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Proper 9 | OT 13 | Pentecost 5, Cycle A

While there is interest in human love and matchmaking only in the first three texts: finding an appropriate wife for Isaac in the selections from Genesis 24, in a royal marriage in Psalm 45:10-17, and in the love of a woman for the man she loves in Song of Solomon 2:8-13, there is gospel in each of these seven texts.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
The narrator of this text makes it clear that when the servant of Abraham was sent by Abraham to find an appropriate wife for Isaac from among the relatives and extended family of Abraham, the servant was led and guided by an angel of the Lord. Having given the ring and bracelets to Rebekah, the servant bowed his head and worshiped the Lord. Rebekah was pleased and along with a female assistant traveled with the servant to meet Isaac. The mission was accomplished with great satisfaction. There was good news for everyone. Isaac brought Rebekah into his tent. Rebekah became his wife and he loved her.

Psalm 45:10-17
This poetic account about a marriage of a king of Israel to a beautiful woman from a neighboring area presents the bride as joining fully into the court of her husband. Although none of these seven texts selected for this occasion are particularly relevant for association with an American Independence Day theme, this text might provide some type of contact, but is not applicable without a considerable stretch. Although an Israelite king’s power might be extended by a marriage alliance with a neighboring state, the worship life of the king and his people may be compromised. The poet attempts to avoid this issue by depicting the bride as leaving behind the family and religion of her own people. The text, therefore, might be said to be an expression of good news, with a note of caution.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Here we have a segment of this collection of lyric poems about the love of a woman and a man in the springtime of life. It is similar to the Genesis 24 and Psalm 45 accounts in its joyous expectations of love and marriage without the problems and difficult challenges that lie ahead.

Zechariah 9:9-12
This prophetic word is a call for rejoicing, a prophecy of peace to those who for so long have been burdened by war and by oppression. As we all know, early Christian gospel traditions applied these verses to Jesus and to his entry into Jerusalem, an entry that was followed by his arrest, torture, and crucifixion. The original context of these verses may have been the period soon after the amazing conquests of Alexander the Great. The writer of the text speaks clearly against the use of the military and against attempts to find military solutions to our problems as a people and as a nation. For us, the application of this text to American Independence Day is tenuous. Although it might have been applicable immediately after our Revolutionary War or perhaps in the aftermath of one of our other wars, for most of our national experience, the hope for an end of war has remained a short-term hope at best.

Psalm 145:8-14
In this beautiful individual hymn of praise, a favorite of Jewish and of Christian people from generation to generation, the Lord is said to uphold all who are falling and to raise up all who are bowed down. The Lord is praised for giving food in its season to all who look to the Lord and for satisfying the desire of every living being. Since the exact nature of the burden is unspecified, the psalm can be applied in any situation of suffering and burden-bearing. It is universally applicable, therefore, as good news.

Romans 7:15-25a
We have within these few verses a segment of one of Paul’s reflections over his own personal struggle with sin. The problem was not the Torah (the written Word of God at that time). The problem was with Paul’s own evil inclination, which Paul freely admitted in this text that he by himself could not fully resist. Time after time Paul did what he knew was evil. Yet he did it anyway. Deliverance for Paul and in our Christian experience comes from God through Jesus Christ our Lord, as Paul expressed it in the final words of this text. This good news is applicable in any situation and in any period of time. Paul’s stark contrast between his own evil inclination and the grace of God has become a classic in our Christian theology.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
It is written in Matthew 11:25 that God will reveal the hidden wisdom and in 11:27 that Jesus as the Son of God will reveal it. Then in 11:28-30 the saying of Jesus calls everyone to the Matthean Jesus, that is, everyone who is laboring and heavy laden, and the Matthean Jesus will give to all who are in that condition temporal, as well as eternal, rest. Therefore, in 11:28-30 the Matthean Jesus (and the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas) is more than merely the one who brings the wisdom of God to the unlearned and the weary; the Matthean Jesus is that wisdom personified.

These comforting words of Matthew 11:28-30 are needed as much today by all who are suffering the burdens of political and personal oppression as they were during the first century. We are grateful to God that we can be bearers of these comforting words to the oppressed people of our time and place. They are comforting words brought also to us.

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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