October 31, 2007

Jnh 2:2-9 / Hos 5-7 / 490 and 700

If people are saved, it is God’s doing; if people are lost, it is their own doing. There’s a unique expression of that today in Jonah 2:2-9, the seasonal canticle for October. Verse 8: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (NIV, NASB; “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” KJV, ASV). God doesn’t remove grace, they just aren’t willing to receive. We talked about objective and subjective justification yesterday in my New Testament class, likening it to a coupon for a free meal at a nice restaurant that one just doesn’t cash in. Someone is not likely to pass up a free meal at a nice restaurant. Why are they so willing to pass up something that is infinitely and eternally more valuable? (You can read my previous comments on Jonah 2:2-9, with some overlapping thoughts, by following this link.)

A picture by an unidentified photographer of a Cuisinart bread makerUnderstanding figures of speech used in the Bible becomes increasingly difficult as everyday things in our lives become increasingly different from everyday things in Biblical times. Take the simile in Hosea 5-7 today about baking bread (7:4-10). We will not really understand what it means if our experience of baking bread is using a machine like that pictured with this post (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Then, bakers heated up their ovens in the evening to burn overnight while the dough leavened and made the ovens burn brighter in the morning to bake the bread. As you might suspect from the difficulty (and arguably the incompleteness) of the simile, different commentators identify the different parts of the simile differently. The general idea seems to be that the passion of idolatry stirs the princes’ disposition to act on an ambush of the king, said to be all the more striking for everyone’s complete disregard for God in the matter and its long-term implications (vv.4-7). Related by the use of the bread imagery are verses 8-10, where Israel is likened to a cake of bread placed upon hot ashes or red-hot stones but is not turned over, which causes it to burn on the bottom and remain raw on top. In various ways we are like the princes and Israel in general, but, thanks be to God, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are forgiven of all of our sins, notably by means of bread, albeit unleavened, that is Christ’s body! (For more on Hosea 5-7, see the 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 Hosea 5-7 for any Old Testament readings, nor are there apparently any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer to Hosea 5-7.

What do the numbers 490 and 700 have to do with each other and with today’s post? On this day 490 years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses against the preachers of indulgences, which action is seen as the beginning of the Reformation. Aided by the then-recently-developed printing press, the Reformation ultimately resulted in the Roman Catholic church separating itself from the continuation of Christ’s church, as it survives in the Evangelical Catholic churches, which their opponents called “Lutheran”. Technology providentially served the message then, as it providentially serves the message now. According to our blogging software, this post is number 700, and we can praise God that His Word works whether its pure teaching is passed by hand-copied parchment manuscripts, paper pages printed by Gutenberg’s moveable type, or web pages generated by a program called Moveable Type.

God bless your Reformation Day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 30, 2007

Ps 121 / Hos 1-4 / Folo / Daniel wrap-up / Server upgrades

I caught a few minutes of the classic Star Trek episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion” on Sunday night, and I was struck by the fact that when Captain Kirk spoke to the disembodied keeper’s or provider’s voice he looked up, as if to heaven. In Psalm 121 the psalmist describes looking up for help to the hills around Jerusalem as God’s home. The psalmist rightly recognizes God as his source of help; he’s not trying to confront arrogantly God face to face, as Captain Kirk may have been doing. I thought of Luke 18:9-14 and how the tax collector, keenly aware of his sin, would not look up to heaven like the Pharisee did. The tax collector, like the psalmist, knew from where his help came, but took the posture of the penitent seeking the forgiveness of sins from God and thereby offering Him the highest worship of the Gospel. We, too, can look up to heaven as the source of our help and also bow before Him seeking the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’s sake. (You can find my previous comments on Psalm 121 by following this link.)

Matthaeus Merian the Elder’s 1625-1630 engraving of Hosea and Gomer for “Icones Biblicae”If you study the teaching of the Bible regarding sexual relationships and marriage, you can gain a greater appreciation for how shocking it is when God tells Hosea to take the prostitute Gomer as his wife, as we read today in Hosea 1-4. As I note in my previous comments on the reading, the shocking suspension of the normal order of things highlights God’s grace and mercy in redeeming and receiving back adulterous turned repentant Israel. (There is a follow-up on those comments pertaining to Hosea 1:2 and whether or not Hosea knew about Gomer’s unfaithfulness here.) Of course, God’s suspending the normal order of things is not an exception that breaks the rule, but rather His exception makes the rule all the more clear for us. Without such a divine revelation we do not do as Hosea did. Yes, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness for every sin, but such forgiveness does not change realities such as the one-flesh union God creates in marriage. The image with this post is Matthaeus Merian the Elder’s 1625-1630 engraving for Icones Biblicae that depicts Hosea and Gomer (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it).

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Hosea 4:14 and men and women involved in prostitution and idolatry. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Hosea 1-4 is not tapped by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Old Testament readings, nor are any of the reading’s verses said to be referred to by any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

The Biblog Folo today comes in response to the reading of Daniel 10-12 and the discussion in yesterday’s post about Michael the archangel. A reader sent this link, and that Michael the archangel is supposed to be the “ferryman” across the Jordan River on the way to heaven was news to me. The link credits the Catholic Encyclopedia for that information, and the online version of the article confirms it. I don’t think the Biblical citations the article gives for Michael, however, support the claim.

Today I have a Daniel 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 Daniel through a man named Daniel, named in the book as the author, who was among the first Jews taken from Judah and Jerusalem to exile in Babylon.
What is the book? The book gives historical details of several events related to Daniel’s life and tells of the prophetic and apocalyptic visions God revealed to Daniel. The book supplies several key visions that not only prophecy of Jesus but also play a role in His identification and teaching.
Where was it written? In all likelihood, the book of Daniel was written in Babylon.
When was it written? The book of Daniel was probably written just after Cyrus, the leader of the Medes and Persians, captured Babylon in 539 B.C.
Why? The book of Daniel emphasizes God’s triumphant rule over all human kingdoms on earth. Individual earthly rulers will come and go, but faithfulness to God is what matters, as in the end His rule is all that endures forever.
How? In the historical narratives related to Daniel’s life, the conflict with and victory of faith figure prominently, even as individual rulers of earthly kingdoms are in play, variously persecuting or delivering God’s people. In the prophetic visions revealed to Daniel, rich symbolism is used to encourage and comfort those people undergoing persecution, focusing primarily on the last things.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Daniel, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume IX: Ezekiel, Daniel, translated by James Martin and M. G. Easton and published as three volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (There are some 506 pages on Daniel.)
  • Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: The Old Testament, Volume II, The Poetical and the Prophetical Books. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1924. (This volume, one that is in our Grace library, has 32 pages on Daniel.)

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.

Server upgrades for our web host were not completed as planned over the weekend. The host apologized and rescheduled them from 9:00 Monday night until 6:00 Tuesday morning, which means you may have or have had problems accessing the site between those times. I apologize for the potential difficulty you may experience or have experienced, but I guess the consolation is that the other times there were no interruptions in service.

Thanks to a reader’s question there is a new Q&A posted here. Remember you are welcome to ask questions at any time about whatever you are reading. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 29, 2007

Ps 120 / Da 10-12

I do not think one has to take sides politically to agree that, rightly or wrongly, the current U.S. president and at least some in his administration have been perceived as figurative hawks, those who, like the nature of the bird, because of their hard-line or war-like policy, somehow “want” war. The conflict within the administration and the country as a whole over war and peace came to my mind today reading Psalm 120. (Whew! At last we are done again with the 22 parts of Psalm 119.) Specifically verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 120 deal with this matter of war and peace, although they really only make sense in the context of the whole psalm. For his part, the psalmist is peace, but, when he opens his mouth, he is immediately confronted by enemies who are at least verbally hostile. He has no choice but to sigh and plead for God to deliver him from their crafty tongues and repay them, as they deserve, in kind, with sharp arrows and burning coals. You can find more comments on this psalm and its grouping by following this link.

Albrecht Dürer’s depiction of St. Michael and the DragonFresh from my sermon yesterday that began by asking about angels named in Holy Scripture, I could hardly read Daniel 10-12 today without reflecting on Michael, who is mentioned in Daniel 10, as well as Revelation 12, assuming for the moment the two books refer to the same “person”. (Amusingly enough, the reflection also put this pop song into my head.) The image with this post is of a woodcut by German artist Albrecht Dürer, depicting Michael based more on the Revelation 12 passage (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 for a discussion about the woodcut in comparison to another depiction of the same passage see here). You may know that there is a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit of Dürer’s work now on display at the Blanton Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin; for more information on that, see here, and for more of my comments on the reading, see here, with a brief folo on Daniel 11 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.

Daniel 10-12 is not tapped by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Old Testament readings, nor apparently do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal specifically refer to verses from Daniel 10-12.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 28, 2007

Ps 119:169-176 / Da 7-9 / Apologies

Like the people of Israel freed from slavery in Egypt to worship God, we are freed from our slavery to sin to worship God. Psalm 119:169-176 conveys that thought quite succinctly in the first half of verse 175: “Let me live that I may praise you”. God has freed you and me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, are we spending a part of this Lord’s Day worshipping Him? You can find more of my comments on Psalm 119:169-176 by following this link, and there are two folos to the more-recent comments here and here.

Salvador Dali’s 1969 gouache illustrating Daniel 8:5After two days of sections that contained at least one familiar story each, with Daniel 7-9 today we enter a part of the book that is lesser-known and probably a little more difficult to understand. For example, in Daniel 8:5 the goat with a prominent horn approaching from the west is usually said to be Greece and Alexander the Great, respectively. The image with this post is Salvador Dali’s gouache illustrating Daniel 8:5 that was published in 1969 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). I’m not saying Daniel 8:5 is the most important verse of the section, but you can find my comments on the section here, and a reader’s reaction to Daniel 7:27 as the Biblog Folo here.

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

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

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Daniel 9:3-19 as the Old Testament reading for a Day of Humiliation and Prayer, but there are no hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal that are said to refer to Daniel 7-9.

My apologies if you experienced any difficulties accessing this post. Our web host had some technical problems that prevented an upgrade from taking place as planned Friday night into Saturday morning and forced them to perform the upgrade Saturday night into Sunday morning. Please let us know if you experience difficulties at other times.

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

October 27, 2007

Ps 119:161-168 / Da 4-6 / FYI

Reading Psalm 119:161-168 today and my previous post on it (which also links to my other comments on the psalm section, I found myself thinking about a tangentially-related matter of the interpretation of two brief parables in Matthew 13:44-46, that of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. As a seminary student I had “preached” once on the parable of the hidden treasure with the idea that Christ is the hidden treasure and that we are those who give up all we have to gain Him. At the time, the pastor for whom I was filling in approved the sermon but pointed out the other interpretation that we are the treasure hidden in the field and that Christ gives up all He has to gain us. Somewhere recently I was reading again how that latter interpretation fits better both with parables usually focusing on God’s redemptive action and with the context of the parables at that point in Matthew’s account where the Church is being gathered together. If indeed the elements in the parable correspond in such a way that we are the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, then Psalm 119:162 can appropriately come to mind as Christ’s words when He finds us and we persevere with Him by grace through faith.

17th-century Roman sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 1655 depiction of Daniel in the lions’ denAnother familiar Old Testament story that many of us have learned at one point or another in our lives is found in today’s reading of Daniel 4-6. There are lots of other interesting events in today’s reading, about which you can read here (with a folo on Daniel 5:25-28 and the handwriting on the wall here), but Daniel in the lions’ den is certainly the most familiar event. The image with this post is a 1655 terracotta sculpture depicting Daniel in the lions’ den, done by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who lived from 1598-1680 (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Bernini’s sculpture is said to have possibly been inspired by the apocryphal writing “Bel and the Dragon”, and it is also said to have been inspired by a famous Roman sculpture (which I’ll warn you has some male nudity). However, in contrast to the Roman sculpture where the strength of the heroes is the means of resisting the enemy, Bernini’s sculpture depicts Daniel relying on God for His deliverance. Relying on God is also how we are delivered from our sins, by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Daniel 4:30 and the identity of “Babylon the great”. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

You won’t find Daniel 4-6 used for any Old Testament readings in the historic 1-year lectionary or listed in the hymn indexes associated with The Lutheran Hymnal.

FYI: The system maintenance scheduled for yesterday did not happen due to issues experienced by our web host. As a result it has been rescheduled for tonight, so you may have difficulty accessing our site between 9:00 p.m. tonight and 8:00 a.m. Sunday. I will try to make sure Sunday’s post is up when the site is up.

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

October 26, 2007

Ps 119:153-160 / Da 1-3 / Folo / Ezekiel wrap-up / FYI

If you are reading Psalm 119:153-160 today in the ASV or NASB, in the first half of verse 160 you find, “The sum of Thy/Your word is truth”. That translation is an accurate rendering of the Hebrew, arguably better than the KJV’s “Thy word is true from the beginning” and more literal than the NIV’s “All Your words are true”. Having said that, the NIV translation is still a true statement, and it may even be a fair paraphrase of the half-verse at hand. We should not think that only taken as a whole is God’s word truth, as if some parts of it are not true and they are outnumbered or outweighed by the parts that are true. One commentator rightly says, “If [the psalmist] reckons up the word of God in its separate parts and as a whole, truth is the denominator of the whole, truth is the sum-total” (my emphasis). Where our words are not always true because we are by nature sinful, God’s word is always true because He is by nature holy. We can trust that when He tells us our sins are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that He is telling us the truth! (You can find my other comments on Psalm 119:153-160 by following this link.)

Éric de Saussure’s 1968 “The men in the furnace” from “Bible illustrée: Textes de la bible de Jérusalem-Les pressesde Taizé-Seuil”Most people probably know the New Testament and its events better than they know the Old Testament and its events. There are some events from the Old Testament that people are familiar with, and one of them may be the account of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace that we read today in Daniel 1-3. The image with this post is Éric de Saussure’s 1968 “The men in the furnace” from Bible illustrée: Textes de la bible de Jérusalem-Les pressesde Taizé-Seuil (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 comments on that event, the reading as a whole, and those introducing the book here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Daniel 2:44-45 and its kingdom and rock. 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 Daniel 1-3, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to Daniel 1-3.

The Biblog folo today is a reader’s response to the image based on Ezekiel 47 that was in yesterday’s post.

I liked it very much. I don’t know if I’d be comfortable with it on an every Sunday basis, but I’m glad I saw it. The “water”, the trees, and the stars are more impressive than the chancel furniture though, in my humble opinion. I think the altar might have had rounded legs to go with the trees. (I grant the openness of the altar, because of the water.)

I think the different woods in the pulpit/lectern and the altar are to match the trees. I also liked that the cross appears to be the Tree of Life coming up out of the Garden, which links Jerusalem and the Temple to the Garden. I don’t even mind the chairs, but I would move the organ console …

Today I have an Ezekiel 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? God inspired the book of Ezekiel through the prophet with that name, a member of a priestly family who was among the 10,000 Jews Nebuchadnezzar took to exile in Bablyon in 597 B.C., some 10 years before Jerusalem was sieged and the Temple destroyed.
What is the book? The book is a more-or-less chronological record of the verbal and enacted prophecies God directed to the exiles in Bablyon through Ezekiel.
Where was it written? The book most likely was written in Bablyon.
When was it written? Ezekiel’s prophetic activity apparently went 15 years past the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., so it could have been written as soon as 571 B.C. or sometime shortly thereafter.
Why? As God desires and intends to be known, the book of Ezekiel tells how God is revealed both in the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, prophesied until it was destroyed, and in the restoration and renewal of Israel, prophesied from that point forward.
How? Structured like the other major prophets (prophecies against Israel, prophecies against the nations, comfort for Israel), the book that has in its first half a Temple fit for destruction from which God’s glory departs is balanced in its second half with a Temple fit for God’s presence to which His glory returns. Similarly, the book has symmetrical calls to Ezekiel and addresses of rebuke and comfort to Israel’s mountains. Contained inside also are portrayals of the Messiah as God’s true Shepherd and His kingdom as the Lord’s branch that becomes a stately cedar on a majestic mountain top.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Ezekiel, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume IX: Ezekiel, Daniel, translated by James Martin and M. G. Easton and published as three volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (There are some 862 pages on Ezekiel.)
  • Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: The Old Testament, Volume II, The Poetical and the Prophetical Books. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1924. (This volume, one that is in our Grace library, has 93 pages on Ezekiel.)

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.

FYI: Our web host will be performing system maintenance this weekend, so you may have difficulty accessing our site between 10:00 p.m. Friday and 8:00 a.m. Saturday. I will try to make sure Saturday’s post is up when the site is up.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 25, 2007

Ps 119:145-152 / Eze 46-48

“Where were you when I needed you?” Maybe we’ve all heard someone ask us that question or ourselves asked it of someone else. Today in Psalm 119:145-152 we hear how those who devise wicked schemes come near to us, that is, they rush upon us with hostile intentions (v.150), but we should not be afraid! For, in the very next verse the psalmist also says that the Lord is also near, that is, He has come close to comfort and to relieve us (v.151). The word used to describe the Lord’s proximity comes from the verb used to refer to the wicked people’s drawing near. And, the word used to describe the Lord’s proximity can refer to nearness of place, time, and personal relationship. I think any or all three might apply in this case. The Lord is present in every place generally, but He is especially present in His Word and Sacraments. The Lord helps us at just the right time, neither too early nor too late. And, the Lord Who created us also redeems us by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and He also sanctifies us. So, He is our God and we are His people, His own dear children. So much is packed into His proximity to us, and we have so much for which we should be thankful! (You can find more comments on this psalm section by following this link.)

David J. Hetland’s mosaic depicting Ezekiel 47, done for Christ Lutheran Church (ELCA), Pacific Beach, CAEver since I preached on John 7 for my goddaughter’s Baptism several years ago, I have had a greater appreciation of Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple that we finish today by reading Ezekiel 46-48. In chapter 47, Ezekiel sees life-giving water flowing from the Temple on out of the city. The image with this post is of a mosaic based on Ezekiel 47 done by David J. Hetland for Christ Lutheran Church (ELCA), Pacific Beach, CA (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). He describes the application of the passage to the building as follows.

Ezekiel 47 inspired this chancel mosaic for Christ Lutheran Church in San Diego (Pacific Beach), California. Using Mexican smalti, the five dimensional panels depict a wooded setting against which the radiant cross is set. From it flows living water, the source of life, fashioned from clear-glass bevels in an iron framework. After the water gently meanders onto the mosaic panel, under the altar and down the centre aisle (where the pews are offset along the stream's path), it washes through the sanctuary doors and out into the street to welcome worshippers and passersby alike.

I have more comments on today’s reading and the connection to John 7 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.

Apparently there are no church readings or hymns that we would usually come across that make use of Ezekiel 46-48.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 24, 2007

Ps 119:137-144 / Eze 43-45 / Folo

Some people when something that they perceive as bad happens to them turn away from God and His Word. Not so, the psalmist behind Psalm 119:137-144. He says trouble and anguish have come upon him, but he still delights in the Lord’s commands (v.143). God’s Spirit not only works faith in us that trusts for the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus’s sake, but the Spirit also brings about that delight in God’s commands no matter what He sends or permits to come our way. (You can find additional comments on Psalm 119:137-144 by following this link.)

An unidentified artist’s rendering of Jesus coming in the cloudsUnless we die first, we will not be fully free from our sin until Jesus returns on the clouds the way He ascended into heaven. (The image with this post is an unidentified artist's depiction of Jesus's return; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) Until such time, the kind of complete separation of the holy from the common that we read about today in Ezekiel 43-45 remains only an ideal. Take note throughout the reading of the various ways that separation is reflected in the practice of the people. Thank God that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ He makes us as holy as we are now and that He will some day complete the process of making us holy. There is more about Ezekiel 43-45 here, and a reader’s comment on Ezekiel 44:22 is one of the folos 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.

Ezekiel 43-45 is tapped neither by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Old Testament readings nor by The Lutheran Hymnal for any hymn references.

The Biblog folo today has to do with the first part of Psalm 119:126, for which Monday's post is the most recent. A reader looked at it in the KJV, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work," and in the CEV, "Do something, Lord!" and commented and asked, "Must be a fairly strong word in the Hebrew?" Actually, the Hebrew is somewhat unclear, literally reading something like, "Time to act for the Lord". One generally-reliable commentator argues against the usual translations, suggesting instead that the psalmist is referring to human action and that the idea of the Lord acting is foreign to the context. In some ways it is hard to argue with the sheer number of translations that take the Lord as the actor; of course, no point of teaching stands on the translation and interpretation of this half verse.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 23, 2007

Ps 119:129-136 / Eze 40-42

When you see an animal like a dog panting, what do you take it to be a sign of? That the dog is thirsty? Panting apparently is an important part of the way animals with fur regulate their body temperatures, since they can’t sweat like you and I can. Panting is said to increase the evaporation of water (and presumably, therefore, heat) from the animal’s lungs, tongue, and mouth. Perhaps increasing the evaporation of water to reduce heat makes the animal thirsty. The panting with an open mouth of which we hear today in Psalm 119:129-136 is clearly a sign of longing (v.131). Not a dog but a hart or deer is the animal that seems to be mind in the psalms, however (see Psalm 42:1, although the Hebrew word there is different). I suppose we could say that longing for the Lord now through faith in Jesus Christ is a way of reducing our eternal heat! (You can find my previous comments on Psalm 119:129-136 by following this link.)

A 1530 woodcut by an unidentified master connected to the Reformation-era writings, depicting Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem and the TempleWhether a new office building, home, or church, people often find something they wish had been designed or constructed differently. “Nothing is perfect,” we might even say. Well, in some sense we can say the Temple Ezekiel is shown today in our reading of Ezekiel 40-42 was perfect! At least its description and vision was intended to communicate to the people in terms they would understand what the Messiah’s kingdom would be like.
(The image with this post is of a 1530 woodcut by an unidentified artist, depicting Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem and the Temple; I’m sorry there isn’t a larger version of the image, but for a higher quality image see from where we got it.) That Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ, Who perfectly kept God’s law and suffered all that was necessary to redeem us from our sins. A Temple is no longer needed, as God dwells in our midst in the human flesh of the God-man Jesus Christ (John 1:14). My previous post with more on today’s reading is here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Ezekiel 40-48 and the vision of the Temple. 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 Ezekiel 40-42 for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal apparently contain any hymns said to refer to Ezekiel 40-42.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:29 AM

October 22, 2007

Ps 119:121-128 / Eze 37-39

The issuing of home-loans with ballooning interest rates to less-than-ideal borrowers has given the U.S. and global economies fits and mortgages in general a bad name. As I imagine most of you know, such home mortgages pledge the property as security for the repayment of the debt. There is a related pledge of something as security for the repayment of a debt in our reading of Psalm 119:121-128 today. In verse 122, the only verse in the section said not to refer directly or indirectly to the Lord’s Word, the psalmist pleads with the Lord to “be surety for thy servant for good” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “Ensure your servant’s well-being” NIV). The psalmist’s constant prayer is that the Lord would put Himself between the psalmist and his enemies as a guarantee for the psalmist’s advantage, as a mediator. As an illustration we do well to remember Judah’s promise to Jacob to be “surety” for his brother Benjamin (Genesis 43:9; 44:32), but we do best to remember how the psalmist’s and our prayer is fulfilled in the God-man Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and human beings (1 Timothy 2:5). You can read more of my comments on Psalm 119:121-128 by following this link.

Contemporary American digital artist Duncan Long’s depiction of the valley of dry bonesWhen someone grows up, as I did, using The Lutheran Hymnal and its historic 1-year lectionary, we are used to hearing Joel 2:28-32 on Pentecost. I vividly remember the first time I was in a congregation using Lutheran Worship’s more modern 3-year lectionary on Pentecost in the A series and heard as the Old Testament reading the section of Ezekiel 37-39 that tells of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones. (The image with this post is contemporary American digital artist Duncan Long’s depiction of the valley of dry bones; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it [just scroll down a little bit].) One of the reasons I vividly remember that use of Ezekiel 37:1-14, I think, was because I missed the connection, if it was made, between the “wind” and the “breath” and the “Spirit” there and in the usual Acts 2 account of the Pentecost events. As you might expect, I make that connection in my previous post on these chapters. Remember that, while there are different ways the Holy Spirit can be given and different manifestations of His presence, we know for sure that He is given to us with water and the word in Holy Baptism, where God also rescues us from death and the devil and gives us the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.

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.

There are no Old Testament readings from Ezekiel 37-39 in the historic 1-year lectionary, nor are there any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer to Ezekiel 37-39.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 21, 2007

Ps 119:113-120 / Eze 34-36 / Folo

We live in an increasingly “green” society, where the three Rs are reduce, reuse, and recycle. What kind of God do we have, then, when we read in Psalm 119:113-120 that He discards the wicked like dross (v.119)? First of all, knowing what “dross” is helps. The Hebrew word seeg in this passage usually refers to the oxide skimmed off in the refining process, but the root word has to do with that which is turned away or turned back, like our hearts before conversion turn away from God (Psalm 53:3) and the unfaithful idolaters whom God turns back and thoroughly shames (Zephaniah 1:6). Dross from the refining process is not really good for anything, and so the only real option for it is discarding. Even our environmental consciousness recognizes that not everything can be reused or recycled; some things must still be thrown away. Remember, too, that even those of us who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ have some dross that God is refining out of us by way of trials and afflictions. We should thank Him for those afflictions, because by them the dross alone is discarded, not us in our entireties. (You can find my previous comments on Psalm 119:113-120 by following this link, and there’s a passing reference to verse 113 in this previously posted Q&A.)

Contemporary Palestinian artist Zaki Baboun’s depiction of God, the True Shepherd“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want.” What the psalmist and we say as facts are indeed true; the prophecy we read today in Ezekiel 34-36 has for us been fulfilled. As sheep, all of us can be comforted that our Good Shepherd has laid down His life for us, that we might have the full measure of eternal life through Him. As an undershepherd of the Good Shepherd, I am comforted in that, even though He has placed me over a portion of His flock, that portion of His flock and the responsibility for its care is still ultimately His. The image with this post is a depiction of God, the True Shepherd, by contemporary Palestinian artist Zaki Baboun, who was born in and still lives in Bethlehem, a town well-known for shepherds who came from there and shepherds who came to there. (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 all of today’s post here.

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

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Ezekiel 34:11-16 as the Old Testament reading for Misericordias Domini (the Second Sunday after Easter, which is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday), and Ezekiel 36:25-27 is the appointed Old Testament reading for Exaudi (the Sunday after Ascension). Hymn #227 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Ezekiel 36:36.

The Biblog folo today is very brief. In response to the last line in yesterday's comments on Ezekiel 31-33 I received from one reader a simple but appropriate "Amen!"

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

October 20, 2007

Ps 119:105-112 / Eze 31-33

I didn’t get very far in my reading of Psalm 119:105-112 today before I had to stop and try to figure something out. In the NIV of verse 106, the psalmist says “I have taken an oath and confirmed it”, but I wondered what one does to confirm something more than take an oath. Other translations shed some light on the matter: “I have sworn” (KJV, ASV, NASB, ESV) “will perform” (KJV) or “have confirmed” (ASV, “confirmed” ESV) or “will confirm” (NASB). Put aside for a moment the matter of whether the performing or confirming is in the past or future and take note of the translation “perform”. What confirms a commitment more than taking an oath is performing or fulfilling the commitment, ratifying, establishing, or imposing it. Returning to the matter of the past or future tense, I can tell you after a closer look at the Hebrew that the past tense is a more accurate translation of the original. The psalmist says he has already fulfilled (maybe is fulfilling?) his oath to follow the Lord’s righteous laws or judgments. Even when we fail to perfectly fulfill our oaths, we can be comforted because God has perfectly fulfilled His, that of sending a Savior from our failures in the person of Jesus Christ through faith in Whom we have forgiveness of sins and thereby eternal life. (You can find other comments on more of this psalm section by following this link.)

An unidentified artist’s depiction of a watchman on Jerusalem’s wallAlthough only a few verses in Ezekiel 31-33 deal with the watchman, in many ways I think those verses are nevertheless the most meaningful for us of all those we read today. (You can find comments on the whole reading here, and a folo on chapter 33 with a reference to Ezekiel 18 here.) We’ve previously heard the watchman imagery used for prophets and pastors, and I even used a watchman image in this post ten months ago. I think I like the unidentified artist’s image with this post better (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it [I’m sure the link is right, but it wasn’t working when I made the post]). The watchman seems to see something off on the horizon that may be a reason for concern, and he’s got his trumpet with him in case he needs to sound the alarm. We trust pastors to be our spiritual watchmen, but too often we hear of congregations where no alarm is sounded, even when the danger has come so far as entering the people’s midst. May God ever provide us faithful watchmen who recognize the Lord Jesus and warn early and often of anything that or anyone who would lead us away from Him.

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 Ezekiel 31-33, but hymn #331 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Ezekiel 33:11.

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

October 19, 2007

Ps 119:97-104 / Eze 28-30

They say the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. I suppose to some extent that saying is even true when it comes to learning matters of the faith. Yet, today in Psalm 119:97-104 we hear how the Lord’s commands make us wiser than our enemies, in part because the commands stay with us (v.98). The Lord Himself teaches them to us (v.102), and His Spirit works in us to bring about the beginnings of obedience. Thank God there is forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ for when we do not obey. (You can find other comments on Psalm 119:97-104 by following this link.)

An unidentified photographer’s picture of a rose budOkay, maybe I was thinking of Ezekiel 16:7’s reference to the bud of the field when I picked the image for this post, an unidentified photographer’s picture of a rose bud (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 Ezekiel 28-30 the kind of budding the Lord refers to appears to be that of an animal horn as a symbol of strength (Ezekiel 29:21). Recently I heard some Texas hunters say that, after all the rain-produced deer food, if they don’t see good racks on the deer this coming season then they won’t ever see them. I guess they’ll know in a few weeks. Although Ezekiel’s original hearers had to wait for the Lord’s prophecy to be fulfilled, we don’t have to wonder about the horn the Lord promises will bud and grow, since the Lord has already revived the strength of Israel by fulfilling that prophecy by sending Jesus, “Fruit of the mystic rose, / As of that rose the stem; / The root whence mercy ever flows, / The babe of Bethlehem” (TLH #341). You can find more comments on Ezekiel 28-30 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 Ezekiel 28-30, nor are there any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer to Ezekiel 28-30.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 18, 2007

Ps 119:89-96 / Eze 25-27 / Folo

Reading Psalm 119:89-96 today I stopped and reflected on its opening verse, verse 89. What does it mean that the Lord’s word is settled in heaven (KJV, ASV, NASB; “stands firm” NIV)? Are we talking about the spoken and heard word, the written word, the Son Who is the Word? What does it mean that it is settled or stands firm, is that literal or figurative? Is the heaven the sky, the place of God’s eternal Presence, or what? The spoken and heard word is the same as the written word and the Son Who is the Word. The constancy of the heavens and the earth are said to assure us that the Lord’s Word is trustworthy. I’m not yet convinced that the “constancy” of the sky and ground reassure me about the trustworthiness of God’s Word. We see so much inconstancy of the sky and ground, and we really come to trust God’s spoken and written word as we come to trust God’s incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, through faith in Whom we have forgiveness of sins. (You can find my previous comments on other aspects of the psalm section by following this link.)

Contemporary Swiss artist Annie Vallotton’s depiction of Tyre, against which Ezekiel prophesies in chapter 27Today we read Ezekiel 25-27 and its prophecies against nations such as Tyre, depicted in the image with this post by contemporary Swiss artist Annie Vallotton (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it [scroll down to chapter 27]). My previous comments are here, but today I also wanted to comment about understanding how these prophecies apply to us. Where in the Old Testament there was the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and other nations that generally opposed Israel, today in New Testament times there are people who by faith in Jesus Christ are a part of the Israel that is the Church and there are people who by their unbelief are generally opposed to the Church. Salvation was by faith then, and is by faith now, and descent from the race of the Israelites without faith was no more a guarantee of salvation than membership in a church without faith is a guarantee of salvation today. Then and now, God wants all people to be saved, and a bottom-line message for all of us today is to live every day in repentance and faith so that we do not receive God’s wrath like city of Tyre did but instead receive His salvation.

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 Ezekiel 25-27, nor are any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer to verses from Ezekiel 25-27.

The Biblog folo today is just a link a reader sent that somewhat coincided with yesterday's post.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 17, 2007

Ps 119:81-88 / Eze 22-24

How much are you and I longing for the final and complete fulfillment of the Lord’s salvation? Are we almost fainting from the strain? In Psalm 119:81-88 the psalmist says he is. (You can find my previous comments on this psalm section by following this link.) The psalmist is talking about longing for immediate deliverance from the affliction of his enemies, of course, but for some of us our immediate deliverance from affliction may be the final and complete fulfillment of the Lord’s salvation, either in our deaths or His return. Either way it comes, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that deliverance will be a huge blessing and positive change in our lives. Why aren’t we longing for that fulfillment more than we are?

An unidentified artist’s depiction of the destruction of Solomon’s TempleWrath is not often described as “fiery” for no reason. Our reading of Ezekiel 22-24 today is chuck full of expressions of God’s wrath against Jerusalem and Judah that include fire, whether the refining of chapter 22 or the cooking of chapter 24. More than just figures of speech, God actually used fire to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple, as depicted in the image with this post, 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 find my previous comments on the whole reading here, and remember that, with faith in Jesus Christ, God’s wrath is directed not against us but against His only-begotten Son. We instead of wrath receive His innocence, righteousness, and blessedness.

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.

You won’t find any Old Testament readings from Ezekiel 22-24 in the historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services, nor are any of its verses said to be referred to by hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 16, 2007

Ps 119:73-80 / Eze 19-21

You may know that God’s creation of the first man and woman was different from the rest of His creating, as everything except for the man and woman was created by God’s speaking. God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7), and God made the woman from a part of the man (Genesis 2:22). Today in Psalm 119:73-80, the psalmist speaks as if the Lord also made him in a special way (v.73). Four different verbs are used among the three passages, but the ideas behind them are certainly related. (See the following related passages: Job 10:8; Psalm 138:8; 139:13-16.) Not only did God create humankind in a special way, but we are also created in the image of God. Despite humanity’s fall into sin, we retain some aspect of God’s image and our status as a special part of His creation. That status is the basis for the psalmist’s appeal we hear today. For more on that appeal and the rest of the psalm section, see the comments on it that you can find by following this link.

Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel’s 1906 charcoal and watercolor gouache on paper, depicting Babylon as the Lord’s sword against JudahNot uncommon is a description of the United States as God’s sword of wrath against terrorists. Perhaps equally possible, although far less palatable, is the idea that the terrorists are God’s sword of wrath against the United States. Regardless of the contemporary application, we know that in our reading of Ezekiel 19-21 today Babylon is described as the Lord’s sword of Judgment against Judah and her capital Jerusalem. Especially in chapter 21 we hear the Lord through Ezekiel describe that sword, and, though the idea is not directly expressed, we know that the prophecy about the sword was intended to lead the people hearing it to repent. We can be sure that God similarly wants us to repent, and we can also be sure that we can be comforted by the forgiveness of our sins through faith in the Messiah promised in such passages of our reading today as Ezekiel 21:27. By the way, the image with this post is by Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel, said to be “the greatest Russian painter of the Symbolist movement”, and is a1906 charcoal and watercolor gouache on paper depicting Babylon as the Lord’s sword (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 link does not seem to be working at the present time but is the correct link to the page from where we got the image]). You can find more about 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 Ezekiel 19-21, nor are any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer to Ezekiel 19-21.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 15, 2007

Ps 119:65-72 / Eze 16-18

In case you’ve missed it, there are all sorts of campaigns against fat, like like this one, in order to keep our hearts fit. We might say that in Psalm 119:65-72 today there is a campaign of a sort against a different kind of fat heart. When you read verse 70 in the KJV, ASV, and NASB you hear about a heart that is “as fat as grease” or “covered with fat”. Where the concern of our modern campaigns targeting fat and hearts is physical, the concern of the psalmist’s comments targeting fat and hearts is spiritual. The hearts of the arrogant are said to be figuratively covered with a thick fat, which makes them insensible and obdurate, so the NIV gets the paraphrase right by referring to hearts that are “callous and unfeeling”. (See the similar expressions in Psalm 17:10; 73:7; Isaiah 6:10; and Jeremiah 5:28.) All of our hearts are insensible and hard before the Lord converts us by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. Thus, there’s a providential connection to our second reading today, in which we hear of the Lord giving us new hearts, especially in Ezekiel 18:31. (You can find my previous comments on Psalm 119:65-72 by following this link.)

An image of the deodar cedar, for which image no photographer or artist was givenThere is a something beautiful about a stately cedar tree, especially around Christmas time and maybe even covered with snow. (The image with this post is an unidentified photographer’s or artist’s depiction of the deodar cedar; 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 don’t often hear about it, but there are legitimate Biblical symbolisms to Christmas trees, cedar or not. Today in Ezekiel 16-18 we hear a Biblical figure of speech which can give some meaning to Christmas trees. In Ezekiel 17:22-24, the Lord promises to take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it so that it becomes home to every kind of bird. In Mark 4:32, Jesus’s parable of the mustard seed could be said to draw on the Lord’s statement through Ezekiel, teaching that the Kingdom of God may have insignificant beginnings but one day the world will see its true greatness and power. Even now the Church, like Her Lord, is despised and rejected, but on the last day the the world will see the victory of all those who believe in Jesus Christ and thereby receive the forgiveness of sins. You can find my previous comments on Ezekiel 16-18 here, and there is a folo on the mother and father of Ezekiel 16 here and another on the hidden watchman in Ezekiel 18 here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Ezekiel 18:20 and who is punished for whose sins. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Ezekiel 18:30-32 as the Old Testament reading on Trinity Sunday, and hymn #333 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Ezekiel 16:60.

Thanks to a reader’s question via email, there’s a new Q&A on Ezekiel 11:1-4 here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 14, 2007

Ps 119:57-64 / Eze 13-15

Some congregations have “Friendship Sundays”, on which people in the congregation are especially supposed to invite friends to come to church with them. There is really nothing wrong and many things right with such “each one reach one” events. When I’ve had to preach or otherwise participate in services on such Sundays, however, I’ve often wondered about the tenuous theological link that some try to make. The Bible’s use of the word “friend” does not really transfer to such “Friendship Sundays”. Today’s reading of Psalm 119:57-64 is a good case in point. Note in verse 63 how the psalmist says he is a “friend” (NIV; “companion” KJV, ASV, NASB) to those who already believe. A similar word is used to express Daniel’s relationship with his three “friends”, who are “friends” because of their common faith and loyalty to God (Daniel 2:13-18). People who joined together as thieves or destroyers or as corrupt priests are also said to be “knit together” as friends. Obviously we do not have to limit our use of the word “friends” to believers, nor am I suggesting that we sin when we have non-Christian “friends”. Our reading today does make us think, however, about those with whom we are most closely associated in saving faith in Jesus Christ and how and where that union takes place. You can read more about that in my previous comments on Heth, which you can find by following this link.

A depiction of the useless vine of Ezekiel 15, done by contemporary Swiss artist Annie VallottonAs we read Ezekiel 13-15 today and consult my previous post on those chapters, I fixated on the vine metaphor again. The vine imagery is certainly one that is used throughout the Bible, and knowing the Old Testament background in such places as Ezekiel 15 helps us better appreciate Jesus’s teaching not only in John 15 but also in all the vineyard parables He teaches. Fire and destruction is coming for the world “vineyard” in which we find ourselves, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our “branches” will be spared because we are connected to the Vine and thereby bear fruit! The image of the useless vine with this post is by contemporary Swiss artist Annie Vallotton (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 have to scroll down to chapter 15]).

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 Ezekiel 13-15, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to Ezekiel 13-15.

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

October 13, 2007

Ps 119:49-56 / Eze 10-12

The usual wisecrack about Country Western music has to do with wives leaving, dogs dying, trucks not running, and the like. Some rock music is worse, of course, focusing on drugs, sex, and things like that. About what do you sing? In Psalm 119:49-56 today we hear how the psalmist sings about the Lord’s decrees wherever he is and whenever he is awake. This whole section, the lines of which begin with the Hebrew letter Zayin, is full of comforting teaching, as I’ve pointed out in previous comments on it, which you can find by following this link.

Raphael Sanzio’s oil on panel painting of Ezekiel’s visionIn our reading of Ezekiel 10-12 today we hear of the glory of the Lord departing the Temple which is a highly significant event, especially as it prepares us for the later vision given to Ezekiel of the Lord’s glory returning to the “new” Temple. Even today we hear God promise to return the people of Israel to His land. The reading speaks law and Gospel to Ezekiel’s original hearers, and so the Holy Spirit can also use it to speak law and Gospel to us. There is more about the reading in my previous post on the reading, and there is a folo to that post regarding the “bones” of Ezekiel 11 here. (The image with this post is Renaissance artist Raphael Sanzio’s oil on panel painting of Ezekiel’s vision; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.)

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

You won’t find any uses of Ezekiel 10-12 for Old Testament readings in the historic 1-year lectionary or references by hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

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

October 12, 2007

Ps 119:41-48 / Eze 7-9

Where do we find the word of truth? I suppose most of us would say “In the Bible”, and of course we’d be right. Today in Psalm 119:41-48 the psalmist refers to it being in his mouth (v.43). If we think of that as applying to the psalmist as inspired or as applying to Jesus speaking the psalm, we don’t have any problems with that. (See how 1 Kings 17:24 where the inspired prophet Elijah.) Can we think of our speaking those words as our own and of them still being true? Absolutely! When we say back to God what He has said to us and otherwise confess the faith the word of truth is in our mouths, too. See verses 46 and 13. With the psalmist we pray that God not permit us to suffer such circumstances that we are unable to confess the truth. I think we can safely say we’ll never find ourselves in such circumstances that with God’s help we are unable to confess the truth. (You can find more comments on Psalm 119:41-48 by following this link.)

Surrealist Salvador Dali’s “Cherub super limen domus” illustrating Ezekiel 9:3We may have some trouble imagining what the visions described in passages like Ezekiel 7-9 were like to see, but I think we can safely say that the visions had to more recognizable than Salvador Dali’s illustration of part of one of those visions! The image with this post is one of the surrealist’s 105 illustrations for the 1969 Biblia Sacra (Holy Bible). The work is titled “Cherub super limen domus”, which comes from the Latin Vulgate of Ezekiel 9:3 and can be translated roughly, “Cherub above the door of the house”. (To see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) Dali’s illustration may be characteristically hard to understand, but God’s revelation to Ezekiel isn’t. I pray my previous post on the chapters help you see what they say to us about Jesus Christ and the salvation that is ours through faith in Him.

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 Ezekiel 7-9 for any Old Testament readings, nor does The Lutheran Hymnal apparently contain any hymns that refer to Ezekiel 7-9.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 11, 2007

Ps 119:33-40 / Eze 4-6

People are quick to blame others for their own failures. If our completing a particular task can be taken to depend on someone else doing or not doing something for or to us, most likely we will take whatever opportunity we can to pass the blame off on them when we fail to complete the task. Knowing that tendency, as I read Psalm 119:33-40 today I wondered about what appears in the NIV to be cause-effect relationships in verses such as 33 and 34. We should not think that God has in any way failed to teach us His decrees or given us understanding and that He is to blame for our failing to keep the decrees or the law. The key to rightly understanding the verses in question is to look past the NIV and see that the Hebrew conjunction waw that can be variously translated is variously translated in other versions. The connecting idea between the first and second halves of verses 33 and 34 can be purpose instead of cause and effect. God teaches us His statutes and gives us understanding of His law so that we will keep them, but, if we do not do so, the fault is ours alone. Thank God that He offers us free forgiveness for those times through faith in Jesus Christ! (You can read my previous comments on Psalm 119:33-40 by following this link.)

From “Children’s Bible Illustrated”, American-born artist Diane Shimon’s depiction of Ezekiel’s prophetic actionsAs Jeremiah was in Judah at God’s direction performing prophetic actions regarding the coming siege and fall of Jerusalem, so, we read today in Ezekiel 4-6, Ezekiel was in Babylon at God’s direction performing prophetic actions regarding the coming siege and fall of Jerusalem. The image with this post, of an illustration for Children’s Bible Illustrated done by American-born but Israel-residing contemporary artist Diane Shimon, depicts the prophetic actions we hear about today (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Aside from the historical value of the prophecy, you and I can think of how the church in our time is under siege. As God promised to preserve a remnant in Ezekiel’s time, so He promises to preserve a remnant also in our time. (For more on today’s reading, see this post, and see here and here for folos regarding the numbers in Ezekiel 4:5-6 and 10-11.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Ezekiel 4:10-11 and portion sizes. 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 Ezekiel 4-6, nor does does The Lutheran Hymnal contain any hymns said to refer to Ezekiel 4-6.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 10, 2007

Ps 119:25-32 / Eze 1-3 / Lamentations wrap-up

Some people like to complete a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the cover of the box it came in; I can hardly imagine doing that. How are you supposed to finish the puzzle if you don’t know what it is supposed to look like when you are done? Today in Psalm 119:25-32 we hear the psalmist say that he has set his heart on the Lord’s laws (v.30 in the NIV). One commentator points out that the idea is like setting one’s eyes on a rule or guide that norms everything else. The Latin expression the commentator used, probably intentionally, is norma normans, which we usually translate as “norming norm” and use in reference to the role Holy Scripture plays in our lives. You may also know that the Lutheran Confessions, the writings found in The Book of Concord are called a norma normata, which we usually translate as “normed norm”, since they themselves are first normed by Holy Scripture before they norm other teaching and practice. Would that all Lutheran Christians took both Scripture and the Confessions seriously enough to let them norm all teaching and practice! Surely then the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ would boldly be proclaimed in word and deed. (You can find my previous posts on Psalm 119:25-32 by following this link.)

A 1956 etching by Marc Chagall, depicting the call of EzekielI always find interesting the different ways that artists choose to represent Biblical events and accounts. As we read Ezekiel 1-3 today, the image with this post appropriately enough is Marc Chagall’s depiction of the calling of Ezekiel (to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). Chagall (1887-1985) is a French artist of Russian-Jewish descent, so he of course has his own unique take on the prophet Ezekiel. In the etching you likely notice the Divine hand unrolling the scroll for the prophet to proclaim or eat (note the open mouth). You may not have noticed the scroll being unrolled right to left, which is the direction Hebrew words go across the page. At first I thought the image was upside down, but Chagall is showing Ezekiel in his posture and relationship towards God. You can read more about one particular collection of Chagall’s Biblical etchings here, and you can find my previous comments on today’s reading here, a brief folo regarding the four living creatures here, and a folo regarding UFOs in the Bible here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Ezekiel 1:2 and the chronology of the kings. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

Ezekiel 1-3 is not used by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Old Testament readings, but hymn #609 in The Lutheran Hymnal is said to refer to Ezekiel 3:17.

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

Who was the author? Like the book of Jeremiah, the Holy Spirit is usually thought to have inspired the book of Lamentations through the so-called “weeping prophet” Jeremiah, perhaps written down by his scribe Baruch.
What is the book? The book is a collection of five laments, prayers or cries to God in distressful situations, made in connection with the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
Where was it written? Jeremiah’s laments were likely written down in or around Jerusalem.
When was it written? Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C., and the book was likely written shortly thereafter.
Why? One commentator seems to say at least somewhat rightly, “Lamentations describes Jerusalem’s destruction not only for its own sake but also for the profound theological lessons to be learned from it.” The Holy Spirit can use those lessons to speak words of law and Gospel to us today.
How? Comprised completely of poetry, although the line-lengths vary, Lamentations consists of five laments; the first, second, fourth, and fifth having 22 verses, while the third has 66 verses. All of the laments except for the fifth are acrostics, which means each successive stanza or line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Lamentations, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume VIII: Jeremiah, Lamentations, translated by David Patrick and James Kennedy and published as two volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (There are some 120 pages on Lamentations.)
  • Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: The Old Testament, Volume II, The Poetical and the Prophetical Books. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1924. (This volume, one that is in our Grace library, has 11 pages on Lamentations.)

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 12:17 AM

October 09, 2007

Ps 119:17-24 / La 3-5 / Folo

We all may gave seen the cartoon depictions of an angel on one shoulder of a person and a devil on the other shoulder, with the angel prompting the person to do the right thing and the devil prompting the person to do the wrong thing. (I can’t help but think of a twist on that usual image that was part of “That 70s Show”, where they put Batman on one of Fes’s shoulders and the Riddler on the other.) Today in Psalm 119:17-24 we hear how God’s testimonies (KJV, ASV, NASB; “statutes” NIV) are the psalmist’s counselors. Better than the counsel of people, especially unbelievers, is the counsel of the Lord. The Lord’s counsel is eternal and guaranteed, and, as the psalmist says, it is found in the Lord’s Word. Or, we might say that the Lord’s Word, Jesus Christ, is the embodiment of the Lord’s counsel, for He is the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), and, by giving us the forgiveness of sins through faith in Him, He is the Counselor or Comforter par excellance (see John 14:16 and Isaiah 11:2). You can find more on Psalm 119:17-24 by following this link.

An unidentified photographer’s picture of the February 23, 2007, sunrise over a marshProbably all too easily we fall into ruts where getting up and out of bed in the morning is something we dread. How different our outlook can be if we remember that each morning and new day brings new examples of the Lord’s compassions! (The image with this post is an unidentified photographer’s picture of the February 23, 2007, sunrise over an unidentified marsh; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) That faithful, love-motivated promise is one of the bright spots we read today in Lamentations 3-5, specifically Lamentations 3:22-23. Such is the Lord’s goodness towards those who love Him, not because they love Him (Lamentations 3:25), but because of His great love, love that sent Jesus to die on the cross to save us from our sins. Truly, “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord!” (Lamentations 3:26). You can read more about Lamentations 3-5 in this post.

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

There are two Old Testament readings from Lamentations 3-5 in the historic 1 year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services: Lamentations 3:18-36 for Jubilate (Third Sunday after Easter) and Lamentations 3:22-25 for the Day of National Thanksgiving. There are also three hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal that are said to refer or allude to verses from Lamentations 3-5.

Today’s Biblog folo is a reader’s comment on the image used with yesterday’s post:

The Rembrandt seems an excellent choice for these dismal opening chapters of Lamentations. They really bring home the desperation of the siege.

I agree on both counts. Sometimes picking an image for the day’s reading is easy, and sometimes picking an image for the day’s reading is hard, but I would say yesterday’s was one of the easier ones.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 08, 2007

Ps 119:9-16 / La 1-2 / Jeremiah wrap-up

In some circles it is quite popular to speak of spiritual “seekers”, as if we find God by taking the initiative ourselves. In today’s reading of Psalm 119:9-16 one might be reinforced in that wrong view, as verse 10 speaks of “seeking” the Lord with one’s whole heart. We rightly believe, teach, and confess that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him, and so we understand this particular psalm verse in light of the rule of faith induced from Scripture as a whole. We are first sought and found by God, and then we seek and find God in prayer. That seeking in prayer is the idea in Psalm 119:10, as it was in the sermon I preached recently on Matthew 7:7-12, with a view to Matthew 6:33. The most important thing we seek, or for which we inquire of God, is God’s righteousness, the forgiveness of sins, given for the sake of Jesus Christ and His holy life and innocent suffering and death. You might note that the NIV renders the Hebrew verb in the present tense, “I seek”, while the KJV, ASV, and NASB all render the verb in the past tense, “I have sought”. While the past tense is more accurate in this case, we should never think that praying once is enough. Rather, we should, as St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray, or seek, without ceasing. (If you are seeking more comments on Psalm 119:9-16, you can follow this link.)

A depiction of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van RijnJeremiah, the weeping prophet, is not the only one who is weeping in today’s reading of Lamentations 1-2; note the city weeping in verse 2, the roads to Zion in verse 4, along with the priests and maidens, etc. (The image with this post is a depiction of Jeremiah done by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn [1606-1669], who is one of Europe’s greatest painters and printmakers; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) There’s no surprise we have Jeremiah and others weeping in Lamentations, since laments, a feature of mourning, are prayers or cries to God in distressful situations--in this case the fall of Jerusalem. You can read more about laments, the book of Lamentations, and today’s reading in my previous post on these chapters. Remember, too, that as we grieve in sorrow over our sin we can trust in God for forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ and thereby be comforted!

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 Lamentations 1-2, nor are there any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal that are said to refer to Lamentations 1-2.

Today I have a Jeremiah 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 Jeremiah through the prophet Jeremiah, although the book’s contents may have been written down by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, who may also have been inspired to write other parts of the book.
What is the book? The book of Jeremiah is a record of God’s prophecies made through Jeremiah during the reigns of five different kings of Judah and probably around the same time as the work of prophets like Habakkuk and Ezekiel.
Where was it written? Given that Jeremiah stayed in and around Jerusalem at the Lord’s command, the book was likely recorded in the vicinity of the city.
When was it written? The approximate dates for Jeremiah’s prophetic work are 626-586 B.C.. Parts of the book may have been recorded before the fall of Jerusalem, but the book was likely completed shortly after that fall of Judah’s capital to the Babylonians. Note well that the prophetic oracles are not thought to be in chronological order.
Why? While Jeremiah foretells God’s punishment for sins in the form of the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah’s exile to Babylon, he also promises God’s comfort of forgiveness in the form of the people’s return to their land and city. Moreover, he reports God’s promises of Christ, His kingdom, and the New Testament in His blood.
How? Jeremiah’s book gives its inspired message in prose and poetry, along the way using a number of memorable passages. At God’s direction, he performs prophetic actions and proclaims prophecies rich in symbolism. Repeated phrases are also common, as are repeated consonants and other sounds in the Hebrew original.

If you are interested in further reading on the book of Jeremiah, you may make use of the following:
  • Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume VIII: Jeremiah, Lamentations, translated by David Patrick and James Kennedy and published as two volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (There are some 760 pages on Jeremiah.)
  • Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: The Old Testament, Volume II, The Poetical and the Prophetical Books. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1924. (This volume, one that is in our Grace library, has 103 pages on Jeremiah.)

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

October 07, 2007

Ps 119:1-8 / Jer 51-52

Who is it that is completely blameless, who has done nothing wrong? As we read Psalm 119:1-8 today and begin again the 22-part acrostic poem, we do well to remember that Jesus alone is blameless and has done nothing wrong. Truly, as the opening of the whole psalm confesses, He is blessed. We can strive to live a perfect life, but we will fail, so we plead with the final verse of today’s stanza, “Do not utterly forsake me!” And, we know that on account of Jesus’s holy life and innocent suffering and death He does not forsake us but graciously delivers us instead. (You can find my previous posts on the psalm section by following this link.)

A depiction of Jehoiachin’s release done by an unidentified illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s 1894 “Treasures of the Bible”As dark as Jeremiah’s prophecies in the book that bears his name have been, there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the book, as there also has been glimmers along the way. Today in Jeremiah 51-52 we come to the end of the book with Jehoiachin being released from prison in Babylon and being given a seat at the king of Babylon’s table. (The image with this post is a depiction of Jehoiachin’s release done by an unidentified illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s 1894 Treasures 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.) That glimmer of hope at the end is also noted in my previous post on these chapters. Today I might also point out that 2 Kings concludes with pretty much the same “happy” ending and that there appears to be some contrast between Jehoiachin, who was released from prison and treated well by the Babylonian king, and Zedekiah, who remained in prison until the day he died (Jeremiah 52:11). I don’t think we want to make too much of the better treatment of Jehoiachin, other than it being a sign of better things to come. (For example, table fellowship with an unfaithful king is not comparable to table fellowship with the Lord.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Jeremiah 51:8 and Babylon and its fall. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

You won’t find any Old Testament readings from Jeremiah 51-52 in the historic 1-year lectionary, nor are there any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal that are said to refer to Jeremiah 51-52.

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

October 06, 2007

Ps 118 / Jer 48-50

As I read Psalm 118 today, I wondered about the difference between the first-person singular speaking in verses 5-21 and 28 and the first-person plural speaking elsewhere, such as in verses 25-27. My previous comments, which you can find by following this link, did not really address the difference in speakers. The difference seems to be the king speaking in verses 5-21 and 28 and the people (led by their religious leaders) speaking in the other verses. In those where the king speaks, notice how even the king describes his deeds as the Lord’s deeds (for example, v.10 and v.15). We do well to remember the truth that the good things brought about through us are indeed the Lord’s works, even as the very faith in Jesus Christ that saves us from our sins is the gift of God.

A FEMA picture of the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York CityGrowing up as I did in the 70s, the image of terrorism that used to come to my mind was that of a masked hijacker on an airplane holding hostages on a runway. I think that since September 11, 2001, the image of terrorism that comes to people’s minds is that of hijackers flying airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City (to see a larger version of the FEMA image with this post click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it). In our post-9/11 world we are reminded of the ubiquitous threat of terrorism--the national threat level is just the most obvious example. Reading Jeremiah 48-50 today I was struck by the mentions of “terror”, such as in Jeremiah’s two frequently-used expressions as translated by the NIV “terror and pit and snare” in Jeremiah 48:42 and “terror on every side” in Jeremiah 49:29. (You can find my previous post with comments on more of today’s reading here.) Like the NIV, other translations, such as the KJV, use the word “fear” in the two verses, although the Hebrew words are different. In the case of “terror on every side”, we can say that the terror referred to is more extreme than that of “terror and pit and snare”, and we know that deliverance from this terror depends on God. We are rightly intimidated before a stronger or superior being or thing, but when God is on our side, as He is on account of saving faith in Him, there is nothing to fear, for no one is stronger than or superior to Him.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Jeremiah 48:13 and being ashamed of false gods. 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 Jeremiah 48-50, nor do any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal apparently refer to verses from Jeremiah 48-50.

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

October 05, 2007

Ps 117 / Jer 44-47 / Folo

If you read Psalm 117 today in the KJV, you see two exhortations to “praise” the Lord, although if you read it in the ASV or NASB the second exhortation is to “laud” the Lord and in the NIV to “extol” Him. The Hebrew words in the first and second halves of the psalm verse are different, although the words are surely synonymous in this context. If we had to make a distinction, the first verb emphasizes sincere and deep thankfulness and the second may have more of an emphasis on the mighty deeds that bring about the praise. Both can apply to us as we sincerely and deeply appreciate God’s saving us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and therefore praise God as a result! (You can find more comments on Psalm 117 by following this link.)

A depiction of the pagan goddess AsherahNon-christian religions past and present are rife with false gods and goddesses, such as Asherah, the Canaanite fertility goddess referred to in today’s reading of Jeremiah 44-47 as the “queen of heaven”. (Although it lacks precise identification, the image with this post is said to be a depiction of Asherah; 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 are pretty quick to identify Asherah worship and the poles set up in her honor as a false god and as false worship, but we are less quick to identify as a false god and as false worship what some groups that call themselves Christian worship. When Jesus is denied having won full salvation for us or is denied His divine nature or the full exercise of its attributes through His human nature, then the “Jesus” the so-called Christians worship is just as much a false god as the obviously false goddess Asherah. We all should repent of any attempts to re-form God in our own image or as constrained by our own reason, believing in the God revealed to us for mercy and forgiveness on account of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (You can read more comments about 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.

Jeremiah 44-47 is neither used by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Old Testament readings nor referred to by any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

Today’s Biblog Folo comes in response to a folo in yesterday’s post, in which I said didn’t know whether Jeremiah in the cistern would have starved or dehydrated first. A reader emailed, “You can live longer without food than without water, from all I’ve read, but they were already on short rations in Jerusalem.” We certainly do not know how long, if at all, Jeremiah had to go without food. The rations of bread do seem to be in view in Jeremiah 38:9, however, since in the court of the prison Jeremiah would have received a ration of bread, but in the pit he would have had to rely on others, who would have been unlikely to share their rations given the scarcity of provisions in the city.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 04, 2007

Ps 116 / Jer 41-43 / Folo

What do you think of when you think of rest? A short break between sets of exercise? An evening’s repose? Eternity with the Lord? Today as we read and pray Psalm 116 we call to our souls to be at rest (v.7). My study Bible suggests such rest is “a state of unthreatened well-being”. That description may not seem to match any of the types of rest I mentioned except for our eternal rest with the Lord, but as a result of the Lord’s blessings we have such rest now, whether we are awake or asleep, exerting ourselves during our exercise or catching our breath between sets. The Hebrew word manowach used in verse 7 refers primarily to a place of motionlessness and security, a place to settle down, a home, but even though we do not fully experience that rest now it is already ours, thanks to God’s presence and favor towards us in the Person of Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. (You can find my other comments on Psalm 116 by following this link.)

What is said to be the prohibiting of the flight to Egypt by French draughtsman Clément-Pierre Marillier (1740-1808)When we do not have a clear word of the Lord commanding or prohibiting something, we generally are free to do it or not to do it. In some cases we might even pray for a direct revelation on a particular matter but, in all likelihood, not receive it. We usually can act either way trusting the Lord to work good for us regardless of the decision. The question of the people of Judah’s fleeing to Egypt was not such an open matter, however. As we read today in Jeremiah 41-43, they asked the Lord for direction and got it, and they nevertheless acted contrary to it. (The image with this post is said to be Jeremiah prohibiting the flight to Egypt as depicted by French draughtsman Clément-Pierre Marillier [1740-1808], most likely one of his 300 “less-successful” drawings for a 12-volume edition of the Bible around the turn of the nineteenth century; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) As we can gather from today’s reading and see further tomorrow, the people were not at all sorry for their acting contrary to God’s Word and fully deserved His punishment. May God grant that we live every day in repentance over our sin and with faith in Him to forgive us for the sake of Jesus Christ. (My previous post on these chapters has more about today’s reading, and there is a folo on Jeremiah 42:7 here.)

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Ishmael and the killing of Gedaliah. 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 Jeremiah 41-43, nor are there any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal that are said to refer to Jeremiah 41-43.

The Biblog folo today has to do with yesterday’s image and post, specifically what was in the cistern Jeremiah was lowered into. A reader emailed the following response to my comment that the image showed Jeremiah in water despite Jeremiah 38:6’s statement there was no water in the cistern:

There was “mire”, which is slimy mud and water; I think the picture might fairly be said to depict that kind of mess, which would have been more dangerous than water, I think. And, you can’t drink it, which I took to be the meaning of the text.

My study Bible suggests that while Zedekiah’s officials wanted Jeremiah dead, they did not want to kill him themselves, and another commentator grants they wanted to ease their conscience by thinking they had not shed his blood but also suggests the officials threw Jeremiah into the cistern because they wanted him to suffer a slow and painful death. Ebed-Melech, who appeals to Zedekiah to rescue Jeremiah, seems more concerned about Jeremiah starving than drowning (Jeremiah 38:9), although Jeremiah may well have dehydrated in there without drinkable water (I don't know which happens first). In verse 6, the “mire” of the KJV and ASV is translating the same word as “mud” in the NIV and NASB. The idea seems to be wet dirt (in contrast to dry dirt) as that which settles in a cistern. Jeremiah certainly seems to have been stuck in the mire or mud and unable to get out, eventually to die a slow and painful death if not delivered as he was. We can rightly think of the example of Jeremiah when we hear the psalmists (for example, Psalm 40:2) sing of being cast into and delivered from the pit. (On the whole affair, we might also recall Joseph’s being cast into a pit, as narrated in Genesis 37:20-24.)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 03, 2007

Ps 115 / Jer 38-40

I was talking with a colleague at Concordia yesterday about the “prosperity gospel” preached by people like Joel Osteen, which “gospel” falsely claims that people are blessed with material goods as a result of faith. So, when I read Psalm 115 today, especially verse 14, I was intrigued about the nature of the “increase” expected from the Lord, especially since my study Bible said “in numbers, wealth and strength”. (You can find my previous comments on other aspects of the psalm by following this link.) The Hebrew verb yacaph has the general idea of “add”, “increase”, or “do again”, and the verb can be found in a variety of contexts. Negatively, the verb is sometimes used to refer to people adding to their sin or to the evil they commit. In Psalm 115:14, however, the idea seems to be more the Lord adding more people to the remnant of believers, the Church (as in Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 11:24). In the context of the psalm, the increased numbers may be more capable of offering resistance and be more awe-inspiring. We may not see numerical increases in the Church in every time and place, but we should remember that even if the numbers in a particular time and place decline, every soul gained is an increase to the Church’s overall number. Thank God that He has called us by the Gospel to make us a part of the Church, and pray that He keep us ever faithful.

Ken Tunell’s depiction of Jeremiah after being lowered into a cistern (Jeremiah 38:6)Today in Jeremiah 38-40 we hear how Jeremiah was put into a cistern because King Zedekiah did not have the nerve to stand up to his own officials and how Zedekiah then called for Jeremiah to be rescued from the cistern. (The image with this post is Ken Tunell’s depiction of Jeremiah after being lowered into the cistern, despite the text’s statement that there was no water in it; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) When Zedekiah later talked to Jeremiah, Zedekiah ignored what Jeremiah told him and told Jeremiah to lie to the king’s officials when they questioned him about Jeremiah’s conversation with Zedekiah. There was a lot of brokenness in the system then, as there is a lot of brokenness in the world even today. Servants of God are mistreated and ignored, but, as with Jeremiah, so also today, God accomplishes His purposes for His Church, pastors and people. He brings them to faith in Jesus Christ so that they might receive the forgiveness of sins by grace. (You can read more about today’s reading in this post.)

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.

Jeremiah 38-40 is not used by the historic 1-year lectionary for any Old Testament readings, nor are any of its verses referred to by any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 02, 2007

Ps 114 / Jer 35-37

Where do you find God? At the top of a snow-covered mountain? On a beach at sunset? I’m not saying you can’t find God at the top of a snow-covered mountain or on a beach at sunset, but usually when people give those kind of answers to the question where they find God they are denying that God is uniquely present anywhere else. Today our reading of Psalm 114 certainly can be taken in support of such a general presence of God among His chosen people in their holy land (v.2). However, the reading does not deny the unique presence of God in the literal Tabernacle (and later the Temple), where God was present to forgive sins through His Means of Grace. (We can also think of God’s unique presence “tabernacling” in the human flesh of the man Jesus, as described in John 1:14.) Today we continue to find God uniquely present to forgive sins in the Divine Service: in the preached Word, in Holy Baptism, in Holy Absolution, and in the Sacrament of the Altar. What a loving God we have Who enables us to find Him and receive from Him the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! (You can find my previous comments on Psalm 114 by following this link.)

An engraving by French artist Bernard Picart (1673-1733) depicting Jehoiakim’s burning of Jeremiah’s scrollSome people have a disregard for the Word of God that they might not even realize. I heard from a pastor recently how one of the members of the congregation he serves told him she didn’t need Bible verses distributed to the congregation on a bulletin insert. Can we ever say we don’t need God’s Word? Today in our reading of Jeremiah 35-37 the disregard for God’s Word is a little more flagrant. Instead of tearing his clothes in repentance after hearing the Word of God, King Jehoiakim tore the scroll of the Word and threw it piece by piece into a fire. (The image with this post is of an engraving by French artist Bernard Picart [1673-1733] depicting the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll; to see a larger version of the image click it, but for the largest and highest quality image see from where we got it.) We also hear today how the people mistreated God’s chosen prophet, Jeremiah himself. As I have already suggested, in our time we don’t have to look far to see God’s Word similarly rejected and His ordained servants mistreated. May we sorrowfully repent of such and all our sins and also trust God to forgive us for Jesus’s sake. (You can find my previous post, which overviews all of 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 Jeremiah 35-37, nor are any hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal said to refer to Jeremiah 35-37.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

October 01, 2007

Jnh 2:2-9 / Jer 32-34

So often we expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When it comes to spiritual matters, of course, we cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and today we are reminded of that in the seasonal canticle for October, Jonah 2:2-9 . “Salvation comes from the Lord”, Jonah confesses in his prayer from inside the great fish. Despite what words the lyric writers for “Jesus Christ Superstar” might put in Jesus’s mouth (words that reportedly were changed for the movie), Jesus as the Lord goes around saving people, or at least telling them that their God-given faith has saved them. Indeed, salvation comes from the Lord, and it ours for the receiving by grace through faith in Jesus. Receive away! (You can find my previous comments on the canticle by following this link; there aren’t any Old Testament readings or hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal that make use of Jonah 2:2-9.)

Frank E. Wright’s 1897 depiction of Jeremiah buying a fieldI know a couple of pastors with full-time responsibilities who recently have taken calls to areas where real estate prices are especially high, and both are having issues with finding homes for their families. (There was a lot of wisdom with congregations providing parsonages for their pastors.) Today in our reading of Jeremiah 32-34, price isn’t an issue with Jeremiah redeeming a field, but the issue is whether or not times in Judah will ever be normal enough again that such things as deeds of sale would ever matter again. The Lord said they would, and Jeremiah took the Lord at His Word. (The image with this post is Frank E. Wright’s 1897 depiction of Jeremiah buying a field; 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’s servants today have no such word one way or another regarding purchasing property, and I can see the practical arguments on both sides of the issue. Whether or not pastors make such purchases, in the end their deeds will do about as much good as Jeremiah’s deed of sale would do today if he had successors alive to try to claim the property now. Property in this life is transitory. The purchase that matters is Jesus’s redeeming us, not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. He gives us land as an inheritance in heaven where moth cannot eat and rust cannot destroy (Matthew 6:19-20). You can find my previous post on the whole reading here.

The only previously posted question specifically connected to today’s reading has to do with Jeremiah 33:22 and more priests and kings. What isn’t clear to you? Please ask about it!

The historic 1-year lectionary we use at Grace for Sunday and festival services appoints Jeremiah 33:6-9 for the Old Testament reading on the Third Sunday after Epiphany and Jeremiah 33:14-18 on the First Sunday in Advent. No hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal are said to refer to Jeremiah 32-34.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM