June 30, 2007

1Sa 25-27

(Don’t forget to read Isaiah 12:1-6, the seasonal canticle for June; my most recent post on it with links to others is here.)

An image of Lambert Lombard’s early sixteenth-century oil on canvas depiction of David and AbigailIn addition to my previous comments on today’s reading of 1 Samuel 25-27, I want to further discuss Abigail’s taking her husband’s guilt upon her and by her action saving her household. The image with this post is Lambert Lombard’s early sixteenth-century oil on canvas depiction of David and Abigail (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). David had essentially taken a vow to obliterate Nabal’s family by destroying all the men in Nabal’s household, but David let’s Abigail’s intervention keep him from fulfilling that vow (see 1 Samuel 25:21-22, 32-34). One commentator says that David saw Nabal’s insult as an act of hostility to the Lord and His kingdom. Was David right in that interpretation? I suppose one could say “no”, and that Abigail’s intervention convinced David otherwise, but it seems more likely that Abigail’s intervention, which David saw as an act of the Lord, convinced David that the whole household should not suffer. (In fact, the Lord Himself visited His judgment upon Nabal [1 Samuel 25:28].) Abigail’s words taking Nabal’s guilt upon her struck me, as did the fact that her taking that guilt upon her saved the household. Calling her a “type” of Christ is probably too much, but her willingness to bear another’s guilt and thereby save another is certainly Christ-like. How much like Abigail are we? Thank God that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness for all our sin!

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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 25-27, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to 1 Samuel 25-27.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 29, 2007

Ps 27 / 1Sa 22-24 / Folos

If I tell you that at graduation I wore a cap and a gown, but I tell someone else that I wore graduation regalia, is there a contradiction? I think we probably all recognize that “regalia” is a broader term that includes the cap and the gown, but that the cap and the gown are individual items is also fairly obvious. (For example, I have at least one picture where I’m wearing the hat but not the gown.) I’ve often reflected on our Small Catechism confession both that Baptism “works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation” and that in the Sacrament of the Altar “forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us”. Does each sacrament give us three separate things? Do these two sacraments give us different things? Reading Psalm 27 today brought this to mind, as we hear in verse 1 that the Lord is our “light and salvation”. (By following this link you can find my previous posts both on all of Psalm 27 and on other parts of it.) My study Bible makes some distinctions between “light” and “salvation”, but one could argue that they are distinctions without a difference. In much the same way, we might say that each sacrament does not really give us three separate things and that the two sacraments do not give us different things, at least not as expressed in those two statements from the Small Catechism, which is therefore not to say that there are no differences between what the two sacraments give us. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; Baptism is usually the way of receiving that faith and coming into the family of the Church, while the Sacrament of the Altar is one of the ways of sustaining that faith. Both Sacraments give us life, but we might say that the one begins it and the other sustains it, and we could make an analogy to our human lives and their birth and daily sustenance.

Gustave Doré’s 1865 engraving for “La Sainte Bible” depicting David proving to Saul that he spared his life, as narrated in 1 Samuel 24Sometimes in our lives there is a vivid contrast between people we know: one may epitomize the ideals another one fails to come close to. Such contrast is certainly evident in 1 Samuel 22-24 between David and Saul. (For my previous post overviewing the chapter, click here.) Saul takes violent action because he is convinced David is conspiring against him, but David calmly and rationally tries to prove to Saul that he is not trying to kill him. The image with this post is Gustave Doré 1865 engraving for “La Sainte Bible” that depicts the scene of 1 Samuel 24:8-15 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). The Lord, of course, was behind Saul’s downfall and David’s rise, and the author of 1 Samuel makes that clear today in such passages as 1 Samuel 23:14. By the end of today’s reading, Saul and David both are stating that reality, and we will soon read how the Lord did indeed uphold David’s cause and avenge Saul for the evil deeds he had done to David. The struggles in our lives may seem less epic, but the Lord is nevertheless in control of them, too, and He will ultimately also uphold our causes and avenge the evil deeds done to us, if not in this lifetime then in the next. Those who are found righteous by grace through faith in Jesus Christ will surely be upheld and avenged on the last day if not before. (One other little note, in 1 Samuel 24:13 David refers to an old saying, a proverb of the ancients, that suggests only an evil man would want to avenge himself. My study Bible cross-references Matthew 7:20, which is a useful cross-reference, but I had to smile since that’s hardly the source of the “ancient” saying!)

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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 22-24, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to 1 Samuel 22-24.

Reader emails in response to yesterday’s post prompt three Biblog folos today. First, regarding my comments on Psalm 26 that we should avoid the monastic or hermetic extreme of disassociating with the world, a reader commented as follows.

Monastics or hermits might avoid other people’s gross sins, but what about their own? It’s really not possible to shut oneself off from “the world”, given that we ourselves are part of it. On the other hand, there are places one does not need to go, even on the internet at home (maybe especially on the internet?).

Yes, I think the realization that even shut off from the world monks remained quite sinful was part of Luther’s struggles that led to the so-called “Reformation breakthrough”. And, the internet certainly does make it easier for us to practice our gross sins in the comfort and privacy of our own homes. The potential stigma of purchasing pornography in person is gone, for example.

Second, also regarding my comments on Psalm 26 that we are thankful for the Spirit-provided opportunities to give an answer for our Christian hope, a reader commented that if people do not want to hear we can at least try to live out the Christian hope. I agree! “Giving an answer” sometimes is taken as presuming a question from other people, a question raised on the basis of how we live out our lives. While we never live the Christian life perfectly, the Holy Spirit can perfect our imperfect witness.

Third and finally, regarding Saul’s statement to Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:30, a reader drew my attention to the New Living Translation where the comment is translated, “You stupid son of a whore!” The reader’s email prompted me to reflect more on who received the greater insult: Jonathan or his mother. One commentary says the Hebrew idiom is intended to characterize Jonathan, not his mother. I also wondered if the insult did not fall on Saul, too, for surely he would be responsible if his wife was whoring around. But, Saul doesn’t strike me as someone who would have thought that far ahead as he tried to insult Jonathan.

Keep your comments and questions coming! And, God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 28, 2007

Ps 26 / 1Sa 19-21

Parents are often rightly concerned about the people their children hang around with; their friends can be either a positive or negative influence on them. The same is true of Christians of any age, and we probably all can think of people in our own lives who have been positive influences on us and of others who have been negative influences on us. Today in verses 4-5 of Psalm 26 we hear the psalmist speak of how he avoids associating with those likely to be a bad influence. (You can follow this link to my previous posts on this psalm, which give an overview and specific comments on other verses.) One can certainly take such an avoidance to an extreme, as have certain monastic or hermetic groups over the years, who avoid any and all contact with the world for fear of its corruption. The world can corrupt us Christians, but we know that we are to shine Christ’s light to the world and be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). We are to be in the world, but we are not to be of the world (see John 17). We are not to be conformed to the world but are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament (Romans 12:2). We can and must interact with people of the world in order to live in our various vocations, and we are thankful for the opportunities the Holy Spirit presents to us to be give an answer for the sure and certain hope that we have by the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15). We can teach, as it were, in the Temple Courts, but we retreat to the Lord’s House for the Divine Service (Acts 2:46-47), not participating in the assembly of evildoers or partaking of their “sacred” meals (Psalm 26:5-6).

A woodcut illustrating the Bread of the Presence done by an unidentified artist and used in a 1550 edition of Luther’s Bible translationDepending on how hungry we are and what is immediately available, we may be more or less inclined to eat things that we otherwise know that we should not. For example, I often stop and have fast food when I am particularly hungry and think that it would take too long to go home and cook something healthy or when I know I don’t have anything at home. In 1 Samuel 19-21 that we read today, hunger likely was a factor in David’s receiving the consecrated bread from Ahimelech the priest. (For an overview of the reading as a whole, see this post.) In keeping with Exodus 25:30, twelve loaves of bread, likely unleavened bread made of barley or wheat, were kept on a table set before the Lord’s Presence in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle or Temple, and the loaves were replaced each Sabbath. (The image with this post is of a 1550 woodcut used to illustrate the consecrated bread in a published edition of Luther’s translation of the Bible; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, and note that there may be some questions about the accuracy of the depiction.) This Bread of the Presence, or Shewbread, was usually eaten by the priests (Leviticus 24:5-9), but in this case an exception was made. Exceptions do not make a new rule but prove the old one (if not more than one; see Mark 2:23-28). With this event in mind, we can reflect on our own hunger for the consecrated bread of the Sacrament of the Altar, bread that not only nourishes our bodies but also nourishes our souls, giving us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We can say that such bread is reserved for the priesthood of all baptized believers (where pastors might make occasional exceptions those exceptions do not become the new rule).

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 1 Samuel 20:30 and what Saul says of Jonathan’s mother. 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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 19-21, but hymn #590 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to 1 Samuel 20:3.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 27, 2007

Ps 25 / 1Sa 16-18 / Folos

Modern moralists sometimes wonder where “shame” has gone in contemporary society. The “shame” they are wondering about is not quite the same as the biblical concept of “shame” that we find in Psalm 25 today (v.3). (You can find my previous posts on Psalm 25 by following this link.) Our normal idea of shame has to do with an inner attitude or state of mind, while the biblical idea stresses the sense of public disgrace or physical state. Most of the Bible’s references to shame come in the prophets and Psalms, and parallels are often “to be humiliated” or “to be shattered, dismayed”. A common usage refers to the result of defeat at the hands of an enemy, disgrace of being paraded as a captive. The idea is part of the threat made to encourage people to repent, the promise of no shame made to those who do repent. The psalmist reminds God of that promise today in Psalm 25, and we do well to remember that by nature we deserve to be paraded as a captive to hell but that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are freed from that captivity. In the short term believers in Christ may have public disgrace, but in the end God is faithful to His promise and we are vindicated. The final disgrace and shame are with those who refuse to believe in Jesus.

Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens’ 1616 painting “David Slaying Goliath”I don’t know that until I read 1 Samuel 16-18 today I had noticed that David was anointed king before he killed Goliath. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David in that anointing (1 Samuel 16:13), as it had come upon Saul (1 Samuel 10:10; 11:6), and the Divinely-inspired author contrasts that Spirit on David with Saul’s situation (1 Samuel 10:14-23). We can be confident that the Lord motivated David’s actions against Goliath, even though it sounds from 1 Samuel 17:26 that David did them for some other reason. We can also be confident that the Lord blessed David’s actions, in keeping with Saul’s “wish” (1 Samuel 17:37). The image with this post is Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens’ 1616 painting titled “David Slaying Goliath” that apparently now is in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Good kings defeat their people’s enemies, and we remember that Jesus, the King of Kings, has defeated ours and gives us the victory through faith in Him. You can read my previous post overviewing all of today’s reading and giving some more-detailed comments here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 1 Samuel 16:14-15 and the Lord’s “evil spirit”, on which you also may want to read this related Biblog folo. 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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 16-18, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to 1 Samuel 16-18.

Folos in yesterday’s post and the two Q&A linked there prompted some reader responses and thus today’s four quick Biblog folos. First, regarding the rats and tumors, I pointed out that Septuagint connects the two in 1 Samuel 5:5, and a reader wondered if that’s what I meant; it is, but the Septuagint is adding to the Hebrew text, so we don’t see it in the text of our English versions. Second, the Spanish proverb that a reader had submitted and that was mentioned in a Biblog folo yesterday is apparently quoted from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. Third, regarding the Q&A on Psalm 22, a reader rightly observed that, “the people of a generation might reflect back and show the meaning to be plural.” Fourth, I mentioned that the two Hebrew words for “seer” and the Hebrew word for “prophet” are used together in 1 Chronicles 29:29, and a reader checked a number of English translations and didn’t find three different words used there, in one case finding only “prophet” used; I guess the most we might expect to find in English are two different words, because the two Hebrew words for “seer” are both translated “seer”, and using only “prophet” gives general the idea since “seer” and “prophet” were used as equivalents in some cases. Finally, also on that verse see this new Q&A prompted by a reader's question.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 26, 2007

Ps 24 / 1Sa 13-15 / Folos

When we think of a “host”, most likely we think of someone who has a party or TV show of some sort to entertain guests, although the noun can also mean such things as an organism infected by a parasite or the main computer in a network. When we find the noun in the King James and other Bibles, however, the meaning intended by the word is usually that of “a very large group of people or things” or the archaic military meaning of “an army”. Today in Psalm 24 (v.10) we find God referred to as “the Lord of Hosts” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “Lord Almighty” NIV). In such cases, the “hosts” can be the multitude of His heavenly angels or the sun, moon, and stars, or the “hosts” can be the armies of Israel. Remember that often when Israel’s armies won a battle the heavenly forces were explicitly mentioned as being a part of the victory and that unless the Lord went to battle with Israel the effort would end in failure. You may know the Hebrew word sebaot used here by way of the Latin Sabaoth, since the Sanctus of the Divine Service liturgy uses the Latin word in the title “Lord God of Sabaoth”. (When I sang Latin works before I learned Latin, I was taught to put a hard “t” at the end, despite the “h”, but Lutheran Service Book rightly notes the pronunciation for the Sanctus as “SAH-bay-oath”.) The title “Lord of Hosts” is an exalted title associated with the Lord’s glorious kingship, as we see in Psalm 24. Even if we do not see the glory of that kingship now, the day is coming when we will. The final victory was already won on the inglorious cross, but when Christ ultimately makes all opponents subject to Himself then His reign from Mt. Zion will truly be glorious. As we are graciously forgiven by faith in Him we know we will one day share in that glory. You can read more about all of Psalm 24 in this post and the other linked there. (By the way, while “host” as we have been discussing it comes from the Latin word hostem, meaning “stranger” or “army”, in Communion the “host” in reference to a wafer of bread that is the body of Christ comes from a different Latin word, hostia, meaning “victim”, or “sacrifice”.)

An engraving by Matthaeus Merian the Elder from his 1625-1630 “Icones Biblicae”, depicting Jonathan routing the Philistines as described in 1 Samuel 14Saul, as we hear today in our reading of 1 Samuel 13-15, was a not so glorious king. Saul’s son Jonathan probably would have made a good king, for Jonathan was faithful to the Lord and took seriously God’s covenant relationship with Israel. The image with this post, an engraving by Matthaeus Merian the Elder from his 1625-1630 “Icones Biblicae”, depicts Jonathan routing the Philistines as described in 1 Samuel 14 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Sadly, Saul’s unfaithfulness resulted in Jonathan’s losing the opportunity to be king, and Jonathan’s future dear friend David would succeed Saul as king instead. Clearly there were temporal consequences for Jonathan even though Saul had sinned, but Jonathan’s eternal state was determined not by Saul but by Jonathan’s remaining faithful to God. Likewise for us! We may suffer consequences in this lifetime from the sin of others, but our eternal states are determined only by whether or not we individually believe Jesus Christ died for our sins. For my previous overview of all of today’s reading, see this post.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 1 Samuel 15 and the utter destruction sometimes ordered by God. 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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 13-15, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to 1 Samuel 13-15.

Today I have three Biblog folos from email that has been accumulating in my inbox for a while. First, regarding our recent reading of Judges, a reader commented, “Our Bible studies do seem to relate to real life! Sometimes not comfortably.” I must agree that I also have noted how remarkably well the schedule of daily Bible reading we are following brings us to passages of Scripture which the Holy Spirit is able to apply to our daily lives. The Word of God works as law and Gospel. The law’s work of indicting us of sin is never comfortable, but such pain is necessary for the balm of the Gospel to be applied. And, what sweet comfort the Gospel brings!

Second, regarding Saturday’s reading of 1 Samuel 4-6, a reader commented on the word “emerods” in the King James Version of 1 Samuel 5:6, which word the reader discovered from a Bible dictionary was an old word for “hemorrhoids” or “piles”. The dictionary further suggested that “tumors” was a better translation (as in such translations as the ASV, NIV, and NASB). The dictionary argues for “tumors” in part on the basis of the difficulty of making likenesses of “hemorrhoids”, as is discussed in 1 Samuel 6. One commentator suggests the affliction was “boils” and points out that the Rabbis thought it to be “swellings on the anus”. 1 Samuel 5:9 does refer to the affliction being in the “secret” parts (KJV; ASV and NASB omit, the NIV margin gives a reading the reading “tumors in the groin” and refers to the Septuagint). The link to the mice, apparently, is that mice carry the bubonic plague, which produces swelling in the lymph glands of such places as the groin. The Septuagint makes such a connection already in the text of 1 Samuel 5:5. There are various suggestions that alternate readings in the Hebrew text itself may be trying to more delicate.

Third and finally, regarding Monday’s reading of 1 Samuel 10-12 and the related post, a reader made two comments. First, regarding Saul being taller than everyone else (1 Samuel 10:23), the reader recalled reading a report that said taller candidates usually win U.S. elections. Second, regarding my mentioning the “You asked for it, you got it” saying, the reader recalled reading of a Spanish proverb that purportedly translates, “‘Take what you like and pay for it,’ says God.” Both of those are new to me!

There are two new Q&A posted regarding Sunday’s reading beginning with this one (the second one follows it). God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 25, 2007

Ps 23 / 1Sa 10-12

I hope that my frequent highlighting of shepherding imagery in our daily readings has not soured you on the theme! Psalm 23 today is one of the more obvious examples, if not the Old Testament example par excellence (the best or truest of its kind, the quintessential example). As I reread this most recent post and the others linked there, I reflected on someone’s question Sunday morning in Bible class at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warda. I was asked there, as others have asked me elsewhere, when, since I have finished my Ph.D., people should call me “Dr. Galler”. I told the people in Warda what I have told others elsewhere, that “Pastor” is the title that matters to me most. I appreciate people appreciating the degree and wanting to show me respect for achieving it, but, unless I am in an academic setting and with people with whom I do not have a pastoral relationship, I hardly want people to call me “Dr. Galler”. (As I also point out, that is my father’s title, formally mine is “Rev. Dr. Galler”.) With the Luke 15:1-10 Gospel reading from Sunday still fresh in our minds, I also reflected on the Lord Jesus being all of our Pastor Bonus (Latin for “Good Shepherd”), Who not only seeks out and finds us wandering sheep, laying us on His shoulders rejoicing, but Who also lays down His life for us sheep and takes up His life again. “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!”

A depiction by an unidentified artist of Samuel giving the people Saul as a king“You want it, you got it, Toyota!” was an early 1980’s advertising slogan for the car company (it was also a refrain from the title track of Bryan Adam’s second album, which apparently prompted some jokes on tour). We can use that same “You want it, you got it” line in regards to today’s reading of 1 Samuel 10-12, too. As we heard yesterday in chapter 8, the people asked for a king, and God gave them one. The image with this post, by an unidentified artist, depicts Samuel presenting the people with Saul as their king, which we hear about today in chapter 10 (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, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish or ask for, as you just might get it. (That saying has been traced back to an “anonymous” author in William Wyman Jacobs’ story “The Monkey’s Paw”, first published in Harper’s Monthly in 1902.) Under Saul’s leadership the people initially won a victory, but all too soon, as we will hear tomorrow, Saul’s kingship would deteriorate. For my previous overview of today’s chapters, see here. Remember, too, that Jesus is the good and perfect King, to Whom all the imperfect kings point. What a blessing to enter in His Kingdom of Grace by the Holy Spirit creating in us faith that receives the forgiveness of sins He won!

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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 10-12, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to 1 Samuel 10-12.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 24, 2007

Ps 22 / 1Sa 7-9

Even in our Lord Jesus Christ’s deepest and darkest anguish on the cross He did not fully despair of God the Father’s mercy and deliverance, and neither should we in our moments of deep and dark anguish. As I read Psalm 22 today I was struck by the change from verse 21 to 22, where the petitions of the psalm give way to the vows to praise the Father, vows made in confident assurance that the petitions would be granted. How often are our prayers for deliverance from our troubles made with such sure and certain faith? (You can see previous comments on Psalm 22 in and linked from this post.)

C. J. Staniland’s depiction of the elders of Israel demanding a king from SamuelHow sad God the Father must have felt when His chosen people wanted to be like the unbelieving nations of the world and so asked for a king other than Him to lead them. That emotion came to my mind as I read 1 Samuel 7-9, especially knowing how Saul would turn out. The people then had the prophecy through Samuel of what future kings would to do them, but that prophecy did not deter them from wanting a king anyway. Parents especially know how sad it is when children whom they love turn away from their good guidance and direction; we can imagine that God’s reaction to the people’s request of a king was much the same. (The image with this post is C. J. Staniland’s depiction of Israel’s elders demanding a king from Samuel; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) As sad as the events of today’s reading made me, however, I also reflected on how God used the people’s request for good. The kings God gave them, especially generally faithful David, pointed to the greatest King God gave His people, His own Son, Jesus, Who fought our greatest battle for us, that over sin, death, and the power of the devil. His victory is our victory by faith in Him. (You can find my post overviewing today’s reading and making a few more-specific comments 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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 7-9, but hymn #33 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to 1 Samuel 7-9. (I was fairly sure there were hymns that referred to "Ebenezer", other than as a tune title for such hymns as "Thy Strong Word", but at this writing I cannot seem to locate any.)

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 23, 2007

Ps 21 / 1Sa 4-6

Have you ever rejoiced in the Lord and praised Him when He doesn’t answer your prayers the way you want Him to answer them? Praising Him when He does not give us the desire of our hearts and the requests of our lips is certainly more difficult from a human perspective than when He gives us what we want. Those were some of my thoughts as I read Psalm 21 today. (You can find my previous comments in and linked from this post.) In this case, of course, what the king wanted and what the Lord wanted were the same thing. When what we want is not what God wants is when we run into problems. We do not really ever know what physical or material blessings God wants for us to have, but we do always know what spiritual blessings He wants to give us. So, we can more easily pray according to His will for spiritual blessings, blessings such as the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld’s woodcut depicting the death of EliGod does execute His judgment on unfaithful spiritual leaders, as we read today in 1 Samuel 4-6 with the death of Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. (My previous post commenting on these chapters is here.) The image with this post depicts Eli’s death; it is a woodcut by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld 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). As we read yesterday, Eli’s sons were fattening themselves on the Lord’s offerings (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 29), but Eli did nothing about that (or their other wickedness described in 1 Samuel 2:22-25), and apparently he also allowed himself to be fattened (1 Samuel 4:18). Unfaithfulness in deeds reflects unfaithfulness in belief, too, and both mislead God’s people. Those who knew of this wickedness at the time no doubt wondered why God didn’t do something about it, but they just needed to wait until His time was right. The same is true for us. God will some day execute His judgment on spiritual leaders who are unfaithful in teaching and practice. All of us do well to remember our own sins, sorrow over them, and trust God to forgive for the sake of Jesus Christ so that we avoid similar condemnation.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 1 Samuel 6:6 and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. 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 Old Testament readings from 1 Samuel 4-6, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to 1 Samuel 4-6.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 22, 2007

Ps 20 / 1 Sa 1-3 / Ruth wrap-up

No fat. Low fat. What about a lot of fat? Maybe if it is good fat? Is there such a thing as good fat? For us in our anti-fat culture, fat’s generally being a good thing in the Bible probably comes as a shock. Fat animals were considered the healthiest of the animals (we should think not of obese animals but of “fatter” animals in comparison to those that were emaciated). And, the fat parts of the animals were regarded as the best parts of animals that were sacrificed. So, today where Psalm 20 in verse 3 literally refers to God “making fat” all the king’s burnt offerings, translations rightly refer to God “accepting” the offerings, or finding them “acceptable”. The idea is that God would find them to be fat, or a sweet-smelling savor. (We’ll read more about “fat” in today’s second reading, too.) We might imagine the choir, or whoever was chanting these opening words of the psalm, doing so precisely as the king made such a sacrifice on the altar before going off to battle. Verse 3 may well be the highpoint of the psalm, with the Selah indicating the musical crescendo. You and I can reflect on how our own sacrifices and offerings, our goodness and works, are nothing except that that are “made” something inasmuch as God regards them favorably by virtue of their being produced by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the sacrifice and offering that God remembers and accepts, and we are remembered and accepted on account of our faith in Him. For the same reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and offering and not Cain’s (Genesis 4:3-5), not because the animal sacrifice by itself was more pleasing to God than the fruits of the land but because of the faith that motivated Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. For more on Psalm 20, see this post and the related links there.

An unidentified artist’s depiction of young Samuel as God called him to be a prophetUntil our reading of 1 Samuel 1-3 today, I had not given much thought to the fact that the book that is 1-2 Samuel begins and ends with songs, much as songs are prominent in the Gospel according to St. Luke. Of Hannah’s “prayer” (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and David’s song (2 Samuel 22), one commentator says, “These two songs frame the main narrative, and their themes highlight the ways of God that the narrative relates—they contain the theology of the book in the form of praise.” Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is quite similar to Hannah’s “prayer”, but also similar is Zechariah’s Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79). We might be tempted to say that the focus of Hannah’s prayer is Samuel, but see 1 Samuel 2:1 for what she herself says about in Whom she rejoices. In a like manner, the Lord Who redeems us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is properly the focus of our prayers and praise. Nevertheless, the boy Samuel is the central focus at least of these opening chapters in the book that bears his name. For more on today’s reading, including introductory comments about the book and a link to others, see here; there are comments on Hanna's prayer in and linked from this post; and you may also want to see this post for a brief reader comment contrasting Hanna’s dedication of Samuel to Ahaz giving his son to Molech. Incidentally, the image with this post by an unidentified artist supposedly depicts Samuel when the Lord called him to be a prophet, although to me he looks closer to the 3 years old he might have been after Hannah weaned him (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 Jewish historian Josephus said Samuel was 12 years old at the time of his call, although Samuel could have been older or younger. The Hebrew word na`ar is used both for the young Samuel in 1 Samuel 1:24 and the Samuel called in 1 Samuel 3:1, but we must not overlook the intervening statements of his growth in 1 Samuel 2:21 and 26 where the same word is used. In the Old Testament as a whole, the word can refer to someone anywhere between weaning and marriageable young manhood. (Beware of translations that add age-indicating nouns such as “boy” or “child” where the Hebrew uses only age-neutral masculine pronouns.) On the statements summarizing Samuel’s growth, see also 1 Samuel 3:19-21, and confer the statements about John the Baptizer in Luke 1:80 and about Jesus in Luke 2:40 and 52.

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 1 Samuel 2:1-10 for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, and hymn #296 from The Lutheran Hymnal refers to 1 Samuel 3:10.

Today I have a Ruth 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? According to tradition, Samuel may have been the person whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write the book of Ruth, or others may have written the book later during David’s reign.
What is the book? The book of Ruth gives the account of the foreign woman by that name who by God’s grace was an ancestress of King David and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Where was it written? As with Judges, if Samuel wrote Ruth he may have written it in Ramah, and, if Ruth was written later during David’s reign, the book may have been written in Jerusalem.
When was it written? Again like Judges, Ruth may have been written before 1050 B.C., or it may have been written later, but probably no later than 970 B.C.
Why? The book likely was written at least in part to give some of the background of David’s and Christ’s line, but more significantly for us its story tells how God lovingly brings people of all nations into His kingdom by faith, through which He redeems them by Jesus’s blood. The book of Ruth also gives what could be considered a more-positive spin than the book of Judges on that era (1375-1050 B.C.).
How? The book of Ruth is particularly noted for its compactness, vividness, warmth, beauty, and dramatic effectiveness. The book’s narrative of Ruth and Boaz selflessly helping Naomi move from emptiness to fullness is symmetrical, with the crucial turning point precisely at its midpoint and with corresponding movements in space, time and circumstances resulting in a harmony that is artistically pleasing and edifyingly beneficial.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Ruth, you may make use of the following:
  • Cundall, Arthur E. and Leon Morris. Judges & Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, general editor D. J. Wiseman. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968. (I had this little volume in my library before I acquired the Keil-Delitzsch volume below, but I still consult it from time to time and generally find it more accessible and useful.)
  • Wilch, John R. Ruth, Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 2006. (I don’t own this volume, but Dr. Wilch was one of my seminary professors and is quite knowledgeable. In general, I have found this series of commentaries to be both scholarly and accessible. You can see the catalog description for this volume on Ruth here.)

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.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 21, 2007

Ps 19 / Ruth / Judges wrap-up

The heavens or skies certainly do declare the glory and handiwork of God, as we hear today from Psalm 19, but the heavens or skies do not tell us what kind of a God He is or how He has saved us from our sin through the God-man Jesus Christ. That contrast helps us understand the difference between natural knowledge of God (that He exists) and revealed knowledge of God (what He has done for us in Jesus Christ). We recently discussed these two different types of knowledge of God in the Sunday morning Adult Bible Study, as we discussed the Athanasian Creed and the nature of the Trinity. At that time I mentioned that the upcoming Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Convention is going to consider a resolution that calls for the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to study the natural knowledge of God and its implications for evangelism. Someone in the class rightly asked what there is to study! We already know from Bible passages such as Psalm 19 that someone can know there is a God without hearing God’s Word, but that fact does not mean they know both that God is three Persons sharing one divine substance and that one of those three Persons took human flesh, being born, suffering, dying, and rising again to save us from our sins. Those facts are only revealed to us in God’s Word. Non-Christians may come to believe there is only one god, but that does not mean they believe in the One True God. What people can believe based only on the natural knowledge of God is not enough to save them. Forgiveness of sins and thus salvation only come by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (I briefly mentioned this matter of the natural knowledge of God in my first post on Psalm 19, which is linked here, along with a previously posted Q&A on Psalm 19:4 and the Gospel having gone out to all nations.)

An image of Boaz giving grain to his future wife Ruth as depicted in a Tiffany window at Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids, MichiganWhen something that we perceive as bad happens to us, there is a huge temptation to let the affliction make us bitter. We see that today in our reading of Ruth, as Naomi/Mara perceives the hand of Almighty God upon her (Ruth 1:20-21). Yet, in time, as Naomi came to realize, Almighty God worked what He had allowed to happen to her not only for her good but also for the good of all of His people. His providing grain to Naomi through Boaz and Ruth is but one example (the image with this post is of a Tiffany window at Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids, Michigan; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). In the same way, Almighty God works good for all of His people through other things He allows to happen that you or I might consider to be bad and that tempt us to be bitter. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins is certainly one example, and a significant one at that, of something that might be considered bad but was for the good of all God’s people. May He ever enable us to believe in Him unto the forgiveness of our sins, and thus eternal life and salvation. (My previous post on Ruth, with an overview of the whole book and a “perfect number” of more specific notes, is here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Ruth 4:4-6 and the kinsman-redeemer’s risk to his own inheritance. 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 Old Testament readings from Ruth, but hymn #623 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Ruth 1:17.

Today I have a Judges 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? Tradition holds that the Holy Spirit inspired the book of Judges through the prophet Samuel. Final editing may have been done by Nathan and Gad, who were prophets in King David’s court.
What is the book? The book of Judges is not a complete history of the period from Joshua to Samuel, but the book gives examples both of Israel’s unfaithfulness and of God’s mercy that kept Israel from being completely taken in by the pagans around them.
Where was it written? Samuel’s work on the book may have been done in Ramah, which was his hometown (1 Samuel 1:1; 2:11; 7:17; 15:34), although he clearly operated out of other places, including Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21), Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:6; 10:17), and a circuit that may have included Gilgal (1 Samuel 7:16; 13:15). Nathan and Gad’s work would likely have been done in Jerusalem, which served as David’s capital after Hebron, although in places Judges refers to Jerusalem still being under Jebusite control (for example, Judges 1:21).
When was it written? References in Judges to Israel at that time not yet having a king (for example, Judges 17:6) suggest the book was written or at least finalized after the monarchy had begun, and 1050 B.C. is a date sometimes given for the start of the reign of the first king, Saul. If completed late in David’s reign, Judges may have been finished by 970 B.C., a date given for the end of his rule.
Why? Surely at least one purpose for the book is to cover the historical period of the judges, or leaders, which period some estimate lasted 325 years. But, the book is not simple history but salvation history, so its emphasis on the judges as “saviors” from the enemies raiding the land is clearly also important.
How? The book of Judges consists of three closely-connected parts: prologue, main body, and epilogue. The main body tells of a recurring cycle of disobedience, chastening, repentance, and deliverance. The cycles are primarily told through accounts of six major judges, although six minor judges are also mentioned. Although the book is an incomplete “history”, the cycle was true of all Israel then and is true of believers today.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Judges, you may make use of the following:
  • Cundall, Arthur E. and Leon Morris. Judges & Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, general editor D. J. Wiseman. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968. (I had this little volume in my library before I acquired the Keil-Delitzsch volume below, but I still consult it from time to time and generally find it more accessible and useful.)
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume II: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, translated by James Martin and published as two volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (The section dealing with Judges runs 227 pages. After my study Bible, this is the first commentary I turn to, but it is somewhat dated and a harder to use, more-scholarly commentary.)

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.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 20, 2007

Ps 18 / Jdg 19-21

Despite quite a number of previous comments on Psalm 18 (linked here), today I want to make two more. First, as David describes the Lord delivering him from his enemies (vv.7-19), the psalmist describes the Lord coming much the way we elsewhere find Him described as coming in the Day of Judgment and other deliverances, such as at the Red Sea. Such an appearance is fearful to David’s and the Lord’s enemies, but the appearance is a blessing to David and others who are on the Lord’s side. We are not necessarily to think that the Lord actually appeared in such a way when He delivered David, although we are more likely to think the Lord will actually appear in such a way when He comes finally to deliver us and all believers at the end of the age. The second comment I want to make today is somewhat similar and relates to verses 24-27. The Lord is not two-faced or schizophrenic the way you or I might say one thing to someone’s face and another behind that person’s back or indiscriminately be nice to one person and mean to another. Rather, to the humble person who once called to faith cleanses his or her self by grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lord is faithful and saving, but, to the unfaithful person who arrogantly rejects God’s gracious offer of salvation, the Lord is shrewd and destructive. Again, God’s desire to save all is not insincere, and His actions toward different people are not indiscriminate, as if there was no reason for treating different people differently. The one true God is the same unchanging God from Old Testament to New, acting in accord with His righteousness, mercy, love, and grace.

An unknown illustrator’s depiction of the dead concubine of Judges 19 found in a 14th-century French manuscript of Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historiale”We are all probably familiar with the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings for movies, and we may even be familiar with the newer TV Parental Guidelines designed to work with the V-chip to keep such things as explicit sexual content and graphic violence from audiences for whom such content would be inappropriate. Sometimes I almost think the Bible needs its own warning system, such as “Reader discretion is advised.” For sexual content, even if not explicit, and for graphic violence, today’s reading of Judges 19-21 does need reader discretion. Chapter 19’s account of a Levite and his concubine isn’t your typical Sunday School type stuff. The image with this post, by an unknown illustrator for a 1372 French manuscript of Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historiale”, depicts the Levite finding his concubine dead (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). You can find my previous comments overviewing today’s reading here. One other quick comment is that in Judges 19:18 “the house of the Lord” is apparently a reference to the Tabernacle at Shiloh, for the Temple had not yet been built in Jerusalem nor the Ark yet moved there.

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 Old Testament readings from Judges 19-21, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 19-21.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 19, 2007

Ps 17 / Jdg 16-18

Sometimes when I read psalms in which the psalmist claims the rightness of his case versus his enemies, such as Psalm 17 today, I reflect on my own sin. (Here is my more-recent previous post on Psalm 17 with a link to the one before that.) We should so reflect on our own sin, for often times we are justly opposed by others because our cases are not right. We must not instantly become defensive when someone opposes us, but we must consider whether or not the person or people who oppose us have a valid claim. As we reflect, we must not only seek out the opinions of those whom we know will agree with our view, but we must seek out the opinions of those who may be more objective, and maybe even seek out the opinions of those who may take the other view. The Lord works through means, and people who are well grounded in His Word and ways and properly understand the nature of the Christian life under the cross are invaluable as for spiritual direction as we reflect on own actions, past, present, and future. We may, like the psalmist, come to conclude that our particular case is right, although even then we may have to settle for the Lord’s vindication that comes on the last day. If, unlike the psalmist in Psalm 17, we conclude that our case is wrong, then we should humbly seek God’s forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and we should also humbly seek the forgiveness of those we have offended.

A fourteenth century depiction by an unknown artist of Micah and the Levite adoring the idol at Micah’s sanctuary, as narrated in Judges 17As we finished the account of Samson today by reading Judges 16-18, I reflected more on the conversation I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the stupid things Samson did. (For my previous post on Judges 16-18, see here.) Clearly Samson was in love with Delilah (Judges 16:4), and he somehow let her take advantage of that love as she repeatedly nagged him to reveal the source of his strength (see especially 16:16). We don’t know that Samson ever knew the Philistines were lying in wait for him in the room (16:9, 12, and presumably implicit in 14), but we can wonder why he wasn’t more suspicious. Maybe Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice is right that “love is blind, and lovers cannot see / The pretty follies that themselves commit” (Act II, scene 6). Samson obviously had a problem with such questions from his women, as we read in Judges 14:16. In today’s reading I also noticed in Judges 17:3 how Micah’s mother was involved in the idolatrous disobedience of making the carved image and cast idol. She somehow thought such actions would honor the Lord, but she clearly was mistaken. The image with this post is an illustration of Micah and the Levite with that idol, done by an unknown artist for a 1372 manuscript of Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historiale” held in the Museum Meermanno Westreenianum in The Hague, Netherlands (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it [click it there for the best view]). Women, of course, are not the only ones who tempt people into sin, neither are men. The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh tempt us. Thank God that when we succumb to temptation there is forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with a modern application of Judges 17:6. 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 Old Testament readings from Judges 16-18, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 16-18.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 18, 2007

Ps 16 / Jdg 13-15

In today’s pluralistic society, pastors often get in trouble when they point out the differences between different religions or denominations. I suppose one could argue against that practice on the basis of Psalm 16, which we read today. (You can find my most-recent previous post on Psalm 16 with links to the earlier posts here.) In Psalm 16:4 the psalmist says he will not even mention the names of other people’s false gods (in keeping with Exodus 23:13). That statement, however, does not prohibit teaching against the false gods but appealing to them or worshipping them, as is more clear in Joshua 23:7. That the avoidance of mentioning the name is avoidance of praying to or worshipping the false gods is also clear in that in Psalm 16:4 avoidance of mentioning the name is set opposite pouring out the libations of blood. At least one commentator objects to thinking of these libations as consisting of blood, choosing instead to draw attention to their being offered with blood-stained hands and blood-guilty consciences. At first I wanted to say that such libations would not be offered with blood-stained hands and blood-guilty consciences if the psalmist poured them out, but then I thought that, if the psalmist were to pour out such libations to other gods, then even the psalmist’s hands would be blood-stained and his conscience blood-guilty. For, only with faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’s blood shed on the cross are our hands and consciences cleansed of sin. So cleansed, we are the holy ones of Psalm 16:3, excellent to the one true God and recipients of all His affection.

German painter and draughtsman Matthias Scheits’ 1672 woodcut depicting significant events from Samson’s lifeRecently I was speaking with someone reading the Bible who is presently a little ahead of the schedule of readings we are following. The person was reacting to the events of Samson’s life, such as those we read today in Judges 13-15, commenting that Samson did some pretty stupid things. That Samson did some pretty stupid things is certainly true. None of the so-called heroes of the faith are as great as we might like to think they are, which truth helps us remember that we, too, are sinful and in need of forgiveness. To the extent the heroes of the faith did anything “heroic” they were instruments of God’s power working through them, as are we when God brings us to faith and that faith produces good works. As much as we might fault Samson, at least his first marriage was apparently at God’s prompting. You can find more discussion about that in my previous post commenting on some specific details of Judges 13-15 here. Today I also want to point out something I thought was ironic as I read the chapters this time: that the people who threatened Samson’s first wife’s family ended up making good on their threat (Judges 14:15; 15:6). The image with this post is a 1672 woodcut combining different scenes from Samson’s life (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 woodcut was done by Matthias Scheits, who was born between 1625 and 1630 and died around 1700. Scheits reportedly did 152 drawings for an illustrated Bible, apparently an edition of Luther’s translation, that was published in Lüneburg in 1672. The following describes the drawing we have before us.

An angel informing Manoah and his wife that they will give birth to Samson (front); in the front left Samson slays a lion; in the back left Samson burns a Philistine field [and] kills a Philistine army with the jawbone of a donkey; in the back centre Samson flees Gaza with the city gates; in the back right Delilah cuts Samson's hair[,] and Samson pulls down the temple of Dagon causing his own death.

Tomorrow we’ll read the narrative that goes with the scenes in the back center and back right of today’s image.

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 Old Testament readings from Judges 13-15, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 13-15.

There are three new Q&A posted, beginning with this one (the other two immediately follow it). God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 17, 2007

Ps 15 / Jdg 10-12

When something happens to us, do we ever say, “That really shook me up!”? Today in Psalm 15 we hear of a person who will never be shaken (NIV, NASB; “moved” KJV, ASV). The figure of speech refers to great insecurity. There may seem to be general disorder on the earth, but the Lord reigns, and so the world will not totter forever (Psalm 104:5); ultimately it cannot be moved (Psalm 93:1; 96:10). The kingdoms of the world, on the other hand, move at the Lord’s command (Psalm 46:6). The Bible can speak of the Lord’s constancy “even if” the earth is moved (Psalm 46:2), but that does not mean the earth in that case is moved. In other cases, if the earth is moved, the movement is contrary to the order of creation and the result of God’s wrath (Psalm 82:5, KJV “out of course” is equal to “moved”). We who confess our sins and believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness are no longer objects of God’s wrath and so can be as unmovable and secure as the Lord Himself is (Psalm 16:8; 21:7; 30:6; 62:2 [note “greatly”], 6; 112:6). God keeps us from slipping (Psalm 17:5), not for anything we do or have done but out of His great love, grace, and mercy. For more on that aspect of the Psalm and for other comments on it, see this post and related links. By the way, in reflecting on Psalm 15:5, I also thought of Psalm 1, by way of a song I know that is similar to this one by Johnny Cash and this one by Elvis Presley. (The labor and other activist songs that are similar were probably based on them or the more original African-American spiritual.)

A cartoon that gives a satirical modern application of the Biblical “shibboleth”Do you remember what a litmus test is? In chemistry, a litmus test is the use of red or blue filter papers to determine whether a chemical solution is basic or acidic. In politics, a litmus test is essentially a single question that determines whether or not a candidate for an office will get a person’s support. The term is often used in regards to the nomination of judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, where their support or opposition to abortion is sometimes used as a single determining factor for whether a senator will support or oppose their nomination. In reading Judges 10-12 today, we come across something similar to a litmus test, the use of the Hebrew word shibboleth to determine whether or not a person was an Ephraimite based on how they pronounced the word. That test in the book of Judges gives us our modern English use of the word “shibboleth” for a single factor that distinguishes one group from another. The cartoon with this post is a satirical example (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 read more about shibboleths and my other previous comments on today’s reading here.

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

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services does not appoint any Old Testament readings from Judges 10-12, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 10-12.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 16, 2007

Ps 14 / Jdg 7-9

Reading Psalm 14 today I stopped and reflected on verse 5. (You can find my previous posts on other parts of the psalm by following this link.) Where are the evildoers overwhelmed with fear or dread because God is present with His righteous ones? The question may not so much be “where” as “when”, and not “when” in the sense of some indefinite future time, but “when” in the sense of when God bursts forth in scorn with His never-failing Word to smite those who are without knowledge and conscience. When God’s patience turns to wrath, terror will seize the evildoers, and they will tremble. That judgment of wrath on the evildoers, however, is at the same time a revelation of love for God’s people whom He, in that execution of wrath, avenges and delivers, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Do you see how the two actions are, as it were, opposite sides of the same coin?

Image of the Tiffany stained glass window at Union Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ, which window depicts Gideon’s rout of the MidianitesWhen I think of the use of trumpets in the Old Testament, I usually think of the Year of Jubilees and Joshua’s defeat of Jericho, but trumpets are also rightly closely associated with Gideon, as we heard a little yesterday in Judges 6:34 and read today in Judges 7-9. (For my previous post that overviews the whole reading, see here.) Note the trumpets in the image with this post, another Tiffany window, as here (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 thumbnail at the bottom of the left column). Trumpets and empty jars or pitchers in the hands of the reduced forces served as the Lord’s instruments for throwing the Midianites into a panic so that Gideon could rout them. There would normally only be a few people in each company that would have trumpets, so if there were 300 trumpets blaring in the night then an enemy would think there were well more than 300 in the company attacking them. The empty jars or pitchers served to hide the burning torches until it was time and to make extra noise to deceive the enemy as to the size and strength of the attacking army. For all the good that Gideon did with his trumpets, however, he also was responsible for setting up a stumbling block for the people with the golden ephod (Judges 8:27). Ephods could be holy garments associated with God’s priesthood (Exodus 28:6-30, for example), but they could also be pagan objects associated with idols (Judges 17:5; 18:14, 17). At least one commentator, however, prefers to see Gideon’s use of an ephod as an indictment of the high priesthood at that time and as an invasion on Gideon’s part of the proper priesthood, drawing the people away from the true sanctuary and undermining the unity of Israel’s worship. Such sins and others we today are also guilty of and need to repent of, finding forgiveness in the unity of Christ’s Church by grace through faith in Him.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Judges 9:23 and evil spirits from the Lord. 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 Old Testament readings from Judges 7-9, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 7-9.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:43 PM

June 15, 2007

Ps 13 / Jdg 4-6

A heart full of sorrow or, what some might call depression, is certainly to be found even among faithful Christians, as we see today in Psalm 13, especially verse 2. If Christians think they should not be depressed, they all too easily add feelings of guilt into the mix and make the depression worse. The psalmist thought the Lord was ignoring his plight, but you and I might be depressed for other reasons. The cause may be different, but the solution in the end is the same. Trusting in the Lord’s mercy and rejoicing in His salvation (v.5) is possible as the Lord illumines us (v.3). I think of Psalm 51:12’s “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit” as an appropriate petition. Since God forgives our sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, there truly is nothing else that should significantly trouble us. Depression may come, and it may even stick around for a while, but ultimately it will go. In the meantime, we have no true reason to fear, for the Lord sustains us each and every day. (My more recent post on this psalm, with a link to the one before it, is here.)

A depiction of Deborah under the palm tree by contemporary fabric artist Adriene CruzChristianity is sometimes said to be too patriarchal and oppressive to women, but I would refute those claims. Today in Judges 4-6 we see two examples of prominent women from Biblical history. As we read, the figures of Deborah and Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite (who had apparently allied himself with Israel’s enemies), are intertwined. The image with this post is a depiction of Deborah under the palm tree by contemporary fabric artist Adriene Cruz (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Men do well to note that women rose up because the men had failed to, and women do well to note that such exceptions do not make the rule. The greatest Deliverer, Jesus Christ, was incarnate as a man, and His properly sent messengers had been, were, and continue to be men. Forgiveness of sins is distributed through a male priesthood; call it patriarchal and oppressive if you want, but you must at least call it faithful, and that’s what matters, according to such passages as 1 Corinthians 4:1. (My previous post on Judges 4-6 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 Old Testament readings from Judges 4-6, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 4-6.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 14, 2007

Ps 12 / Jdg 1-3 / Joshua wrap-up

We become so skeptical of what people say, and often there is good reason. People lie to us in order to avoid saying true things they think we don’t want to hear, and people lie to us in order to make themselves look better or to try to come out on top of whatever conflict they are involved in. Such sins of the tongue are the focus of Psalm 12 today (on which you can find my most recent post and its links to previous posts here). The psalm spends more words describing the evil and their words, but the contrast is nevertheless sharply in favor of the Lord’s words and their perfect purity. We can fully believe not only what He says about our sins but also what He says about our forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Those words are made more certain for us when made visible in the Sacraments: Holy Baptism, Individual Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.

An unidentified artist’s depiction of Ehud killing EglonMaybe it is Ehud’s being a southpaw like me or the unique circumstances surrounding his killing of Eglon, but the account of Ehud that we read today in Judges 1-3 is one of the ones I vividly remember from Judges. (The image with this post is a depiction of their conflict by an unidentified artist; 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 read my previous post on the whole reading of Judges 1-3, which also introduces the book, here, and there’s a Biblog folo with a reader’s comment on the reading of Judges 1-3 last year here. Today I want to comment on just a few other points, but, as always, you are welcome to ask about anything. First, in Judges 1:22, take note of Bethel, the important, second-most mentioned city in the Old Testament after Jerusalem (remember Joseph’s father Jacob had his vision the ladder between heaven and earth there as told in Genesis 28:10-22). Second, I was intrigued by the reference to the Lord’s having “sold” the Israelites to their enemies (Judges 2:14, 3:8, 4:2, 10:7). We’ve previously seen the word used for “giving helplessly up to the foe” (Deuteronomy 32:30), but I hadn’t given it much thought before. Today the idea of God selling His people into slavery at the hands of their enemies made me think of His redeeming, or buying back, them and us, as the Small Catechism teaches us to confess, “not with gold or silver but with [Jesus’s] holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death”. Through Isaiah the Lord describes the people selling themselves into slavery for nothing and His future redeeming them without money (Isaiah 52:3). Third, despite the general unfaithfulness of the people, some must have still been at least somewhat faithful, for they were “groaning” (Judges 2:18) as when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt, presumably including prayers to the Lord for deliverance (3:9 and each cycle of judges, perhaps think also of Romans 8:26). Fourth and finally, perhaps it was appropriate to have Othniel as the first judge (Judges 3:7-11), as he may have been helped by the reputation of Caleb and his descent from Judah’s line, from which the Messiah, the anointed and final deliverer, was to come and did ultimately come, in the person of 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 Old Testament readings from Judges 1-3, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Judges 1-3.

Today I have a Joshua 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? Moses’s aide and successor Joshua, son of Nun, is generally held to have been Divinely inspired to write most of the book that bears his name, although the final verses of the book may have been written by others, who may also have done some editing.
What is the book? The book of Joshua is the first of the so-called “Former Prophets” and tells Israel’s history from a prophetic standpoint, continuing the Old Testament historical narrative from where Deuteronomy left off and taking it up to the events of Judges.
Where was it written? If Joshua wrote the book that bears his name, we might reasonably think that he wrote it in the town he asked for, Timnath Serah in the hill country of his tribe Ephraim (Joshua 19:50).
When was it written? An approximate date for Joshua’s death is 1375 B.C., so we would probably say the book was written around that time.
Why? The book of Joshua does more than simply give historical events; the book tells of God’s faithfully acting through those historical events, despite the people’s unfaithfulness, to fulfill His promises to Moses and all the children of Israel by bringing them into the Promised Land, delivering them from their enemies, and always pointing to the greater Prophet and Deliverer, Jesus Christ, Who brings the Israelites and us to the greater rest of heaven.
How? Joshua himself is a living prophecy of the God-man with the same name (the Hebrew “Joshua” is equivalent to “Jesus” in Greek). The pre-incarnate Lord may appear in the events of the book, and there are other details that also point to Jesus’s redeeming us by His blood shed on the cross.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Joshua, you may make use of the following:
  • Harstad, Adolph L. Joshua, Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 2004. (I don’t own this volume, but my general experience with this new series of commentaries is that it is scholarly but also accessible. You can see the volume on Joshua's catalog description here.)
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume II: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, translated by James Martin and published as two volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (The section dealing with Joshua runs 236 pages. After my study Bible, this is what I turn to next, but it is a somewhat harder to use more-scholarly commentary, that is a bit dated in terms of modern scholarship.)

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.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 13, 2007

Ps 11 / Jos 22-24 / Biblog folo

There was a time when guests in another person’s home ate and drank whatever the host or hostess served them. To some extent that is still true today, although we are more accustomed to asking for what we would like among the options the host or hostess make available to us. (Even at restaurants what is actually available limits our choices.) In Psalm 11 today, specifically verse 6, we hear the psalmist refer to the portion of the cup of the wicked (KJV, ASV, NASB; “lot” NIV). You may recognize this figure of speech referring to what hosts and hostesses offer their guests to drink. The lack of faith and evil deeds of the wicked prompt the Lord to offer the wicked a cup equivalent to a scorching wind, along with fiery coals and burning sulfur that recall His judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24). The Lord truly will make the wicked drink from a cup of His wrath (Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 14:10; 16:19), but the Lord offers a cup of blessings and salvation to the godly (Psalm 23:5; 116:13), not those who have done good things that merit blessings and salvation but those who are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, which forgiveness in turn does produce some good or “godly” works. (Here is my most-recent previous post with links to others before it.)

Nurit Tzarfati’s depiction of Joshua’s farewell to Israel’s leadersMuch like Deuteronomy is Pastor Moses’s farewell to his congregation of Israelites, so is part of Joshua 22-24 that we read today Pastor Joshua’s farewell to his congregation of Israelites. Joshua spoke to “all Israel” by speaking to “their elders, leaders, judges, and officials” (Joshua 23:2). The image with this post depicts that event, although Joshua obviously would have been speaking to at least a few more people than shown (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 used a Nurit Tzarfati illustration before here). There clearly is some form of representation in the way that Israel was “governed”. The elders, leaders, judges, and officials no doubt reported to their various “constituencies” what Joshua had said. Unlike Moses who spoke the words of Deuteronomy to all Israel (Deuteronomy 1:1; presumably all Israel gathered before him, although a representative group is not ruled out), Joshua could not really himself speak to all the people of Israel, who by this time were distributed throughout the Promised Land. Today we might make use of a newsletter, email, or another form of “mass” communication to speak more directly with a large group of people removed from us, but the system of people sent with authority to deliver a message on behalf of someone else is at the center of how God works with us, from the sending of His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins to the sending of the apostles and their successors, pastors today, to preach, Baptize, absolve, and feed us Jesus’s body and blood, all in order for us to receive the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith. (My previous post, which deals with today's whole reading, is here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with what to make of Joshua 24:19. 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 Old Testament readings from Joshua 22-24, but hymn #393 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Joshua 24:16.

The recent reading of Joshua 18:28 and the linked discussion of Jerusalem as a boundary town and the failure to drive out the original inhabitants prompted today’s Biblog folo about Jerusalem as a boundary between cultures. A reader emailed about having read a news story about how the wall separating Jerusalem from the countryside disrupts trade and movement. Palestinians who had moved to suburbs or other towns for better housing and jobs are reportedly now electing to move back to Jerusalem, often with their families. They are sometimes forced to live in unauthorized housing, such as shelters that conceal people are living in them. The bottom line on the wall is apparently that more Palestinians live in Jerusalem now than before it was built. The reader noted that we heard much in the United States about the wall dividing Berlin in the 20th century but that one almost has to read a foreign journal to see anything about the Jerusalem wall.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 12, 2007

Ps 10 / Jos 17-21

As I read Psalm 10 today, I was thinking both about its relationship to Psalm 9 (as detailed in my more-recent post on Psalm 10) and also about the contrast between forgetting and remembering that I discussed in yesterday’s post on Psalm 9. Today in Psalm 10 note especially both how the wicked person thinks God has forgotten about his or her evil acts (v.11) and also how the psalmist calls the Lord to remember the helpless (v.12). The psalmist is confident that the Lord does hear and listen and that He ultimately comforts us so that earthly opponents do not terrify us any longer. Similarly, we can confidently pray this psalm knowing that in Jesus Christ God has given us all we need and also protects us so that earthly opponents cannot harm us at all.

A 1901 illustration by an unknown artist depicting a city of refuge in useIn reading all the unfamiliar names of people and places in Joshua 17-21 today, we can easily wonder why we read such chapters. Be sure not to miss the wonderful Gospel in chapter 20, which tells of the implementation of the cities of refuge. The 1901 image with this post, by an unidentified illustrator of a Bible card, vividly depicts such a city being used (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Yes, it is true that we today do not have quite the same system with avengers of blood and cities where we can take shelter from them, but the idea of fleeing somewhere for refuge should not be completely foreign to us. In the liturgy of the Morning Service Without Communion in The Lutheran Hymnal, the pastor prays to God and describes how “we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We flee for refuge to God’s mercy not only for accidentally killing someone, because we are worthy of death for any and all of our sins. By God’s grace we receive forgiveness of our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. If we ever leave Christ’s Church we are justly condemned to death, on account of sins that we continue to commit, but as long as we stay in Christ’s Church we are immune, as it were, from the death sentence we deserve and instead receive eternal life. (My original post overviewing Joshua 17-21 is here, and there is a brief reader comment on Joshua 21:45 here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Joshua 18:28 and Jerusalem as a boundary town. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Joshua 17-21 is not tapped by the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services for any Old Testament readings, nor apparently do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal refer to verses Joshua 17-21.

Thanks to reader emails there are two new Q&A posted, beginning with this one (the other is right below it). Remember you are welcome to ask questions about your reading whether or not you are right on schedule. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 11, 2007

Ps 9 / Jos 12-16

As we get older most of us find that our memories get worse with age. The idea of forgetting things can be frightening, as is the idea of being forgotten. Today in Psalm 9 we hear the psalmist speak of the Lord blotting out the name of the Lord’s enemies so that even the memory of them perishes (vv.5-6), but in the context of the psalm that’s a good thing. We also should be sure to notice that the Lord does not forget those in need and let them perish (v.18). Instead, when we believe in Jesus as our Savior, the Lord forgives and forgets our sins. (You can find my most-recent previous post and links to those before it here.)

C. J. Staniland’s depiction of the allocation of the Promised Land by drawing lotsTo Christians who have held games of chance in some way to be sinful, the casting of lots to make important decisions in the Bible seems strange. We find another example of that today in Joshua 12-16, where the people of Israel, in keeping with God’s command, allotted their inheritances in the land west of the Jordan by lots. The image with this post, by C. H. Staniland (the British painter and illustrator who lived from 1838-1916?), 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). Which tribe got which parcel of land was obviously an important matter, and we should not think that the Lord left that to chance. Rather, He promised to speak through the process He appointed for the people to use. They certainly did not think it was just a game then. Today we have no such promise regarding otherwise “random” events, and so we should not put our trust in such methods. However, we do have God’s promise to speak through His Word and forgive our sins through other means—Holy Baptism, Individual Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar. (You can find my post overviewing today’s whole reading here, and there's a passing reference to Joshua 14:6-15 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 Old Testament readings from Joshua 12-16, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Joshua 12-16.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 10, 2007

Ps 8 / Jos 9-11

In Psalm 8, how does praise from the lips of children and infants silence the foe and the avenger (v.2)? Despite my previous posts on the psalm (see here), that’s one question I haven’t addressed. You might first notice that the Hebrew word `oz is translated by many translations as “strength” or “power” (even the NIV that I quoted in asking the question above puts “strength” in the margin). I think the reason the NIV put “praise” in the text is because the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (abbreviated LXX), translates the word as “praise”, and the New Testament so quotes it (for example, Matthew 21:16). The essential meaning of the verse does not depend on which way this particular word is taken, however. The essential meaning of the verse is that because the Lord’s enemies, the foe and the avenger, rage against Him and those who are His, thirsting for vengeance and expressing that vengeance in curses (Psalm 44:16), the Lord has established the stammering of children as a defensive and offensive power to silence them. As St. Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 1:27, the Lord chooses that which the world regards as foolish and weak to shame that which the world regards as wise and strong. One commentator puts it thusly: “It is by obscure and naturally feeble instruments that He makes His name glorious here below, and overcomes whatsoever is opposed to this glorifying.” And, the New Testament use of this verse is a great example. The Pharisees and scribes refused to praise and thus to confess Jesus, but the little children did not refuse. We, too, must become like children and infants and let the Spirit reveal Jesus to us, so that, receiving by faith both Him and His forgiveness of sins, we join the praise and confession of all times and places.

An unidentified stained-glass window depicting the “long day” described in Joshua 10There are some events in the Old Testament that modern science takes issue with, and one of them is the “long day” of which we read today in Joshua 9-11. (The image with this post is an unidentified stained-glass window commemorating that day; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) While some contemporary scientists take issue with the event, others try to explain how it could have occurred “naturally” or to claim it was just an exaggeration. We do not want to deny the miraculous nature of what the inspired Scriptures present as a real event. We also do not want to get so hung up on the event that we miss the point the inspired author makes (10:14): “Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!” Surely the Lord is also fighting today for us who believe, albeit in different ways. By faith we receive the forgiveness of sins Jesus won for us, and the Holy Spirit preserves us in that saving faith. What can any human being or spiritual foe do to us? We, too, can be strong and courageous in the face of our enemies. (My previous post overviewing Joshua 9-11 is here, and there is a Biblog folo on Joshua 11:6, 9 and the hamstringing of horses here, and there is a reader-provided insight on Joshua 11:20 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 Old Testament readings from Joshua 9-11, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Joshua 9-11.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 09, 2007

Ps 7 / Jos 6-8

Most of us probably only know lions from books, TV shows, movies, or zoos. In other words, we probably have not met a one first-hand out in the wild. The author of Psalm 7 that we read today, David, a one-time shepherd of sheep, elsewhere tells how he had been attacked by and had defeated wild lions (1 Samuel 17:34-35; see also Samson in Judges 14). Psalmists frequently liken enemies’ attacks to those of ferocious animals (Psalm 10:9 is just one example), and the practice carries over to the New Testament, too (see 1 Peter 5:8), perhaps especially because believers throughout the Bible faced literal lions when persecuted by non-believers (for example, you may know the story in Daniel 6). Not all Biblical references to lions are to lions as proud and ferocious enemies, however. You may recall the face of the lion in connection with the heavenly creatures (Ezekiel 10:14; Revelation 4:7) and the use of the lion as a symbol for the Gospel-writer St. Mark. Jacob referred to his son Judah as a lion’s cub (NIB; “whelp” KJV, ASV, NASB), which is a symbol of sovereignty, strength, and courage. (Compare Moses’s statements in Deuteronomy 33:20, 22.) Judah, and by extension Israel, is later pictured as a lion (Numbers 24:9; Ezekiel 19:1-7; Micah 5:8), and Judah’s greatest descendant, Jesus Christ, is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). Jesus Christ is ferocious to our enemies but royal or kingly for us. We are saved from our sins by grace through faith in Him. (You can find my most recent post on this psalm, with links to others, here.)

French painter J. James Tissot’s depiction of the seven trumpets and the Ark marching around JerichoWith sometimes prideful lions still in mind we move on to think about how we might have pride in our own accomplishments, battles we win and the like. Today in Joshua 6-8 there are victories over Jericho and Ai, but the Lord makes it clear that He is the victor and the people the beneficiaries of His spoils. The Ark of the Covenant was marched around Jericho seven times in order to make it clear that the Lord was the One Who was really besieging the city. The image with this post is French Painter J. James Tissot’s depiction of the march around Jericho; I think I’ve linked Tissot’s biography before. Tissot is known for his attention to the detail of scenery and realism, but I wondered if the Ark wasn’t supposed to be covered. (To see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) As difficult as it can be for us to understand the Lord’s righteous wrath against His unbelieving enemies, we more easily draw comfort from examples of grace and mercy, like that in today’s reading of the sparing of Rahab and her family. My other comments on today’s reading are here, and there is a Biblog folo discussion of Joshua’s curse on Jericho here and 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 Old Testament readings from Joshua 6-8, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Joshua 6-8.

A recent Q&A from our reading of Acts prompted this one about a verse in Jeremiah. Remember your questions about any verse are welcome at any time. God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 08, 2007

Ps 6 / Jos 1-5 / Acts wrap-up

Biblical figures give some interesting reasons for God to grant their petitions. We find one of those interesting reasons today in Psalm 6, specifically in verse 5. (You can find my more recent previous post here, with a link there to the post before it.) In Psalm 6:5 the psalmist suggests to God that His praise is at stake in whether or not God delivers the psalmist. Even in the Old Testament people knew there was more to life than life in this world, and they knew that death was not the end of all existence. However, as one commentator puts it well, “when the psalmists wrestled with God for the preservation of life, it was death …, in its radical contradiction to life, that was evoked.” We can rest assured that, on account of saving faith in Jesus Christ unto the forgiveness of our sins, our souls will praise God in heaven while our bodies rest in the grave, until the resurrection of our bodies, after which we will praise God in body and soul for eternity in the new heaven and new earth.

Contemporary Israeli illustrator Nurit Tzarfati’s depiction of the Israelites crossing the Jordan RiverWe should not be surprised at similarities between Moses’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and Joshua’s leading them into the Promised Land. For example, today in Joshua 1-5 we hear of the Israelites crossing the Jordan just as their ancestors crossed the Red Sea. (The image with this post is a depiction of that event done by modern Israeli illustrator Nurit Tzarfati; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Also today we hear how a scarlet cord will protect Rahab and her whole family in that house, just as the blood of the lamb over the doorpost caused the angel of death to pass over the Israelites and the Egyptians in those houses. Both the passing through the water and the blood of the lamb point forward to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the physical means whereby God today delivers us who believe in Jesus Christ from sin, death, and the power of the devil. You can find my previous post, which overviews the reading as a whole and has links to background information on the book of Joshua, here, and there are the following related Biblog folos: this one related to Joshua 5:10 and the nature of the Passover, and this one and this one related to Joshua 5:13-15 and whose side God is on.

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 Old Testament readings from Joshua 1-5, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal have any hymns that are said to refer to Joshua 1-5.

Today I have an Acts 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 St. Luke, the beloved physician and co-worker of St. Paul, to write the book of Acts. Luke was a first-hand witness to some of the events the book narrates (the so-called “we sections”).
What is the book? The book of Acts is the second of two works St. Luke wrote for Theophilus, possibly Luke’s patron. The first told what Jesus began to teach and do from His birth through to ascension, and the second tells what Jesus after the ascension continued to teach and do through His Church, spreading the Gospel unto the ends of the earth.
Where was it written? Like the Gospel according to St. Luke, Rome may be the most likely possibility for the location where St. Luke wrote the book of Acts.
When was it written? St. Luke may have written the book right after the last events the book narrates (perhaps A. D. 63), since there are no references to significant later events, or St. Luke may have written the book 70 A. D. or later, with scholars explaining that no other significant events are mentioned because the events that are narrated serve St. Luke’s purpose as set out in his theme verse (Acts 1:8).
Why? One commentator gives as the main purposes of Acts the following: to present a theological history, to give a defense of the faith for the purpose of converting people to it, to provide a guide for the Church, and to show the triumph of Christianity in the face of bitter persecution.
How? The Divinely-inspired St. Luke can be said to accomplish these purposes with accurate historical detail, literary excellence, dramatic description, and an “objective” account that tells of failures and successes, divisions and harmony, differences and agreement, in short, the bad and the good.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Acts, you may make use of the following, both of which I consulted in the course of blogging on the book and answering your questions:
  • Bruce, F. F. Commentary on the Book of the Acts: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., eighth printing, 1971. (This is a more-scholarly commentary that I have in my library, one that is more-current than Lenski’s work below.)
  • Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of The Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1934, 1962 printing. (Despite its original date, Lenski’s is a generally-reliable Lutheran commentary. He mixes more technical matters with general interpretation, but most readers would probably find his commentary quite accessible.)

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.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 07, 2007

Ps 5 / Ac 27-28

The morning prayer that is Psalm 5 is easily broken down into several different parts, although not all commentators agree on just how it breaks down. By one scheme, there is an initial appeal to be heard in vv.1-3, a basing of that appeal in God’s rule over humankind in vv.4-6, the main appeal of the psalm made humbly and with trust in the Lord’s mercy and righteousness in vv.7-8, an accusation and call for redress in vv.9-10, and in vv.11-12 an expansion of the prayer to all the godly with its own basis, arguably in the Lord’s past actions. By another scheme there are four six-line stanzas more obvious in the Hebrew: vv.1-3, the prayer to be heard; vv.4-6, the rationale of God’s holiness; vv.7-9, what the psalmist may do; and vv.10-12. You can see more about the contents of the psalm in this post and the links there.

Giovanni Paolo Pannini’s 1744 oil on canvas depicting Paul in RomeEvery time the Gospel is proclaimed, there are some who believe and others who do not. Today in Acts 27-28 we see those two kinds of results from Paul’s preaching of the Gospel (Acts 28:24), and we can find those two kinds of results from Jesus’s preaching and from the preaching of other prophets and apostles. Why are we surprised when there are those two kinds of results from preaching in our time? The fault is not with the Word being preached but in those who do not believe. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word, but the Holy Spirit works resistibly. Those who resist the Spirit and do not believe will be damned eternally, but those of us who believe receive the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and are saved. The image with this post is of a 1744 oil on canvas depiction of Paul preaching in Rome by Italian painter Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691-1765), the painting is now held in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). You can find my post on all of Acts 27-28 here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Acts 28:16, 21, 30 and whatever happened to Paul. 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 readings from Acts 27-28, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to Acts 27-28.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 06, 2007

Ps 4 / Ac 25-26

Do you ever set things apart for special purposes? “These good dishes are just for company,” you say, or maybe “I’m going to take my vacation that week.” We may be more or less successful in such designations, but today in the third verse of Psalm 4 we learn that we do not set ourselves apart as godly, but the Lord does. Perhaps providentially, the Hebrew word used for the “godly person” is hasid, which in its plural form was discussed in this Q&A posted Monday. The verb used in reference to this “godly person” emphasizes not only the selection but also the selection to such a position of honor. We know that this honor is the result of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ and that we only receive it as a gift given through faith. Like David, we godly believers can count on the Lord hearing us when we call to Him. You can find my previous post on the psalm with links to others here.

Image of the Tiffany stained glass window at Union Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ, that depicts Paul before AgrippaToday in Acts 25-26 we hear the Apostle Paul press King Agrippa, the last of the Herod line, to either acknowledge that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy or to deny that the words of the prophets were truly God’s words (26:27). The image with this post is of a Tiffany window at Union Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ, which window depicts Paul before Agrippa (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it [click on the thumbnail on the top right]). The Roman governor, Festus, had consulted Agrippa because Agrippa was Jewish and knew the customs of the Jews, and Festus wanted to know whether there was substance to the Jews’ accusations against Paul. (That Paul had done nothing deserving death or even imprisonment was the consensus, but Paul’s appeal to Caesar meant to Caesar he would go.) Paul seems to have been a good student of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, pressing opponents much as our Lord did. Agrippa may have evaded answering Paul’s question with a question of his own (26:28), but Agrippa already stood judged for his failure to believe (John 3:18). Similarly, people today may avoid answering questions about what they believe, but God knows the contents of people’s hearts and therefore knows whether or not they reject His Word unto eternal damnation or believe in Jesus unto eternal salvation. (My previous post overviewing today’s reading is here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with 26:14 and the renaming of the apostles. 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 readings from Acts 25-26, but hymn #119 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Acts 26:22.

A new Q&A on Judges 4:19 and 5:25 is posted here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 05, 2007

Ps 3 / Ac 23-24

A child on a playground may be willing to take on an opponent if the fight is one-on-one, or if the odds are in the child’s favor. If the other side “has numbers”, as the basketball saying goes, then the child may be less willing to stay and fight. In Psalm 3 today David does not mind that his opponent “has numbers” (vv.1, 6), for he knows the Lord is protecting him. The psalm today reminded me of the account in 2 Kings 6:8-23, where the Lord opens the eyes of Elisha’s servant to see that the great number of the heavenly host fighting on the Lord’s side is far greater than the number fighting against Him (or note how the Lord then “blinds” the enemies). As the Lord was protecting David and Elisha, so the Lord is similarly protecting us who believe. We receive the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and can have David’s confidence that the Lord’s power and forces will ultimately deliver us. (For more on Psalm 3 see this post and included links.)

An illustration of Paul being led to Felix, as described in Acts 23:24, 31 (copyright GoodSalt, Inc., 2001)In the United States, we are used to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights’ guarantees of both the due process of law (Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment) and of a speedy trial (Sixth Amendment). Rome in the first century A.D. may have had similar guarantees, but we hear today in our reading of Acts 23-24 how the matter of the arrested Paul slowly made its way through the processes of “church” and state. (My previous post overviewing these chapters is here.) Paul was quickly taken to Felix under Roman guard when the plot to kill him surfaced. The image with this post depicts Paul’s being placed on a mount and escorted to Caesarea (the artist of the illustration copyrighted in 2001 by GoodSalt, Inc., is not identified; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Once there, there was a “speedy trial”, but Felix’s “deliberation” of the verdict kept Paul languishing in custody. We might say that in the end Paul got his due process of law, but the whole process was hardly speedy! We might complain with seeming delays in the execution of God’s justice and righteous judgment, but we do well to remember that He will ultimately execute them and that in the meantime we should live every day in repentance, with sorrow over our sin and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sin. (See the hymn linked below.)

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 readings from Acts 23-24, but hymn #278 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Acts 24:25.

There are three new Q&A posted on Acts, beginning with this one (the other two immediately follow below it). Thanks for those questions, and remember anyone is welcome to ask one! God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 04, 2007

Ps 2 / Ac 21-22

You know how sometimes something is funny until it isn’t anymore and someone can get angry when it is pushed too far? That’s what the transition from verse 4 to verse 5 in Psalm 2 made me think of today, even though that’s not what is really going on in the psalm. The Lord laughs at those who defy Him and try to live outside of His authority and power, but the day is coming when He will make His wrath clear to them. The day of His wrath is not really hastened by what the defiant ones do or say, they do not turn His laughter to anger. Rather, the day of His wrath comes when He has determined it will come. In the meantime, God wants all people to repent and believe in His Son Jesus Christ, Whose life, death, and resurrection have earned the forgiveness of their sins. He is a primary focus of the psalm, as discussed in this post and the other posts on the psalm linked there.

Gustave Doré 1865 engraving from “La Sainte Bible” depicting Paul’s arrestWhen something happens to us, we are inclined to make an assessment about whether it is good or bad based on our own perspectives, which are, in fact, quite limited. God’s Word broadens our perspective and helps us see that God can use for our good even things that we think of as bad. Today in Acts 21-22 we have a good example of that, as Paul was arrested by the Romans after the Jews stirred up a riot. A limited perspective might have thought the arrest was a bad thing, but it was not. The arrest saved Paul from the crowd, as depicted by Gustave Doré’s 1865 engraving from “La Sainte Bible” (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it, and see this post for more on Doré). And, as we will see in the days ahead, ultimately took Paul to Rome, which is precisely where he wanted to go. Once in Rome, Paul boldly preached the kingdom of God and taught about salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 28:31, if you want a sneak preview). There’s more on today’s whole reading here, and there are two related Biblog folos, one on 21:8 in this discussion of deacons and pastors and one on 21:23-24 regarding hair being cut for religious reasons 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.

Acts 21-22 is not tapped by the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services for any readings in the Divine Service, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal refer to any verses from Acts 21-22.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 03, 2007

Ac 19-20 / Biblog folo / Psalms wrap-up

Congratulations to all Daily Lectionary readers as we move into the second half of the second year of daily Bible reading and of efforts to Be in the Word! We not only have completed our first cycle of the psalms this year, but we are also halfway through the reading of the other books. As with the second half of the first year, my intention regarding the psalms with the Biblog posts this second half of the second year is to provide you with the links to previous comments and make additional comments as circumstances may warrant or allow. I strongly encourage us all not to skip the reading of the psalm, for we truly can never read or pray them too much. So, without further adieu, here is the link to the most recent post on Psalm 1, with links to the other posts and the lists of Sunday lectionary uses and hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal.

A depiction by an unidentified artist of Paul with EutychusI’ve seen people fall asleep before while I’ve been preaching, but I’ve never had anyone fall asleep and out of a third-story window to their death, like happened to Paul as we read about today in Acts 19-20. (You can read my previous post for an overview of all of today’s reading.) Paul raised that person, named Eutychus, from the dead, and they returned to the Divine Service for its second half, the Service of the Sacrament, referred to by St. Luke as the breaking of the bread. (The image of Paul and Eutychus with this post is by an unidentified artist from “God’s promises come true” by Dawn Publication; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) Paul’s raising Eutychus from the dead was a miraculous sign to the people, a sign that helped lend authority to the Word Paul proclaimed. Today, when people die in the Divine Service, as sometimes happens, we do not expect pastors to be able to raise them from the dead, for the Word no longer needs such miracles to lend it authority, and we have miraculous signs of another sort: Holy Baptism, Individual Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar. These miraculous signs combine God’s Word with water, a man’s words, and bread and wine, in order to give us the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in 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 readings from Acts 19-20, but hymn #442 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Acts 20:35.

Today’s Biblog folo is a follow-up to a follow-up. In yesterday’s post I commented that the record we have of the Acts 15 Apostolic Council’s deliberations and letter did not explicitly make a Gospel emphasis. A reader rightly pointed to Acts 15:10-11 as an explicit Gospel emphasis in the Council’s deliberations, but I stand by my statement regarding the letter they sent to the churches, recognizing that those who bore the letter likely preached the Gospel.

Today I have an Psalms 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 the book of Psalms through a number of individuals. Many of the works contained in Psalms are ascribed to people like David, although some of the ascriptions may refer to psalms that are about people like David or written like those he wrote. In addition to the original authors, there were likely later inspired editors.
What is the book? The book of Psalms is a collection of collected songs of praise and prayer that were sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments, such as harps, lutes, and lyres. The book is often called the hymnal of the Old Testament.
Where was it written? The individual psalms were written in a variety of places, such as in Babylon during the people of Judah’s exile there. The various earlier collections of the psalms may also have different places of origin, as with the final collection as we have it.
When was it written? The final collection of the psalms into the book of Psalms as we have it likely took place in the third century B.C., although the psalms it brings together span the centuries that preceded.
Why? The book of Psalms contains songs of praise and prayer used by the faithful believers both in their individual lives and in corporate worship. They are intended to serve in believers’ seeking and receiving the forgiveness of sins, as well as in their teaching and confessing the faith that receives that forgiveness of sins.
How? In rich poetical forms, although without the rhyme or meter that we think of when we think of poetry, the Psalms focus on God, accenting such things as His role in creating and sustaining the world, opposing the proud and upholding the humble, executing justice and righteousness, delivering the faithful by way of His promised Messiah. The psalms are uniquely and most-properly placed on the lips of that Messiah, Jesus Christ.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Psalms, you may make use of the following:
  • DaHood, Mitchell J. Psalms: Introduction, translation, and notes, The Anchor Bible, volumes 16, 17, and 17A. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1966-1970. (I do not have these volumes, but I have consulted them personally or via others, not infrequently, while blogging on the Psalms. The scholarship is certainly more current than Delitzsch’s below.)
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume V, Psalms, three volumes translated by James Martin and published in one volume. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted January 1986. (After my study Bible, this is the commentary I turn to next, but it is a somewhat harder to use more-scholarly commentary, and, written at the end of the nineteenth century, the scholarship is certainly somewhat dated.)

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.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 02, 2007

Ps 150 / Ac 17-18 / Biblog folo

“Liturgical dance” is a term that can cause faithful Christians to shudder. Like any other term related to “contemporary worship”, however, there are no doubt some examples that are worse than others. Dance in praise of God is certainly Biblical, as we see today in Psalm 150. (You can find my previous post, which overviews the psalm, here.) Although the other major example of praise dances I think of, Exodus 15:20, took place on the shore of the Red Sea, one can argue that Psalm 150 could be construed as saying the praise dances should be in God’s sanctuary (vv.1, 4; compare Psalm 149:3). We certainly have no well-documented historical evidence (that I’ve seen, anyway) that the Christian Church used liturgical dancers in the Divine Service itself, and, maybe it is just me, but I found it interesting that the video clip of liturgical dance that I viewed on this site showed all of the dances outdoors. That website’s “History of Dance in Worship” asserts a great deal by way of secondary sources, but perhaps significant factors that it recognizes in the past but fails to consider for the present and future are the sensual and secular aspects of dance. Dance in praise of God may well have its time and place, but I don’t think the Divine Service is either. Again, I’m not saying all liturgical dance is guilty of skin-tight costumes, but I know some is. Even if dance was part of the liturgy at one time, now it has been out for so long that just about any dance is importing the secular into the sacred; we are not to let the world transform the church but work toward the church transforming the world. What is most significant, however, is that the Biblical and therefore Lutheran theology of worship focuses on the distribution of the forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When dance and music are used more for entertainment than anything else, then a different theology of worship is in play. (And that goes for music without and even with words.) Song and dance may be suitable as an offering of praise, but they cannot take center stage and thereby upstage what is supposed to be central in the Divine Service: the asking for and receiving of the forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament.

The Lutheran Liturgy, which we use for church services at Grace, includes Psalm 150 among those appointed for a Day of National Thanksgiving. The Lutheran Hymnal contains two hymns said to refer or allude to verses from Psalm 150.
  • 150:1 -- #644
  • 150:6 -- #41 (check your hymnal for this one)

A depiction of the Bereans searching the Scripture daily done by an unknown illustrator of a Bible card circa 1897Are you and I Bereans? Well, probably not in the sense that we live in or came from the city of Berea, but we probably are in the sense of the description of the Bereans we read today in Acts 17-18. (For my previous post on these chapters, click here.) The Bereans received the Gospel message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily. The image with this post, by an unknown illustrator of a Bible card around 1897, depicts the Bereans doing just that (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Your and my receiving the Gospel message with great eagerness can be the same, even if our examining the Scriptures daily looks quite different. You might also note the close connection St. Luke makes in Acts between the Bereans examining the Scriptures and the people coming to faith, for it is through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit works to create and increase our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and therefore eternal life and salvation.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with an Old Testament application of Acts 17:30 (and see this Biblog folo). 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 Acts 17-18 as reading, but hymn #241 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Acts 17:28.

Today’s Biblog folo comes in answer to questions I posed in yesterday’s post. A reader emailed that the apostles’ deliberations and letter (Acts 15) reflected the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by making the point “that neither Jew nor Gentile was saved by following all the Old Testament regulations that had been built up”. I agree that the deliberations and letter can be taken to imply that, but the record we have of them certainly does not make that point explicit. The reader also reflected on the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) and its pronouncements that have binding force, wondering when they might approach the 613 “laws” of the Pharisees and questioning on what the CCM’s rulings were based, in contrast to the Pharisees’ laws that were at least rooted in a Scriptural mandate. Well, I can say there aren’t 613 opinions listed here, but that doesn’t mean the CCM hasn’t yet reached that ironic number, and you can read the opinions there yourself to see in what the CCM’s opinions are rooted.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 01, 2007

Is 12:1-6 / Ac 15-16

With the start of a new month today, you may want to take a look at the background information for June’s readings. The seasonal canticle for June, which we read on the first and last day of the month instead of a psalm, is Isaiah 12:1-6, and you can find my previous post on the canticle here and additional information in this post from when we read the verses in December. I think all of the recent rain that has refilled lakes and tanks can help us remember that the well of salvation, God’s forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, will never run dry.

A depiction of the apostolic council by an unknown illustrator of a Nuremberg printing of Martin Luther’s Bible translationAs I read Acts 15-16 today, I reflected on that first apostolic council and our modern church body’s decisions in convention and those of its Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). Were the apostles deciding on doctrine or its expression? Did they even vote? If they had issued their “opinion” the way the CTCR does today, would it have been given for study or guidance? Would it have been binding on all people for all time? How did the apostles’ deliberations and letter reflect the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone? The image with this post is by an unknown illustrator of a Nuremberg printing of Martin Luther’s Bible translation (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). You can find my previous post on Acts 15-16, which overviews the whole reading, here, and be sure to also read the Biblog folos discussing the application of the Old Testament law and the apostolic council’s guidelines here and here. (Be sure also to note the Baptism of the jailer’s entire family, no doubt including infants and other children younger than the so-called age of assent or age of discretion.)

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 readings from Acts 15-16, but hymn #495 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Acts 16:9.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM