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Proper 6 | Ordinary Time 11 | Pentecost 4, Cycle C (2016)

Sinful but free and forgiven! This entails sermons on Sin and Justification by Grace, though attention to Providence and Sanctification are also relevant.

Psalm 5:1-8
This is a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies, attributed to David. It is addressed to the leader of the temple musicians. Petitions are offered that Yahweh would hear the sighs and cries of the psalmist (vv. 1-2). Confidence is expressed in the Lord hearing the psalmist’s voice when he pleads in the morning (often the time when God was thought to come and help) (v. 3; cf. 17:15; 90:14). For testimony is given that Yahweh is not a God who delights in wickedness; even the boastful cannot stand before his eyes (enter the temple) (vv. 4-5). He destroys liars and the bloodthirsty (v. 6). The psalmist through the abundance/plenty of God’s love/kindness [chesed] can enter his house, bowing toward his temple with awe/reverence [yirah] (v. 7). Petitions are made that we be led in the Lord’s righteousness [tsedaqah] because of our enemies (v. 8). We have previously noted that the Hebraic equivalent term for “righteousness” does not just connote legal, judgmental actions, but when applied to God concerns loyalty in relationships, the loyalty of God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 373, 376ff).

Application: This psalm nicely fits the Theme of the Day and its emphasis on God coming to us with his love, ever faithful to his promises, no matter the sin and evil which plague us. The doctrines of Sin and Justification by Grace should be emphasized.


Psalm 32
This is a thanksgiving for healing attributed to David. The psalm is also designated as a Maskil, an artful or didactic song. We have previously noted it is unlikely that David is the author of the psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). This entails that the psalm is best understood as a testimony that all the faithful should raise up thanksgivings.

The psalm begins with a celebration that those whose sin is covered [kasah], with no iniquity imputed [chashab, reckoned] to them, are happy/blessed [ashere] (vv. 1-2). The palmist notes that before confessing sin, sickness had plagued him (vv. 3-4). This point follows from the common supposition, apparently shared by the psalmist, that disease was a punishment for sin. Once sin was confessed, the guilt of sin (and so apparently healing) was granted (v. 5). (Musical interludes are prescribed by the word Selah.) The congregation is commended to a similar faith in God (vv. 6ff). In times of distress, all the faithful should offer prayers to the Lord (v. 6). He is said to be a hiding place [sether] to preserve us from trouble (v. 7). For the Lord gives instruction about teaching the faithful (v. 8). We are urged not to be like a horse or a mule with no understanding whose temper must be curbed with bit or bridle (v. 9). The wicked, it is noted, endure many torments, but steadfast love [chesed, mercy or kindness] surrounds those who trust in [batach, lean on or have confidence in] Yahweh (v. 10). It is asserted that we can be glad [sameach] in the Lord and rejoice [gul] with shouting for joy (v. 11).

Application: This Alternative Psalm affords the opportunity to speak against the idea that God sends evil to those who sin, but God’s love embraces all who trust God that their sins are no longer reckoned (Justification by Grace, Sin, Providence). Opportunity is afforded to preach on faith and trust as “leaning on” or “having confidence in” God (Sanctification).

1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14) 15-21a
Again we note that the book’s origin as a distinct work derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint), which divided the story of Israel’s monarchy into four sections (1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings). In its final form it is probably the result of the Deuteronomistic (D) History (the result of sweeping religious reforms in Judah under King Josiah in the seventh century BC), but perhaps later revised after the Exile in 587 BC. This book recounts the history of Israel from the death David through the history of the divided kingdoms and the death of the Israelite King Ahab. This lesson is the story of Naboth’s vineyard. In a way this is also a story of Israel’s exceptionalism and the relative weakness of its monarchy. For elsewhere in the Ancient Near East, monarchs had or sought absolute control over their subjects. This lesson makes clear that such absolute control is not Yahweh’s will.

Naboth lived in Jezreel with a vineyard near the second palace of the late tenth/early ninth century BC king of Israel, Ahab (v. 1). He wanted Naboth’s vineyard, claiming he would give the Jezreelite a better vineyard (v. 2). But Naboth refused; his was an ancestral inheritance that needed to remain in the family (cf. Leviticus 25:23-24, 34) (v. 3). Ahab became resentful and went to bed refusing to eat (v. 4). His wife Jezebel tries to counsel him. He shares the reason for his depression. She reminds him that he is king of Israel and then acts to remedy the situation by acting in his name (vv. 5-8). She writes to the elders in Jezreel to proclaim a fast [tsom, a solemn assembly when a serious problem was considered, see Judges 20:26] seating Naboth near the head of the assembly, and then has some scoundrels charge him with cursing God and the king (vv. 9-11). The plan is implemented and as a result Naboth was stoned to death (vv. 12-14). Jezebel then tells Ahab to take possession of the vineyard, and he did (vv. 15-16). Property of executed criminals seems to have been forfeited to the crown.

The word [dabar] of the Lord then comes to Elijah, and he is instructed to confront Ahab in Naboth’s vineyard (vv. 17-18). Elijah is directed to challenge Ahab for taking possession of one he has killed and warns that the king will perish as a result (v. 19). Encountering the king, Elijah condemns him (vv. 20-21a). It is interesting that Ahab is threatened with the loss of his kingdom as a result of his exceeding limits of royal power, not due to his earlier worship of Baal (16:32-33).

Application: This lesson reveals how Sin permeates all we do, how we are always stealing and coveting. But God is still in control, ready to protect. Providence and Social Ethics (the need for safeguards as well as checks and balances in government) are also possible themes.


2 Samuel 11:26–12:10, 13-15
The description of the other alternative to the First Lesson above provides some insight into the origin of this book as a separate creation. It should be noted that the editing done by the D strand was probably relying on earlier oral traditions about Samuel and Saul. This book especially relates to the reign of David. This lesson relates David’s sin against Uriah and Nathan’s rebuke of him for it.

Prior to the beginning of the lesson, an account is given regarding how David had had an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite and impregnated her. David proceeds to get Uriah out of the way by stationing him in the frontline of his army where he would most likely be killed and he was (11:2-25). The lesson begins with Uriah’s wife in mourning having learned he was dead (11:26). When that period ended, David brought her to his house, married her, and she bore him a son (11:27). Yahweh was displeased and sent Nathan to him. The prophet tells a parable of a poor man with nothing but a little lamb. The basis of the parable is tribal law that permitted someone to slaughter an animal from a neighbor’s livestock when the rules of hospitality made it necessary to do so. But this privilege was forbidden when one had available livestock himself. The parable reports that a rich man had many flocks. But when a traveler came the rich man was not willing to take one of his flock to entertain the wayfarer. So he took the poor man’s lamb (12:1-4). David was angered at the rich man in the story, saying that he deserved death and the lamb should be restored to the poor man fourfold, until Nathan tells him that David had acted like the rich man (12:5-7a). Nathan reminds David that Yahweh had rescued him from Saul, given him Saul’s house and wives (12:7b-8). The question is why he has despised [bazah] Yahweh and done evil (12:8-9). As a result, the sword [chereb] will never depart from his house [bayith], Nathan proclaims (12:10). Three of David’s sons, Amnon, Absalom, and Adjonijah, would die violent deaths (13:22-29; 18:15; 1 Kings 2:25). The lesson ends with David confessing his sin. Nathan responds that Yahweh has put away the sin. According to the law of retaliation (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-21), David deserved to die. But his deserved death would be borne by someone else. Because of the deed, the child to be born would die (12:13-14).

Application: Sermons on this Complementary First Lesson might explore the same themes as suggested above for the other alternative for the First Lesson. In this case, the concept that another takes the punishment for us opens the way to sermons on Christology or the Atonement. Justification by Grace as “putting away” our sin is another relevant sermon theme.

Galatians 2:15-21
Again we note that this book is a polemical letter written by Paul to a church in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) he had founded. Its aim is to affirm that Gentiles need not become Jews in order to become Christian. In this lesson Paul undertakes a discussion of the distinction between law and gospel. Paul first notes his Jewish roots (v. 15). Yet he knows that we are justified [dikaiou] not by works of the law [nomos], but through faith [pistis] in (or of [dia]) Christ (v. 16). Some New Testament scholars believe reference to the law here only connotes practices that mark Jewish identity (circumcision, dietary laws, and so on). But the traditional interpretation of the text has been to understand the law in terms of morality prescribed by the Ten Commandments. Paul next speaks of our having been found sinners in our efforts to be justified in Christ but that does not make Christ a servant of sin (v. 17). Christians, it seems, are both saints and sinners.

Paul says he would be a transgressor if he built up the things he tore down in his previous preaching (adherence to Jewish practices) (v. 18). Through the law he says he died, so that he might live [zao] to Christ. This is a kind of crucifixion with Christ (v. 19). As a result it is no longer he who lives but Christ in him. The life he now lives he lives by faith in the Son of God, who loved him (v. 20; cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 8:9-11). He will not nullify the grace of God. If justification comes through the law, Paul adds, then Christ died for nothing (v. 21).

Application: This lesson invites sermons condemning our Sin and proclaiming salvation by grace (Justification by Grace with an appreciation that we have been joined to Christ) and so may live in freedom (Sanctification).

Luke 7:36–8:3
We are again reminded that this gospel is the first installment of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile associate of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Along with Acts, the author’s intention was to stress the universal mission of the Church (Acts 1:8). Addressed to Theophilus (1:1), it is not clear if this means that the work was written for a recent convert or for a Roman official from whom the Church sought tolerance. But since Theophilus means “lover of God” it is possible that the author addressed all the faithful. In this lesson Jesus interacts with the woman who was a sinner, a story which appears in the other Synoptic Gospels, though in less detail (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).

Invited to dine with a Pharisee in his home, Jesus eats with a woman known as a sinner [hamatoelas] who comes with ointment (presumably to anoint Jesus) (7:36-37). The Greek word translated “sinner” is translated “prostitute” by some. The woman stands behind Jesus weeping, bathing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Also she anoints his feet (7:38). Bathing the feet, though not in this manner, was common hospitality for guests (Genesis 18:4). The Pharisee criticizes Jesus for allowing this, contending that a true prophet would not allow such a sinful woman to touch him (7:39; cf. Leviticus 5:1-5).

Jesus responds with a parable about a creditor forgiving two debtors. (A denarius was roughly a day’s wages, and so the debts are significant.) He asks the Pharisee which of the two debtors the creditor loves more. Obviously the one with the greater debt (7:40-43). Jesus proceeds to indicate to the Pharisee how much more the woman did for him than the Pharisee had. Consequently though the woman’s sins are many, she has been forgiven [aphiemi, sent away]. She shared great love, as her gestures of hospitality were extravagant by standard manners of the day (7:44-47). Jesus forgives [aphiemi, sent away] the woman her sin, leading to gossip among table guests about Jesus’ actions and claim that the woman’s faith [pistis] had saved her. He refers to her faith saving her (7:48-50). Jesus went on with the Twelve to proclaim the Good News [euanggelidzomenos] of the kingdom of God (8:1). Some women were cured of evil spirits, including Mary Magdalene (8:1-3). It is significant that there is no clear indication here that Mary is the sinful woman described in 7:36ff.

Application: This account also provides occasion to condemn Sin (often manifest in pride) and to proclaim Justification by Grace and the spontaneity of Good Works (Sanctification). Justification by Grace as “sending away” our sin is another relevant sermon theme.

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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