This Lenten season, the call for justice is sounded loud and clear as we are reminded that Lent is both a time for self-examination and a time for allowing that examination to lead to engagement with our human siblings in a search for righteousness and justice.
The Lively Lectionary Old Testament is a blog that reflects on the Old Testament text from the Revised Common Lectionary each week.
This Lent I wished to focus on issues of justice and righteousness in the community, rather than in individual spirituality or getting closer to God on our own. What this odd chapter adds to that emphasis is the significance of a God who simply cannot be penned in or defined in ways that allow that God to be approached by traditional means of religious activity.
In Isaiah we find a brilliant representation of that most basic and uncanny statement of God’s hallowed promise to us all: there is, in the end, no death, no exile, no pain, no hopelessness, in which God may not find life in it.
It is more than obvious why this passage from 1 Samuel is regularly chosen by the collectors of the lectionary to suggest the analogy between the service and growth of the child Samuel in the temple, and the apparently similar early life of the child Jesus.
In the midst of this unrestrained litany of salaciousness, Zephaniah speaks hope. The prophet enacts in his final words the very essence of the gospel of God, the announcement of hope when none appears at all likely or possible.
We hope for and long for the coming of the Christ child who comes to us in “mercy and righteousness,” long promised in the Hebrew Bible and echoed in Baruch.
The Sunday before the first Sunday in Advent has long been designated “Christ the King” Sunday. The Sunday is seen as a prefiguring, a premonition, of the coming of the Christ child into the world.
It should be noted that all of the great Bible narratives, from the tales of Genesis to the potent story of the Exodus to the story of Jesus begin with small tales of family. We ought never discount the power of the small family story to offer the origins of the larger narratives that occupy so much of our attention in the course of our sacred history; they are always worth a further look.
All that Ruth has done, from her great speech on the Bethlehem road to her risk in a foreign field to her greater risk on the threshing floor at midnight, has been solely because she has loved Naomi. It is this amazing devotion to her mother-in-law that makes Ruth one of the Bible’s great models for the love of YHWH for the people. In this tale, it seems, God is a Moabite widow. How about that?
The time of the story is “when the judges ruled.” Setting Ruth’s story in that time, any reader might hold their breath, waiting for the next dismemberment or raunchy sexual escapade. Fortunately, absolutely none of that occurs, yet the story has more than its share of surprising and startling events.
The sharp-tongued, unyielding Job, who refused to knuckle under to the friend’s avowed pieties, is the sort of dialogue partner that YHWH prefers. When God finds Job to God’s liking, God frees all worshippers to bring truth to God, no matter how harsh, no matter how painful. Like those harsh psalms of lament and complaint, Job pulls no punches with God, and neither should we.
Some readers imagine that God here merely reiterates the sharp attacks against Job’s arrogance, but I think not. I see God winking slyly, and saying to Job to go on and “tread down the wicked in their place,” as you think I do, knowing full well that Job cannot do that, precisely because God does not do that either!