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Proper 7 | Ordinary Time 12, Cycle B (2015)

THEME OF THE DAY:  Pay attention: God’s ways are marvelous.  These texts invite sermons on Providence, Justification By Grace, Sanctification, and Social Ethics.

Psalm 9:9-20
This reading is part of a prayer for personal deliverance ascribed to David.  We have previously noted that David is not likely the actual author of those Psalms attributed to him.  Originally this Psalm may have been combined with Psalm 10, since there is an acrostic pattern in these Psalms (every other verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet).

Based on confidence because of the great things God has done in the past, including judging in righteousness (vv.3-8), the Psalm praises the Lord for being a stronghold or refuge for the oppressed [dak] and not forsaking those trusting in Him (vv.9-10,12).  The troubled situation is described, suffering from those who hate the Psalmist while praying for the Lord’s graciousness (v.13).  The Psalmist begs to be spared/delivered in order to praise God (v.14).  He speaks of the Lord executing judgment [mishpat] on the wicked, snared by the work of their hands.  It is said that they will depart to Sheol (the place of the dead where God is not present, see Psalm 6:5) (vv.15-17).  Selah in v.16 is a reference to the introduction of a musical interlude.  No one knows what Higgaion means.  It is promised that the needy and the poor will not perish (v.18).  Concluding exhortation of the Lord not to let evil prevail, that He would judge [shaphat] the nations and put them in fear, follows (vv.19-20).  (We have previously noted that the Hebrew term for judgment in ancient Hebrew can refer to a sense of comfort, not just to punishment [Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, p.358].)

Application: Several homiletical options emerge from this Psalm.  One possibility is to highlight how God is a refuge for the oppressed (Social Ethics and Justification By Grace).  Or preachers might have us marvel at how God’s judgment is a Word of comfort, for His judgment is based on the righteousness He gives the faithful (see Second Lesson) (Justification By Grace and Eschatology).


Psalm 133
This is a Song of Ascent extolling the joys of harmony in the family (probably with reference to the extended family culture of clan and family groups living in close proximity to each other, as we see in Deuteronomy 23:5).  Such Psalms were likely songs of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and its Temple, which was located on Mount Zion and so involved an ascent to get to the sanctuaries.  This is a Wisdom Psalm (maxims of everyday life) comparing good relations (living in together in unity [yachad]) to the oil for honored guests or used at ordination which was administered to the head, just as such oil might run down on Aaron’s beard [zaqan] eventually saturating his whole gown, so good relations are said to saturate the whole body (vv.1-2).  Mount Hermon was the highest mountain in Syro-Palentine, which of course had dew [tal].  And like unity this dew is said to spread everywhere (v.3).  Given the Psalm’s likely origin in the Exiles return from Babylon, the harmony extolled may have to do with restored Israel or the people of God.

Application: The text invites sermons on how human (family and communal) unity spreads easily and saturates all (Social Ethics).  The Psalm could be related to this Sunday’s theme of how marvelous God’s ways are, how He has taken ordinary family interactions to impact later groups and nations (Providence, Sanctification, and Social Ethics).

1 Samuel 17: (1a,4-11,19-23) 32-49
We note again that this Book has its origin as a distinct text deriving 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).  This Book is probably the result of two or three sources: (1) Early traditions about Samuel and Saul; (2) Editor-molded materials brought together into a connected history, implying a critique of the events, deeming kingship as problematic, and so must be set under the rule of God and Samuel His Prophet; (3) Incorporating the previous strand into the more Deuteronomistic (D) history (the result of sweeping religious reforms under King Josiah in 621 BC).  This is the famed story of David’s defeat of Goliath.

The Philistine army confronts Israel in their own territory, not far from the Mediterranean coast (v.1a).  We are introduced to Goliath of Gath, a giant reported to be about ten feet tall who challenges Israel to provide a soldier who will engage in battle with him on the condition that if he were defeated the Philistine army will surrender (vv. 4-10).  This dismayed Saul and Israel (v.11).  There is a parallel account in 2 Samuel 2:19 attributing Goliath’s slaying to one of David’s warriors Elhanana.  Whether that account challenges the authenticity of this reported event involving David or merely accounts for how the Philistine whom David slew came to be incorrectly identified with the name of Goliath are open questions.  A digression concerning David and his family follows along with how he was commissioned by Jesse (his father) to bring provisions to his brothers serving in Saul’s army (vv.12-18).  David complies with Jesse’s directives, meets his brothers, and hears Goliath’s challenge (vv.19-23).  In verses not included in the Lesson (vv.24-31) we learn of David’s interest in the challenge and the anger of his oldest brother Eliab about David’s presence.  Learning of this, Saul sends for David.  In the discourse that follows, Saul seems to know David (vv.32ff.) in contrast to vv.55-58, which suggest that they were not acquainted.  Perhaps different oral traditions have been woven together at this point.  Saul tries to stop David from engaging Goliath, but the lad indicates confidence in the Lord (vv.33-37).  The king provides him with armor, but the lad proceeds to undertake the confrontation with the giant without it (vv.38-40).  David invokes the Lord in the skirmish, despite Goliath’s mocking (vv.41-46).  David uses a stone to prevail (vv.48-49).

Application: This is a Lesson to proclaim that all the good we have is from God, and that makes them even more marvelous and surprising (Creation, Providence, and Justification By Grace are possible themes).


Job 38:1-11
The Book is an ancient folktale (Ezekiel 14:14,20) whose date is uncertain (perhaps composed during or after The Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BC).   This Lesson is Yahweh’s First Speech in response to Job’s laments and complaints about why he has endured misfortune as well as Elihu’s efforts to explain God’s ways (ch.32-37).   Yahweh answers Job out of the whirlwind [searah], asking who darkens counsel by words without knowledge (vv.1-2).  Whirlwinds are frequent settings for divine appearances (Nahum 1:3; Zechariah 9:14; Psalms 18:7-15; 50:3.)  Job is called to be a man and take the Lord’s questions regarding where He was when Yahweh laid the foundations [yasad] of the world and determined its measurements, on what its bases were sunk, and who laid its cornerstone, who shut in the seas and set boundaries.  Reference is made to sons of God [ben elohim, heavenly beings] who shout for joy (vv.3ff.).

Application: This Complementary First Lesson affords an excellent opportunity to offer reflections on the marvels of Creation and God’s Providential care for the world.  The ecological agenda might also receive attention (Social Ethics) or appreciation of the marvelous ways of God could offer comfort in face of life’s trials, just as God’s Word in the text was such a Word for Joel and his trials (Justification By Grace).

2 Corinthians 6:1–13
This polemical Letter written by Paul to address tensions with the Corinthian church over doctrinal and ethical issues finds the Apostle in this Lesson calling his readers to faithful response to God’s grace and to a description of his ministry of reconciliation.  The Corinthians are urged that as we work together with Christ we not accept the grace [charis] of God in vain (v.1).  Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8 to sing that at the acceptable time God has helped the people (v.2a).  He notes the urgency now being the acceptable time and the day of salvation (v.2b).  He contends that he will put up no obstacle in the Corinthians’ way, as they are enduring hardships, hunger, and imprisonment as he had (vv.3-5).  Paul proceeds to speak of his purity [hagnoteti], knowledge, patience, and other virtues.  He says he relies on weapons of righteousness [dikaiosune] (vv.6-8a).  It should be noted, based both on 5:21 and Paul’s Hebraic background, that righteousness is not to imply that the believer lives in faultless conformity to some moral norm.  It is a gift, having to do with living in right relationship with God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, pp.370-371).  Paul proceeds to lament that he and the faithful have been treated as imposters, yet are true, as unknown yet are well-known, as dying yet alive, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many [spiritually] rich (vv.8b-10).  The Apostle concludes by claiming to have been very frank with the Corinthians and with an open heart (v.11).  He has no restrictions, he says, on his affection to them.  The problems have been with them (v.12).  He directs them to open their hearts [kardia] too (v.13).

Application: This Lesson affords opportunities to proclaim with urgency (Realized Eschatology) the surprising, counter-cultural character of Christian faith (Providence), that Christian life (Sanctification) as well as the Christian social agenda (Social Ethics) marvelously and joyfully go against the grain of contemporary American life, for the faithful are living in right relationship with God.

Mark 4:35-41
We turn again, as we will most of this Summer, to consider a text in the first of the Synoptic Gospels to be written, a Book that was perhaps the source of other Gospels, perhaps based on oral traditions of the Passion narrative and accounts of Jesus’ sayings (the so-called Q-source).  Probably written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, this anonymous work is traditionally ascribed to John Mark, perhaps referred to as an associate of Paul (Acts  12:12-25; 15:37; Colossians 4:10) or as Peter’s scribe (I Peter 5:13).  Some speculate that the original audience was the church in Rome (esp. 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 is a story of Jesus calming the wild sea, appearing in the other Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 8:23-7; Luke 8:22-25).  He sleeps in a boat while the storm rages, awakened only by His frightened followers (v.38).  The account displays Jesus’ authority and the awe/fear [phobea] it inspires in the faithful (v.41).  He chides His followers for being fearful, asks if they have no faith [pistis] (vv.40-41).  To a mind steeped in the Hebrew Bible’s equation of storm and water with the believer’s trials (Psalm 69:1-4; 18:15-18), the miracle might connote Jesus’ authority over all trials.

Application: At least two angles are possible for sermons with this text.  God’s authority over the earth and its storms, though He does not send them, and the awe that this insight inspires might be considered.  Nothing in life is purely natural (Creation and Providence).  Or preachers might tell the story of the miracle reported, so that the faithful gathered might better understand what miracles are and the comforting Word of how our lives are filled with them (Providence and Sanctification [concerning how we view life]).         

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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