February 28, 2007

Nu 13-15 / Folos

(Remember that instead of reading a psalm today we take another look at February’s seasonal canticle, Luke 2:29-32; relevant discussion and links are here.)

An illustration by an unidentified artist for a children’s Bible of the spies returning to Kadesh with the fruit of the Promised LandDo we ever see how graciously God wants to bless us but refuse to believe His Word and therefore refuse to receive those blessings? In Numbers 13-15 we read how God wanted to bless the people of Israel as they stood on the border of the Promised Land but they did not believe His promise enough to step forward in faith and receive His blessing. (My previous post, which briefly overviews the reading, is here.) As depicted in the image with this post, an image by an unidentified artist for a children’s Bible, (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it), the spies came with evidence of the blessings they would receive, but the majority of the spies and the people were too afraid. How sad for all involved! In His mercy and grace, God did not totally destroy them, but instead He forgave them, although they all suffered consequences of the sin of not taking God at His Word. We likewise can receive forgiveness for our sins, and we do so by believing in Jesus Christ Who lived, died, and rose again to save us from our sins. What is it about believing that promise of forgiveness that is in some ways easier than believing other promises? Is the difference that we can’t instantly “tell” whether our sins are forgiven but in other cases we can “tell” whether things are working the way they are supposed to? Does the realization that we will be able to “tell” scare us the way the Israelites were frightened and make us, like them, less likely to believe God’s promises? “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Numbers 14:21-23, 29-35 and how that what it reports might have impacted Passover celebrations. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Numbers 13-15.

Reader emails prompt two Biblog folos today. First, there was a response to Monday’s post in which I reflected on what Numbers 9:13 said should happen to people who were eligible and available to celebrate the Passover but did not do so. A reader commented how letting people pretend they are church members when they are really not is misleading to members but also damaging to the people themselves. Both of those considerations are true, and in some ways law and Gospel are not properly distinguished in such cases. The same reader rightly indicated that not everyone who is present necessarily is truly receiving in faith but that “being there is better than staying home”. To a great extent that is true, too, as God through Word and Sacrament can work with someone who is present to hear and receive, where the person who isn’t present is denying themselves access to those means of grace.

The second Biblog folo has to do with Tuesday’s post and the discussion there of Psalm 84:3 and whether the sparrow’s house and swallow’s nest were literal. A reader emailed as follows:

I don’t know about your commentator, but I’ve always taken this literally. In another place, an altar was directed to be of undressed stone, which would leave crevices for birds. At Grace we have had swallows building their nests in the roofed entrances; I liked to see them but apparently others didn’t appreciate the attendant mess!

The altar of burnt offering at the Tabernacle and later the Temple was the bronze structure about which we have recently read; I don’t think the undressed stone structures are in view in this case, which in and of itself does not rule out a literal interpretation, of course, nor does the answer to the question of whether the interpretation is literal or figurative or both change the point, as the reader says, "that being there is better". As for Grace’s swallows, I am reluctant to destroy nests or chase away birds, but I also don’t want to be the one receiving the mess or otherwise cleaning it up.

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 27, 2007

Ps 84 / Nu 10-12

Sunday afternoon at the car wash I watched a man aim the sprayer at the ceiling of his bay, and before I could think too much about why he was doing that a pigeon or some sort of bird came flying out. I don’t know if it was nesting up there or not. Psalm 84 is one of the places the Bible mentions birds such as the sparrow and mentions them nesting at the Temple. (The Biblog has seen a good bit of discussion about this psalm, including my first post on it that has some explanatory notes, a folo dealing with the time frame of the psalm, another folo also discussing the psalm’s author and its time frame, and my second post on the psalm where verse two launched a discussion of the makeup of human beings.) As for the birds, well, one commentator doesn’t seem to so much think the psalmist was envious of them, as if they were literally building homes and nests at the Temple, but rather that commentator thinks the psalmist is using the birds as a figure of speech to refer to himself. God cares for the birds, and God cares for the psalmist. All of that reminds me of Jesus’s teaching in the New Testament (Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7) that birds may seem to be a dime a dozen but that God still cares for them and that we are of more value to God than the birds. How true! We are redeemed from our sins by the priceless blood of Jesus Christ, so forgiveness of sins and thus eternal life at home in the presence of God is ours for the receiving by Spirit-wrought faith. (Of course, the birds benefit, too—see Romans 8:19-22.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 84 among those appointed for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany; Oculi (the Third Sunday in Lent); Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost); the Fifth Sunday in Lent; the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity; the days of St. Philip and St. James, St. Matthew, St. Luke; and a dedication of a church. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 84, the second corresponding to that final lectionary appointment.
  • 84 -- #480
  • 84:1 -- #639 (you'll have to see your hymnal for this one)

A depiction of the Israelites departing Sinai done by Annie Vallotton for 'The Lyle Winton Illustrated King James Bible'Where could you complain about something that the Lord wouldn’t hear it? That was one of my questions as I read Numbers 10-12 today. A lot is going on in these three chapters, and you can find a brief overview of them with some explanation in my first post on them. Realize that the people had come out of Egypt to Sinai and pretty much stayed there for one year. So, their move described in chapter 10 is their first as the people of God under the covenant in proper formation and all of that. The image with this post depicts the people leaving Sinai and is by Annie Vallotton as in The Lyle Winton Illustrated King James Bible. I remember her work from the Good News Bible published by the American Bible Society as early as 1966, which was in the pews at one of the congregations we attended when I was a boy (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, scrolling down to chapter 10). The procession can remind us that we are part of the Church Militant, moving through the wilderness of this world guided by God Who is with us and feeding us physically and spiritually with the food for the way, the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Numbers 10-12.

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 26, 2007

Ps 83 / Nu 7-9

I don’t know if you ever saw the movie “Gladiator” that came out in 2000, but I thought it had one of the most beautiful soundtracks of any movie I had seen in some time. I bought the CD, and I don’t buy too many movie soundtracks. (The last one I had bought was from “Star Wars” back in 1977 and that was on a 33!) Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer’s original music for “Gladiator” seemed to add so much to the drama and emotion of that movie. Again I don’t know about you, but I have been benefiting from understanding the term “Selah” found in psalms like today’s Psalm 83 as a musical term indicating some sort of crescendo, where the music increases in volume, force, and intensity. Usually a crescendo is gradual, but maybe not in this case. After the psalmist in verses 5-8 lays out all of the nations that are conspiring to destroy Israel, one commentator says, “The music bursts forth angrily”, and the psalmist prays for nation’s then present enemies to be destroyed like Israel’s enemies of old. Talk about adding to the drama and emotion! As Invocavit, the First Sunday in Lent, reminded us of our enemy the devil prowling around us like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), we also do well to be reminded that, in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave to save us from our sins, the primary enemy and his minions have been destroyed and that when that victory, which is already ours now by faith, is fully and finally evident to the world, then all will know that God alone is the Most High over all the earth (v.18). (For more of an overview of the psalm as a whole see my first post on it, and, for more on the fires of verse 14, see my second post on it.)

Psalm 83 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Sexagesima (the Sunday that falls in the sixth period of ten days before Easter). (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 83.)

A depiction of Passover preparations, from a 14th-century Hebrew manuscript of “The Golden Haggadah”These days there are lots of reasons, many of them legitimate, for why people cannot make it to the Divine Service to receive God’s gift of forgiveness in the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar that is Christ’s body and blood. As I read Numbers 7-9 today, I was struck by Numbers 9:13. After the matter of some unclean Israelites, who wanted to celebrate the Passover but could not because of their uncleanness, prompted the Lord to allow them to celebrate the Passover a month later, the Lord directed Moses to cut off from the community, by execution or banishment, anyone who was ceremonially eligible and available to celebrate the Passover but did not do so. My study Bible rightly notes, “The NT also issues grave warnings concerning the abuse or misuse of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Co 11:28-30).” Yet, there’s more than that in this matter when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Lutherans are hopefully the first to say that there is no rule that someone receive the Sacrament of the Altar every time it is offered or a minimum number of times each year. At the same time, we are also hopefully quick to say that someone ought to want to receive it as often as possible given its great blessings to body and soul—namely, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Sometimes people want to receive the Sacrament but legitimately are not available to do so, but too often people have no appetite for this sacred meal and indeed ought to be cut off from the communion of the church (some would even say such people have cut themselves off). Martin Luther in one place suggests that someone who does not receive the Sacrament of the Altar four times a year should not even be considered a Christian. And, he says something similar about people who do not desire individual absolution! I write these things not by way of the law, for I think that at least at times some of us do not need anything more weighing down our consciences, but I write these things to exhort you to take fullest advantage of the Gospel of God’s mercy and grace in Christ so richly extended to you personally through the Sacramental means of Grace. (For an overview of today’s reading see my previous post on these chapters.) Incidentally, the image with this post depicts a sheep being slaughtered and a ram being skinned as part of Passover preparations; the image is from a 14th-century Catalonia Hebrew vellum manuscript of “The Golden Haggadah” (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it).

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Numbers 9:1-5 and more on the “second” celebration of Passover. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Numbers 7-9.

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 25, 2007

Ps 82 / Nu 4-6

If a child tells on a sibling, he or she no doubt wants the authority figure to do something to the sibling not to them. I think that often, when we pray for God to judge our enemies, we somehow forget that we are under His just judgment, too. If nothing else, Psalm 82 reminds us that we are all under God’s judgment (v.8). In the context of the psalm, God’s judgment is needed because the people He has appointed on earth to judge have done such a bad job. And, since all people—not just Israel—are His, He should act judicially consistent with that fact. The psalm doesn’t go into it, but I reflected again on how God’s judgment is what brings about deliverance for those who believe. In a sense, we can’t have one the one we want without also having the other so many deny. May God enable us, especially this Lenten season, to repent of our own failures, to receive in faith His forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake, and thereby not to fear His judgment that brings about our deliverance. (For more on the psalm as a whole, see my previous post on it.)

Psalm 82 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Jubilate (the Third Sunday after Easter) and the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 82.)

American Jewish artist Philip Ratner’s depiction of Aaron given the benediction of the LordWow! Think for a moment about the fact that God’s ordained representatives speak to us the same benediction that His ordained representatives have been speaking to His people for millennia! Is that consistency and historicity not better than something different every week that might also confuse law and Gospel? At the end of today’s reading of Numbers 4-6 we find what is called the Aaronic Benediction, which only the priests were allowed to utter (the word “benediction”, incidentally, is traced back to Latin, and its component parts mean “well speak”). I’m sure the Jews don’t understand the benediction to be Trinitarian, but, in light of Matthew 28:19, the three-fold form and reference to the Lord’s Name make it clear that it is. The image with this post, another by American Jewish artist Philip Ratner, depicts Aaron giving the benediction (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). I’m not sure what’s going on with the fingers (or the menorah coming out of his head?), but the hand gesture is close to the ones used to reflect the three Persons of the Godhead and the two natures in the Person of Jesus Christ. (For more on the whole reading, see my previous post, and, for a folo on Numbers 5:11-31, see here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Numbers 4:4-20 and the covering and carrying of the Ark. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Although the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and hymn #50 in The Lutheran Hymnal refers to Numbers 6:24-26.

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance, and may you receive in faith His forgiveness today through Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 24, 2007

Ps 81 / Nu 1-3 / Leviticus wrap-up

Despite having somewhat learned five foreign languages, I’m really not a great language student, so at first when I read Psalm 81 this time through I wanted to sympathize with the people of Israel, who, my NIV of Psalm 81:5 says, “heard a language [they] did not understand” in Egypt (confer the KJV; the ASV and NASB say essentially the same thing but use the verb “know”). In the margin, my NIV give as a an alternate reading “we heard a voice we had not known” and relates that to the time after the Exodus. I did a little more digging, and at least one generally reliable commentator says that the verse is intended to introduce God’s words that follow in the psalm, so that the phrase should be translated more along the lines of “A language of One not known did I hear”. Now, we might object that the people knew God, but we can appreciate with them that in many ways God was still unknown to them, even as in some ways He remains unknown to us. We are not like those to whom Paul spoke in Acts 17:26 and verses following, for God has revealed Himself to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ, Who lived, died, and rose again that we might be saved from our sins through faith in Him. As the psalmist directed the people of Israel to God’s revelation of Himself in His Word so that they could know Him better, so we likewise should set aside all we don’t know and don’t need to know about God and rely on His revelation of Himself so that we might believe, be forgiven, and thus be saved. (My two earlier posts on Psalm 81 are here and here.)

Psalm 81 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Third Sunday in Advent, Maundy Thursday (“The night in which He was betrayed”), Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord), Quasimodogeniti (the First Sunday after Easter), Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Philip and St James. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 81.)

A 14th-century French illustration of God speaking to Moses that accompanied the beginning of the book of NumbersNow, back to our story—sort of. Today we read Numbers 1-3, and, while the book will eventually pick up the narrative of the people moving from Sinai to Canaan, first we read of about the numbering of the people that gives the book its name. My previous post on these chapters gives the link to some background information on the book. The image with this post is found in a 14th-century Bible from France; the illustration shows God in the upper left talking to Moses in the lower left (yes, he’s the one with the horns), while the Israelites are pictured on the right (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). In the largest version of the image you can see a large, decorated “N” where the book of Numbers began. I will warn you that when I was a child and my family started to read through the Bible from beginning to end we stopped somewhere in Numbers, as I recall, because we got bogged down in the numbers and didn’t see the point. At a minimum we want to see God’s great blessing on the 70 people who went to Egypt and His faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham to provide him so many descendants. Such records of the people were also important when descent from certain tribes or families determined what people could do and inherit, and we find other such records when the people returned from exile (see, for example, Nehemiah 7). I think we also want to recognize in Numbers’ numbers the background for the “census” of a sort that we find in Revelation 7, where the 144,000 (12,000 from each tribe) is, despite what the Jehovah’s Witnesses think, a figurative number representing the perfect and complete number of all those sealed in Baptism who are to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

Perhaps not at all that surprising given its content, Numbers 1-3 does not provide any Old Testament readings for the historic 1-year lectionary, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Numbers 1-3.

Today I have a Leviticus wrap-up. Such a summary of a recently completed book was requested in our survey at the end of Year 1 of our Daily Lectionary reading.

Who was the author? Like Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus was recorded by Moses with Divine inspiration that makes the record inerrant in its original form.
What is the book? Though its name relates primarily to the Levites, the book itself primarily describes the ways all of the people of Israel were to be ceremonially, physically, and morally holy—first forgiven through God’s service at the Tabernacle (chapters 1-16) and then manifested in the way they lived their lives (chapters 17-26).
Where was it written? Also like Genesis and Exodus, we are not told precisely where the book of Leviticus was written, but we expect Moses wrote it in the Sinai peninsula’s desert.
When was it written? We can probably assume safely that Moses wrote the contents of the book down at God’s direction shortly after God gave the details during the year the people were camped at Sinai, but we are not sure exactly when in the 40-year period of the wanderings in the desert he actually did record them.
Why? As God is holy, He calls for His people to be holy (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:26; 21:8).
How? God’s law shows us our sin, and His Gospel tells us what He has done about it. In the case of Leviticus, we realize we do not live the physically and morally holy life we should live, but we can find forgiveness through the sacrifices and other ceremonies God has instituted. While we do not follow the Old Testament system any more, all of that system points to Christ, from Whom we do in faith receive forgiveness in Word and Sacrament, just as the Old Testament people of Israel. Since the sin is spiritual and material, the forgiveness and “decontamination” is also.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Leviticus, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume II, The Pentateuch, translated by James Martin and published in one volume with the other two on the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted May 1986. (The section dealing with Leviticus, “The Third Book of Moses”, runs 285 pages. After my study Bible, this is what I turn to next, but it is a somewhat harder to use more-scholarly commentary.)
  • Kleinig, John W. Leviticus, Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture, gen. ed. Dean O. Wenthe. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003. (A very recent and scholarly commentary. I have used it in connection with the Daily Lectionary readings and found it to be helpful. The format is such that one does not have to be a pastor to make use of the book.)

Our webmaster is making the short summaries like this one a part of the Daily Lectionary - Biblical Index page for each book, which you can find linked here.

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance, and may you receive in faith His forgiveness tomorrow through Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 23, 2007

Ps 80 / Lev 25-27

“Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock” is the opening plea of Psalm 80 (NIV). I stopped there my second read through the psalm and reflected on God’s leading us with undershepherds. Moses, David, whoever was king at the time the psalm was written—all were such people through whom God acted to shepherd His people. The names and faces changed then and may change now, but God’s leadership of His people, and thus His presence with His people does not change. He continues to make His face shine upon us that we may be saved (vv.3, 7, 19), by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. (My previous post that discusses the psalm more as a whole is here.)

Psalm 80 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Second Sunday in Advent, Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), and the day of St. Simon and St. Jude. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 80.)

Photo by an unidentified photographer of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” so reads the quotation from today’s reading of Leviticus 25-27 that is found on the Liberty Bell so famous for its role in the American Revolution (or the Great Rebellion, depending on your perspective in part based on which side of the “pond” you are on). You can’t quite make out the inscription on the image with this post (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Of course, that verse on that bell is somewhat of a misuse, in that the liberty in view in its context in Leviticus is that of the Sabbath and Jubilee years which is fulfilled not in political “liberation” but in the great “sabbatical” Christ achieved for us (Isaiah 61:1; Hebrews). One might further reflect on the ironic fact that the liberty the bell proclaimed and the founding documents of the country did not really take the “all the inhabitants” too seriously, either. I briefly mentioned the Liberty Bell in last year’s post on these chapters, but there’s more there, too, including the link to Michael Card’s song “Jubilee”, which I encourage you to check out (you do have to scroll down a little on the page after you have followed the link to the song).

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Neither the historic 1-year lectionary nor The Lutheran Hymnal makes use of Leviticus 25-27.

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 22, 2007

Ps 79 / Lev 22-24 / Folo

What do people we go to school with, work with, or live around think about us? Do they know we are Christians? Are they? If they are not, do they treat us as the psalmist describes today in verse 4 of Psalm 79? Or, are they attracted to Christianity? I’m not going to suggest that we do things to make people treat us with scorn and derision, but we should live our lives so that the fruits of our faith are evident and either earn scorn from non-Christians expressing the devil’s wrath or serve as a way for the Holy Spirit to bring them to the faith. When we don’t live our lives as we should so that our works of love attract others, we can find forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and we pray that such forgiveness will then bring about such fruits. (My first post on the psalm is here, and a subsequent post is here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, includes Psalm 79 among those appointed for The Holy Innocents, Monday of Holy Week, and the Fourth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal’s hymn #258 is said to refer to Psalm 79:9. (This is a lovely hymn, especially its final two stanzas, I think.)

A depiction of the Feast of Tabernacles from <i>The Story of the Bible</i> by Charles FosterThe outdoor pool on campus where I am swimming these days is surrounded by big palm trees, which at first I thought was a good choice of tree because it didn’t have as many leaves to end up in the water and thus at the bottom of the pool. A few fronds still make it in, of course, and as I swam on Tuesday I was thinking about the use of palms in the Feast of Tabernacles, which we read about again today in Leviticus 22-24. A celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is what the image with this post depicts, and you can see the palm fronds in use (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). We also think of the palms used on the Sunday that Jesus entered Jerusalem to be betrayed, crucified, and rise again to save us from our sins. Palm fronds used in Palm Sunday observances traditionally are kept at home behind religious works of art until the next Shrove Tuesday, at which time they are burned to prepare ashes for Ash Wednesday. There is some nice symbolism in that practice, as the momentary joy of Palm Sunday gives way to weeks and months of sin for which we deserve death, as the ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us. I couldn’t help but think that the fronds in the pool would need at least some drying out, probably not ten months worth, before they would be suitable for making ashes. Is our repentance so far this Lent suitable? (My first post on Leviticus 22-24 is here, and a folo regarding what we know about Passover celebrations, which mentions verses from this reading, is here.)

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint Leviticus 22-24 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Leviticus 22-24.

Today’s Biblog folo regards Psalm 78 and comes in response to my post yesterday in which I couldn’t resist inviting us to reflect on how Psalm 78:19 might be applied to those who deny Christ’s real, physical presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. A reader couldn’t resist extending the idea by pointing to verse 20’s “Can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people?” (KJV)

Jesus is really present at the Sacrament, furnishing His table (which is why I dislike that [phrase] “grace our table with Your presence” [from the offertory choice “Let the vineyards be fruitful, Lord”] in LW.). His Body and Blood are really present in the bread and wine. There is more to Jesus than Body and Blood, just as there is more to you and me. Why not stick to what He said?

That the Supper and thus the table are the Lord’s is important to remember. He sets how and when we are to observe His Supper at His table. By His omnipotent power He gives bread that is His flesh, and He also decides, through His servants, who is admitted to the table and who is not. Incidentally, Lutheran Service Book dropped that offertory choice from the Divine Service orders it carried over from Lutheran Worship, preserving the “What shall I render to the Lord”, which I always liked better, even though I liked the “give us a foretaste of the feast to come” line from “Let the vineyards be fruitful” (LSB has preserved that sentiment in at least one prayer that I noticed.)

May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 21, 2007

Ps 78 / Lev 19-21

“Again and again they put God to the test [v.41] … Yet He was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them [v.38].” I’d say those are two important verses to glean out of the 72 total verses of Psalm 78. Obviously more could be said (and has been, in posts here and here and as a folo here), but I think those additional comments today are sufficient. (Ok, I can’t resist: think about the second part of verse 19 in terms of those who deny that Jesus can be really, physically present in the Sacrament of the Altar.)

Psalm 78 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Quinquagesima (the Sunday that falls in the fifth period of ten days before Easter) and for Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost). Hymn #629 from The Lutheran Hymnal “is Isaac Watts’s version of the first part of Psalm 78”; although not familiar to me, the hymn made it into Lutheran Service Book as #867 (I didn’t look to see what if anything got changed). Sorry there is no link, but the usual page doesn't have the lyrics for this one; you'll have to check your hymnal.

An image of Leviticus 19-21 from a 1519 Stuttgart printing of the Vulgate“You are to be holy to Me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be My own” (20:26) is probably a central verse from today’s reading of Leviticus 19-21 (see also 20:7). The image with this post is of Leviticus 19-21 as printed in a 1519 Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate; note the handwritten German in the margins next to the printed Latin text (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Even with our English translations the reading can sometimes seem as if it were written in what is for most a foreign language. I pray the Biblog helps, and there are plenty of previous Biblog entries regarding today’s reading. My first post on these three chapters is here. There are folos on 19:26-28 here, here, and here. There is also a reference to 19:34 in the discussion of “aliens” here. Finally, you might find it edifying to read the Reverend Dr. Scott R. Murray’s February 20th “Memorial Moment”, which helpfully addressed the law’s applicability.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint Leviticus 19-21 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from these chapters.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, and you are of course invited to join us tonight at Grace for the 6:00 supper and 7:00 service. During this Lenten season and always, may God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 20, 2007

Ps 77 / Lev 16-18

“What have you done for me lately?” That’s a question we might impatiently ask when we in our self-centered ways grow weary of someone with whom we have a relationship failing to live up to our expectations of constant meaningfulness. We could probably say that such a question is in some ways behind the psalmist’s angst at the beginning of Psalm 77. The psalmist discovers the solution: remembering all of God’s past mercies and deeds (vv.10-12). Indeed! “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). We may not always subjectively feel that God is with us and doing what is best for us, but His Word objectively tells us those things are objectively true. So, the psalmist remembers the past deeds and believes God will act again. We, too can remember God’s past deeds to save us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we can believe that God will act again, especially in our deaths and the resurrection of the body. And, we know, even though we do not always think about things in this way as we should, that each day is itself a blessing from the Lord. Really, there is never a time when He isn’t doing something for us. (For more on Psalm 77, see my first post on this psalm and my subsequent post focusing more on verses 6b-9.)

The Lutheran Liturgy includes Psalm 77 among those appointed for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany and Quinquagesima (the Sunday in the fifth period of ten days before Easter). (The Lutheran Hymnal does not contain any hymns said to refer to Psalm 77.)

An image from an unidentified source reflecting popular regard for scapegoatsThe students at the seminary where I finished my Master of Divinity degree had the entertaining custom each academic year of electing both an on-campus and an off-campus scapegoat, students who would get all the blame for anything that went wrong on or off-campus. We today read of the origin of such a notion in Leviticus 16-18. The image with this post is another contemporary presentation of the scapegoat idea (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, and to see more-professionally done “demotivators” visit this site). When I was looking for images to use in the posts about Leviticus, I read a webpage (sorry I didn’t save the URL) that criticized Christianity for adapting the notion of Jesus’ atonement from such Old Testament rituals as that of the scapegoat. Sadly, the page wasn’t kidding; its author completely failed to recognize that the Old Testament Day of Atonement practices were prophetic types that pointed to the atonement Jesus would make for the sins of the whole world. Don’t miss the three different purifications woven into the details about the Day of Atonement: the high priest’s sin-offering of a bull, the purification of the Tabernacle/Temple especially by way of its altar, and the two-goat ritual for the people. Also be sure to note 17:11 and its “clearest statement of the role of blood as the bearer of life, offered in sacrifice vicariously for human life”. Finally, chapter 18 is not such a change of topic as one might think, since people who are redeemed by the blood of Christ try to live a holy life as the following chapter(s) describe. For more on the reading as a whole, see my previous post on these chapters.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Leviticus 18:6-18’s marriage prohibitions. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Leviticus 18:1-5 is the only Old Testament reading from the whole book that is appointed by the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services. (No hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Leviticus 16-18.)

Enjoy your Fat/Shrove Tuesday, and remember you are welcome for the Ash Wednesday supper and service at 6:00 and 7:00 tomorrow night at Grace. The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 19, 2007

Ps 76 / Lev 13-15

Can we say that in general people in this country know God? Or, maybe, can we say they at least know of God? When the movie “The Nativity Story” was out, someone I know who saw it said that the movie was hard to follow, that if you didn’t know the story you couldn’t get the story from the movie. In reply, I asked if people don’t already know the story (I’m not so sure they do, but to some extent I was playing devil’s advocate). Psalm 76 today begins by saying that God is known in both Judah and Israel. The sense seems to be that especially after God’s amazing victory over and deliverance from an enemy, most likely Assyria, everyone must know that God “Tabernacles” and dwells in Judah’s capital city of Jerusalem (known also as “Salem” and “Zion”, as in v.2.) We might distinguish between “knowing” and “knowing of”, but the Bible does not seem to make that distinction. In some places unbelievers are said to not “know” God, but in other passages God’s acts of judgment bring unbelievers to “know” Him even though, in at least some cases, it is too late for them. That in verse 1 God’s being “known” and His Name being great are parallel, which is helpful for us to remember that God’s Name is great whether or not He has multitudes flocking to Him. And, the rest of the psalm makes clear that not everyone does flock to God, even as God’s judgment and wrath reveals Him and brings death and destruction to the unbelievers but praise from the believers. Today God has revealed Himself not with a mighty military maneuver but in the arguably less-glorious death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. That deliverance also brings about death and destruction to unbelievers and praise from the believers who have been saved by grace through faith. Think about v.10 for a minute; how many believers praise God for His wrath against people? (You can find my first post on Psalm 76, with some general comments, here, and you can find a subsequent post with two comments here.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, includes Psalm 76 among those appointed for The Presentation of Christ and the Purification of Mary, Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord), The Annunciation, Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), and the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 76.)

A picture of holy water being sprinkled on 6,000 couples as part of a 1982 mass wedding in KoreaLots of religions use the sprinkling of water as an element of ritual in religious ceremonies. For example, the picture with this post is of “Reverend” and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon sprinkling holy water at the blessing of 6,000 couples in Chamshil Gymnasium in Seoul, Korea on October 14, 1982 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Have you ever been sprinkled with “holy water”? I know some hit me when I went to the Easter Vigil at the Roman Catholic congregation in one of the small towns I was serving at the time in British Columbia. Leviticus 13-15 describes the sprinkling of water and oil in connection with the laws of cleanness regarding skin diseases and mildew that we read today. (My previous post on these chapter is here.) If nothing else, this Old Testament background on “leprosy” of body and abode is instructive for us as we come across lepers in the New Testament, recalling, among other things, how they stood afar off and called out to Jesus. He heard their cries for mercy and healing, and He likewise hears ours, freely giving us the forgiveness of sins He won for us on the cross, forgiveness hidden in such ordinary means as water, bread, and wine.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with the application of the Levitical law to us today; although I might not word the answer exactly that way now, it still essentially holds true. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint Leviticus 13-15 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from these chapters.

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 18, 2007

Ps 75 / Lev 10-12

You may remember me mentioning previously that one of the Bible’s themes is “the great reversal”. This theme is present in Psalm 75 today, perhaps most clearly in verse 7. Note well that God is the agent Who brings about the reversal, and He brings it about even as it applies to our being brought down to death in repentance and being exalted to new life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. My previous post on Psalm 75 is here, and you can find more on verse 2’s statement about God choosing the time here.

Psalm 75 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Second Sunday in Advent, The Feast of the Holy Trinity, and the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 75.)

Matthaeus Merian the Elder’s engraving from about 1625-1630 showing the death of Nadab and Abihu described in Leviticus 10:2We read yesterday of the ordination of Aaron and the priests, and one commentator says that the beginning of today’s reading of Leviticus 10-12, with its account of what he terms “the irreverence of Nadab and Abihu”, underscores “the need for priestly scrupulosity”. The image with this post is a depiction of God’s judgment on the pair, an image done in the 17th century by Matthaeus Merian the Elder, whom you can read more about here, when we last used one of his images (to see a larger version of today’s image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post on today’s reading is here, and you can read more of my previous comments on holiness, as mentioned in 11:44-45 here. The concept of holiness includes both physical (or material) and spiritual holiness, and unholiness takes in both the underlying problem of original sin and the actual sins that result from that sinful nature. Note well that the priests declare individual people clean, much as pastors pronounce absolution to individuals who confess, with both the priests’ declaration and the pastors’ pronouncement effecting what they say they effect—in the case of the absolution, forgiveness of sins for the sake of Jesus Christ Who lived, died, and rose again to save us from our original and actual sin and uncleanness. Furthermore, Jesus did not abolish the holiness code we are reading; rather, He perfectly fulfilled it, and in Him we perfectly fulfill it, too.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Leviticus 10-12 is not used by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Sunday or festival Old Testament readings, nor is it referred to by any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

The Lord be with you, especially today in Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 17, 2007

Ps 74 / Lev 7-9 / Biblog folo

I must admit that, when I pray for God to protect both the truth of the Gospel and His Church that the proclamation of that truth brings into being, I do not let psalms like today’s Psalm 74 shape my prayers as much as I could and perhaps should. God’s reputation is suffering in our church body, Christendom, and the world at large, and perhaps we should pray more for God to take dramatic action like the previous dramatic actions the psalmist recalls. (My previous post on Psalm 74, with more of an overview on the psalm, is here, and you may also want to see this previously-posted Q&A on Rahab/Leviathan.)

Psalm 74 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Tuesday of Holy Week, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 74.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of part of the ordination ritual for Aaron and his sons, as described in Leviticus 8:14When we started Leviticus I said with our reading of this book we were taking a bit of a break from the historical narrative, and that is mostly true. However, the latter two chapters of today’s reading of Leviticus 7-9 narrate the ordination of Aaron and the priests, as God had commanded in Exodus 29. (My previous post on these chapters, with some general comments about them as a whole, is here.) The image with this post is an unidentified artist’s depiction of part of the ordination ritual for Aaron and his sons, as described in Leviticus 8:14 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Reading about Aaron’s ordination prompted me to reflect on my own, nine years ago this July, but one does not have to have been ordained to think about ordinations and the related installations. Pastors and people both take vows and commitments related to the Office of the Holy Ministry, in the various stages of calling, ordaining, and installing (or “inducting”, as the now-sainted Rev. Professor Kurt Marquart preferred to say). Pastors vow, among other things, to be faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in both their teaching and practice, and the people vow, among other things, to support their pastors in various ways. May God enable pastors and people to fulfill their respective commitments! (Tomorrow’s reading of Leviticus 10 is closely linked to today’s reading about the ordination, but you’ll “have” to wait!)

Permit me to make one other quick note about something that comes earlier in the reading. Leviticus 7:19-21 makes clear a practice of “closed” communion as it pertains to the “communion” offering (or “peace” or “fellowship” offering). Those who are purified by repentance and faith (Acts 15:9) are eligible to partake, but those who are impenitent and unbelieving are ineligible. The “cutting off” from the communion described in verse 20 brings to mind what can be called either, from the Latin, “ex-communication” or, by way of the German, a “ban” from the Sacrament of the Altar. The Bible and the Lutheran Confessions clearly teach the practice of closed communion, if only those with ears to hear would hear.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint Leviticus 7-9 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Leviticus 7-9.

Today’s Biblog folo is a follow-up to a follow-up! In yesterday’s post I tried to address a reader’s comment regarding the appearance of the altar in an illustration I had linked several days before. The reader was commenting on how the altar depicted matched the Biblical text but looked nothing like altars we think of today. I intended my comment both to agree with the reader and to point out that when we read a word such as “altar” we tend to take what, in our experience, the word usually refers to as the image we associate with the word when and where we are reading it. To further make the point that words and the meanings we ascribe to them (or from which they originate) may not be accurate in the context in which we read them, I then pointed out that the origin of the English word “altar” has more to do with a “high place” than a structure to make a sacrifice. When an email from the same reader made it clear to me that I had confused more than clarified, I knew more explanation was needed. (I certainly did not to intend to suggest that any altitude was involved in the Tabernacle or its bronze altar of burnt offering or liken it to pagan places of worship—precisely the opposite.) Mizbeach, the Hebrew word for “altar” used in passages such as Exodus 38:1, derives from the verb zabach, “to sacrifice”, just as thusiasterion, the Greek word for “altar” used in such places as Matthew 5:23, derives from the noun thusia, “sacrifice” or “victim”. Despite (or perhaps in keeping with) its etymology, our English word “altar” certainly means “place of sacrifice”, and we recall that from our altar, despite its appearance different from that of the Tabernacle altar, we receive Him to Whom those Tabernacle sacrifices pointed, Jesus Christ, Who sacrificed Himself that we might receive forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Him. (You might see Hebrews 13:10 and its context.)

The Lord be with you, especially as you tomorrow come to be with Him in Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 16, 2007

Ps 73 / Lev 4-6 / Folo

The big questions about life have long been asked by thinkers great and “small”. Human reason’s drawing on its own experience generally leaves one in despair over the answers it concludes. Maybe we should say fallen reason and limited experience, as today we hear from Psalm 73 how coming to God’s house reveals a greater understanding that what we otherwise have (vv.16-17). What a blessing to trust that God, Who knows all things and ultimately is in control of all things, works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Even the things that appear to be bad can be for our good—imagine what Jesus’ followers thought during the time between His death on Good Friday and the revelation of His resurrection on Easter Sunday morning! What appeared to be bad turned out to be the greatest good: the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus and freely offered to us by grace through faith in Him. (My first post on Psalm 73 offers some general comments on the whole psalm, and my second post highlights the “envy” of verse 3.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 73 among those appointed for Inocavit (the First Sunday in Lent), Palmarum (Palm Sunday), and The Festival of the Reformation. The Lutheran Hymnal contains five hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 73.
  • 73 -- #429 (as some of you know, one of my favorite hymns, on the basis of its third stanza alone)
  • 73:23 -- #393, #523
  • 73:24 -- #357
  • 73:25, 26 -- #437

An unidentified artist’s depiction of a burnt sin offering described in Leviticus 4:18Did the sacrifices of the people of Israel like those of which we read again today in Leviticus 4-6 benefit them? Did the sacrifices benefit the people automatically or magically? If not, what else was needed, which essentially goes unmentioned in Leviticus’ account so chucked full of rubrics? I pray that you answered “yes”, “no”, and “faith”! Although sacrificial concepts overlap and are somewhat present in all the different sacrifices, we can roughly correlate the whole burnt offering and grain offerings with thanksgiving, the “communion” (or “peace” or “fellowship”) offering with communion fellowship, and the sin and guilt offerings with expiating or propitiating God’s righteous wrath and thereby working forgiveness of sins. Yet, none of these would do anyone any good outside of faith. The same is true for us today. Truly Jesus Christ with the sacrifice of His blood objectively reconciled God the Father to the world, but that reconciliation does not do an individual any good unless he or she subjectively appropriates by faith what Jesus has done as for him or for her. (My previous post overviewing Leviticus 4-6 is here. The image with this post, by an unidentified artist, is of the procedure of the sin offering described in Leviticus 4:18; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.)

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from Leviticus 4-6 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Leviticus 4-6.

Today's Biblog folo is prompted by the following reader email regarding the illustration of the bronze altar of burnt offering that was linked in Wednesday's post.

I always thought of the altar like a table top, but the pictures look like a big brass box with a screen at the bottom. If you think about it, it would have to be that way, for air circulation and removal of ashes. More like a furnace or fire pit than what we think of as an altar, and with reason.

We surely do tend to superimpose onto the Biblical text the first thing that comes to our minds. Not every artist depicting those Tabernacle furnishings depicts the altar the same way, of course, as the image with today's post shows. Our word "altar", incidentally, probably came to be used for the structure on which the sacrifice was made by way of referring to the "high place", presumably a hill, where the sacrifice was made.

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 15, 2007

Ps 72 / Lev 1-3 / Exodus wrap-up

As much praise as Psalm 72 gives to Solomon, we do well to remember Jesus’ words in reference to Himself that “One greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). You will see below that the Church certainly moves past Solomon in its application of the psalm. For more on the application to Jesus, see my previous post on Psalm 72.

I think primarily because of its strong Messianic emphasis on the themes of righteousness and justice, Psalm 72 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Christmas (the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord), The Holy Innocents, the Second Sunday after Christmas, The Epiphany of our Lord, the First Sunday after Epiphany, and The Annunciation. Two hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 72: #59 and #511.

A photograph of a little lamb (no photographer or other information is given)Ready or not, we are going to take a break from the main narrative, or “story”, of the people of Israel on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Our reading today, Leviticus 1-3, begins the third and next book of the Pentateuch, but that book gives God’s covenantal stipulations regarding the holiness of the people. Like Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus was recorded by Moses with Divine inspiration that makes the record inerrant in its original form. We can probably assume safely that Moses wrote the contents of the book down at God’s direction shortly after God gave the details, but we are not sure exactly when in the 40-year period of the wanderings in the desert he actually did record them. My previous post on these chapters gives links to more background on the book and an overview of today’s chapters. Remember that for us today we primarily are looking for how the offerings, priests, and feasts point to the person and work of our Savior from sin, Jesus Christ. We are not holy as we should be, and God in Christ has done something about that situation, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins and be made holy (the more-technical term is “sanctified”) by grace through faith in Jesus. Jesus is the spotless lamb God, on Whom our sins were laid (Isaiah 53:6) and Who is thus offered as the ultimate offering for sin, burnt or otherwise. (To see a larger version of the image with this post, for which no identifying or source information was given, click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it).

There’s an interesting progression in the three types of offerings about which we read today that is not explicitly made clear in my previous post. The first, the whole burnt offering, was completely consumed by fire on the altar. The second, the grain offering, had a memorial portion burned, but the rest was given to the priest. The third, which can be called a “communion offering”, had part burned on the altar, part given to the priest, and part eaten by the worshiper in the Tabernacle or Temple precincts as a “communion meal”. By the way, did you know that the term for the whole burnt offering is “holocaust”? The word originates in Greek as a compound word from “whole” and “burnt”, enters Latin late, and then comes into English. By the 15th century the English word had a transferred meaning of “complete sacrifice or offering” or “sacrifice on a large scale”, and by the 17th century it had a further extended meaning of “complete consumption by fire” or “great slaughter or massacre”. As early as 1942 the word was being used with the “massacre” sense to refer to the Nazis’ slaughter of Jews in World War II, but I don’t think we want to read that “Holocaust” in any way as an offering to God.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on Leviticus 1-3, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! I will post your question without identifying you.

Leviticus 1-3 is not tapped for any Old Testament readings by the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to verses from Leviticus 1-3.

Today I have an Exodus wrap-up. Such a summary of a recently completed book was requested in our survey at the end of Year 1 of our Daily Lectionary reading.

Who was the author? With the Old and New Testaments we hold that Moses was Divinely inspired to write the book, and, without denying that Divine inspiration, we allow that others later might have made minor edits.
What is the book? Exodus is the account of God’s delivering His people from slavery, as He had promised He would, so that they can worship Him and live free as His people. We especially see the things Exodus describes not only as historical events but also as things that point to God’s greater deliverance of us from our slavery to sin so that we can worship Him and live free as His people.
Where was it written? As with Genesis, we are not told, but the book of Exodus most likely was written in the desert of the Sinai peninsula.
When was it written? The 40-year wanderings in the desert is most likely when the book of Exodus was completed, and, as with Genesis, we estimate those wanderings took place between 1446-1406 B.C.
Why? Very few books of the Bible give a specific purpose statement for their being recorded, but I think we can safely say that the book’s historical and legal material serve the purposes of both law and Gospel, primarily showing us that we are sinners and what God has done about our sin, respectively.
How? The legal material is there to curb gross sin, make us realize that we are sinful, and to describe our lives after we have been redeemed by God. The historical material shows God’s great act of deliverance and points us to the even greater act of deliverance accomplished through Jesus Christ (Luke 9:31 refers to Jesus’ work in Jerusalem as an “exodus”).

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Exodus, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume II, The Pentateuch, translated by James Martin and published in one volume with the other two on the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted May 1986. (The section dealing with Exodus, “The Second Book of Moses”, runs 260 pages. After my study Bible, this is what I turn to next, but it is a somewhat harder to use more-scholarly commentary.)
  • Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: The Old Testament, Volume I, The Historical Books of the Old Testament: Genesis to Esther. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1923. (Like our Grace library, I have this volume on my shelf, and, although I didn’t pull it down at all while blogging on Exodus, I would think you would find its 74 pages on Exodus somewhat helpful and generally accessible. In his commentary, Dr. Kretzmann often quotes Martin Luther, but I don’t immediately see any such quotations on the pages dealing with Exodus, although I do see a quotation from the Keil commentary I list above.)

Our webmaster makes the short summaries like this one a part of the Daily Lectionary - Biblical Index page for each book, which you can find linked here. He also is responsible for keeping that index up to date so you can find in one place all the posts and Q&A relevant to a particular reading. We certainly thank him for all he does!

What are your thoughts about the reading? What was particularly meaningful to you in Exodus? What are your questions about Leviticus? Don’t hesitate to contribute to the discussion, and remember your comments won’t be attributed to you. The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 14, 2007

Ps 71 / Ex 39-40 / Folo / Q&A

What does your tongue spend the day doing? We could reflect on the negative uses of the tongue, but Psalm 71 today has us reflect on our tongues all day telling of God’s righteousness acts (v.24). We can probably say safely that “all day long” in the verse is a bit of an overstatement to make a point, but we don’t want to miss the point! Do we privately or with our family in prayer and praise say back to God what He has done? How about more publicly with family, friends, or colleagues? Do we ever take advantage of the opportunities the Holy Spirit provides to talk with them about God’s acts of salvation to deliver all people from their sins? I’m sure none of us pray, praise, or “proclaim” regarding God’s salvation as much as we should. Thank God that the very salvation we should be telling of also brings us forgiveness for our failures to tell of it. That forgiveness doesn’t mean it is okay to continue not telling of it, however, but the forgiveness of sins properly brings about the kinds of actions we are being forgiven for not doing! (My first post on Psalm 71, a relatively general one, is here, and my second post, focusing-in more on the faith of young and old, is here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, includes Psalm71 among those psalms appointed for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal is not said to include any hymns referring to Psalm 71.

An unidentified author’s depiction of the Glory of the Lord in a pillar of fire over the TabernacleYou and I may be glad to have come to the reading of Exodus 39-40 and the end of the details of all the furnishings of the Tabernacle, but we are probably not as happy as the Israelites were to see the glory or presence of the Lord that had led them out of Egypt take up residence above the mercy seat in the Tabernacle’s most holy place, as described in Exodus 40:34-38. (My previous post on Exodus 39-40 is here.) The use of incense in connection with the Tabernacle is telling, as it isn’t for nothing that the song “We Three Kings” includes the line “incense owns a deity nigh”. God was really present for His people in the Tabernacle, and so the Tabernacle and its successor the Temple point us to the incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and the birth of Jesus Christ in the flesh to save us from our sins by grace through faith. The words “glory”, “name”, “indwelling”, “tabernacle”, and “sanctuary” all are significant and should remind us of the Word Who became flesh and “tabernacled” among us from Whom we see the glory of the Lord (John 1:14). In one sense God’s work in us is not “done” yet, since we have yet to experience fully His triumph over sin, death, and the power of the devil. Let us ever remain faithful by seeking out His presence in Word and Sacrament until we are in His presence permanently for eternity. (The image with this post is by an unidentified illustrator of a children’s Bible and depicts the presence of the Lord in the pillar of fire over the Tabernacle; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) Incidentally, I've scanned and linked two images from my Concordia Self-Study Bible for you, if you have been wondering what the furnishings might have looked like or how the Tabernacle was laid out.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary Grace uses for worship services does not appoint Exodus 39-40 for any Old Testament readings, and neither does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to verses from Exodus 39-40.

Today’s Biblog folo is a question regarding the picture I used in yesterday’s post from the fictional Hollywood movie “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”. A reader emailed the following: “That’s an interesting picture, but if it were really the Ark, those two people, not being Levites, would be dead, wouldn’t they?” A simple answer is “yes”, but the real answer is a little more complicated than that. While it has been a while since I have seen the movie, I recall there being some explanation given for why some of the characters survived their encounter with the Ark and other characters did not (was it “pureness of heart” or something like that?). While I remember at the time finding the movie’s explanation somewhat dissatisfying, we can find Biblical examples of non-Levites touching the Ark and not dying. Read 1 Samuel 4-6 and see how the Philistines handled the Ark, some of whom did not die. Compare what happened at the end of those events to the Israelites, who should have known better. With those events in mind, read 2 Samuel 6 and glance at 1 Chronicles 15:13-15. If a news organization like NPR can’t get stories right should we expect Hollywood to?

There are two new Q&A (Questions and Answers) posted, thanks to reader e-mail: this one regarding the carrying about of the Tabernacle furnishings and this one regarding two aspects of Exodus 38:8. Remember all are welcome at any time to ask questions and make comments on any Bible reading, no matter where you are in relationship to the schedule.

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 13, 2007

Ps 70 / Ex 37-38 / Folo

Do you sometimes feel that it is hard to pray the petitions for deliverance in psalms like Psalm 70, which we read today? We may or may not have human enemies quite like King David’s political enemies, but our chief enemy is worse! Reading such petitions for deliverance in psalms like Psalm 70 help remind me of the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (see 1 Peter 5:8 and its possible background in Psalm 22:13, Proverbs 28:15, Ezekiel 22:25, and Zephaniah 3:3). Our Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over the devil, of course, and saved us from our sin. The devil may win battles against us, but Jesus definitely has already won the war for us. (My previous post on Psalm 70 is here.)

Psalm 70 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Monday of Holy Week, the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, and the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 70.)

Actors John Ryhs-Davies and Harrison Ford find the Ark of the Covenant in the 1981 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”When you think of the Ark of the Covenant, described again in our reading today of Exodus 37-38, what does it look like in your mind? For me the Ark I think of looks like how it was shown in the 1981 movie “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (pictured with this post as being handled by Sallah, actor John Rhys-Davies, and Indiana Jones, actor HarrisonFord; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). I was going to wait and bring up the movie today, but a story on NPR last week got me a little ahead of myself in my post last Friday. Of course, so much in the movie and the NPR story is just someone's imagination! I made brief comments on Exodus 37-38 a year ago, which comments you can count on, and today I want to reemphasize the importance of the Ark for atonement, the forgiveness of sins, and for the Presence of God. You could read all of the Bible’s book of Hebrews in connection with the furnishings of the Tabernacle and Temple, but today if you have time you might take a look at Hebrews 9, which especially draws out how much more blessed we are to have the atonement made by the blood of Christ. And, we remember where we can receive it for the forgiveness of our sins: in the Sacrament of the Altar.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with the symbolism of the lampstand. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Exodus37-38 is not tapped for any Old Testament readings in Grace’s Sunday and festival service lectionary and is not said to be referred to by any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

Today's Biblog folo regards yesterday's reading of Psalm 69. A reader emailed of verse 22 prompting thoughts of open communion, and I must admit the thought crossed my mind when I read it, too. I don't think we can say that is what the Holy Spirit intended, although I also think that we can say there is some application of the verse to that errant practice. Psalm 69:22 seems to continue some thought from verse 21, where the enemies had at least figuratively turned what should have been nourishing food and drink into food and drink that was not so nourishing. In verse 22, the psalmist prays for God possibly to make the enemies' food and drink less-nourishing or more likely to turn the covenant or pact the enemies had made with each other against them. Certainly the idea of table fellowship carries over from the psalm verse to the Lord's Supper, and we can see where open communion practice is a snare or trap for all those who participate. (I would hope, however, that we are not praying imprecatorily about open communion as the psalmist did but praying such practice is corrected and its participants saved.) St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, especially verses 14-22, develops well the contrast between the Lord's Supper and the meal of demons, and although some churches may think they are observing the Lord's Supper, when they fail to confess the truth about Jesus Christ in word and deed, they in effect worship a different god. May the one true God ever keep us faithful in both of those ways!

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 12, 2007

Ps 69 / Ex 34-36

A couple of weeks ago I swam in an indoor pool for the first time in years, and the pool was one where I couldn’t touch the bottom on either end (the end where most people got in was considerably deeper than the other one, too). I had to keep telling myself I would be fine, despite the deeper water, and the whole experience reminded me of several summers ago when I was at Notre Dame and had to deal with anxiety caused by swimming 50-meter lengths over the pool’s diving well. All of this was brought to my mind by Psalm 69 and its use of water imagery to relate the psalmist’s deep distress. (Water was also the lead-in to my first post on Psalm 69, and especially verses 9-11 were at the center of my second post on the psalm.) For many people fear of drowning is a greater fear than it is for me, but there is a very real sense in which all of us who have been baptized have already drowned. Like the two little twins baptized yesterday at our Grace congregation, all of us have been put to death by the Holy Spirit in the waters of the baptismal font in order to, by the same Spirit, be resurrected as a redeemed creature now and ultimately be resurrected bodily on the last day. (See the fourth question and answer in the fourth part of Dr. Luther's Small Catechism.) While I was donating blood Friday, I was reading one of my theological journals, the article (one unrelated to my dissertation, for a change) had to do with God’s judgment of Jonah as it relates to Jesus and us who are baptized (sorry, it isn’t online yet, but you are welcome to borrow or copy mine if you are interested). In part drawing on Dr. Luther’s writings, the article made some very interesting connections between Jonah 2 and Jesus’ statements in Matthew and Luke about “His sign of Jonah”, ultimately concluding that Jonah’s ingestion and regurgitation are correlated not only to Jesus’ death and resurrection but also to ours, not only at the baptismal font but also at the last day. Death is necessary for life, law is necessary for Gospel, disgrace is necessary for glory, judgment for salvation—and that’s a message of Psalm 69, too.

The deep distress of the psalmist no doubt contributes to Psalm 69’s being among those The Lutheran Liturgy appoints for Judica (the Fifth Sunday in Lent), Palmarum (Palm Sunday), and Good Friday. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 69.)

A digital image by Ted Larson depicting both Moses’ face, glowing and veiled (Exodus 34:29-35)I sincerely pray that God is blessing you through your being in His Word, and I am confident that He is, mindful especially of His promise that His Word does not return to Him without accomplishing that for which He sent it (Sexagesima’s Old Testament reading yesterday from Isaiah 55). If nothing else, readings like today’s of Exodus 34-36 can help you better understand certain passages in the New Testament, such as 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, which draws on Exodus 34:29-35, as I noted in my original post on these chapters. This image with this post was created electronically by Ted Larson and depicts Moses’ face, glowing and veiled (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My study Bible’s notes on Exodus 34:33 says, I think wrongly, that Moses wore the veil so the Israelites would honor him as if his face were still glowing even after it had faded. Neither Exodus nor 2 Corinthians says that, however; in fact, both suggest that Moses wore the veil because the glow frightened the Israelites and made it so they could not look at Moses. All of that regarding the Old Testament and its covenant that has been superseded by the more glorious New Testament, which is what Paul is on about in 2 Corinthians. In typical fashion, contemporary Christian songwriter Michael Card beautifully connects these two passages and others as he sings of God’s transforming power at work in us in a song titled “A Face that Shone”.

The following links to previously posted Q&A related to the listed verses and topics may help you with your reading today.

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Grace’s lectionary for Sunday and festival services does not excerpt Exodus 34-36 for any Old Testament readings, but hymn #580 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Exodus 34:6-7. (The hymn is a “nation” hymn with which I am not familiar and that has been omitted from both Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book.)

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 11, 2007

Ps 68 / Ex 31-33

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, Who daily bears our burdens.” That verse, verse 19, jumped out at me today in my reading and re-reading of Psalm 68. (My first post, which more or less addresses the whole psalm is here, and my subsequent post, which focuses in more on verse 11, is here.) I quoted verse 19 from the NIV, and, while the ASV, NIV, NASB, and ESV are similar, and although the KJV and NKJV are quite different, as they apparently follow a different reading of the Hebrew text, the sense of the verse calling for praise of God for the good that He does is the same, whether that good is removing our burdens or loading us with benefits. The music swells at this verse, indicating its importance (note the expression “Selah”), and the following verses somewhat expand the theme—God saving His people from death (v.20, His people today are, of course, those who believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins) but crushing His impenitent enemies (v.21, their hairy heads in contrast to the shaved heads of the repentant). Going with the more common reading of verse 19, one commentator says, “It is the burden or pressure of the hostile world that is meant, which the Lord day by day helps His church to bear, inasmuch as He is mighty by His strength in her who of herself is so feeble.” After that, to quote the title of former Lutheran Hour speaker Oswald Hoffman’s book, “What more is there to say than Amen?”

Psalm 68 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Ascension, the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, and the day of St. Matthias. The Lutheran Hymnal’s hymn #218 is said to refer to Psalm 68:18 (the hymn is a very rich Ascension hymn, and we have just more than half of it).

A depiction of the Israelites with their golden-calf god, by French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) As we today read Exodus 31-33 note how even as God is talking to Moses about right worship of Him, the people of Israel were themselves worshipping a false god, despite all the Lord’s wonders they had seen and were continuing to experience (the manna, for example, continued to be their daily bread). The image with this post pictures the scene and is by French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), said to be the greatest of the 17th-century French classical painters (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). We perhaps too easily criticize the Israelites without looking at ourselves. How often even after we have sanctified the holy day by hearing God’s Word do we turn around and fight with a sibling or spouse or immediately do something else that we shouldn’t do? Thank God that on account of Jesus’s mediation for us all our sins are forgiven through faith in Him. (My previous post on these chapters, with a few more-general comments, is here.)

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Our church services’ lectionary does not make use of Exodus 31-33, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to these chapters.

The Lord be with you, especially today in Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 10, 2007

Ps 67 / Ex 28-30 / Folos

I wouldn’t have necessarily thought so from just reading it, but Psalm 67 is said both to celebrate God’s blessing upon the ground that has produced its harvest and to put that harvest in light of God’s past, present, and future redemption. Each literal harvest of the fruits of the field reminded the people of Israel that God was fulfilling for them His promise made in such places as Leviticus 26:4, and therefore each literal harvest is said to have been a reminder that He would fulfill His promise of the figurative harvest of the peoples. Such a connection between figurative and literal harvests is made in harvest hymns that we sing, remembering always that the Holy Spirit ultimately is the One Who gathers people into the Church through Word and Sacrament offering the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ. (My first post on Psalm 67, with some general comments, is here, and my subsequent post, focusing on God blessing a “nation” or “nations”, is here.)

Psalm 67 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus (New Year’s Day on the secular calendar), Maundy Thursday (“the same night in which He was betrayed”), Ascension, Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), and the day of St. Mark. In The Lutheran Hymnal, we have two hymn paraphrases of Psalm 67: #20 (Henry Francis Lyte’s more strict paraphrase that offers “worship and praise”) and #500 (Martin Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 67 as a “mission” hymn).

A photo by an unidentified photographer of a censer at the Mt. Carmel Hermitage in Christoval, TexasWhen we last year in the Divine Service burned the mortgage on our sanctuary, I heard several comments about the impact of the smell of the burnt paper on people who appreciated using the stimulation of their sense of smell in worship. In response to those comments, I pointed out that the sense of smell could more regularly be stimulated in worship, as incense quite properly can be used in the Divine Service and other offices, especially Vespers. Although we no longer have the Altar of Incense, as described in our reading today of Exodus 28-30, censers like that in the picture with this post can appropriately be used instead (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post on Exodus 28-30 gives , among other things, some of the verses relevant to the symbolism of incense. Be sure not to miss in your reading today how God was present with His people to forgive their sins, and note all the references to atonement and redemption and to the Old Testament “sacraments” that were connected to that atonement and redemption.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoints any Old Testament readings drawn from Exodus 28-30, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to verses from these chapters.

Today’s brief Biblog folos are in response to yesterday’s post. On my comments about the word “awesome” in connection to Psalm 66, a reader related an international friend’s perhaps similar reaction to the word and resulting teaching the reader the apparently equivalent Welsh word angrhedaddwy, which the reader still uses. On my comments about the different perspectives on the same “awesome” deeds, a reader drew a parallel to changes in the reader’s workplace, where those on the inside working hard generally were happy with the changes, while those who were more on the outside of the employer’s goals and working less hard rebelled against changes being made. And, about the “turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School material”, a reader commented, “That picture may be ‘turn of the century’, but it looks an awful lot like the ones that used to be on my Sunday School lessons!” I won’t make any comments about the reader’s potential age. (By the way, I’ve looked into getting the images I remember from my Sunday School lessons and have been told that they will not be published on the internet because they are all copywritten.)

Thanks to readers' questions about Exodus 25-27, there are two new Q&A posted, beginning with this one (the other is right below it). The Lord be with you, especially as you tomorrow come to be with Him in Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 09, 2007

Ps 66 / Ex 25-27

“Awesome!” always makes me think of some bad 80s movie, probably set in California, in which the main characters, probably surfers, frequently call each other “dude”. The word “awesome” in reference to God first brings to my mind a “praise song” with bad theology that I also find a bit annoying. Yet, in today’s reading of Psalm 66 we twice find God’s deeds described as “awesome” (vv.3, 5; see also yesterday’s Psalm 65:5). We find His deeds described as “awesome” in most modern English translations, unless you are reading the KJV, where the word is “terrible”. (The NKJV has changed that rendering, much as a TLH hymn titled "An awe-full mystery is here" no doubt would have been changed if carried over into either of the newer hymnals). The Hebrew verb in these places, yare’, in its root form means “to fear”, “be afraid”, or “to revere”. The form we find in these psalm verses essentially functions as an adjective describing the deeds as “terrible”, “awesome”, or “terrifying”. I suppose, depending on the context or one’s perspective, God’s deeds could be described as “terrible” even in the sense of “awful”, but those same deeds could be described with the surfer-dude’s “Awesome!” For example, in Psalm 66:3 the deeds demonstrate God’s power and make His enemies cringe—seems kind of terrible. In verse 5 (and v.5 yesterday), however, the deeds are done on human kind’s behalf and are used in an invitation to come to God—seems kind of awesome. But, maybe the difference is whether one is looking at the deeds from outside or inside the faith. The same division of the Red Sea (v.6) brought death to the Egyptians and redemption to the Israelites. God’s acts of judgment against His enemies are at the same time acts of deliverance for His people, and vice versa (something the praise song linked above doesn’t get). We should have some degree of “terror-fear” of God, but we should also have “reverence-fear”, the “fear” of faith that results in worship and our own “righteous” deeds. (My previous post on this psalm, with comments on more of it, is here.)

Psalm 66 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, Jubilate (the Third Sunday after Easter), Cantate (the Fourth Sunday after Easter), and Rogate (the fifth Sunday after Easter). And, hymn #544 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 66:3, one of the verses just discussed. (While the hymn seems nice enough and replete with Biblical images, I don’t really see the link to this psalm verse.)

A depiction by an unidentified artist of offerings for the Tabernacle as described in Exodus 25The date for the latest Indiana Jones movie recently gave NPR a peg to hang a story about the Ark of the Covenant’s supposedly being in Ethiopia (I for one don’t think the ark really is in Ethiopia, but the story was really more of a commentary on humanity). The Ark is just one of the Tabernacle furnishings we read about today in Exodus 25-27. I know there’s a temptation to skip the details of each of the furnishings (not to mention liberal and unLutheran-Protestant prejudices against these chapters), but we want to resist that temptation, for in skipping the chapters we miss details that point to our redemption, the Sacrament of the Altar, God’s illuminating the earth with His Christ, His Presence with His people to bless them, and the means by which He reconciles them unto Himself. As the I pointed out in my previous post on these chapters, we do well to remember that as God blessed the Israelites so they could supply all that was needed for the Tabernacle and its service, so He blesses us today so that we can supply all that is needed for our congregation, its service, and spreading His Word beyond its walls. That point is reinforced with the image with this post, done by an unidentified artist, apparently for some turn-of-the-20th-century Sunday School material (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it).

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from Exodus 25-27 for Old Testament readings, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Exodus 25-27.

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 08, 2007

Ps 65 / Ex 22-24

We live in a culture that speaks of “church shopping”, where people go around and find the church that they feel meets their needs. While such a mindset can be properly understood and used (see the back of our church brochure for the use I made of it a number of years ago), most of the time the idea of church shopping is connected with checking for things like valet parking, Starbucks in the lobby, uplifting music, and the like. Our reading today of Psalm 65 seems to have something to say about such a notion of “church shopping” (see my previous post, on the psalm as a whole, here). Verse 4 suggests that God elects and brings people to Himself, whether at the Temple or the local faithful Lutheran congregation, where God is present to bless with the forgiveness of sins. We cannot probe into the hidden mysteries of God’s election but instead rely on what He reveals to us in His Word, in places such as 1 Timothy 2:4, that He does want all people to be saved. Through that same Word God graciously invites all to come to Him and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, life, and salvation. Of this verse in Psalm 65, one commentator says well, “For all that God’s grace offers us we can give Him no better thanks than to hunger and thirst after it, and satisfy our poor soul therewith.” (If you are going to pick one hymn to use as part of your devotion today, I’d suggest the one linked below that refers to verse 4.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 65 among those appointed for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, and the day of Thanksgiving. The Lutheran Hymnal contains four hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 65.
  • 65:2 -- #583 (a “nation” hymn that I don’t think is familiar to me)
  • 65:4 -- #11 (a “Lord’s Day” hymn that pleas for forgiveness and well states why we come to Divine Service)
  • 65:9 -- #567 (a “harvest and thanksgiving” hymn with an unknown origin)
  • 65:12 -- #573 (a “harvest and thanksgiving” hymn that I think is unfamiliar to me)
J. C. Weigel’s 1695 woodcut depicting the confirmation of the covenant described in Exodus 24“They saw God, and they ate and drank” (Exodus 24:11 NIV). Wow! Table fellowship with God in connection to a covenant is part of our reading of Exodus 22-24 today, and we should right away think of table fellowship with God also in connection to a covenant that we have in the Sacrament of the Altar; see Matthew 26:28 and confer Hebrews 9:18-21. (The reading of a “book” isn’t too far away in verse 7, either.) The image with this post is of a 1695 woodcut by Nuremberg publisher Johann Christoph Weigel (1654 or 1661 to 1725 or 1726) that depicts the confirmation of the covenant as described in Exodus 24 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). You can find my previous post with comments on the whole reading here.

There are no previously posted questions and answers on these chapters, but, if you’ve got one, you are certainly welcome to ask it! Your question will be posted anonymously when it is answered.

Nothing from Exodus 22-24 comes up as an Old Testament reading in the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Exodus 22-24.

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 07, 2007

Ps 64 / Ex 19-21

When does the whole world come to fear or believe in God, proclaim His works, and ponder what He has done? We read of such a time in Psalm 64 today, especially verse 9 (I’m looking at the NIV as I write this). The psalmist is suggesting such a result after God judges his enemies (vv.7-8), and there may have been some sort of immediate fulfillment of that prophecy at the time of the psalmist’s prayer. However, we do not expect some sort of great convergence of religions and dramatic increase in believers as the Day of the Lord approaches. God’s great and final judgment will bring about complete acknowledgment of God and His works by all people, but for many such acknowledgment will be too late. In Philippians 2:10-11, St. Paul’s description of every knee bowing includes those who are under the earth, but, while such a “confession” of Jesus Christ as the only savior at that time glorifies God, it does not change their status as being under the earth, that is, in hell for eternity. Therefore we have the psalmist’s encouragement (v.10) to rejoice in, take refuge in, and praise the Lord now! (My brief first post on Psalm 64 is here, and my slightly longer second post on it is here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 64 among those appointed for the Second Sunday after Trinity and the day of St. Mark. No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 64.

An image of Moses with the two tablets of the law done by an unidentified artist in an unidentified mediumI first read of this “truth is stranger than fiction” astronaut story on Monday night, and, given what they found in her possession, wondered if there wasn’t a more-serious intention than kidnapping, which it is turning out the police also suspect. Today as I read Exodus 19-21 I thought of the case again in light of Exodus 21:16, which would suggest the astronaut, if guilty, should be put to death even for the kidnapping charge! I’m not saying we should use the stipulations of the Old Covenant theocracy for our modern judicial system, but I thought the connection was a good example of how there is so much more to today’s reading than the Ten Commandments. (For my previous post and its comments on the whole reading, click here.) The Ten Commandments and Moses are nevertheless the focus of the image with today’s post, an image by an unidentified artist in an unidentified medium (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Those Ten Commandments continue to have bearing for us, showing us our sin against God and our need for the forgiveness that comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. One final note, you might not know that the arrival at Sinai is three months after the exodus or that, in terms of the reading, we essentially stay at Sinai until Numbers 10:33.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Exodus 20:1-17 for the Old Testament reading on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity. In The Lutheran Hymnal, refererence to verses from Exodus 20:1-17 is apparently made by hymn #287 (Martin Luther’s Ten Commandments hymn first published in 1524 with a tune from the 13th century) and #288 (a 1594 hymn intended to emphasize Luther’s Small Catechism as the means of catechetical instruction).

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 06, 2007

Ps 63 / Ex 16-18

Psalm 63 is appointed for today; my first post on the psalm is here, and my subsequent post is here. Rereading that second post, one can sure appreciate what a difference six months makes! For the most part from what I hear, God has satisfied at least Central Texas’s literal thirst for water, and we know that for those who seek Him He always satisfies the spiritual thirst, too.

Psalm 63 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany and the day of St. Mary Magdalene. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 63.)

A picture of a late-14th-century stained glass window from Frankfurt’s Marienkirche that depicts the collection of manna“What is it?” That’s what children often will say to their parents when something new is presented for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (along with, “I’m not eating that”). “What is it?” That’s what the children of Israel asked the first time they saw the manna we read about today in Exodus 16-18 (the KJV doesn’t much help the reader understand that they were asking a question). The image with this post is a picture of a late-14th-century stained glass window that at one time was in the Marienkirche in Frankfurt, Germany, depicting the collection of manna. The manna itself might be a little hard to see, but I appreciated seeing such an old stained-glass window (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). My previous post on these chapters is here.

Recently I had the opportunity to write up for someone else a few thoughts on what these chapters say regarding God, pastor, a congregation’s board of “elders”, and people today; those comments follow.

Together these three chapters can be taken to hold up the importance of God working through the Office of the Holy Ministry administering the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, as well as the importance of people supporting the prophet/pastor in his tasks. The congregation properly understood is pastor and people together, and you can see the whole Israelite community/congregation in 16:1 and 17:1 and God’s blessing them (for example, 18:9) by delivering them just as God delivers us. You certainly can note the grumbling against Moses and Aaron in 16:2-3 and 17:2-3 and how that grumbling is ultimately against the Lord (for example, 16:8); you might relate that grumbling to problems within your own congregation and the responsibilities of your board. God was merciful and loving despite the people’s grumbling, as He is with us. Chapter 16 describes God’s gracious provision of food to His people, and the beginning of chapter 17 (vv.1-7) describes God's provision of water. In the case of the food, you might note the “daily bread” as it relates to the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3) and Jesus’ own words about His flesh (John 6:32, 33, 35, 48, 51). In the case of the water, you might note 1 Corinthians 10:4 (the water/Baptism connection is there, but a little harder to trace out; John 7:37-38 is also on point). Both the provision of food and water are “types” that point to the Sacrament of the Altar and Holy Baptism, respectively. Also in chapter 17 (vv.8-15) the Lord in effect fights a battle against the Amalekites on the people’s behalf, and the people win, as long as Moses holds up his hands. Aaron and Hur help Moses hold up his hands when he gets tired. One could suggest that the role of what we call “elders” in our modern congregations is to hold up the prophet/pastor’s hands. (Remember that the biblical term “elder” refers to pastors themselves.) Chapter 18 is also relevant in that Moses’s father-in-law a priest of Midian comes and suggests Moses delegate some of his responsibilities to “capable men from all the people” (18:21) in order to help the prophet bear the load. These men also could be relevant to modern duties of our congregational “elders”. You might sing "Hark, The Voice of Jesus Calling" especially for its third verse’s reference to faithful Aaron “holding up the prophet's hands”. A prayer could be something like the following:

Almighty God, You sent your Son Jesus Christ to be born, to die, and to rise again to save us from our sins, and in Him we have all we need; You graciously give us the forgiveness Jesus won through the Office of the Holy Ministry's preaching and administering Your Sacraments--Baptism, Absolution, and the Supper; nevertheless, we and others in our congregation often grumble against Your called and ordained servant and thereby against You; forgive all of us of our grumbling and enable us as elected leaders of this congregation figuratively to hold up our pastor's hands and lighten his load and enable him to stand the strain that together as pastor and people we be blessed as Your congregation of old and in Your time enter Your promised land of heaven; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I hope those reflections are as helpful for you as they were for me!

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Exodus 16-18 is apparently not used either by the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace or the hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 05, 2007

Ps 62 / Ex 13-15

As I make the final push on getting my dissertation to my committee (32 days and counting), I have been spending some considerable time with our teaching about justification, how we are both declared and made righteous before God by faith in Jesus Christ. I have been working with our Lutheran Confessions and other writings by the same authors that were not given confessional status. Passages such as the final verse of Psalm 62, which we read today, on their own certainly can make people think that we are saved by works, but then what does one do with clear passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9? The reformers insist that such clear passages be used to interpret passages such as Psalm 62:12. We can correctly understand that the change brought about by faith produces good works that can be used as the evidence of the faith, but I don’t know how one would explain the passages that talk about salvation by faith if salvation is really by works. (See my first post on this psalm here and the subsequent post here.)

Psalm 62 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the day of St. Matthew and the Festival of the Reformation. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 62.)

Contemporary American Jewish artist Phillip Ratner’s representation of Miriam leading the women in the Song of Moses as in Exodus 15:20-21Do you believe that God really parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross it and that He brought it crashing down on the Egyptians to destroy them? If so, why do you believe those things? I expect that, if you believe them, you are like me in that you believe them because we read of them, as we do today, in passages of God’s Word such as Exodus 13-15. (My previous post on these chapters is here.) God’s inspired and inerrant Word tells us these things are true, and so we who believe in Him take Him at His Word. Recently someone sent me some information that claimed to provide archaeological evidence for the Red Sea crossing, although not in the usual spot. (You can find web pages with essentially the same information here, the first of four video segments making these claims here, what may be a more “objective” report with some opposing views here, and the popular Wikipedia’s take on the whole matter here.) I think there’s some agenda I haven’t been able to figure out for such a claim that the Red Sea Crossing and Mt. Sinai are elsewhere than where they are usually thought to be, but in the end the location and the evidence itself do not matter. Such things are a matter of faith! The archaeological evidence might serve a purpose in trying to convince unbelievers that the events actually happened, but in the end they must simply believe, as must we. Is faith that relies on archaeological evidence, true or not, really faith? We may not have seen the events as Moses and Miriam did, but on the basis of the eyes of faith we can make their song of Exodus 15 our own. The image with this post, by the way is contemporary American Jewish artist Phillip Ratner’s representation of Miriam (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). I’ve used one of Ratner’s images in a previous post, and thought you might appreciate another with this one. Oh, and be sure not to miss the connection between God delivering the first born of man and beast from the tenth plague in chapter 12 and His expectation in chapter 13 that they be consecrated to Him—they were effectively His, not that everything isn’t anyway. The practice of such redemption helped point the way to Him Who is by faith our Redeemer—Jesus the Christ!

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Although the historic 1-year lectionary that we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace does not tap Exodus 13-15 for any Old Testament readings, The Lutheran Hymnal contains three hymns said to refer or allude to verses from these chapters.
  • 13:21 -- #54 (this is a Welsh hymn originally, and I can see the connection to today’s reading especially in what we have as the second stanza)
  • 15:1-21 -- #204 (an eighth-century hymn, originally in Greek, that connects the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 about the deliverance from Egypt to our deliverance from sin, death, and the power of the grave by Christ’s death and resurrection)
  • 15:23 -- #422 (The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal about this hymn says, “the better hymnals of the present day do not contain this hymn”, and, while I am not sure what that says about TLH, depending on what you think about Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book the statement can be regarded as prophetic, since those two newer hymnals do not contain the hymn; this hymn was the hymn I previously mentioned that has a popular tune other than the one to which it is set in our hymnal)

If you want to hear the music for these hymns, you can look them up alphabetically by title here. (If that isn’t working for you, please let us know so we can try to facilitate the process better.)

The Lord be with you!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 04, 2007

Ps 61 / Ex 10-12

In today’s reading of Psalm 61, the problem in verse 2 is not that the psalmist can’t get to the Rock from where he is at the ends of the earth, but the psalmist asks God to “lead” him there (remember Psalm 23:2) because he can’t get there on his own. I am reminded of Dr. Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Apostolic Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith …” (My previous post on this psalm is here.)

Psalm 61 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany and Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord), but no hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 61.

An unknown artist’s watercolor connection of the Passover lamb and Christ’s crucifixion“Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world!” John the Baptizer’s declaration about Jesus Christ is steeped in the context of the Passover about which we read today in Exodus 10-12. I don’t know about you, but when I hear “pass over” I am so quick to think of “Passover” that it is easy to forget that “Passover” is about the Angel of Death “passing over” the houses marked with the blood of the lamb. (The origin of our English word is like that of the Hebrew word.) So, too, eternal death “passes over” us who in faith receive the blood of the Lamb of God in the Sacrament of the Altar, the New Testament “Passover”. The image with this post, a watercolor done by an unknown artist in Bogota, Columbia, for the Communicating Christ video course, makes well the connection between the Old Testament Passover and its New Testament fulfillment (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). On Christ's side of the blood-stained doorframe we are safely with Him in the redeemed family of the Church. (My original post on these chapters is here, and you may also want to read this reader’s response to “closed communion” at the Passover and this explanation of Passover’s corporate nature.)

One other quick note: mark well Exodus 12:38, for though some Egpytians apparently left with the Israelites and well may have been God-fearers (Exodus 9:20), later they apparently cause some trouble (Numbers 11:4).

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Today’s reading from Exodus does get some formal use by the Church. The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoints Exodus 12:1-14 for the Old Testament reading on Maundy Thursday. And, hymn #451 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Exodus 10:11 (I can see the connection, but it seems really out of context).

The Lord be with you, especially today in Word and Sacrament!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 03, 2007

Ps 60 / Ex 7-9

Today as I read Psalm 60 I was intrigued by verse 4 in the NIV: “But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.” When I started looking more closely at the verse and just what it means, I was surprised to find a completely different translation more common in the other versions: “that it may be displayed because of the truth” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “to lift themselves up on account of the truth” Keil-Delitzsch). In the first part of the verse, the banner raised by God is a rallying point for those who believe in Him, Gospel comfort, no doubt, to cheer and sustain them. (Verses 6-8 may be specific statements from God that particularly comforted the people at the time of the events that prompted this psalm.) In the second part of the verse, the NIV and at least one commentator apparently take alternate readings of the Hebrew text to make the unfurled banner face off against the enemy attacking with bows and arrows. (Thanks to one of my “cast of thousands” for checking that commentary for me.) The other, more common rendering seems to suggest, as the Keil-Delitzsch commentary phrases it, “a rising for the truth in accordance with its mission”, if that helps you (it didn’t help me much). That little matter need not stand in the way of some helpful content to the psalm. The pole, banner, sign, etc. was used for war, often in connection with a trumpet to gather the solders to the place. Although not a rallying pole for war, one significant pole that was lifted up is in Numbers 21:8-9, which event is also alluded to in John 3:14, in perfect keeping with the recognition that Jesus is our Sign, as Isaiah 11:10 and 11:12 prophesied of old. For more on the psalm as a whole and some comments explaining other verses, see my previous post.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, includes Psalm 60 among those psalms appointed for Sexagesima (somewhat ironically, the Sunday that falls in the sixth period of ten days before Easter) and Reminiscere (the Second Sunday in Lent). No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 60.

A digital image by Ted Larson depicting the first plague on Egypt as told in Exodus 7In our reading yesterday we heard God tell Moses water would be turned to blood (Exodus 4:9), and today as we read Exodus 7-9 that miraculous sign comes to pass. (My previous post on these chapters is here.) The Nile was certainly the life-blood of Egypt if not also regarded as a god, and God intended the plague on the Nile as a sign that He was superior to Egypt’s gods, who were often personifications of nature. Similarly the frog or toad of the second plague was a goddess for the Egyptians. By the third plague, the gnats, the magicians cannot replicate God’s creative power and confess the truth to Pharaoh. The image with this post, of course, relates to the first plague and is a computer generated image by Ted Larson (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). With the water into blood miracle, I am reminded of the water into wine miracle of John 2 and thus also the wine into blood miracle that takes place tomorrow and every Sunday at Grace for the forgiveness of our sins.

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoints Exodus 7-9 for and Old Testament readings, and The Lutheran Hymnal apparently has no hymns that refer to verses from Exodus 7-9.

There is a new Q&A about Friday’s reading of Genesis 4-6 posted here. May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and, especially tomorrow, in His Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 02, 2007

Ps 59 / Ex 4-6

Sometimes in the Bible’s Old Testament “historical” books there are only sketchy details about a particular event, but in the Psalms and Prophets we receive greater insight into the events. I think we have seen at least one example of this fact already in Year Two of our Daily Lectionary reading, and today with Psalm 59 we see another, although we have not yet gotten to the “historical” narrative of the events for which we are given greater insight. As I mentioned in my previous post on Psalm 59, the psalm is connected with the events of 1 Samuel 19:11. The psalm, however, gives us a greater sense of Saul’s plotting to kill David secretly behind Michal’s back, how evil men from Saul’s court must have joined in the conspiracy, and how David must have been able to see for himself their taking positions against him, perhaps more so at night, making David long for the morning (see verse 16). If sometimes less obvious, the plotting of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh against us is no less evil. However, we can and should pray the psalm with David, nevertheless confident of at least God’s ultimate delivery through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lutheran Liturgy includes Psalm 59 among those appointed for the Feast of St. Stephen and Tuesday of Holy Week. Psalm 59:16 is said to be referenced by three hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal: #121 (a “New Year” hymn with which I am not all that familiar), #576 (a “nation” hymn that I also don’t think I have ever sung), #579 (another “nation” hymn that is also unfamiliar to me).

A watercolor by French painter James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836-1902) illustrating Moses and Aaron before the Israelites as in Exodus 4:30Many of us rely on cell phones to meet up with people, even when we know where we are supposed to meet (I once used mine at a Chicago White Sox baseball game to meet a friend who was about 50 feet away). Yet, as we read today in Exodus 4-6, Moses’ brother Aaron goes out into the desert to meet up with Moses seemingly without any precise idea of where Moses will be (see Exodus 4:14, 27), although surely God brought the two of them together more reliably than Mapquest. In my previous post on these chapters I briefly mentioned the significance of Aaron speaking for Moses, and the image with today’s post is a watercolor by French painter James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836-1902) depicting the first time that may have happened, as in Exodus 4:30 before the Israelites (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). The Lord similarly speaks to us today through men, some of faltering lips, and by the Holy Spirit’s power we believe their message of forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and bow down and worship (Exodus 4:31).

The following verses and topics are addressed in previously posted questions and answers, the links for which may be repeated in this space from day to day, as the answers may also refer to preceding or following verses:

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

Neither the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services nor The Lutheran Hymnal apparently make use of verses from Exodus 4-6.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

February 01, 2007

Lk 2:29-32 / Ex 1-3 / Genesis wrap-up / Folo

A former seminary classmate of mine now serving a congregation in southern Ontario had chest pains two Sundays ago as he was finishing the communion liturgy of the Divine Service (he later went to the hospital and found out he had had a heart attack but appears to have had no significant damage and so should be ok). A fellow classmate who was telling me the official news from their district somewhat jokingly said, “That adds new meaning to ‘Lord, now let Thy servant depart in peace’!” The timing of the heart attack and the fellow classmate’s comments reminded me of another man who years earlier around the same time of year had a heart attack just before the Seminary Kantorei’s Epiphany Vespers service on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, when I was in the group and midway through my year in Ft. Wayne. The service was delayed until the paramedics had taken him away, and when we went out at the offering we heard the news that the man, for whom our director had some spiritual responsibility, had departed from this world to be with the Lord. We in the Kantorei, the select touring choir, then went in and sang, as previously scheduled, an arrangement of Dr. Luther’s Nunc Dimittis hymn, which is based on Luke 2:29-32, what we have as the seasonal canticle for February. (You can find my previous post on the reading and related links here.) I’m sure you can understand why this more recent event has cemented in my mind connections between this text, death, and the Divine Service. I sing that song frequently for all sorts of reasons and am glad that I have the text memorized; would that we all did for moments before our own deaths. Neither what could be considered a close call with death nor death itself should be frightening or sad events for those who believe in Jesus Christ unto the free forgiveness of their sins. Like to ancient Simeon, God has revealed His Salvation to us, and we can not only be and depart in peace but we can also depart with joy!

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, technically does not include Luke 2:29-32 as part of any appointed Gospel readings, but Luke 2:29-32 is the canticle sung in the liturgy of the Order of the Holy Communion in The Lutheran Hymnal (pages 29-30) and in Vespers (pages 43-44), and the verses are referred or alluded to by the following hymns:
  • 2:29 -- #585 (an unfamiliar but interesting text set to the tune associated with Luther’s “Vater unser”)
  • 2:29-32 -- #137 (Luther’s Nunc dimittis hymn discussed above)
  • 2:32 -- #138 (a nice though unfamiliar hymn for the Presentation of Our Lord)

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s depiction of “The Finding of Moses”Again the beginning of a new month coincides with the beginning of a new book, although with Exodus 1-3 today we are reading the same Divine and human author and continuing the story from where we left off in Genesis 50. My previous post on Exodus 1-3 is here, with related links to some background about the Pentateuch, its author(s), and this book. The image with this post is by English painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), more certainly than this one was, where you can find more information about him (to see a larger version of today’s image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Like Noah, water and an ark of sorts saved Moses from his death sentence, and you and I likewise are saved from our death sentences by the water of Holy Baptism and the ark of the Church. We don’t take off our shoes as Moses did, but we acknowledge that when we come into the Lord’s Presence we are on holy ground and that the things of the world have no place there.

The following are some previously posted questions and answers related to today’s reading, although you may also have seen the same Q&A posted in connection with other readings.

You are most certainly welcome to ask a question of your own this way.

The historic 1-year lectionary used at Grace does not appoint any verses from Exodus 1-3 for Old Testament readings, but #40 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Exodus 3:6.

Today I have an Genesis wrap-up. Such a summary of a recently completed book was requested in our survey at the end of Year 1 of our Daily Lectionary reading.

Who was the author? Both the Old Testament and the New Testament indicate that Genesis, like the other four books of the Torah or Pentateuch, was recorded by Moses. Our belief in Divine verbal inspiration and in the resulting inerrancy is not denigrated by allowing either that Moses drew on sources such as oral tradition or that later editors fine tuned the work.
What is the book? Genesis gives ten accounts from “the beginning” of God’s creation (sometimes called “primeval history”) through to the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel (sometimes called “patriarchal history”). In between are significant events of sin and redemption: the fall into sin, God’s first promise of a Savior from sin, near-total corruption and judgment by water that gave the earth a “new” start, God’s promising to make a nation from the descendants of Abraham who believed God and so was made righteous and with whom God made a covenant, and His beginning to make a nation of the sons of Jacob (also known as Israel). Significantly along the way the Gospel promises move from being very general in 3:15 to being more and more specific in 4:25, 9:27, 12:3, 21:12, 25:23, and 49:10.
Where was it written? We aren’t specifically told, but, since Moses most likely recorded Genesis during the 40 year wanderings in the desert, I’d say somewhere in the desert of the Sinai peninsula.
When was it written? We can approximate from 966 B.C. as the date of the fourth year of Solomon’s reign and from 1 Kings 6:1 that the wilderness wanderings, during which Moses is thought to have recorded Genesis, were likely between 1446 and 1406 B.C.
Why? The name “Genesis” in its Hebrew and Greek originals describes the book as a book of beginnings, but more than that the book is a record of holy or salvation history—more than history that we think of as names and dates but the kind of record through which the Holy Spirit called the people of old and us today to sorrow over our sin and faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior Who now has come to save us from that sin.
How? Dr. Luther points to the book’s numerous illustrations of faith and unbelief and of the fruits born by faith and unbelief. We also remember the recurring theme of great reversal as later sons are favored over those firstborn. Various literary devices also help entrench the accounts in the our minds, enhance our interest, and help us know what is especially important.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Genesis, you may make use of the following:
  • Leupold, Herbert Carl. Exposition of Genesis in two volumes. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1949, 1942. (I only have the second volume, but for the most part I like what I have made use of there.)
  • Luther, Martin. “Lectures on Genesis” (1535-1545). Vols. 1-8 of Luther’s Works, American Edition, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan, Daniel E. Poellot, Walter A. Hansen, Hilton L. Oswald; tr. George V. Schick and Paul D. Paul. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958-1970. (Some good commentary by the “mature” Luther, although at times one has to wade through a lot of other stuff to get to the gems.)

Our webmaster is making these short summaries a part of the Daily Lectionary - Biblical Index page for each book, which you can find linked here.

Today’s Biblog folo is in response to the image in yesterday’s post, which I said might make fans of C.S. Lewis think of the saving lion, Aslan.

I’m afraid so! I did not see dove or scroll at first. The dove looked like the mountains “further in and higher up” from The Last Battle. Being told the scroll was there, I looked at the picture until it took shape for me. It’s like one of those puzzle pictures that look simple on the surface but have all sorts of other things drawn into them. Oddly, considering the rest of the discussion [in the post], the last one [of those puzzle pictures] I came across was a wooded landscape on the surface, but a herd of horses was there, if you could see them. Thank you for this one!

You and all the readers are welcome; I usually enjoy the process of finding images for the posts. I’m not art expert, however, so I am happy to be corrected if what I thought were clouds are really mountain peaks (although I think the mountain peaks in the image are even further in and down on the horizon). I suppose if you want to know the artist’s intent, you can contact him, just don’t get us in trouble for including such images without formal permission, even though I always make it clear from where the image comes.

May the Lord ever reveal Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM