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Proper 25 | Ordinary Time 30, Cycle B (2015)

God rescues us from ourselves. These lessons help us see how we are moving in wrong directions on our own (Sin), but God in his love rescues us to a life dependent on him (Justification by Grace, Providence, Sanctification, and some attention to Social Ethics).

Psalm 34:1-8 (19-22)
This is a thanksgiving for deliverance from trouble, traditionally attributed to David when he feigned madness before Abimelich so that the Gentile king drove him out (1 Samuel 20:10-15, where the king on whom David played this trick is King Achish of Gath). There is also an instructional and didactic agenda. The psalm is acrostic so that every verse begins with a different successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It begins with a hymn of praise (vv. 1-3). The psalmist accounts his seeking the Lord and God’s goodness in delivering him (vv. 4, 6). The angel [malak] of Yahweh is said to encamp around those who fear him. This may refer to a heavenly messenger or to an extension of the Lord’s power. The same faith is commended to the congregation. The Lord’s goodness is extolled and the happiness/blessedness [tob] of the faithful is noted (vv. 7-8). The psalm continues with an expression of confidence that the Lord will rescue the righteous [tsaddiq, here perhaps referring to those suffering at the hands of evil people] (vv. 19-20), the wicked will die (v. 21), and Yahweh redeems [pudah, frees] his servants (v. 22).

Application: The text will occasion sermons on the goodness of God, with special reference to how God rescues or sets us free from the evil which plagues us (Providence, Sin, Justification by Grace, Social Ethics).


Psalm 126
This is prayer of deliverance from national misfortune. It is a Song of Ascents, which means it probably originated as a pilgrim song for those Hebrews who were ascending (climbing the mountain on which the temple sat) on the way to worship in the Jerusalem Temple. (Other scholars contend the Psalm ascended in its poetic form.) This psalm begins with reminiscence of the joy (laughter and singing) inspired by God’s favor toward his people, the great things he has done in the past (vv. 1-3). Prayers are offered that such favor might be shown again. Perhaps hope is expressed here for the return of the exiles from captivity in Babylon. Reference to the Negeb is a reminder that there is an arid region south of Palestine (the Hebrew text only refers to the region in the south) whose soil was made palatable by certain torrential streams in torrents of rain (vv. 4-6). Those in mourning and oppressed shall experience joy [rinnah, referring to loud cries and singing] (v. 6). A Preferential Option for the poor along with ecstatic celebration is suggested here.

Application: Sermons on the great things God has done in the past and the hope that inspires for the present and future appropriately emerge from this psalm (and so a stress on Providence and Eschatology must be embedded in such preaching). Much like the other psalm, an alternative option, the possibility that those oppressed might be liberated and restored, makes sermons on Social Ethics a valid approach to this text.

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Once again we note that this book is folktale probing faith in the midst of suffering. The date of the work is uncertain but perhaps it was composed around the time of the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth or fifth centuries BC. There are several parallel ancient Egyptian texts. The book is a challenge to conventional Hebraic Wisdom thinking, as it appears with the older vision of the divine order of life and God’s justice in maintaining that order. In its place we are exposed to a God who reveals himself personally and is profoundly involved in human life, a God who respects human independence and wishes service to him to be freely given.

In this lesson we read Job’s reply to the two speeches of Yahweh (vv. 1-6). This is followed by a section of the book’s epilogue. Job begins with an acknowledgment that Yahweh can do all things and is never thwarted (vv. 1-2). He next confesses his ignorance, especially about things of God (v. 3). He confesses to have not truly known the Lord despite his earlier godliness (1:2), but now he does (vv. 4-5). The claim by Job that he has seen [raah, also connoting “enjoy”] the Lord conflicts with the ancient Hebraic tradition that none could see God and live (Exodus 33:20). The result of this encounter is repentance [nacham], conceding the weakness of his humanity (v. 6). In the portion of the epilogue that follows we learn of how Yahweh restores the fortunes of Job, possibly because he had prayed for his friends, giving him twice what he had had in terms of wealth and family, as well as a long life (vv. 10-17).

Application: This is a text for extolling the awesomeness of God (Providence), which can drive us away from self-preoccupation (Sin) to the joy and well-being of a focus on God (Justification by Grace). An eschatological dimension could be introduced homiletically to convey how this is a radically new and fresh experience.


Jeremiah 31:7-9
The lesson is drawn from a Book of Prophecies of the late seventh-early eighth BC prophet of Judah, dictated to his aide Baruch during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah through the era of the Babylonian Captivity. Some of the prophet’s criticism of the house of David and the temple, giving more attention to the Sinai Covenant or a new covenant, may relate to his being an ancestor of one of David’s high priests, Abiathar, who lost control of the Jerusalem Temple and was finally banished (1 Kings 2:27). This text is part of the Book of Consolation (30:1–31:40), words of homecoming, promising a restoration of Israel, probably written just before the Babylonian Captivity.

Yahweh is said to proclaim that the faithful should sing aloud with gladness for Jacob and raise shouts for the chief of the nations. Calls for Yahweh to save [yasha, give safety to] the remnant [sheerith] of Israel are offered, and it is said that he will bring them from the land of the north and gather the people from the farthest parts of the earth, the blind and the lame, those with child, and they shall return (vv. 7-8). With weeping the Hebrews will come with supplications, led back by Yahweh. They shall not stumble, for Yahweh has become a father [ab] to Israel and Ephraim is his firstborn (v. 9). Ephraim was one of the tribes, and as it is restored, so will all of Israel.

Application: Sermons on this Complementary Version of the First Lesson should offer consolation and hope to those facing hard times and feeling lost (Sin and Justification by Grace). The inclusivity of the text could also inspire sermons on Social Ethics.

Hebrews 7:23-28
We continue to examine anonymous treatise which, given its argument for the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice to those of Levitical priests, was likely written prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. Remarks in 2:3-4 suggest it was written by a member of a generation of Christians after the apostles. Modern scholars are inclined to regard the book as a sermon, perhaps modified after it was delivered to include travel plans, greetings, and a closing (13:20-25). The Christians addressed are thought to have been in danger of falling away from their confession (3:1; 4:14; 10:23). They had endured persecution (10:32-36).

This lesson is part of a comparison between the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of the Priest-King Melchizidek, a priesthood seen as prefiguring Christ’s priesthood (5:10; cf. Genesis 14:17-20). The Melchizidekan priesthood (and so Christ’s priesthood) is described as eternal, and so unlike the Levitical priesthood is able to save for all time those who approach God through him (vv. 23-25). By implication, Christ is described as holy and blameless, separated from sinners (v. 26). Unlike other high priests he has no need to offer daily sacrifices [thusios], first for his own sin and then for others. Christ’s sacrifice is once for all (v. 27). The law [nomos] appoints priests subject to weakness, but the word coming later than the law appoints a Son who has been made perfect [teteleiomenon] forever (v. 28).

Application: This lesson affords an opportunity to proclaim the comfort that comes with recognizing that Christ’s death is unrepeatable (Atonement), for it assures that salvation and God’s love is a sure thing (Justification by Grace). Since the same theme characterizes the Second Lesson for November 8, if that text and this theme are contemplated for use on that Sunday, it might be wise in a sermon on this lesson to focus such a sermon more on the stress that what Christ has done is “for all” — the sacrifice’s universal character.

Mark 10:46-52
As in previous weeks, we noted that this book is likely the oldest of the Synoptic Gospels. Some speculate that the original audience was the church in Rome (especially Gentiles), as it presumes readers unfamiliar with Jewish customs and Palestinian geography (see 7:2-4, 31), but it also could have been written for Palestinian Christians. This lesson is the story of the healing of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, which appears in the other Synoptic Gospels as well.

The encounter transpires in Jericho, a city about twenty miles northeast of Jerusalem (v. 46). Blind and poor, Bartimaeus correctly attributes a messianic status to Jesus by calling him “Son of David,” [huios Dabid] though he was ordered by many to keep quiet [siopasay] (vv. 47-48). This is another example of those on the outside knowing Jesus better than his truly blind followers. The blind man begs for mercy.

Jesus summons Bartimaeus, and he responds (vv. 49-50). He asks Jesus to have his sight restored (v. 51). Jesus tells him to go, for his faith [pistis] has healed [sesoke] him. In typical Markan fashion it is claimed that this happened “immediately” [eutheos] (v. 52). This may be associated with the eschatological theme in view of the fact that the next account reported in Mark is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the famed Palm Sunday precession (11:1ff).

Application: Using the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus as a paradigm, sermons on this text might encourage a life of yearning for God (Sanctification) or focus on how sin blinds us, yet Christ is always ready to get us to see him (Justification by Grace), and how faith gives that

vision on which we should act immediately (Sanctification, Eschatology).

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen