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October Lectionary Background

The seasonal canticle for October is Jonah's Psalm-like prayer prayed from inside the great fish. Jonah thanks God for delivering him from the death he deserved, and he anticipates again worshipping God. We, too, confess our sin and God's salvation.

First in October we finish reading Jeremiah. Mostly we hear the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem and its aftermath, as well as God's judgment against the other nations. As God appealed to people then to repent before He carried out His judgment, so He graciously appeals to us to repent and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah was not only a prophet but also a priest whose family line may have gone back to Abiathar, a priest at the time of King Solomon. At the Lord's command, Jeremiah did not raise a family because of the times, a thought echoed by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. Jeremiah had a co-worker named Baruch, who may have finished collecting Jeremiah's prophecy after the prophet's death. Jeremiah reveals much about his inner struggles with God.

On October 8-9 we read Lamentations, which book Jeremiah is believed to have also authored. A lamentation or lament is a poem of grief or of mourning over sin or over God's judgment for sin. The five lamentations in this book come from watching the people of Jerusalem go into exile in 586 B.C. Yet, note well how the third lament speaks of God's goodness as Lord of hope, love, faithfulness and salvation. Only as we appreciate God's wrath on us for our sin, however, can we appreciate this hope.

From October 10-25 we read Ezekiel, who prophesied about the same time as Jeremiah but in Babylon where the people of Judah were already exiled. He confirms God's judgment against the people for their unfaithfulness yet also holds out God's gracious promise to restore and renew His people. Note well what Ezekiel has to say about shepherds (today's pastors) and their responsibility to God, themselves, and the people in their care. Note also the comfort these same verses speak to you!

The next four days in October we read Daniel. From Daniel we hear how even while the people were exiled God's Name continued to be praised. We see in Daniel's life the conflict and victory of faith that is also ours. Daniel prophesies of Jesus, giving the title He would often use to refer to Himself: Son of Man. We want to be careful not to interpret too literally what is often figurative and symbolic language that Daniel uses by the Spirit's inspiration. The Old Testament book of Daniel is thus similar to the New Testament book of Revelation in that it is an apocalyptic book, similar in style and the use of symbols and numbers. But, in another sense, the word "apocalyptic" really means "revelatory", and that really applies to all the books of the Bible.

The last two days of October we read Hosea. Hosea shows by his life and relationship to his unfaithful wife Gomer how God loves His people. Hosea prophesied against the people's idolatry, yet also speaks of God's salvation for His unfaithful people. Hosea's willingness to forgive and love his wife despite her unfaithfulness is an enduring example for married couples today, consistent with Christ's teaching to forgive as we are forgiven.

 


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