March 31, 2007

Lk 23-24

(Today instead of a new psalm remember to reread the seasonal canticle for March, Isaiah 64:1-9; relevant discussion and links are here.)

Francisco de Zurbarán’s 1660 depiction of St. Luke as a painter before Christ on the crossJust in time for the commemoration of our Lord’s passion next week, today we read of the events in Luke 23-24. You can find my previous post on these chapters here, and you can find discussion about the “death of God” related to Luke 23:46 here. The image with this post is the 1660 “Saint Luke as a Painter before Christ on the Cross” by the Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664). Some art historians assume that the figure of St. Luke is a self-portrait of Zurbarán (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, where, if you click the image, you will get a larger view). Said to fuse the realism and mysticism often dominant in Spanish art, Zurbarán is also said to have been influenced early in his career by Michelangelo and late in his career (from when this work comes) by Bartolomé Estéban Murillo. Previously I used an image of St. Luke as a painter, but, especially with Zurbarán’s realism, we shouldn’t take such depictions as indicating that St. Luke in any way was free to imagine how things took place. Rather, the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke and the other writers of the Gospel accounts to record what we need to know in order to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, and by believing have life through his name (John 20:31).

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading of Luke 23-24 has to do with Luke 24:52 and Malchus with the soldiers. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Luke 24:13-35 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary as the Gospel reading for Easter Monday and Luke 24:36-48 for Easter Tuesday. Sixteen hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 23-24.
  • 23:20-24 -- #143 (all the stanzas are good, but be sure to note well stanza 3)
  • 23:33 -- #148
  • 23:34 -- #180 (the first part of one hymn or the first of "seven hymns" on our Lord's words from the cross; see below #180, #181, and #186)
  • 23:38 -- #179
  • 23:43 -- #181
  • 23:44-46 -- #154
  • 23:46 -- #176, #186
  • 24:3 -- #203
  • 24:13-35 -- #194
  • 24:27 -- #91
  • 24:29 -- #53, #197, #292, #551, #552

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

March 30, 2007

Ps 113 / Lk 22

Our penitential season of Lent is quickly drawing to a close; just two nights ago we had our last Wednesday-night Lenten Vespers and the preceding meal. (Where has the time gone?) If we have been focusing in this season on repentance, humbling ourselves and figuratively if not literally repenting with dust and ashes, then Psalm 113 has an especially timely reminder for us in verse 7: the Lord “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” (NIV, NASB; “dunghill” KJV, ASV). My study Bible links the dust and ashes to humble status and extreme distress but misses the link to repentance. Remember that by itself sorrow over sin does little good; an individual’s true repentance also has faith that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, which we recall in the upcoming Passion season, was for that individual—for you and for me. Don’t miss this part of the psalm’s connection to 1 Samuel 2:3-8 and Luke 1:46-55, and note the close relation of this Jewish festival liturgy psalm with celebration of the Passover in Luke 22. (For my original post, including more of an overview of the psalm, click here.)

Psalm 113 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for feast of The Holy Innocents, Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord), and the day of St. Peter and St. Paul. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 113.)

A picture by an unknown photographer of the traditional Passover meal foodsSomeone told me recently of another person’s arguing against weekly celebrations of the Sacrament of the Altar on the basis of the Jews’ only observing Passover once a year. While that argument rightly recognizes a close connection between the once-a-year Passover and the Sacrament of the Altar, it fails to recognize that the Jews had weekly Sabbath Seders. Passover, the Sacrament of the Altar, and our true Passover Lamb are at the center of today’s reading of Luke 22. (My previous post on this chapter gives a good overview of it, and this post makes the somewhat obvious connection to Maundy Thursday.) The Passover meal was different from regular Sabbath Seders, especially with the highly symbolic foods (the image with this post is an unidentified photographer’s photo of various Passover foods; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Where such things as the bitter herbs symbolized the bitter slavery in Egypt (they obviously couldn’t be slavery), Jesus at the institution of the Sacrament of the Altar says henceforth the bread and wine are His Body and Blood. In them He is really present with the forgiveness of sins that He won for us on the cross and that we receive by faith, along with life and salvation.

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 Luke 22:1-23:43 for the Gospel reading on Wednesday of Holy Week, and hymn #516 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Luke 22:31, 32.

Thanks to a reader’s email we have a new Q&A on Luke 20:9-19 posted here. And, if you missed the March 18 discussion of the historical outline of the Bible, the fairly comprehensive handout from that class is now posted on our site as a PDF here. May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 29, 2007

Ps 112 / Lk 20-21

Depending on what time you get up in the morning, the earlier than usual recent switch to Daylight Saving Time may not have made much of a difference to you (that is, you may have been getting up in the darkness anyway). There is great comfort knowing that darkness eventually turns to dawn (or, as someone reminded me the other day, that spring comes after a long winter). Today we hear the psalmist in Psalm 112 use a related figure of speech. Verse 4’s “Even in darkness light dawns” (NIV) assures believers that from their troubled times there is ultimate deliverance. The theme song for the original movie “The Poseidon Adventure” somewhat accurately put it, “There’s got to be a morning after / If we can hold on thru the night”. (You can read more about Psalm 112 in my previous posts here and here.)

Psalm 112 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity and the day of St. Mary Magdalene. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 112.)

A picture of an unidentified couple’s wedding rings taken by an unidentified photographerWeddings are usually joyous occasions, and many Christians rightly recognize their spouse as a blessing from God, even if their relationships are affected by the Fall and the only way they can at all live together, if they even can, is in the forgiveness of sins. (The image with this post is a picture of an unidentified couple’s wedding rings taken by an unidentified photographer; 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’s no reason to think that the joy and blessings of a marriage do not continue into eternity. Part of our Lord’s teaching that we read today in Luke 20-21 is sometimes used to claim that in eternity people are not in a married state. (For more of an overview of today’s whole reading, see here.) What our Lord actually says is that resurrected believers will not get married if they are not already; the early church understood this teaching correctly, holding even that ideally there would be no additional marriages on earth after the “death” of one spouse, since that spouse was not really “dead” (20:38). A Christian whose spouse is not a believer need not fear that the joy of heaven will somehow be diminished because the believer will have sorrow over the unbelieving spouse’s absence, I think, for the joy of being in the Lord’s eternal presence triumphs over all sorrows. All of us, desirous to see spouses in heaven or not, even married or not—all of us do well to remember that we are only “worthy” to take part in the age of the resurrection by Christ’s righteousness, imputed to us by grace through faith. (There’s a hardly-"worth"-looking-up folo to Luke 21:18 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.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Luke 21:25-26 for the Gospel reading on the Second Sunday in Advent, hymn #611 The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to verses from Luke 21:25-36.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 28, 2007

Ps 111 / Lk 18-19

As we get older and more time passes from earlier events in our lives, our memories of some things can disappear or become confused. During a recent visit from a third-cousin of mine, we tried to figure out whether our family had visited him and his family in California or Colorado some thirty years ago; I thought it was California, but all other indicators pointed to Colorado. When it comes to God and what He has done, we fallen human beings would completely forget if remembering were up to us. Psalm 111, however, tells us in verse 4 that He in His grace and compassion causes us to remember His wonders, wonders such as His great salvation from our sin freely given through faith in Jesus Christ Who died and rose again in order to save us from our sin. There’s more of an overview of the whole psalm here, in my first post on it, and there’s a lengthier discussion of the subject of verse 8 here.

Psalm 111 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, the (First) Sunday after Christmas, Maundy Thursday (the night in which our Lord was betrayed), the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, and a Dedication of a church. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 111.)

Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld’s depiction of the worship of the tax collector of Luke 18:9-14 in contrast to that of the PhariseeWe probably all have the tendency to justify ourselves, what we say and do. In the world, such self-justification is sometimes necessary, maybe when competing for a promotion or asking for a raise. When it comes to spiritual matters, however, we want not self-exaltation but humility. Today in Luke 18-19 we read, among other things, Jesus’s parable of a Pharisee and tax collector who went up to the Temple to pray. (You can read my previous post on these chapters, with more of an overview of the whole reading, here.) The Pharisee self-justified, or self-exalted, while the tax collector humbled himself and sought God’s mercy. Jesus said the tax collector went home justified by God’s grace. We likewise are justified, or forgiven, when we are sorry over our sins and trust God to forgive us for Jesus’s sake. The image with this post is of a woodcut, depicting the tax collector and Pharisee, by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (1794-1872) that was originally printed in Das Buch der Bücher in Bilden and scanned by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s Publications for Latin America (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’ve seen the artist’s work before in this post, and you can read more about the artist here. (See also this discussion of the church's "extinction" that pertains to Luke 18:8.)

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.

Luke 18:31-43 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary as the Gospel reading for Quinquagesima Sunday (the Sunday that falls in the fifth period of ten days before Easter), Luke 19:1-10 for the Dedication of a church, Luke 19:41-48 for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, and Luke 19:9-14 for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity. Eleven hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 18-19.

Thanks to a reader's question and "my cast of thousands" we have a new Q&A on Luke 11:4 and the Lord's Prayer posted here. May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 27, 2007

Ps 110 / Lk 16-17

In our society and culture we often hear the idea that everyone is a winner. Is that possible? Can there be winners if there are no losers? There may be a place for such an idea (maybe six-year-old soccer), but we do not find that idea in today’s reading of Psalm 110. The Lord’s being with the king brings about victories over the Lord’s enemies, who are judged and crushed. We especially can draw comfort even from such violent images, because, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the benefits of our Lord’s victories over sin, death, and the power of the devil. (You can find more-comprehensive comments about this psalm in my previous post, and there is also more about Jesus’s use of the psalm here and about priestly orders here.)

Psalm 110 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for First Sunday of Advent, the (First) Sunday after Christmas, the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord), The Annunciaiton, Ascension, the day of St. John the Baptist, The Visitation, the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity. Hymn #47 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 110:2. (Anyone see the link?)

An undated depiction of Lazarus and Dives by an unidentified artistThe contrast between “winners” by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and “losers” who fail to heed the message of the Holy Scriptures is also evident in today’s reading of Luke 16-17. Although I couldn’t find any information about origin of the the image, the image with this post nevertheless shows the beggar Lazarus in the comfort of Abraham’s bosom in heaven and the rich man in the torments of hell (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 gives some good information about the “story” to which the image corresponds, as well as the rest of the reading for today. You can also find some follow-up discussion on the Parable of the Shrewd Manager here and a PDF of a subsequently posted document by the LCMS CTCR regarding the “Left Behind” series 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 appoints Luke 16:1-9 for the Gospel reading on the Ninth Sunday after Trinity (it would seem a few more verses afterwards would be helpful, perhaps even through v.15), Luke 16:19-31 for the First Sunday after Trinity, and Luke 17:11-19 for both the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity and a Day of National Thanksgiving. In The Lutheran Hymnal, hymn #396 is said to refer to verses from Luke 17:5.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 26, 2007

Ps 109 / Lk 14-15

“Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with your love.” That petition near the end of Psalm 109 today certainly appeals to us more than many of those that precede it. I have mentioned before how these so-called “imprecatory psalms” can be hard to understand, but I think the comment in my previous post, about the psalmist praying for God to carry out His righteous judgment, is helpful. See all the comments on this psalm there, and additional ones here.

Psalm 109 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Judica (the Fifth Sunday in Lent). (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 109.)

An unidentified photographer’s vision of the prodigal son’s returnAs I read Luke 14-15 today and prepared this post, I was surprised to see (as indicated below) that the Parable of the Prodigal Son is not appointed for any Gospel readings in the series that we use. (My previous comments on these chapters are here.) The Parable of the Prodigal Son is nevertheless familiar to many of us, and again it is a part of Jesus’ teaching that is unique to St. Luke’s account (as is the parable of the lost coin). When we confess to our Heavenly Father that we have sinned against Him and are no longer worthy to be called His children, we are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and are likewise regarded as once lost but now found and once dead but now alive. And, thanks be to God, we, too, share in the table fellowship of the Father. (The image with this post is an unidentified photographer’s vision of the prodigal son’s return; 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.

Luke 14:1-11 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary as the Gospel reading for Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Luke 14:16-24 for the Second Sunday after Trinity, and Luke 15:1-10 for the Third Sunday after Trinity. Six different hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 14-15.
  • Ch. 14 -- #509 (you will have to see your hymnal)
  • 14:22, 23 -- #509 (same comment as for #509 above!)
  • 14:16-24 -- #384
  • 15:1-10 -- #324
  • 15:2 -- #324, #386
  • 15:18 -- #280
  • 15:24 -- #32

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 25, 2007

Ps 108 / Lk 12-13

I heard it said recently that no one likes confrontation, and in that sense I suppose we would wonder about someone who did. There are, nevertheless, times and places for confrontation, and today in Psalm 108 (v.10) we hear the psalmist ask a rhetorical question that is essentially a wish for or the expression of a desire for a battle in which the psalmist is confident of victory. We probably do not like the Lord confronting us over our sins any more than anyone else likes it when we confront them over something they have done, but such spiritual battles are necessary precursors for the Gospel to do its work of comforting with the free forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (You can read my previous post, with an overview of the whole psalm, here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 108 among those appointed for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 108.

An unidentified photographer’s picture of what are said to be the ruins of the Tower of SiloamYou may not have noticed, but many of the images I’ve selected for the posts in connection with our reading of St. Luke’s Gospel account this year have to do with people or events unique to St. Luke’s Gospel account. Today’s image, an unidentified photographer’s picture of what are said to be the remains of the Tower of Siloam, is no exception, bringing to mind Jesus’s teaching about repentance in Luke 12-13 (specifically, 13:4-5) that uniquely refers to the Tower of Siloam (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 thought the passage and its larger context were particularly applicable in the wake of September 11, 2001, and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, but only a few faithful ones wanted to speak or hear any call to repentance in those days. God willing, we will all live every day in repentance without such drastic attention-getters. (You can read my original post, which discusses more of today’s reading, here.)

The following verses from today’s reading and associated 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.

Luke 12:13-21 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary for an Harvest Festival (although the reading is not your typical “happy celebration of the harvest” reading). Two hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 12-13.

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

March 24, 2007

Ps 107 / Lk 10-11

Listening to my parents and their friends talk the last few days, I have been reminded of the great lengths people go to try to heal and preserve their bodies. Now, don’t get me wrong: doctors and medicine are great blessings from the Lord. I was thinking, however, more in terms of the great lengths of modern medicine (pills, surgeries, and equipment) in contrast to the healing by the plain Word in Psalm 107 that we read today. (My previous comments on the psalm are here.) Verse 20 makes me think about our Lord’s miraculous healings in the New Testament, those where by His words alone He healed a person who was present, and even those where He by His words alone He healed people who were miles away. Some of those were resurrections, as the psalm could be taken to refer to, and some of those were preventing people’s deaths. Jesus’s miraculous healings by Word alone continue today, especially when we confess the sins that trouble us most and when the pastor, speaking Christ’s words to us, individually absolves us our sins for Jesus’s sake. Such confession is always for the sake of such absolution, and the absolution truly is a reason to give thanks (verse 1)!

Psalm 107 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, the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, and the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. Hymn #124 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 107:1.

Dutch painter Jan Vermeer’s 1654/1655 depiction of Jesus with Mary and Martha, as told in Luke 10:38-42Martha gets a bum rap! As we read in Luke 10-11 today, she was distracted with preparations for our Lord’s visit and wanted her sister and cohostess’s help. (My previous post with more comments on the whole reading is here, and there's a little discussion about the application of the Lord's Prayer here.) Our Lord Jesus points out that listening to His words is more important than serving the meal and everything else, but, of course, serving the meal and everything else still needed to be done. Martha was no theological lightweight, however! Read John 11:20-27 for Martha’s bold confession of faith and see where Mary was at that time of their brother’s death. The chastising of Martha was on my mind lately, as I heard how it was taught in a Sunday School class, and I was reminded of a dear friend of mine who thinks of herself as a Martha, but I know that inside she’s truly a Mary, too. The image with this post is of a print I gave her for a birthday several years ago; it is a 1654/1655 depiction of Jesus with Mary and Martha by Dutch artist Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), who has been called “one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age” (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). One of my favorite hymns that “cuts to the chase” in this account of Mary and Martha is #366, linked below.

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.

Luke 11:14-28 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary as the Gospel reading for Oculi (the Third Sunday in Lent). There are six hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 10-11.

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

March 23, 2007

Ps 106 / Lk 8-9

The primary Visa card that I use only appears to be a credit card; in fact it is a check card that debits directly from my checking account. I also have a line of credit on the card so that I can go over my checking account’s balance without bouncing checks or incurring overdraft fees. Today Psalm 106 refers to credit for righteousness in verses 30-31. (You can see my previous comments on more of the psalm here.) When it comes to righteousness from where does our “account balance” come? Verse 30 sounds like Phinehas’s zeal earned him a deposit of righteousness, and verse 31 almost makes it sound as if others were able to draw from his balance! There is another good clue to how we should understand the matter in verse 31: the expression used for the crediting of righteousness recalls what Genesis 15:6 says about Abraham. What Phinehas did was done from faith, and the faith is what earned the righteousness, not the good work itself. (To be sure, our faith produces good works like an effect produces a cause.) Our good works done from faith are evidence of faith, but they never on their own earn the kind of righteousness that saves us from our sins. Only Christ’s righteousness delivers us from sin, and we receive that freely by grace through faith. Far better than any debit or credit card, that’s for sure!

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 106 among those appointed for the Third Sunday of Advent and the Second Sunday after Christmas. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 106.

Contemporary artist James B. Janknegt’s depiction of the four soils described in Luke 8:1-15When someone talks about growing a church, focus is usually placed on the pastor or the worship “style” or something other than on the seed and the soil, about which we hear at the beginning of today’s reading of Luke 8-9. (You can find my previous post on more of this reading here.) To be sure the seed itself is capable of bringing forth a healthy plant no matter where the seed lands, but the soils differ. Who the sower is does not matter in Jesus’s parable. If a soil is receptive, that is God’s doing; if it is not, that is our doing. The image with this post is James B. Janknegt’s depiction of the four soils done in 2000; although I found the image in a German database, the artist is a project specialist at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (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 additional artwork by this “local” artist here, and there’s a reader’s comment on Luke 8:11-15 from last year 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.

Luke 8:14-15 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary for the Gospel reading on Sexagesima Sunday (the Sunday that falls in the sixth period of ten days before Easter). Two hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 8-9.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 22, 2007

Ps 105 / Lk 6-7

What has God done for you? For others? In a sense I suppose we can say that the kinds of things the psalmist describes in Psalm 105 that the Lord has done have also been done for us, but we have other, greater things that have been done for us. (See my somewhat related comments in my previous post on this psalm.) Our confession of faith to someone about what God has done means very little if we don’t think He has done something for us individually or for the person to whom we are confessing our faith. Before Jesus’s death or resurrection can do us any good, too, we have to recognize that we are sinful and in need of a Savior. Thanks be to God the Holy Spirit who brings about in us both a confession of our sins and the faith that produces the related confession of faith!

Psalm 105 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Maundy Thursday (the night our Lord was betrayed), Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord), and the day of St. John the Baptist. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 105.)

A depiction by an anonymous artist of Jesus and the widow of NainYou can probably call it my pious opinion, but Jesus’s raising the only son of the widow of Nain, about which we read today in Luke 6-7, always makes me think of His own resurrection not just because of it being a resurrection but because the Lord’s heart may have gone out to her because her situation may have so resembled what was about to happen to the Virgin Mary. (See also my previous comments on these chapters [be sure to see also a reader’s comment on this post last year], and remember St. Luke in 2:35 has told us of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary, too, and don't forget the widow-related miracles of Elijah and Elisha.) Aside from whether or not that is true, Jesus’s miracle certainly works faith as it is intended to, and hopefully in more than His historical hearers! (Even though this event wasn’t a parable, the image with this post is an anonymous artist’s depiction of the resurrection of the widow’s son from the Parables of our Saviour; 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 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 Luke 6:36-42 for the Gospel reading on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity and Luke 7:11-17 for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. In The Lutheran Hymnal, hymn #493 is said to refer to verses from Luke 6:12 and verses following.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 21, 2007

Ps 104 / Lk 4-5

Forgetting that God not only created the world but also sustains it can be easy to do, especially since we live in a society where talk of evolution is so prominent. If we grew up off of a farm, as children we saw our parents go to work, receive paychecks, and buy groceries. We ourselves may have the same experience. Yet, of course, those jobs come from God, as even ultimately all good things do. Psalm 104 praises God not only as the Creator but also the sustainer of the world. My previous post accents the water theme in the psalm, but there is more to it. (For some comments on verse 26’s Leviathan, see here, and for comments on what may be an unfamiliar animal, see here.) Note especially verses 27-30 confess God’s role in maintaining life on the planet. We similarly confess in the explanation to the First Article of the Apostolic Creed that God not only made all sorts of things but also that He “still preserves them”. Such creation and preservation are themselves wonderful blessings, but our short temporal existence would be less meaningful if God had not also redeemed and sanctified us so that we can have eternity with Him by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Psalm 104 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Cantate (the Fourth Sunday after Easter), Exaudi (the Sixth Sunday after Easter), Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), and a day of national Thanksgiving. Hymn #17 from The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Psalm 104. (The hymn is often a congregational favorite, and notice how the "Christological content" is brought in at the end.)

An unidentified illustrator’s depiction of the people of Nazareth trying to throw Jesus off a cliff, as described in Luke 4:29 (from Jerome Nadal’s “Illustrations of the Gospel Stories”)Often when we hear the New Testament accounts of the life of our Lord we marvel that people wanted to kill Him for the wonderful things He did, like healing people and raising them from the dead, or like in today’s reading of Luke 4-5 preaching the Good News in a Nazareth synagogue. (For more on the whole reading, see my previous post.) Where other evangelists report Jesus teaching in synagogues, it is St. Luke’s account alone that provides the details about the one synagogue in Nazareth, the lectionary text Jesus preached on, and the people’s reaction when Jesus said something in His sermon that they didn’t like or want to hear. The image with this post depicts how the crowd reacted; the woodcut is by an unknown illustrator who worked on the Illustrations of the Gospel Stories planned by Jerome Nadal in the 16th century (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 this particular occasion in Nazareth, Jesus escaped through the crowd, but ultimately people did kill Him, but at that time Jesus’s death served His purposes of saving us from the death we deserved on account of our sins. By grace through faith in Him we receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him.

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.

Luke 5:1-11 is appointed by the historic 1 year lectionary for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal has three hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Luke 4-5.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 20, 2007

Ps 103 / Lk 2-3

When does God stop accusing us through His law? Psalm 103 raises the question in verse 9, but I’m not sure the psalm answers the question, although the psalm does make implicitly clear that God’s anger and judicial contention serves the purpose of His mercy. (My previous post, overviewing the whole psalm, is here.) A usual statement we can find in our Lutheran Confessions is Lex semper accusat, that is, “The law always accuses”. But a closer investigation might suggest this statement is qualified, applying only to those who are without faith and Christ (Apology IV:167, 270, 295), or at least only to believers according to their old, sinful human nature (Apology IV:319). What may be more likely is that once someone comes to believe, by virtue of their new, redeemed nature, the law is essentially unable to keep accusing them (Apology IV:179; SD 31-32), although I don’t think we want to say that this side of heaven the law ever stops serving its purpose as a mirror showing us our sin. Our faith needs to live every day in repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, and the law has its work to do in helping us live that way.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 103 among those appointed for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, the day of St. Michael and All Angels, and a day of Thanksgiving. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to all or part of Psalm 103.

Flemish painter Maarten De Vos’s 1602 altarpiece for the Guild of St. Luke, titled “St. Luke Painting the Virgin”As I searched for images to use in the Biblog posts related to the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, I was somewhat surprised to see a number of images that portrayed St. Luke as an artist painting people or scenes before his eyes. Today, in connection with our reading of Luke 2-3, I’ve used one such image today, titled St. Luke Painting the Virgin, which seemed especially relevant given St. Luke’s unique accounts of the birth of our Lord from the Virgin Mary (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 artist of this altarpiece was Maarten De Vos (1490-1566), a one-time Lutheran, whose work in this case is said to recall that of Flemish master Quinten Metsys, while his work otherwise is said to anticipate the 17th-century Baroque artists. Although many think St. Luke may have known the Virgin Mary later in her life, the scene the altarpiece depicts is fanciful in that St. Luke would not have known Mary when Jesus was an infant, any more than he would have painted her in such a setting more reminiscent of the 16th century! (Be sure to note St. Luke's symbol, the ox, behind the easel.) As for today’s reading, see my original post here, and see the “folos” on Luke 2:16 here and on Luke 3:31 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.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints a number of Gospel readings from the chapters we read today: Luke 2:1-14 for Christmas Day, Luke 2:15-20 for Second Christmas Day (the day after Christmas), Luke 2:21 for the Circumcision and Name of Jesus (New Year’s Day), Luke 2:33-40 for the First Sunday after Christmas, and Luke 2:41-52 for the First Sunday after Epiphany. The Lutheran Hymnal has nearly three dozen hymns that are said to refer to verses from Luke 2-3.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 19, 2007

Ps 102 / Lk 1 / Deuteronomy wrap-up

Why do we ask in a prayer for God to hear our prayers? I mean, if He’s hearing our prayer to hear our prayers isn’t He already hearing our prayer? That question came to my mind as I started to read Psalm 102 today. I think we would probably say the prayer for God to hear our prayers is just another way of emphasizing our petition, or of otherwise seeking His mercy, or asking, as in verse 1, for a quick answer. For more on the whole psalm, see my previous post.

Psalm 102 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, and a day of Humiliation and Prayer. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 102.)

Contemporary artist Svitozar Nenyuk’s depiction of the Gabriel announcing Jesus’ birth to MaryAs of next Sunday there’s only nine more months before Christmas! Next Sunday, March 25, is the Annunciation of Our Lord, the day the church commemorates Gabriel’s coming to Mary to tell her she would be the God-bearer, the Mother of our Lord. Today in Luke 1 we read the details of that event, and the image with this post, by Lithuanian artist Svitozar Nenyuk, is a contemporary depiction of the event, although quite traditional in its imagery, as opposed to other "contemporary" images I saw when I was searching for images (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 overview the whole reading here, where you can also find links to some background information on St. Luke’s Gospel account.

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 appoint any Gospel readings from Luke 1, but The Lutheran Hymnal has six hymns that are said to refer to verses from this chapter.
  • 1:31 -- #114
  • 1:41 -- #272 (you'll have to check your hymnal for this one)
  • 1:47-55 -- #275 (you'll have to check your hymnal for this one, too)
  • 1:78 -- #358
  • 1:78, 79 -- #88
  • 1:79 -- #512

Today I have a Deuteronomy 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? The Holy Spirit inspired Moses to record the bulk of the book we know as Deuteronomy, although Joshua or a later editor or two likely added some content and made a few revisions.
What is the book? The book is essentially Moses’s final sermon to the people of Israel, recapping the story of their deliverance from Egypt and reiterating God’s covenant with them, including blessings for their faithfulness and curses for their unfaithfulness.
Where was it written? The sermon was delivered and the book likely recorded on the plains of Moab at the Jordan River.
When was it written? A usual date for the end of the 40-year wilderness wanderings is 1406 B.C., so we would date the delivery of the sermon and the writing of the book around that time.
Why? The people were renewing the covenant God had made with their forebears and with them, and the sermon/book provides not only details of that covenant but also its rationale.
How? Some scholars say the structure of Deuteronomy reflects the structure of treaties of the day used by other kings; regardless, its structure serves well its purpose of emphasizing God’s covenant of love and grace with the people.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Deuteronomy, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume III, 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 Deuteronomy, “The Fifth Book of Moses”, runs 261 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 Deuteronomy this time through, I would think you would find its 59 pages on Deuteronomy somewhat helpful and generally accessible. The format runs the text in bold with the comments immediately following the relevant text, so you can in effect read the whole text and his conveniently-placed comments, if you like that format.)

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.

I apologize for any inconvenience caused by the delay in posting today’s entry; I have been having intermittent problems accessing the site. May God enable your faith to live every day in repentance!

Posted by graceelg at 02:15 PM

March 18, 2007

Ps 101 / Dt 31-34

Dr. Martin Luther apparently called today’s Psalm 101 “David’s mirror of a monarch” for how a ruler might look into the psalm and see how he or she is supposed to govern. I have noted before, however, that this psalm applies to us, even if we are not rulers. As to when the pslam was written, commentators speculate about the circumstances under which the psalm was originally authored. One supposition is in my first post on Psalm 101, and another is that David authored the psalm before the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. Even if that understanding of verse 2’s statement, “When will you come to me?” is not accurate, we still do well to think of James 4:8 and the two verses following. We approach God where He promises to be found (that is, in His House, in Word and in Sacrament), and there He comes to us through those means and blesses us with the forgiveness of sins, freely given by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. There and then He gives us the ability to work towards living the kind of life the psalm describes.

Psalm 101 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Quasimodogeniti (the First Sunday after Easter), Jubilate (the Third Sunday after Easter), Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), and the day of St. Thomas. The Lutheran Hymnal hymn #112 is said to refer to Psalm 101:1.

An unidentified artist’s depiction of Moses’s farewell to the people of IsraelCan you imagine hearing something once every seven years and either remembering it or it having a significant impact on you? How about hearing a portion of something once a week? In Deuteronomy 31-34 today we hear God command through Moses, before Moses’s final farewell, that God’s Word be read to the people as part of the Feast of Tabernacles during the Sabbath Year, and we have some ideas from elsewhere in the Old Testament how this practice was carried out. We should not imagine, however, that the people of Israel’s exposure to the Word of God was limited to even a week once every seven years. There were portions of Scripture assigned to festivals then, just as we have portions of Scripture assigned to Sundays and festivals now. The Levites also were responsible for instructing men, women, and children year round. The people certainly were not able to Be in the Word as we can, however. May God continue to bless us as we are! (The image with this post is an unidentified artist’s depiction of Moses’s farewell to the people of Israel; 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, and there are also comments on Deuteronomy 32:1-4 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.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Deuteronomy 32:39-40 for the Old Testament reading on the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, and The Lutheran Hymnal has three hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.
  • 32:3 -- #19, #38 (sorry, but you will have to check your hymnal for this one)
  • 32:4 -- #521

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

March 17, 2007

Ps 100 / Dt 28-30

People like to say they can worship God anywhere, and that statement is generally true. However, as God appointed a place and way for the Old Testament people to worship, so He appoints places and a way for us New Testament people to worship. In Psalm 100 we see that the Old Testament people were to come before the Lord’s Presence at the Temple in Jerusalem. We today come before the Lord’s Presence in churches where His Word is purely preached and His Sacraments are rightly administered. As with the Temple of old, so with the church today—the Lord is Present to bless His own with the forgiveness of sins, which is all we really need. (For a few other comments on Psalm 100, see my previous post.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 100 among those appointed for Epiphany, the First Sunday after Epiphany, Quinquagesima (the Sunday that falls in the fifth period of ten days before Easter), Easter (the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord), Misericordias Domini (the First Sunday after Easter), Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost), the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity, and the Day of National Thanksgiving. The Lutheran Hymnal contains four hymns said to refer or allude to all or part of Psalm 100.

The Google Maps image of IsraelSo much turmoil in the world today, and all of it can be traced to human kind’s unfaithfulness to God. In Deuteronomy 28-30 today, the curses for unfaithfulness and disobedience are almost overwhelming, and we can quickly see why the Old Testament people of Israel were so harshly disciplined by God working through Israel’s enemies. He showed mercy on the Israelites and brought them back to their land, but soon they were unfaithful again and forsaken. What was once their land remains in contention and the source of much strife and grief today. (The image with this post is a Google Maps satellite image of Israel and the surrounding area; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, but you will have to enter "Israel" once you do and then click on "satellite"). The Lord, life, and the land are closely connected. Although we Gentiles were always indirectly a part of God’s plan, it seems that the Jews’ rejection of Jesus turned Him and His apostles more directly to us. We are also at times unfaithful and disobedient, but the word of faith is not only near us it is free for the receiving (see how St. Paul uses Deuteronomy 30:12-14 in Romans 10:6-10). For my previous comments on Deuteronomy 28-30, click 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 any verses from today’s reading of Deuteronomy for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

Thanks to a reader’s question there is a new Q&A posted here, and there are some insights on a cursed fig tree and the Tree of Life 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

March 16, 2007

Ps 99 / Dt 25-27

What comes to your mind when you think of a “footstool”? I have a footstool with what our church secretary likes to call my big easy chair, and my sister has one in their media room with her big couch, so those are what first come to my mind. When I am reading the Bible, I first think of the necks of defeated enemies on which victors placed their feet in order to hold the necks down while the heads were chopped off (see Joshua 10:24, 1 Kings 5:3, Psalm 110:1, and Psalm 110:1’s use in Hebrews 10:12-13). Today in Psalm 99, however, the “footstool” imagery is different. (I mention the footstool briefly in my first post on the psalm, which gives more of an overview of the psalm, and in my second post I concentrate on the forgiveness mentioned in verse 8.) Where I first think of literal footstools, the uses in the Bible are all figurative. King Solomon’s throne in his palace had a step or rest for his feet attached to the throne (2 Chronicles 9:18), and, although the Hebrew word there is different, the idea seems to be similar in Psalm 99:5, as if when God sits on His heavenly throne there is an earthly part attached to it, whether it be the whole earth, the mountain where Jerusalem was, the Tabernacle or Temple, or the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place (see the roughly parallel Psalm 99:9; and see Psalm 137:2; 1 Chronicles 28:2; Lamentations 2:1). The New Testament seems to connect, somewhat naturally, the idea of Christ resting on His throne with the enemies under His feet (see the Hebrews passage above, as well as 1 Corinthians 15:25 and Ephesians 1:22). Thus, we can think of Christ having defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil for us. His victory over those enemies is ours freely by faith, a gift we are objectively certain of by virtue of our Baptisms, whether or not we subjectively feel that gift of victory.

Psalm 99 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Cantate (the Fourth Sunday after Easter), Ascension, the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity, the day of St. Matthias, and a Dedication of a church. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 99.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of the Israelites offering their firstfruits and tithesAs we read Deuteronomy 25-27 today, it is difficult to avoid the topic of what we offer to the Lord. (For an overview of the whole reading see my previous post.) The image with this post is an unidentified artist’s depiction of the Israelites offering their firstfruits and tithes (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 we are under no obligation to tithe as the people of the Old Testament were, but that does not mean that we cannot start by thinking about a tithe and seeing either if we have to give less or if we are able to give more. With the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises pertaining to Christ, we certainly have been blessed more than the people of the Old Testament. I am sure someone more up on stewardship statistics than I am could tell you that a small percentage of a congregation typically gives a large percentage of the offerings that congregation receives, and perhaps that is how it should be. When it comes to material blessings, God blesses different people differently, and different people are at different stages in their lives—some have children, others have elderly parents, etc. When it comes to our offerings, what matters most is that we give proportionately to what God has given us and that we give cheerfully in thanksgiving for what God has given us, recognizing that everything is His and we are simply returning to Him a thank-offering from what He has entrusted to our care.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Deuteronomy 25:4 and offerings as support for workers who deserve their wages. 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 today’s reading of Deuteronomy for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 15, 2007

Ps 98 / Dt 22-24

Sometimes I think that we may know and believe God’s plan of salvation for us in Jesus Christ but that we may not let it affect us as it should. As I read Psalm 98 today, I found myself praying verse 12 from Psalm 51: “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Psalm 98 evokes for me beautiful songs of praise and thankfulness for all God has done (see my previous post for more on that), but I don’t always feel that joyful. Of course, praying the psalms and singing songs of praise and thankfulness are ways that the Holy Spirit can bring about the proper feelings in us. The feelings are never the goal, however; the objective reality of God’s forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is true whether or not we “feel” a certain way.

Almost limiting the justification for the “new” song to the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Lutheran Liturgy only includes Psalm 98 among those appointed for Christmas (the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord) and The Annunciation of His birth to Mary. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to all or part of Psalm 98.
  • 98 -- #87 (a popular Christmas hymn)
  • 98:1 -- #210 (one of my favorite Easter hymns)

Of course, there is also canticle #667, which the “Index of Biblical References” in The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal doesn’t mention.

Diane Simon’s depiction of olive harvesting for the modern Hebrew “Children’s Bible Illustrated”In my Bible, the headings “Various Laws” and “Miscellaneous Laws” appropriately cover the beginning and ending sections of Deuteronomy 22-24, which we read today. (My previous post, with an overview of and some specific notes on these chapters, is here.) One of the various miscellaneous laws that jumped out at me was the leaving behind of grain sheaves in the field, olives on the tree branches, and grapes on the vine. (The image with this post is Diane Simon’s depiction of the olive harvesting; 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 you can read more about Simon here.) Those who were in need were to be able to take from those places to feed themselves. God is indeed merciful and gracious, even if He has to tell us to be that way ourselves! Another sign of God’s mercy and grace is in 23:15-16; the fugitive slave is usually thought to have fled because of harsh treatment in a foreign land by a pagan master, and, while I’m not so sure that explanation answers all my questions about the matter, I am happy to let God’s Word settle it.

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 appoint any verses from today’s reading of Deuteronomy for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 14, 2007

Ps 97 / Dt 19-21

In the discussion of the psalm in yesterday’s post I mentioned how other “gods” are not really “gods”. So, when today in Psalm 97 the psalmist calls these “gods” to worship the Lord (or describing them as doing so) it seems odd! (My previous post, which overviews the psalm, is here.) Verse 7 as a call for them to worship can be seen as an example of the Bible’s irony, where the words—possibly sarcastic—and their meanings do not necessarily agree, or where there is some other aspect of the situation that is absurd or almost comical. The Bible’s irony is something I am coming to appreciate more and more; a brother pastor is particularly fond of drawing my attention to it, and I think he is often right. We do not need to worry, however, that we cannot take God’s Word at face value. God’s words about our sin and its forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are clear and plain spoken. As we believe that God verbally inspired Holy Scripture, so we also recognize that He did so through writers who had their own styles and made use of literary devices to communicate their points.

Interestingly enough, The Lutheran Liturgy includes Psalm 97 among those appointed for the Second Sunday after Christmas and Ascension. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 97.)

A picture of the 11th Station of the Cross in Prague’s Church of the Virgin MaryIn the discussion of the death penalty yesterday, I didn’t mention death as a deterrent to crime. There’s debate over how effective of a deterrent the death penalty is, but I think we all might admit that at a very basic level knowing people are killed for some crimes keeps some people from committing them. Of course, people need to know that such executions take place, and so there are those who call for executions to be televised so more people could see them and the deterrence of the death penalty could be increased (some also argue that if people could see them they might be more opposed to the death penalty). Today in the final verses of our reading of Deuteronomy 19-21 we see how someone killed for a capital offense had their body displayed for a limited period of time (hung on a tree, or impaled on a pole, depending on how it is translated). Of course, as I point out in my previous post on these chapters, the greater significance of the hanging on a tree in Deuteronomy 21:23 is that it points to Jesus’s taking on our sins and becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). Speaking of hanging on a tree, the image with this post is a picture of the 11th Station of the Cross in the Church of the Virgin Mary in the Lhotka district of Prague (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 website describes the work of art as follows.

The Cross grows from the paved floor of the church like a tree and rises above all the other Stations of the Cross. The figure of Jesus - larger than life - hangs from the cross. The cross is made of golden rays that evoke barbed wire, prison and death. But their golden colour is a reminder that death will not have the last word. The tree of the cross that brought death will become the tree of life.

Hmm. We’ve been singing a song about that tree of life, haven’t we!

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 today’s reading of Deuteronomy for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 13, 2007

Ps 96 / Dt 16-18

We all have our favorites when it comes to things such as, maybe, fast food places. Some prefer McDonald’s, others prefer Burger King, and still others prefer Wendy’s. No one seriously can prefer Fatso Burger, the fictional fast food place on the TV series “That 70’s Show”, because it does not exist. When we talk about preferring the Triune God of the Bible over “other gods”, as we do today in Psalm 96, we are not talking about comparing McDonald’s to Burger King or Wendy’s but to Fatso Burger. When it comes down to it, there really are no other gods. We may make something a god in our own hearts or minds, as the people of the Old Testament made idols, but such a false god can help us about as much as Fatso Burger can really serve us a Fatso Burger sandwich. The Lord made the heavens and more importantly provided a Savior for us from sin, Jesus Christ, the righteous one. When we believe in Him unto the forgiveness of our sins we have all we really need. (My previous post on Psalm 96, with comments on other aspects of the psalm, is here.)

Psalm 96 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, Christmas (the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord), Ascension, the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity. In The Lutheran Hymnal, hymn #168 is said to refer to Psalm 96:10.

A photo of an electric chair by an unidentified photographerThe death penalty is under fire again in America, and in some ways I can understand why. (The image with this post is an unidentified photographer’s picture of an electric chair used in executions; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). If someone is wrongfully convicted and executed, there’s no undoing that execution. That problem, however, is not with the death penalty itself but with the system that convicts criminals. Notice well in today’s reading of Deuteronomy 16-18 how people are only to be sentenced to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses. By God’s standard, forensic evidence or one witness would never be enough to convict someone, and the two or three witnesses would no doubt also need to be reliable. Executing criminals, by the way, does not contradict our support of life in all other cases, for God has made clear that He exacts the life of the murderer through the government He has established. And, all of this talk about the death penalty also brings to mind Jesus, Who was innocent but still sentenced to death and executed by a government God had established. Jesus’ death, of course, won eternal life for all those who believe in Him, who otherwise for their sins deserve not only temporal but also eternal death. (My previous post on Deuteronomy 16-18 is here, and there’s a folo on Deuteronomy 16:1-8 and the family Passover as corporate celebration 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.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Deuteronomy 18:15-19 as the Old Testament reading for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, but The Lutheran Hymnal does not have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 12, 2007

Ps 95 / Dt 13-15

Maybe you’ve heard it said that non-verbal communication is 95% of all communication. We might make a face, or shake our heads, or cross our arms. People who are interviewing for jobs are often told to be attentive—“Sit up straight,” I’m sure more than one of our mothers said of our postures. In Psalm 95 today I want to direct our attention to the postures of verse 6. Something I came to appreciate more during our Liturgical Practice Bible study from a number of years ago was how bowing down and kneeling are integrally related to worship. Not everyone is physically able to kneel, of course, and kneeling is not the only posture of worship. For example, we stand for the Gospel reading in the presence of our King Who died to save us from our sins! Yet, there is a time for humble and repentant kneeling, and those who are able but refuse to bow or to kneel outwardly may well be refusing to bow or kneel inwardly. (All Scriptures’ passages referring to the “stiff-necked” refer to those who refuse to at least inwardly bow before the Lord.) May God enable all of us to bow and kneel inwardly, at least, and outwardly as He sees fit to enable us. (You can find my previous post on Psalm 95 here, and note what the author of Hebrews 3:7-4:13 does with the end of the psalm.)

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 95 among those appointed for Christmas (the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord), Misericordias Domini (the Second Sunday after Easter), and the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 95.
  • 95:2 -- #3 (I'm wary of Winkworth's reformed translations, but I haven't looked to see if there's anything sacramental excised from this one)
  • 95:6 -- #24

Paul Hardy’s depiction of the jubilee proclamation described in Deuteronomy Imagine that all your debts were suddenly forgiven! No more house mortgage, no more car payment, no more credit card bills. Wouldn’t that be great? Imagining such things gives us a sense of what the Year of Jubilee was like for the Israelites. (Some would say a better idea is like having a year where you wouldn’t have to make a payment or have interest accumulate but the debt would remain.) We read about that year again today as part of our reading of Deuteronomy 13-15. (Note that Deuteronomy 15:1 means the end of the sevenfold cycle of seven years, not every seventh year.) The image with this post is Paul Hardy’s depiction of the jubilee proclamation (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 struck by the Year of Jubilee’s relationship to the poor in the land, although not all the “poor” are “poor” because of outstanding debts. Special attention is to be paid to brothers and sisters in need, which is not to say that we are to ignore the poor who are not Christians, however. Moreover, despite politicians or science-fiction writers who lay out a grand vision of a society without poverty, notice well what the Lord says in Deuteronomy 15:11 (echoed by Jesus in Matthew 26:11). God blesses us so abundantly materially that we can be a blessing to those in material need. And, God has blessed us even more abundantly with salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and we do best when we show our love materially to those in need to make it clear to them that we are motivated by the greater spiritual blessings that are also theirs freely by grace. (My previous post on Deuteronomy 13-15 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.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any verses from today’s reading of Deuteronomy for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 11, 2007

Ps 94 / Dt 10-12

There certainly can be times in our lives when we might think that the Lord has forsaken us, but Psalm 94 today reassures us that the Lord does not reject His people (verse 14). You can read my previously posted overview of the psalm here, and a previously posted Q&A on the use of the different words for “fool”, such as in Psalm 94:8, here. Remember that God’s people are those who believe in Jesus Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection unto the forgiveness of their sins.

Psalm 94 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Feast of the Holy Innocents and the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 94.)

Annie Vallotton’s depiction of the breaking down of the pagan altars, as God commanded in Deuteronomy 12:3What are ways that other ways of worshipping gods tempt us today? Television shows with their false teachers? So-called “Christian” music on the radio? Books in the “religious” section of bookstores? What about family, friends, and co-workers and their places and practices of false worship? In today’s reading of Deuteronomy 10-12 we hear the Lord tell the people of Israel to destroy the pagan places of worship and the things they use in their false worship, for the people of Israel were not to worship God in that way (Deuteronomy 12:2-4). The image with this post is by Annie Vallotton, whose artwork we have seen before; it is a depiction of the destruction of the pagan altars as God commanded (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, although you have to scroll down). Since we do not live in the same theocratic form of government as the Old Testament people of Israel did, we do not march over to false churches and destroy them, but we can and should avoid the TV shows, radio music, books, and other temptations to worship God in the ways of others. God has given us the way to worship Him and receive, through Word and Sacrament set in the historic liturgy of the Church, the salvation He won for us in the death of Jesus Christ. (For an overview of today’s whole reading, see my previous post.)

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 appoints Deuteronomy 10:12-21 for the Old Testament reading on the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, but The Lutheran Hymnal does not have any hymns that apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

Thanks to a reader’s email there is a new Q&A posted here. 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

March 10, 2007

Ps 93 / Dt 7-9

Do you ever pray without asking for something? Prayers of pure praise and thanksgiving might not be a prayer in the strict sense of prayer as “petition”, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with simply thanking God for being Who He is and for His many blessings. At first glance Psalm 93 that we read today appears to be just such a psalm of pure praise, but at least one commentator suggests its concluding stanza (v.5) is a petition that God “in all time to come would be pleased to thoroughly secure the place where His honour dwells here below against profanation”. Indeed! So come, Lord Jesus! (You can find very brief previous comments on this psalm here.)

Psalm 93 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the First Sunday of Advent, the (first) Sunday after Christmas, and Ascension. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 93.)

David Larson’s digital image of Moses interceding with God for the people of Israel, as described in Deuteronomy 9At one time or another we have probably all asked someone to go to a third person on our behalf. For example, maybe we’ve had a problem with a friend and we ask a mutual friend to intervene. In our reading today of Deuteronomy 7-9 we hear of Moses’ intercession with God on the people of Israel’s behalf. That’s what the image with today’s post depicts, too; it is by David Larson whose digital artwork I have used with other posts (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Moses’s intercession with God on behalf of the people of Israel points well to Jesus’s intercession with the Father on behalf of you and me, as mentioned, for example, in Hebrews 7:25. As our Great High Priest, Jesus not only made the sacrifice of Himself to save us from our sins, but He also continues to ask that His sacrifice be beneficial for us. His sacrifice is beneficial for us when we receive it in faith! (For both my previous comments that cover a little more of today’s reading and still-worthwhile comments on “holiness”, click 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.

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Deuteronomy 7:9-11 for the Old Testament reading on the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity. Hymn #584 in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to Deuteronomy 8:10-12.

Those of you who have been following the saga of my doctoral dissertation may be interested to know that yesterday I submitted the latest draft to my committee, thank God, and I am on track to defend it in April. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for me. If you were holding back questions and comments on the reading, I am both sorry that the Biblog suffered but also thankful for not having to do more work on it than I did. Please resume your normal levels of participation, at least until the next "crunch time". 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

March 09, 2007

Ps 92 / Dt 4-6

I had seen palm trees before on vacations to places like Florida and California, but I did not think so much about them until I started swimming in UT’s 18-month-old outdoor lap pool that is lined with tall majestic palms. Since I see palm trees so often and think about their oddity being around that pool, there’s no surprise the palm trees in Psalm 92 jumped out at me. The palm trees in the Bible are said to be date palms, Phoenix dactylifera (see pictures here, although you have to search for "Phoenix dactylifera"). These trees are said to be “among the tallest and most graceful of all trees found in the Middle East” and as such used as symbols of stateliness (Song of Solomon 7:7) and prosperity (as in Psalm 92:12). Such trees were used for landmarks, shade, food, building material, and as a model for Temple adornments (1 Kings 6:29 and Ezekiel 40:16). The palm trees of the Temple adornments are considered by some to have been “trees of life”, which in our New Testament times we can think of as the cross where Jesus died to save us from our sins and give us eternal life by grace through faith in Him. (My first post on this psalm is here, and my second post on it is here, to which I want to add that, to the extent to which someone after the exile and we can pray this psalm, the King we think of is the Messiah, Jesus.)

Psalm 92 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. John, Apostle, Evangelist; the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Septuagesima (the Sunday in the seventh period of ten days before Easter); and the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. Two hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 92:1, #119 and #569.

An unidentified artist’s depiction of someone writing God’s commands on the doorframe of their house, as described in Deuteronomy 6:9Especially in this penitential season of Lent, I think someone with a keen awareness of their own sin would have a hard time forgetting God the way He describes in our reading today from Deuteronomy 4-6. (My previous post on these chapters, with more of an overview of the whole reading, is here.) People particularly afflicted by poverty or illness usually have a better sense of their own mortality than someone who is wealthy or well. Wealth and health need not necessarily lead us to forget God, but such blessings seem to be the primary things God is concerned about in 6:10-12 that might lead us to forget Him. There are plenty of good ways to remember what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, even if we do not take literally the exhortation to write of Him on our doorframes (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Remember that God’s covenant and its promises apply to us just as much as it did to the second generation of Israelites who were “underage” at the time the covenant was originally made.

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 Deuteronomy 6:4-7 for the Old Testament reading on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. However, no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from today’s reading.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 08, 2007

Ps 91 / Dt 1-3 / Numbers wrap-up

What a blessing to be under the Lord’s protection and care! Psalm 91 today beautifully describes that blessing, and you can find my first post on the psalm here, the second post on the psalm here, and a brief folo on the psalm here.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 91 among those appointed for the day of St. John (Apostle and Evangelist), the First Sunday after Christmas, Invocavit (the First Sunday in Lent), Quasimodogeniti (the First Sunday after Easter), the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, St. Michael and All Angels, and the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal contains seven hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 91.
  • v.1 -- #122 (a lovely Gerhardt hymn, so if you only use one in your devotion today this might be the one to use)
  • v.4 -- #558 (a popular and nice evening hymn, though I find the singing of it in rounds to be a bit annoying)
  • v.5 -- #565
  • vv.9-16 -- #547
  • v.11 -- #256, #257
  • vv.11, 12 -- #563

Paul Hardy’s depiction of Moses giving the farewell “sermon” that is the bulk of DeuteronomyForty years is usually thought of as a generation. For those of you who can, think back over the last forty years of your life, and then imagine that period of time spent wandering around in the desert! As we read Deuteronomy 1-3 today, we hear Moses recount this history of the people of Israel’s last forty years or so, unfaithfulness and all. That recounting is part of a prologue of sorts to the covenant details that are coming. In Deuteronomy, much like with Leviticus, the narrative more or less stops for some teaching (the narrative picks back up with Joshua, which we read in June when we come back to the Old Testament to finish it after reading nearly all of the New Testament). A link to other background information on Deuteronomy is in my previous post on these chapters, which you can find here. The image with this post is Paul Hardy’s depiction of Moses speaking the words of Deuteronomy (I’m sorry I couldn’t find out more about Paul hardy, but to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). What would a recounting of forty years of our history sound like? Would we remember to recount God’s grace and blessings through Word and Sacrament pointing us to the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Deuteronomy 2:34 and “utter destruction” or “devotion”. 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 Deuteronomy 1-3 for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from these chapters.

Today I have an Numbers 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? The Holy Spirit inspired Moses (and perhaps a later editor or two) to record the inerrant words of the book of Numbers.
What is the book? Numbers continues the historical narrative of the people of Israel moving from Sinai to Canaan, although their unfaithfulness forced them to spend 40 years in the desert before returning to Canaan’s borders. (There is surprisingly little about those 40 years in the book, however.) The book gets the name by which we know it from the censuses recorded in chapters 1 and 26, but the Hebrew name for the book, which is translated as “In the wilderness”, in some ways is a better title.
Where was it written? Portions of the book may well have been written as the people wandered around the Sinai peninsula’s desert, but certainly the concluding chapters of the books narrative at least were recorded on the east side of the Jordan River across from Canaan.
When was it written? A usual dating scheme has the people wandering in the desert from 1446-1406 B.C., and so we would put the writing of Numbers during that time, with at least its later portions coming at the end of the period.
Why? The events of Numbers are an important part of the salvation history of God’s people. They sinned against Him and were forgiven, just as in our time we sin against Him and are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
How? Numbers shows us God’s grace and redemption in a “number” of different ways, including the “numbers” that give the book the name by which we know it. From the 70 that went into Egypt at the end of Genesis to the 601,730 fighting men alone that stood poised to enter Canaan at Numbers end, we see such things as how God blessed His people despite their unfaithfulness, and we can think ahead to the perfect “number” of those saved in the Church and “number” ourselves among them.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Numbers, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume III, 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 Numbers, “The Fourth Book of Moses”, runs 268 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 Numbers this time through, I would think you would find its 66 pages on Numbers somewhat helpful and generally accessible. The format runs the text in bold with the comments immediately following the relevant text, so you can in effect read the whole text and his conveniently-placed comments, if you like that format.)

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!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 07, 2007

Ps 90 / Nu 34-36 / Folo

Psalm 90 is such a great psalm to read in our season of Lent! You can find my previous posts on this psalm here and here. What great awareness of sin and the mortality of human beings the psalmist expresses, but he also is aware of the Lord’s daily mercy, grace, and other blessings. If the psalm is in fact one authored by Moses, as its superscription might suggest, in reading verse 14 we might think of the daily manna or bread that fed the Israelites and how that manna points to the Sacrament of the Altar, which is our food for the way through this world to the next.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 90 among those appointed for the Third Sunday in Advent, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, and the day of Humiliation and Prayer (no surprise there). The Lutheran Hymnal contains five hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 90.

A depiction of someone fleeing to a city of refuge, from “The Story of the Bible” by Charles Foster and illustrated by F. B. Schell and othersMy instinct is that the medieval and even the modern right of sanctuary or asylum goes back to (or maybe through) something of which we read today in Numbers 34-36: the cities of refuge. (See my brief overview of those chapters here, and see more on the right of asylum here.) Borrowed from The Story of the Bible by Charles Foster and illustrated by F. B. Schell and others, the image with this post depicts someone fleeing to a city of refuge (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 may recall that originally someone not guilty of murder could take refuge at the altar (Exodus 21:12-14), but, once settled in the Promised Land, distance would make getting to the horns of the altar more difficult, and so God planned for the cities of refuge. If the congregation (and later the judges) agreed, the person guilty of involuntary homicide was in a sense imprisoned in the city until the death of the high priest. Likely more than simply fixing a period of time, that stipulation seems to suggest that the high priest’s death somehow made atonement for the person’s offense. What a lovely picture of how Christ, our High Priest, frees us from all our sin by His death and resurrection!

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 today’s reading of Numbers.

Today's Biblog folo comes in response to yesterday's post in which I said Muslims in some ways have it easier than Christians because they, like the Old Testament people of Israel, are supposed to "kill off" the temptations away from their faith. A reader emailed the following comment.

I suppose that might seem to solve their temporal problem, but what good is it, if in the end they are headed for hell? And they have, almost from the beginning, killed others who professed to be believers, too. The split between Sunni and Shiite arose over the succession to Mohammed and continues off and on to be fatal, as now in Iraq.

I was thinking of temporal matters, of course, although those temporal matters have spiritual implications, too. I would rather have the faith, face the challenges now, and be saved later, than not have the true faith now, not face the challenges, and be lost later. (As for the Sunni-Shiite split, NPR had a great series on last month called "The Partisans of Ali".)

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 06, 2007

Ps 89 / Nu 31-33

As a soloist on Sunday, I had to smile during the prayers when Pastor Sullivan prayed for “those who sing”, but I knew the prayer was for more than me and other vocalists. With the psalmist today in Psalm 89 we all proclaim that we will sing of the Lord’s love forever. Of course, our singing will be true for eternity, but we should also be singing now. The psalmist gives lots of reason to praise God, but we might especially focus on God’s prophetic words spoken through the psalmist in verse 26. The David-like messianic warrior says to God the Father, “You are My Father, My God, the Rock My Savior”, and we can likewise say those same words. Made God’s children in Holy Baptism and thus in a faith relationship with God, we also by faith receive the forgiveness of our sins and thus salvation. (You can find my previous post on this psalm here.)

There is an unusually high number (for a Psalm) of previously-posted Questions and Answers on Psalm 89! (Remember you may have seen some of them before as they often relate to more than one reading.)

Psalm 89 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity and the day of St. Mark. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 89.)

An oil on canvas depiction from 1650 of Moses ordering the slaughter of the Midianite women and children (Numbers 31:17) by Dutch Baroque painter Claes Cornelisz Moeyaert (1591-1655)In some ways I think modern-day Muslims have it easier! According to their sacred writings they are supposed to kill the infidels, perhaps in part to remove the temptations of those outside their church-states. Christians, on the other hand, are supposed to be in the world but not of the world, and we don’t have church-states or theocracies, like the people of Israel did in Old Testament times. Today in our reading of Numbers 31-33 you can see how holy wars and the destruction the Lord ordered are an execution of His wrath and judgment on those outside His community of believers, but you can also see how killing the enemies was at least intended to help preserve the faithfulness of the people, even if it didn’t quite work out that way. We face steep challenges to our faithfulness daily; thank God there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ when we are unfaithful. (My previous post on these chapters is here.) The image with today’s post is an oil-on-canvas depiction of Moses’s ordering the slaughter of the non-virgin Midianite women and children done by Dutch Baroque painter Claes Cornelisz Moeyaert (1591-1655) about 1650 (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 don’t know about you, but I always find it odd that artists especially of that period painted the Biblical scenes in then-contemporary dress and locale. What would Moses’s ordering the slaughter of the Midianite women and children look like if it were depicted as if it were taking place in 2007 in Central Texas?

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 today’s reading of Numbers.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 05, 2007

Ps 88 / Nu 28-30 / Folo

After yesterday morning’s activities were completed, someone made a comment to me about the discussion in Bible class regarding the hidden part of God’s will. Given today’s reading of Psalm 88 and my previous comments on it, I thought I would in this post give you some statements that might be helpful. Theologians make various distinctions in God’s will, but they do so without dividing it. The one to which Pastor Sullivan referred is the distinction between God’s antecedent and consequent will. Francis Pieper, one of the foremost of the LCMS dogmaticians, whose Christian Dogmatics is the standard textbook in systematics classes at our Lutheran seminaries, writes the following (I:454-455):

We distinguish between God’s first, or antecedent, and second, or consequent, will. According to John 3:17 we must first think of God as not willing to condemn a single person, but that He earnestly wills the salvation of everyone. Then we must secondly think of God that He wills the condemnation of all who reject Christ, for in v.18 we read: “He that believeth not is condemned already.” The distinction between the antecedent and the consequent will has been misused in the interest of synergism since Chrysostom’s days. But we must maintain this distinction because it is Scriptural and because Calvinism denies it by ascribing to God in His relation to lost mankind two independent and contradictory wills.

As I mentioned in class yesterday, this distinction is helpful to a point. Another distinction we make in God’s will is between that which He makes known to us and that which He does not. Pieper’s explanation of this distinction follows (I:455-456).

Scripture distinguishes between God’s revealed and His hidden will. On the one hand, Christians know God’s will; they know “the things that are freely given us of God,” “they judge all things” and “know the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:12, 15-16). On the other hand, it is also true that no man “knows the mind of the Lord” (Rom. 11:33-34). In all matters of their salvation men are directed solely to the gracious will of God, which is revealed in Christ and clearly taught in all those passages which tell us that God can and will be known only in Christ (John 1:18; Matt. 17:5; John 6:40) and that salvation can be found only in Christ (Matt. 11:28). Theologians find fault with Luther because he first makes a distinction between the hidden and the revealed wills of God, and then in matters of salvation completely ignores the hidden will, since it is unsearchable, and directs our attention solely to the revealed will. This procedure, they say, is an act of violence in the realm of reason. The fact is that Luther’s procedure is that of the Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:12, 15-16; Rom. 11:33-34).

The oppressed psalmist of Psalm 88 certainly does not seem to be making either of these distinctions. Nor does the psalmist appear to be distinguishing between something God actively causes and something He passively permits, which is a usual way to get around God’s omnipotence and the existence of evil. To be sure, we do boldly confess that God is not that cause of sin. The Augsburg Confession’s Article XIX reads as follows (translated from the German):

It is taught among us that although almighty God has created and still preserves nature, yet sin is caused in all wicked men and despisers of God by the perverted will. This is the will of the devil and of all ungodly men; as soon as God withdraws his support, the will turns away from God to evil. It is as Christ says in John 8:44, “When the devil lies, he speaks according to his own nature.”

The Roman Catholic opponents approved that article, so the reformers’ response in the Apology (“defense”) of the Augsburg Confession was equally short.

Our opponents accept Article XIX. There we confess that God alone has established all of nature and preserves everything that exists. Nevertheless, the cause of sin is the will of the devil and of men turning away from God, as Christ said about the devil (John 8:44), “When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature.”

We can learn from the psalmist not to try to solve the puzzle but simply to confess the reality and plead for the help that, according to His revealed will, He freely gives us in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 88 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy among those psalms appointed for the Wednesday in Holy Week and the Tenth Sunday after Trinity. The Lutheran Hymnal #539 is said to refer to Psalm 88:13 (the hymn has an interesting story behind it I will have to tell you some other time).

An illustration of the Third Commandment painted in the late 15th century by a Lower-German artist on a wood panel found in the Church of St. Mary in Gdansk, PolandAs I write this Sunday is not quite spent, so for me the first two chapters of today’s reading of Numbers 28-30 seem to have special significance. (You can find my previous post on these chapters here, and there is more on the way the Passover was observed here.) You don’t have to be reading these chapters on a Sunday, however, to appreciate their emphasis that relates to the Third Commandment. The image with this post is an illustration of the Third Commandment painted in the late 15th century by a Lower-German artist on a wood panel found in the Church of St. Mary in Gdansk, Poland (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Dr. Luther teaches us to explain the Third Commandment rightly understood by saying, “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Not everyone can go to church every Sunday, or, in some cases, even on any Sunday. The Third Commandment doesn’t require that we do so, although in most cases doing so is certainly in keeping with the Third Commandment! Trying to Be in the Word by reading the Daily Lectionary certainly shows good regard for God’s Word, and I commend you for doing so. I also commend those who honor and support in various ways the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.

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 appoint any verses from Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from today’s reading of Numbers.

Today’s Biblog folo comes in response to yesterday’s post, in which I mentioned that Texas culture can make it feel like there’s an official difference between U.S. citizens born in Texas and U.S. citizens born elsewhere. A reader emailed, “German Lutherans in Texas and Minnesota are more alike than Texas will admit. They've sung country western and worn boots up there for a long time now.” The reader also mentioned that National Public Radio’s famous “mid-west” show “Prairie Home Companion” often draws its bands from, of all places, Texas!

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 04, 2007

Ps 87 / Nu 25-27

I remember when my sister moved to Texas in 1987; it wasn’t too long before she had a bumper sticker on her car that said “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.” When I moved to Texas, one of my music-loving friends in Peoria sent me a tape of Lyle Lovett’s song with the line “That’s right I’m not from Texas, but Texas loves me anyway” (sorry, but I couldn’t get the lyrics on the web). Even though there is no official difference between U.S. citizens born in Texas and U.S. citizens born elsewhere, Texas culture can certainly make it seem like there is. Today in Psalm 87 the Lord Himself in verse 4 announces that those born elsewhere will be recorded in Zion, the City of God, as native-born. (The psalm has nothing to do with illegal immigration, so I’m not going there.) My study Bible’s notes seems to think the psalm has in view the return of the Jewish exiles from their dispersion among the other nations of the world, but, while that may be a type of what is in view, what is actually in view is greater. The Lord will bring forth a new, spiritual population of Israel from the womb of His Church, the new Jerusalem. Those who had been enemies are born from above as citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Those so converted recognize both the Church to be their mother and Baptism to be the fountain that gives them life (v.7). (For a previous post’s discussion of this psalm, see here, and see here for a previously-posted Q&A on the “Rahab” of verse 4.)

The Lutheran Liturgy includes Psalm 87 among those appointed for The Epiphany of our Lord, The Presentation of Christ and the Purification of Mary, and Whitsunday (The Feast of Pentecost). Hymn #469 from The Lutheran Hymnal refers to Psalm 87. When John Newton first published the hymn in 1779, there were five stanzas; the fourth stanza was as follows.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God.
’Tis His love His people raises
Over self to reign as kings.
And as priests, His solemn praises
Each for a thank-offering brings.

The Lutheran Hymnal omitted the stanza (no reason is given in its Handbook), and both Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book followed suit, with the Lutheran Worship: Hymnal Companion noting merely that those stanzas used are the ones found in most hymnals. (To me, although I like the text, the meter in the last line of the verse given above does not seem to quite fit the tune.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of Moses “commissioning” Joshua as his successor as described in Numbers 27:12-22A monarchy like Great Britain’s has its advantages. As we’ve heard the recent news about Prince Harry going to fight in Iraq, the news media have reminded us that he’s third in line for the throne, behind Prince William and his father, Prince Charles. Compare that to the U.S. democracy, where the future successor to President Bush must fight it out in quite a different field, one that seems particularly crowded already, and it isn’t even yet an election year! As part of our reading of Numbers 25-27 we hear of the beginning of the leadership transition from Moses to Joshua, his successor. In an account notably placed after the account of Zelophehad’s daughters receiving an inheritance in the land, Moses is reminded that he won’t have one, but he responds in loving and prayerful concern for the people of Israel by asking God to appoint a shepherd for them. God does so, and a ritual act followed, so the people would know Joshua was the Lord’s man and have a smooth transition to the eventual full succession (as we will read in Deuteronomy 31 and following). The image with this post, by an unidentified artist illustrating a children’s Bible, depicts this “commissioning” of Joshua (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 do well to be reminded that our Good Shepherd, Who laid down His life for us sheep, also appoints undershepherds and their successors, even if our “mediated” process is not as neat and tidy as the “immediate” one that resulted in Joshua succeeding Moses. (My previous comments on these chapters, including an overview of the whole reading, is here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 27:12-14 and consequences for Moses. 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 today’s reading of Numbers.

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

March 03, 2007

Ps 86 / Nu 22-24

What a beautiful psalm of praise and prayer! That sentiment was on my mind as I was reading Psalm 86 today. (For an overview of the psalm, see my previous post on Psalm 86.) To me there seemed to be a marked difference from the other psalms we have been reading of late, and the commentary I consulted suggested that Psalm 86 is perhaps based more on model psalms of David and more liturgical than poetical. The commentator goes on to say the following, although they are not necessarily related thoughts:

although for the most part flowing only in the language of prayer borrowed from earlier periods, this Psalm is, moreover, not without remarkable significance and beauty. With the confession of the incomparableness of the Lord is combined the prospect of the recognition of the incomparable One throughout the nations of the earth.

The fulfillment of that prospect of worldwide recognition of Jesus as Lord and Savior on the Last Day (v.9) will come too late for those who have failed previously to trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Let us do what we can both to persevere in the faith ourselves and to help all people come to know Him now before it is too late!

Psalm 86 is included by The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for Sunday and festival services at Grace, among those psalms appointed for Maundy Thursday, The Feast of the Holy Trinity, the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, and the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. (No hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Psalm 86.)

A depiction of The Angel of the Lord blocking Balaam’s path, from “The Story of the Bible” by Charles Foster, illustrated by F. B. Schell and othersThe Angel of the Lord, possibly an appearance of the Pre-Incarnate Christ, blocks a donkey carrying a pagan prophet and then enables the donkey to speak! Such are some of the events of today’s reading of Numbers 22-24. (There is an overview of the reading and some notes about it in my previous post on these chapters.) I think the events are some of the wackier ones in the Bible, but look at the beautiful prophecy of the Messiah they produce! One of the underlying “lessons” we can take away from today’s reading is that He Who is the Word is concerned about the proper proclamation of His word. We should never doubt His care and concern for the proclamation of His Word in our time, even if we end up wishing that He would take such dramatic steps to stop those who might otherwise teach falsely. By the way, the image with this post is from “The Story of the Bible” by Charles Foster, illustrated by F. B. Schell and others (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 Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from today’s reading of Numbers.

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

March 02, 2007

Ps 85 / Nu 19-21

“The Lord will indeed give what is good” is the first part of verse 12 (NIV) of today’s Psalm 85. I found it worthwhile to meditate on that a little bit. Even if we do not harvest from the land, we reap God’s blessings in other ways. First and foremost among those blessings, of course, is the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation that we receive by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And, St. Paul says in Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (My previous post on this psalm, with an overview of the whole psalm, is here.)

The Lutheran Liturgy includes Psalm 85 among those appointed for the First Sunday of Advent, the Second Sunday of Advent, the Third Sunday of Advent, Christmas (the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord), the Annunciation, the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, and The Festival of the Reformation. (The Lutheran Hymnal apparently does not contain any hymns that refer to Psalm 85.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of Moses lifting up the snake in the wildernessThere are a lot of things going on in today’s reading of Numbers 19-21, but the one to which our Lord seems to draw our attention is the lifting up of the snake in the wilderness. For more on that connection, and an overview of the whole reading, see my previous post on these chapters (there are also folos on chapters 19 and 20 here). The image with this post, by an unidentified artist, depicts the scene (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 may have seen my previous links to contemporary Christian songwriter Michael Card’s lyrics on some of the Old Testament events, and here is the link to his song based on the snake event. By the way, we don’t “idolize a brazen cross”, but we do worship the God Whom it represents and look up to Him in faith in order to “be made whole”. (One other note about the water of cleansing, be sure to see Hebrews 9:13-14 and think of Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.)

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 appoint any verses from Numbers for any Old Testament readings, and no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from today’s reading of Numbers.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

March 01, 2007

Is 64:1-9 / Nu 16-18

As we are in our second week of Lent, Isaiah 64:1-9 is a very appropriate seasonal canticle for March. Especially verses 6-7 speak of our sin, and verses 8-9 plea for forgiveness, which, although the canticle does not say it, we know that we receive by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! There’s a little more on the canticle in the background information for this month’s readings and in the post from when we read the whole chapter.

A depiction of the earth swallowing Korah and his number and fire consuming the 250, from “The Story of the Bible” by Charles Foster, illustrated by F. B. Schell and othersWe move from a seasonal canticle that invites God to come down from heaven and act to a reading where He does just that! Numbers 16-18 tells of God’s strong judgment against and punishment of those who rebelled and grumbled against His chosen servants and thus against Him. (You can find my previous post on these chapters here, for an overview of the whole reading.) The image with this post depicts the earth swallowing Korah and his number and fire consuming the 250; it is taken from “The Story of the Bible” by Charles Foster, illustrated by F. B. Schell and others (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Note that Moses, who could have been indignant for the rebellion against him and Aaron, instead continues to serve as mediator and intercessor for the rest of the people. How well he points to the still-more-perfect mediation and intercession of our Lord Jesus 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.

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 today’s reading of Numbers.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM