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Proper 7 | Ordinary Time 12 | Pentecost 5, Cycle C (2016)

Pay attention: God’s ways are marvelous. The lessons underline how marvelous God’s ways are, for he overcomes sin, evil, and other forms of oppression and continues to love and care despite our own complicity. Sin, Justification by Grace, Providence, Sanctification, and Social Ethics are core themes.

Psalm 42-43
These Elohistic Psalms collectively provide a prayer of lament for release from oppression of enemies or for healing in preparation for a pilgrimage. Collectively they constitute a single lyric, evidenced by the lack of a superscript for Psalm 43 and its repetition in verse 5 of 42:5. They were probably composed by an author from northern Israel (near Mount Hermon in the north) planning a pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple (42:6). They are said to be a Maskil (a creative hymn) for the Korahites (a group of temple singers).

The prayer begins with a deep longing for God, apparently for God’s presence in the temple (42:1-2, 4). The psalmist claims to be in agony over the ridicule of those asking where his god is (42:3, 10). He asks why his soul [nephesh] is cast down. (We should remind ourselves that “soul” for the ancient Hebrews was not a reality distinct from the body, but a term to describe the life force intimately related to the body.) Perhaps the despondency has to do with sickness, since ancient Semites often regarded sickness as evidence that God had forsaken the one suffering, and the psalmist is experiencing such ridicule; yet he remembers God. He should hope, he says, in God for he will praise [yadah, confess or stretch our hands to] the Lord again (42:5-7, 11; 43:5).

An open question is whether the cast-down soul is the result of sickness or oppression by enemies. God commands steadfast love [chesed] in the day; at night his song [shir] is in the faithful (42:8). The psalmist asks God why he has forgotten him, as his enemies oppress and taunt him (42:9-10). He prays for vindication and deliverance from the ungodly (43:1). The psalmist asks why he has been cast off and oppressed by the enemy (43:2). Petitions follow for God’s light [or] and truth/steadfastness [emeth] to lead to the holy hill (probably the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem) and to God’s dwelling (the temple) (43:3). Then the psalmist will praise God as he goes to God’s altar (43:4).

Application: This psalm affords occasion for sermons reflecting on how God is with us and for us, even in hard times (Providence, Sin, Justification by Grace).


Psalm 22:19-28
The psalm is a lament prayer for delivery from mortal illness, traditionally attributed to David, but not likely his work. The superscript’s designation to the leader according to the deer of the dawn is probably a set of instructions to the music leader in the temple about the melody to be used.

The lesson begins with a prayer for healing, pleading for Yahweh’s presence and deliverance (vv. 19-21). He concludes with a vow of the sick one to offer a formal thanksgiving in the temple on recovery (vv. 22, 25). (Or it is also possible that the psalmist has received a response from God, and the rest of the psalm is a song of joyful praise in gratitude for deliverance.) The hymn to be sung follows (vv. 23-31). Reference to fear [yare] of the Lord (v. 23) does not connote being terrified by God, but is just a term for worship and obedience to him, and the comment that God did not to hide his face [panim] (v. 24) is a Hebraic phrase for “remaining in relationship” with us. Among this hymn’s other references to praising God include acclamation and affirmation of his hearing cries of the afflicted [ani] (v. 24), his caring for the poor/afflicted (v. 26), as well as the praise God will receive from the whole earth and the nations (vv. 27-28), the dead (v. 29), and from posterity (vv. 30-31). This praise could be applied to the God who raised Jesus.

Application: Several possibilities for sermons emerge from this text. Sermons could focus on the meaning of “fearing” the Lord. Or we might focus on God’s care for the poor and afflicted and the praise we might lavish on him for the marvelous things he does. Sanctification, Providence, and Social Ethics are obvious themes.

1 Kings 19:1-4 (5-7) 8-15a
We note again 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.

The lesson is an account of the revelation to Elijah while on Mount Horeb (Siani). It follows an account of a confrontation with Elijah after the prophet had presided over Yahweh’s overcoming the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (chapter 18). King Ahab informs Queen Jezebel how as a result Elijah had killed all the prophets of Baal (v. 1). In response Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah threatening his life (v. 2). The prophet is reportedly afraid and fled to Judah. Fleeing to the wilderness (Beer-sheba, where he journeys is a city in the Negev desert), he asks Yahweh that he might die (vv. 3-4). Falling asleep, an angel [malak,, messenger] has him get up and eat, and he does so. This happens a second time (vv. 5-7). Elijah then travels to Mount Horeb (the place according Northern Kingdom oral traditions where Moses received the Law [1 Kings 8:9; Deuteronomy 1:6]) (v. 8). This journey of forty days and his receiving food from an angel suggests that the author sees connections between Elijah and Moses; that Elijah is a prophet “like Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

Yahweh comes to the prophet asking him what he is doing. Elijah replies that he has been zealous for the Lord, but the Israelites have forsaken the covenant and killed the prophets, and he is the only one left, a hunted man (vv. 9b-10). He is instructed to go the mountain, for Yahweh is there to pass by. Then there was a great wind that split rocks and an earthquake and a fire, but God was not in them. Silence followed (vv. 11-12). Wind, earthquake, and fire were traditionally associated with God (Exodus 19:16, 20:18; Deuteronomy 4:11, 5:22-24; Nahum 1:3). Then Elijah hides his face [panim] and stands at the entrance of a cave. A voice asks him what he is doing there. He repeats his comments in verse 10. Subsequently Yahweh directs him to return on the way to the wilderness of Damascus (the Syrian desert) (vv. 13-15a).

Application: This is a lesson for offering comfort, helping hearers to realize that though we are mired in sin all Christians are loved by God, who will use them. Sin, Justification by Grace, and Sanctification are core themes.


Isaiah 65:1-9
It is well known that this book is actually the product of two or three distinct literary traditions. The first 39 chapters are the work of the historical prophet who proclaimed a message to Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 742 BC to 701 BC, a period during which the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been annexed by the Assyrian Empire. Chapters 40-66 emerged in the later period of the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century BC. A hypothesized third section (chapters 56-66) of the book perhaps written by Second Isaiah or by one of his disciples in view of the close stylistic similarities to chapters 40 on begins at the conclusion of the Babylonian Captivity and is likely written after the restoration of exiled Judah, expressing some disappointment about what has transpired since the Exiles’ return. This lesson is the work of this last section. It is a word about God’s righteous judgment on Israel, a defense of God’s actions.

God says that he is ready to be sought out, but the people have been silent and followed their own devices (vv. 1-2). They continue the pagan rituals — sitting inside their tombs and practicing divination to consult the dead and violate dietary laws by eating pigs (vv. 3-4). God warns them not to come near him for he is too holy [qodesh] for them (v. 5). He notes their faithlessness and threatens repayment for their iniquities (vv. 6-7). God threatens to separate the righteous from the unrighteous (he calls those whom he chooses his servants [ebed]) just as good clusters of grapes are separated from the bad. He will bring forth descendants from Jacob; his chosen [bachar] will inherit his mountains (vv. 8-9).

Application: This Complementary Version of the First Lesson inspires sermons on God’s faithfulness (his righteousness) to his people and despite our Sin (following the ways of the world) God in his holiness will marvelously work good for his people. The text could be read messianically to make the point that the chosen one of Jacob will be the one to bring his chosen servants (the faithful) to their inheritance (Sin, Justification by Grace, Christology).

Galatians 3:23-29
It is good to be reminded again the origins of this book as a polemical letter written by Paul to a church he had founded. Its aim is to affirm that Gentiles need not become Jews in order to become Christian. In this lesson Paul discusses the purpose of the law and baptismal equality. He begins by noting that before faith [pistis, before the era of Christ] came we were imprisoned under the law [nomos] (v. 23). Thus the law was our disciplinarian/trainer [paidagogos, not a teacher, but a slave supervising children] until Christ came to justify [dikaioo] us (v. 24). Since faith has come we are no longer subject to this disciplinarian. For in Christ we are his children [huios, son] (vv. 25-26). Paul adds that as many who are baptized into Christ have been clothed in him (v. 27). As a result, there are no distinctions among people (gender, ethnicity, slavery status). All are one in Christ (v. 28). Those who belong to Christ are Abraham’s offspring/heirs [kleronomos] (v. 29).

Application: This lesson invites sermons on at least two distinct, though related directions. We might focus on how although we are free from the law it still exerts and important and necessary function for Christians as disciplinarian. We understand it to condemn Sin and regulate social engagement (Social Ethics). God gets our attention with demands of the law. The text also invites consideration of Justification by Grace understood as being marvelously clothed in Christ and all his marvelous blessings.

Luke 8:26-39
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. This lesson is the story of the healing of the Gerasesne demoniac, an account present in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20).

The narrative beings with Jesus and the disciples arriving in the country of the Gerasenes, exact location not known, but likely on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee from the region of Galilee (v. 26). A man from the city possessed of demons [daimonia] meets Jesus. He was naked and lived in tombs (v. 27). He falls down before Jesus demanding to know what Jesus, identifying him as Son of the most high God [huios tou Theou tou hupsistou], had to do with him (v. 28). For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit [pneumati to akatharto] to come out of the man (v. 29a). Many times the man had been seized, entailing the need to be kept in chains. Yet sometimes he would escape and be driven into the wilds (v. 29b). The wilderness was thought to be a favorite haunt of demons (11:24).

Jesus asked for the man’s name and he used the name “Legion,” for many demons possessed him (v. 30). The demons begged Jesus not to be ordered into the abyss [abusson, the bottomless pit reserved for God’s enemies], also begging permission to enter a nearby herd of pigs (vv. 31-32). The demons proceed as per this permission, entering the swine and causing them to drown (v. 33). We are reminded of the unclean character of pigs for Jews (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8). The swineherds heard of this and told others (v. 34). People came out to see and found the man healed, clothed, and sitting with Jesus (likely at his feet) (vv. 35-36). The people of the region asked Jesus to leave, for they were afraid [phobos]. So Jesus got in a boat (v. 37). The man healed begged Jesus that he might stay with him (v. 38). Jesus tells him to return to his home and to proclaim what God has done for him but doing so in terms of what Jesus had done (v. 39). A clear testimony to Jesus’ identification with God seems to be made here.

Application: This text affords opportunities for sermons on miracles, helping people to see that whenever evil is overcome it is miraculous, but that much of this overcoming of evil by God is related to Christ’s Work (Providence and Atonement interpreted as Christ’s conquest of evil).

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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