, Holy Baptism, individual Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar—all of which are “seen” in the Divine Service. God may give us trials, but He also preserves us through them and ultimately brings us to a place of overflowing blessedness (vv.10-12). Verse 16 is an invitation to join in worship; something that each of us can extend to everyone we know. Verse 18 can remind us that, though we all are always sinful in this life, there is a difference between loving our sin and fighting against it.

Today with Exodus 25-27 we begin a 15-chapter-long section of the book that deals with Divine Worship and a subsection of that longer section dealing with the Tabernacle (sometimes also called the Tent of Meeting). The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of God, the precursor to the Temple; we find God “tabernacling” among us in the flesh of the God-man Jesus Christ (John 1:14), which means we find Him in His Word and Sacraments. There is a great deal of symbolism in the pattern for the Tabernacle and its furnishings, but I want to highlight here just a few things from the reading. Every time I read chapter 25:1-9 (and the response in 35:20-29 and the similar later events), I am struck by the way God is able to provide an abundance for His Church through the blessings that He gives to individuals. In the same way today God has given all that our congregations need to its members for them to voluntarily give back to His service. Exodus 25:17-22 is especially important, as the “mercy seat” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “atonement cover” NIV) is where God met with His people of the Old Testament and where the blood that took away sins was sprinkled. We can identify the mercy seat with the cross, and we can also identify it with the altar in our church, where we not only find God present but we also find the blood that takes away our sins. (At Grace notice especially how the bottom of the triple window over the altar pictures the top of the Ark of the Covenant and how that is tied in with the reredos and the altar below.) The “shewbread” (KJV; “showbread” ASV; “bread of the Presence” NIV, NASB) in 25:30 has various meanings but for us can also point us to the bread that is Christ’s Body and is God’s Presence with us. In 27:2, the horns, as we have seen before are symbols of power, though on the altar they symbolize-more help and refuge.

God’s green soldiers” are reportedly divided over the latest move against green-house gas. (For the NBC Nightly News story, see the “Evangelical Enviornmentalists” link here.) Good stewardship of the earth is certainly something the Bible teaches. At the same time, we all fail to be good stewards, and for that failure we need the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. That forgiveness of sins is the primary message of the Bile—a point that seems to escape the “green soldiers”. Critics of the more strident environmentalists want a greater focus on life issues, but even they miss the fact that the Bible’s primary focus of the eternal life issue. Can we all be better stewards of the earth? Certainly we can. But, instead of trying to establish some God-pleasing kingdom on a doomed planet, would we not all be better off preparing for the life to come?

Media tidbits are my theme for the following. A French newspaper yesterday not only reprinted thosee Islamic cartoons that are prompting violence all over the Middle East, but it also added a new cartoon to the mix. Media outlets in the United States had not published the cartoons, at least not until one did last weekend. That self-censorship surprised me and has been called hypocritical by others. I understand that Islam feels as if the rest of the world is at war with them, but I think they started it on all sorts of levels. Really, they ought to get over the cartoons—making fun of Mohammed might be wrong according to the Koran, but we in the rest of the world are not bound by the Koran. … A Jewish author is criticizing President Bush for not protecting Israel’s interests, but my question is why should the United States protect Israel’s interests? Israel’s interests are not identical with ours. We already give Israel money that it may well use to oppress the Palestinians, and we give the Palestinians money to relieve the oppression by Israel—seems like we are spending our money on purposes directly opposed to each other (though not in equal dollar amounts). Maybe we could stop spending money on both purposes. … An exclusive interview with Ron Howard and clip of the forthcoming “Da Vinci Code” movie were shown Wednesday on the Today Show. You can find the clip here, but you may have to browse through the list of videos available. You can also find an award-winning Lutheran response to the "Da Vinci Code" book in the May 2004 Lutheran Witness (scroll down to pages 4-8). … Michael Jackson may sing some of Pope John Paul II’s prayers on a recording being made. That’s quite a match! … And, ever dream of running your own Mega Church? Check out this phony Amazon.com page for software to give you the chance to do so (there is no such software). The page would probably be funnier if its commentary on Mega Churches were not so true (for example, "Do it all without ... even the Bible") and the Mega Church influence not so profoundly felt in our Synod (for example, "implementing the latest ministry fad"). Lord, have mercy!

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 08, 2006

Ps 65 / Ex 22-24 / Folo / Tidbits

Psalm 65 is a song of praise to God for His great gift of forgiveness. (Note in verse 8 that such praise is appropriate in the morning and at evening and at all times in between.) The psalmist recognizes God’s role in drawing people to Him (v.4). Verse 5 may be familiar to you, as it is used in some non-Divine Service liturgies, and verses 6-7 show how peace between God and humanity also restores order to the earth. For the Old Testament people of Israel, verses 9-13 relate God’s blessings to their land; for us, we see these verses ultimately fulfilled with the new heaven and earth of the world after Christ’s coming in glory.

Today in reading Exodus 22-24, we read more of the stipulations of the Book of the Covenant and of its ratification. In reading the particular laws, I again encourage you not to get too bogged down in the detail; notice instead the general principles. For example, 22:21 calls Israel to treat aliens in the land well, since they were aliens in Egypt (see also 23:9), and 22:22-24 calls Israel to not treat widows and orphans in such a way that they cry out to God the way the Israelites cried out to God from Egypt (2:23-25). As we continue in the Old Testament, you will see repeated concern for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Exodus 23:2 is a verse parents might want to know, as children often say, “Everyone else is doing it”, and “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong” is an appropriate response when what everyone else is doing is evil. See how in 23:10-13 the weekly Sabbath extends out to a cycle of years; later you will see how it also extends out even further to a cycle of seven periods of seven years (Leviticus 25:8 and following). The three “mandatory” festivals described in 23:14-17 occasionally have different names: Unleavened Bread and Passover (the one immediately followed the other and so often one name was used to refer to both); the Feast of Harvest is the same as the Feast of Weeks; and the Feast of Ingathering is the same as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. In chapter 24’s ratification of the Covenant, note how the people are willing to do what it demands and note the meal that ratifies it (24:11), as a meal would later ratify the New Testament—a meal that continues to be offered every Sunday.

The Biblog folo today is another comment on the bloody Nile discussion continued yesterday. A reader checked another commentary and emailed its two-cents’ worth. In the detailed discussion of the text, the Anchor Bible interprets the text as saying the Nile water turned to literal blood, but then its comment on the text dismissed all of the plagues as myth borrowed from other people groups or as simple natural events. That kind of dismissal is that to which I have been referring as a higher-critical ruling-out of what even it admits is the clear meaning of the text.

I have a few tidbits for you. The U.S. Senate will reportedly vote in March on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage, and the American Family Association is calling for your support, but instead of a form email I would suggest you send a personal letter if you can. Someone who is also against gay marriage is Australia’s Anglican (the U.S. equivalent is Episcopalean) Archishop, who reportedly says homosexuality is a sin and that liberal theology is hurting the spread of the Gospel. (We should have such perceptive leaders in our national church body.) Anglicans in Canada are said to be going virtually extinct for such reasons. But, the idea that liberalism is bad did not stop the Anglicans in England Tuesday from moving towards female bishops. … In this country, arson against Baptist congregations seems to continue, while investigators try to figure out who is doing it. … The man who is probably my favorite blogger weighs in on the cartoon violence. … And, a recent discovery in Indonesia is being called the “Garden of Eden”, a figurative reference only.

I have posted a couple of new Questions & Answers here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 07, 2006

Ps 64 / Ex 19-21 / Folos / Tidbits

Psalm 64 is David’s prayer to God apparently from a time he was threatened by a conspiracy, mostly with tongues as the conspirators' weapons. The text of the psalm seems straightforward enough, and we can also pray it, especially when we feel threatened by those who do not speak the truth about us.

Exodus 19-21 begins the narrative of God giving the Covenant on Mt Sinai. The covenant in some ways is like a contract: God has saved the people, and so the people are to live the life he describes. The “kingdom of priests” in 19:6 and Dr. Luther’s similar “priesthood of the Baptized” primarily refer to sacrifices of praise that we all as Baptized believers offer to God; we all are not authorized by God to act as priests on His behalf towards other believers or the rest of the world. The “holy nation” refers to the people being set apart from the rest of the world; likewise, believers are in the world but not of the world. Note well that the people’s external preparation for God’s presence symbolizes their internal preparation. Notice the covenantal structure at the beginning of chapter 20: Who God is and what He has done is followed by what the people will do. Do not necessarily trust the way your Bible translation formats the Ten Commandments. The First commandment is 20:3, with verse 4-5a forming a commentary of sorts on the First Commandment. The rest of verse 5 through verse 6 is what Dr. Luther calls the Conclusion to the Commandments. The rest of the commandments follow obviously enough until you get to verse 17, which contains commandments 9 and 10. Verse 18-19 is striking in that the people did not want God to speak to them directly but wanted Moses to speak to them on God’s behalf—in sharp contrast to so many today who spurn God’s messengers and look for a more direct revelation. (See also how the people's statement at Horeb recorded here in Exodus is used in Deuteronomy 18:14-22.) The latter part of 20:24 is important, for what God said continues to be true for us: where His Name is invoked in the Divine Service God is present to bless us with the forgiveness of sins. As you read chapter 21 and its covenantal stipulations, try not to get too caught up in every detail. One detail worth taking note of, however, is in 21:32, where the given price of a slave is what Judas accepted to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-15).

Emails precipitated these two Biblog folos. The first, in light of this Q&A, regards the bloody Nile and the other first nine plagues. A reader emailed about the “red tide” algae “plague” that brings death to the Texas coast from time to time, but doesn’t affect water already taken from the Gulf, as the Nile plague did. As for the role of “natural causes” for the red Nile, remember that God does work through means and describing the plagues as “miraculous intensifications” of natural events is not necessarily a denial of God’s role in the plagues.

The second Biblog folo regards the example of “blasphemous ‘works of art’ attacking Christianity” I linked in the February 5th Biblog. A reader emailed asking the significance of that piece. If you did not recognize it, you can find more here.

Some diverse tidbits follow. The Oscar nominations do not seem to have helped “Brokeback Mountain” too much, as the gay “cowboy” movie over the weekend increased the number of theatres where it is showing but nevertheless saw more than a 10% drop in its gross sales. (I read something recently that said since the main characters herd sheep they really are not “cowboys”; maybe it is not as macho to call them gay shepherds?) The film’s distributor puts an interesting spin on the box office decline here. ... Reported support for abortion in the United States apparently is a matter of “spin”. Is it possible for so-called Christians to be in favor of abortion? Yes, though perhaps a better name for them is “moral relativists”. … A Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling says Judaism and Islam are apparently okay in New York City’s public schools, but Christianity is not. … And the Church of England, which already has priestesses, is meeting this week and will reportedly consider whether to consecrate female bishops. I don’t know what to call the priestesses or the bishopettes, other than schismatics.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 06, 2006

Ps 63 / Ex 16-18 / Free speech & violence / Abortion drugs

While linked to the events of 2 Samuel 15:23-28 (with additional details in 2 Samuel 16:2, 14; 17:16, 29), Psalm 63 can be our prayer, even if we are not in a literal desert. Note well the intense longing of the Psalmist for the presence of God that we should look for only in His Word and Sacraments. Verse 2 makes the important connection between what happens when the community is gathered for worship and what happens the rest of the week: what we have seen and received from God in His house comforts, strengthens, and reassures us the rest of the time. Praise and prayer (lifting up hands) do not end when the service is over on Sunday but continue each day the rest of the week, early (v.1) and at night (v.6). Do not let “swear by God’s name” (v.11, NIV) bother you; we can take oaths in God’s name and make vows to Him, but we want to be sure to fulfill them, otherwise we swear falsely (see also Deuteronomy 6:13; 1 Samuel 20:3; Matthew 5:33).

The journey to Mt. Sinai is narrated in Exodus 16-18, with God feeding His people, providing water for them, giving them victory over an enemy, and guiding them through the wisdom of another. Note that grumbling against God’s servants is grumbling against God Himself (16:2 and 16:7-8). God nevertheless provided “bread from heaven” for the Israelites in the form of manna (which in Hebrew means “What is it?”), and God provides true bread from heaven for us: Jesus’ Body given with bread in the Sacrament of the Altar. The daily provision of bread (except for the Sabbath) in the wilderness influences the Lord’s Prayer in which we pray for “daily bread”. Note well in chapter 17 how questioning the Lord’s provision is deemed a sinful putting of Him to the test. The incident of 17:1-7 may be behind St. Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 10:4. Joshua, Son of Nun, is introduced in 17:9, and he will succeed Moses as the Lord’s servant and leader of the people. “Joshua” in Hebrew means “the Lord saves”, and the Greek form of the Hebrew name is “Jesus”. Note in 17:11 the hands held up in prayer is symbolic of appealing to God for help, a liturgical gesture some pastors use while praying in the Divine Service. (See the reference to this event in “Hark! the Voice of Jesus Crying”, TLH #496:3 line 4, though poor Hur got left out!) The reference to writing in 17:14 is significant, and we remember that Moses is the author of the Bible’s first five books. In chapter 18, Moses’ wife, who either was with her father during the exodus or had been sent to him to tell him of the news, returns with their sons to Moses, and her father comes along. Jethro boldly confesses God (18:11) and then shares in the covenant meal (18:12)—note well the link between confessing and communing! Jethro also helps Moses delegate some of his authority (see Acts 6:1-7, with v.2 a favorite verse of mine, for a similar New Testament division of labor).

Here are notes on the nexus of free speech and violence. While free speech is questioned on a college campus in this country, the violence over those Islamic cartoons has impacted a Christian church, though one reader emailed word that radio reports about the violence have not all included that detail (BBC, yes; NPR, no). Here’s another blogger’s take on the matter with a whole bunch of related links. And, now NBC says that controversial episode of “Will and Grace” doesn’t exist. Right.

Two abortion drugs are in the news. In Massachusetts Wal-Mart has been sued for not carrying the Plan B emergency contraceptive (Sam’s Club stores are also involved in the suit). Wal-Mart only carries the drug at its stores in Illinois, where carrying the drug is required by law. Yet, in Illinois pharmacists at Walgreens are caught between their consciences and the governor’s order to dispense the same so-called “morning after” pills “without delay”, though Walgreens reportedly has tried to accommodate the pharmacists. And, a bill is before the U.S. House of Representatives to ban RU 486 after it has killed five women, though they supposedly did not follow the medicine’s directions. Clearly the countless babies killed by both medicines do not count.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 05, 2006

Ps 62 / Ex 13-15 / Folos

Psalm 62 is said to express “simple trust in God” better than all of the other psalms. Resting in God’s care, the psalmist is at peace even in the face of his enemies’ conspiracy. Such peace calls to the parts of us that are anxious to trust in God. Every type of person should rely on God alone. Verses 11-12 are quite powerful: God’s revelation to us shows both that He is all powerful and that He loves us, so we should understand that nothing can happen that is not in accord with His loving purposes. We may think we are neglected even though we believe, but in the end (v.12) we will receive the reward of those whose faith has produced good works.

Exodus 13-15 tells us of the consecration of the firstborn, the crossing of the Red Sea, and God’s first miraculous provision of water. Every firstborn son of Israel, which nation itself was adopted and regarded as God’s firstborn son, had been delivered from the tenth plague and was sanctified or consecrated, set apart as holy. Jesus, God’s and Mary’s firstborn Son, was also likewise set apart according to this precept (Luke 2:7, 22-23). The firstborn was redeemed or bought back by means of a sacrifice; such redemption points to our great redemption through the death and resurrection of God’s only-begotten Son (John 3:16-19). In Exodus 13:14 note again the great catechetical question, as Dr. Luther rendered it in German, Was ist das? or in English “What is this?” (KJV) or “What does this mean?” (NIV). In 13:19 note the transport of Joseph’s bones in accord with his wishes (Genesis 50:24-25; I remember the scene in “The Ten Commandments” movie, and I always wondered why it was such a big deal to be carrying out someone’s corpse). The people had not been out of Egypt long before they start blaming Moses for what they perceive is a problem (14:11-12). I’ve always found comfort in 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still” (NIV, and see Psalm 46:10), but this time I was struck by God’s statement in 14:15 that Moses should wield God’s power himself. (The movie’s version of the crossing of the Red Sea is awesome, until you visit Universal Studios in California and see that the water they used to shoot this scene is only ankle deep.) Chapter 15 is an appropriate response of praise for God’s wonderful deliverance: Moses and the Israelites sing a hymn! Yet, how quickly the miraculous deliverance gives way to a lack of faith that God, Who so dramatically rescued them, would continue to provide for them! Are we any different? See what St. Paul by divine-inspiration writes about that in Romans 8:32, and see 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 for how passing through the Red Sea points to a miraculous deliverance God brings about for us.

For Biblog Folos today, two reader comments. The violence around the world as a result of those cartoon portrayals of Mohammed (images of which I linked on Friday) is escalating. One reader emailed the following comment.

This is “free speech” like plastering a Madonna with elephant dung was “free speech” and a couple of other “art works” along the same lines (including perhaps “Will & Grace” on Maundy Thursday?). We have a fundamental difference of opinion about “images” (as well as the importance of Mohammed, I'm sure). But while Christians tend to demonstrate and send petitions, if they will bestir themselves that much, Muslims are likely to kill someone. I'm not excusing the Muslims; I’m just not looking forward to it.

This comment makes a couple of key points. First, there have been quite a number of blasphemous “works of art” attacking Christianity, some of them even paid for with our tax dollars (this is the first one that comes to my mind). Second, we do have a fundamental difference with Islam over images: they don't bother us because we have a God Who took on human flesh and invites us to receive forgiveness in His Body and Blood (we don't have that so-called "second commandment" forbidding images of God). But, perhaps one reason why Christians tend to let things go with less of a reaction (if not at least a less-violent reaction) is that we expect the world to ridicule us and what we believe—such is how Jesus was treated and how we will be treated, too—it is the way of the cross.

In response to yesterday’s post in which I drew a connection between Passover practice and Communion practice, a reader emailed: “How interesting that even then God instructed that his body and blood are only for those who share in his covenant!” Indeed, the Passover practice set the background for the “closed” Communion practice that faithful Christian congregations have always followed and continue to follow to this very day.

There is a new Question & Answer posted here. God bless your holy day, and may it truly be made holy by the right use of God’s Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 04, 2006

Ps 61 / Ex 10-12 / “Israel in Egypt”

Psalm 61 may have been written at the time David fled from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:21-29). Here again we find the psalmist crying to God at the beginning (v.1) and vowing to praise God at the end (v.8). The end of the earth may be the same as the edge of the grave (v.2). God’s past protection forms the basis for the psalmist’s present appeal (v.3). In the dwelling of God there is refuge, as a hen protects her chicks under her wings (v.4). Belief in God and protection under His Name (as we find in Holy Baptism) brings blessings (v.5). Originally the king prayed for (v.6) may have been David, but ultimately it is a prayer for the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus ultimately is seated at the privileged right hand of God (v.7).

We hear of the eighth, ninth, and tenth plagues, including the Passover, as we today read Exodus 10-12. Note right away in 10:1-2 how the story of deliverance, and thus redemption itself, is to be passed from generation to generation. The cycle of Pharaoh’s repentance and turning again to evil recurs in chapter 10, as after the earlier plagues. The people of Israel escape the tenth plague, as they did the earlier ones, but in this case only by the sacrifice of the lamb, whose blood marked their doors. The Passover lamb, of course, points to Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7), and the Passover Meal finds its fulfillment in the Lord’s Supper, where we eat the Body and Blood of our Sacrificial Lamb. (Notice how the connection between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper is made in the related Old Testament and New Testament windows on both sides of our sanctuary.) The Passover Meal also had an instructional aspect (once when I was a participant in what could be called a reenactment of a Passover Seder, I was the youngest present and got to ask the question of 12:26). Also note well that the Passover Meal was closed to those outside the faith, even as celebrations of the Lord’s Supper are properly restricted to those who join in confessing the true faith.

Friday I finally popped into my car’s tape deck my copy of Handel’s 1739 double-chorus oratorio “Israel in Egypt”, recorded as sung by the Civic Chorale in which I participated when I was an undergraduate at Illinois State University. You can find Charles Jennens’ lyrics here, but Handel’s setting is what makes them so striking (you can borrow my tape, if you like). Chorus #6 and its staccato “He spake the Word” and the plagues so sent recall the creation by the Word of Genesis. Chorus #8 by its mood brings the “darkness which might be felt” to life (chorus #18 is similar). Chorus #10 calms the troubled soul with its portrayal of the Lord as the Good Shepherd of us, His sheep. Chorus #13 highlights how the Lord’s deeds are to bring about faith in those who see them. Chorus #14 and its reprise, #30, joyfully declare the Lord’s deliverance. Chorus #16 should be the confession of all those who believe, and chorus #27 to me rivals some of the most famous choruses of Handel’s “Messiah”. In short, it was edifying entertainment--in contrast to so much of what is offered in our time.

There are new Questions & Answers posted here. God bless your day today, and may you make tomorrow holy for yourself by your right use of God’s Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 03, 2006

Ps 60 / Ex 7-9 / Folo / Tidbits

Psalm 60, linked to the events of 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18, moves from lament over God’s abandoning His people, to prayer for His deliverance, to confidence that He will deliver them. That the liturgical psalm was intended for “teaching” speaks to the teaching role of liturgy even today. If you are wondering about the “wine that makes us stagger” in verse 3 (NIV, “of astonishment” KJV), it refers to the cup of God’s wrath, as opposed to that of His salvation and blessing. Still, God delivers those who fear and trust in Him. You might notice how in verse 7 Ephraim and Judah are representative of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, respectively, with Judah again connected to the scepter of Jacob’s prophetic blessing (Genesis 49:10). Enemies in every direction are defeated, and the Lord divides the conquered land among His faithful people.

Exodus 7-9 continues God’s promise to deliver Israel from its slavery in Egypt and begins the narrative of the ten plagues. Note the progression in the plagues; there also seems to be connections between the plagues and different false gods of Egypt, with each plague showing the false god to be powerless and the God to be all-powerful. (Others wrongly find a relationship of cause and effect between the different plagues, and claim that they are natural events, not supernatural.) Pharaoh’s magicians are first able to reproduce the plagues, then they are unable to imitate God’s work, and finally they cannot even come and stand before Pharaoh. God makes a distinction in at least some of the plagues between the Israelites and the Egyptians, emphasizing God’s favor for and deliverance of the Israelites and His judgment on the Egyptians. Pharaoh repeatedly resists the Lord, gives in, then resists again. In all of this, we can see God’s plan at work; His plan is likewise at work for us even if we do not always see it.

Today’s Biblog folo is a comment from a reader who suggested NBC may be milking publicity with the controversy over a scheduled episode of “Will and Grace” that I mentioned yesterday. I replied that unlike “The Book of Daniel” NBC may be willing to withstand the controversy for the one episode (its not as if the series has not been controversial before). The reader emailed back that there will be reruns, too. No doubt.

First for tidbits are cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad that have caused controversy around the world; you can see them here (thanks to the person who found them for me). … More state regulations of abortion clinics could be in the offing. ... The Anti-Defamation League says any reference to Jesus Christ in prayers at governmental meetings is unconstitutional, while Bono, the lead singer for the rock group U2, lead prayers at the White House Thursday morning. Bono has shunned organized religion for years but apparently is now embracing it, though he can’t seem to pick one or to recognize there is only one true one. … Where straight actors playing gay cowboys are at the center of the controversy over “Brokeback Mountain”, a gay actor playing a straight missionary has been causing controversy over “End of the Spear”. I heard the movie was good, nevertheless, if you can deal with the subtitles. … And, according to the Associated Press, controversial televangelist Pat Robertson, while on ABC News’ Good Morning America Thursday morning, blamed his recent misstatements (such as those about assassinating Venezuela’s leader and Israel’s prime minister’s stroke) on his ad-libbing. Though that is probably the most newsworthy thing Robertson said, that statement doesn’t show up at all in ABC’s version of the story, which seems more concerned about promoting Robertson’s book. And speaking of religious authors on ABC News programs, Rick Warren of “purpose-driven” book infamy is scheduled to be featured on Friday night on ABC’s Nightline. The tease for the story said Warren is changing the world; if that is true, he’s not changing it for the better.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:17 AM

February 02, 2006

Ps 59 / Ex 4-6 / Folo / Tidbits

Psalm 59 is another one of David’s prayers for deliverance from his enemies, and this one is originally linked to the events of 1 Samuel 19:11, though it may have been adapted for other use later. As you might expect by now, the psalm’s first half has the specific petition for help and the second half an assurance of deliverance, with each half having a refrain of sorts. I was struck by how fierce the weapon of the tongue is, especially the contrast between the enemies’ use (howling) and David’s use (singing praise). Remember the psalmist is not claiming to be completely innocent, except to the extent that we find the psalm best spoken by Jesus’ lips. The extent to which David wants the enemies slowly punished instead of quickly destroyed is for the benefit of Israel—to make the enemies an example so they will better remember to be faithful.

Exodus 4-6 continues God’s reassurance of Moses’ concerns regarding his call and tells of his returning to Egypt and addressing the people, of Pharaoh’s order to make bricks without straw being supplied, of God’s renewed promise of deliverance, and of the family record of Moses and Aaron, who is to speak for Moses. God gives Moses signs to persuade the Israelites and Egyptians, but He knows that Pharaoh will not be persuaded and that He will use that unrepentance to His glory. Note how Zipporah circumcises her and Moses’ son along the way back to Egypt. Once there, Pharaoh’s plan to turn the people against Moses and Aaron by stopping the supply of straw works, at least initially, and so Moses questions God about His plan. We do not have the same direct dialog with God that Moses had, but we are sometimes inclined to question God’s plan for us when things that we perceive as bad happen to us or those we love. Instead, we want to trust God Who has the big-picture view and knows how all things will work to our good as we love and trust in Him.

Permit me one Biblog folo. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the Council on American-Islamic Relations had requested President Bush in his State of the Union Address not refer to radical Islam and that he nevertheless did, at least twice—and arguably for good reason! Some Newsweek analysis today highlighted the common religion between terrorists around the world.

The president lumped together terrorists in Beslan, London and Iraq, as if they were the same. Yet the only common factor, apart from their bloodlust, is the religion of those involved.

Moderates and public relations spinners in Islam may want us to think Islam is not hostile to the rest of the world, but those who are faithful to Islam execute violence against the rest of the world outside of Islam. Even if we grant for a moment that moderate Islam is not hostile to the secular world, it remains hostile to Christ’s Church. While we do not look for our secular government to clear away a religious opponent, we can expect our leaders to work to preserve our freedom to believe as we want, though we must also be prepared to suffer for our faith and live it even if our government ever says we cannot believe as we want.

A trio of tidbits follow for you. Britain has passed a religious hate speech act. … A study out of the University of Michigan confirms previous findings that married couples who worship together are more likely to stay together. … And fresh from the cancellation of “The Book of Daniel”, NBC plans an anti-Christian episode of a hit show, with the resulting American Family Association campaign against the network.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 01, 2006

Lk 2:29-32 / Ex 1-3 / Folos / Tidbits

The seasonal canticle for February is Luke 2:29-32, and for a little more context to this fourth and final liturgical song recorded by St. Luke you might want to also read Luke 2:21-28 and 33-35. This canticle is especially appropriate in Epiphany, for Simeon by Divine inspiration sings how God’s salvation is for the Jews and Gentiles. (February 2nd is the date the Church celebrates as the day The Presentation of Our Lord took place.) Simeon sang this song after he received in his arms the Lord’s salvation in the form of the child Jesus. In the historic liturgy of the Divine Service, we likewise sing this song after we have received the Lord’s salvation in our mouth in the form of Jesus’ true Body and Blood. Thus, Simeon could die in peace, and so can we. Martin Luther authored a wonderful hymn based on the Nunc Dimittis that is worth meditating on: “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart”. (For additional information on Luke 2:29-32, see the background for February’s readings.)

Before taking up the book of Exodus with today’s reading of Exodus 1-3, you may first want to read the information about Exodus in the background for February’s readings. Exodus 1 tells how the Israelites were oppressed. Exodus 2 tells of God preparing Moses to be the deliverer, and Exodus 3 tells of God calling Moses. The Israelites lived in Egypt for a total of 430 years (Exodus 12:40), so it may not be all that surprising that between the end of Genesis and beginning of Exodus things have changed a little bit, not the least of which is the growth from the 66 who came in (Genesis 46:26) to the 600,000 men (!) who left (Exodus 12:37). As for the new king who did not know Joseph, one of my friends said recently that he must not have been reading his history books! The new Pharaoh tried three different ways of slowing the increase in the number of Israelites, but each attempt failed. Though Moses was in a sense thrown into the Nile as Pharaoh commanded, the Lord delivered him by a papyrus ark, recalling Noah’s ark and pointing to the deliverance God later brought about through Moses by water and a different Ark. Note well the jump of close to 40 years from 2:10 to 2:11 mentioned in Acts 7:23, and see how the New Testament recounts the events in Acts 7:23-29 and Hebrews 11:24-27. There is a bit of irony in the question of 2:14. Don’t let the two names for Zipporah’s father confuse you: Reuel is Jethro. Moses, like David later, was a shepherd of sheep before God called him to be a shepherd of God’s people (and at the age of 80!). Moses is a bit reluctant, but God gives him reassurances that He will be with him, including the revelation of His Name. The three-day journey, I think, cannot help but bring Jesus’ death and resurrection to the mind of a Christian. You may notice that the 1956 Oscar-winning movie “The Ten Commandments” takes some creative license with the story. (More on Oscars below.)

Two Biblog folos follow. First, a reader emailed a comment on how two different translations of Genesis 49:6, where Jacob refers to the events of Genesis 34:25-29, were understatements. The plundering and laming of the flocks seems to be what Jacob is referring to by saying they “hamstrung oxen” (NIV, “hocked an ox” ASV, “lamed oxen” NASB). I think the KJV’s “digged down a wall” comes from an alternate translation of the Hebrew. Either way, Simeon's and Levi’s reaction was too focused on revenge and more violent than the circumstances required.

Second, a reader commented on the potential Oscar nominations that there was not much competition and lamented the small number of expected nominations for “Munich”. Well, the speculation on nominees is over, as they were made official yesterday. I saw “Crash” and “Good Night, and Good Luck”, and I think both of them were good movies. That “Munich” was based on a true story but took so many liberties with the story ruled it out for me. If you have been reading, you know how I feel about “Brokeback” (and ABC World News Tonight today is doing a story tonight on religious leaders’ reaction to the movie—and presumably its Oscar nominations).

Here are a few tidbits for you. President Bush was asked not to refer to “Islamic radicalism” in his State of the Union address, but I counted at least two references in the speech (you can check the text for yourself). I thought the speech was okay politically, but the President messed with things of God again, and, as usual, I did not like it when he did that. … New U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito was sworn in just in time for the address. His being seated is said to be a good thing for life issues, and President Bush is praised for his pro-life agenda. Justice Alito may soon face a decision on partial-birth abortion ban cases, even as one group reportedly is trying to circumvent laws against late-term abortions. ... The Virginia Bible class controversy got a new twist today. ... And Washington’s governor signed that state’s gay bill of rights. Can we ever say too many times, “Lord, have mercy!”?

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:42 AM