St. John Lutheran Church-Drake
Sabbath Day's Journey
Sabbath Day's Journey
August 1, 2021
As always, the Old Testament reading is connected to the Gospel reading of the New Testament. And the next three weeks are quite special in that the gospel text is from the Gospel according to John. This happens at no other time. And the Gospel according to John is exceedingly special, and so that will be the focus here, at least for the next three weeks.
The other gospel accounts are very similar to each other and are often called the ‘synoptic’ or the accounts with a similar viewpoint. But the Gospel according to John is so special that it often uses more library space than the space devoted to the other gospel accounts.
When examining the differences between those three accounts and the Gospel according to John, there is a lot that could be said. And many of the people who examine those differences go to various libraries and schools and examine those differences to their depths. But the first people to hear about those differences did not go to schools and libraries, but they went to churches—and not only churches, but to synagogues as well. The context of those places is significantly different in those two places than that of the school or the library. The ultimate focus of both the church and synagogue should be a gracious LORD.
Within such a context, it may be helpful to see this fourth gospel account as a modified ‘word of exhortation’ or ‘word of encouragement’. This is a Jewish type of message, one that people would expect after the ‘Old Testament’ readings. The entire Epistle to the Hebrews (see Hebrews 13:22) may be considered an actual word of exhortation, and Paul’s speech in Acts 13 is called the same thing (see Acts 13:15).
It seems like there are two basic parts to a word of exhortation, the word of the Lord that is laid out at the beginning, and the exhortation that comes from that word that appears at the end. There are some similarities in the Hebrews and Acts texts that may point to these two transition points: ‘Thus he has said … therefore, do not….’ These points are found in the following verses (and are sometimes translated in a way that does not make these words obvious): Acts 13:34 & 40; Hebrews 4:4 & 10:35
The Gospel according to John lays out a word, and words are certainly special at the beginning of the account [see John 1:1-14]. And the two words of the first phrase, that of the word section, they also appear at a major division in this gospel account, that of the end of chapter 12 and the first part of chapter 13 [see John 12:50].
But this gospel account as a ‘word of exhortation’ falls very short if you were expecting some kind of exhortation at the very end. An overwhelming amount of the text is given to the emphasis on the word.
There are some commands given in the last chapter of this gospel account. It may be interesting to see some of these commands (given in a somewhat-literal translation) in John 21:
Verse 6 Jesus to his disciples ‘Cast the net in the right side of the boat, and you will find.’
Verse 12 Jesus to his disciples ‘Come, breakfast.’
Verse 15 Jesus to Peter ‘Feed my lambs.’
Verse 16 Jesus to Peter ‘Shepherd my (little) sheep.’
Verse 17 Jesus to Peter ‘Feed my (little) sheep.’
Verse 19 Jesus to Peter ‘Follow me.’
Verse 22 Jesus to Peter ‘You, follow me.’
There is a lot of repetition here, but that is okay. Although all the commands are directed to the people of that time, the three central commands seem to be the most important. But the really important words given in this account are eternal. Jesus said, in the last verse of the text for today [John 6:35], ‘I am the bread of life.’ He did NOT say that he WAS or WILL BE the bread of life. That is a big difference.
July 25, 2021
The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is directed toward part of the Flood account [Genesis 9:8-17], and much could be said about this. People have focused on the Flood for MANY years (although it has not been MILLIONS of years), especially since a worldwide flood left the earth, in some ways, as if it had evolved over millions of years.
The nice thing from a literary perspective is that what is given is not just accurate, both historically and theologically, but this account also an emphasis on God’s remembering (see Genesis 8:1). That is what is in the center of a concentric structure which is the account of the Flood, but actually it is the account of Noah’s ‘account’ (or ‘lineage’ or ‘generation’). This is an important word throughout the Pentateuch.
There are ‘accounts’ from Genesis 2:4 to Numbers 3:1. And at the middle of this account of Noah, there is the phrase that ‘God remembered Noah.’ That’s an important factor, and it makes a difference to the rest of the account.
What is interesting is that, after the text for this Sunday, within this account of Noah something happens that is somewhat negative. Noah drinks too much wine. It’s a dangerous thing, and other writers have brought that point up elsewhere.
That ‘situation’ about Noah is started with this interesting phrase (9:20a): ‘Noah began to be a man of the soil.’ For one thing, the word ‘began’ is related to the idea of profanity, and that is certainly not a good thing. The word is used before this at Genesis 6:1 when the so-called ‘sons of God’ do not begin to do a good job with the daughters of men, and, at this very point, God gives his first mention of the punishment of the Flood. Another point that could be made is that the word ‘soil’ is like the name ‘Adam’, and that also takes us back to a bad thing. Because of sin of the first two people, the LORD God curses the soil.
These negative points on the end of certain sections may be found elsewhere in the Old Testament. Sometimes things are left in a very bad situation. This happens at the end of Genesis, at the end of the Pentateuch, and at the end of the entire Old Testament. Comparisons can be made to the present. When something bad happens, that may actually turn into a very good thing. For both the ancient and the modern groups of people, it is a nice thing to remember that ‘God remembers’. A bigger perspective is usually much more helpful.
The Old Testament Reading for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost is from Jeremiah 23[:1-6], and the text predicts the reign of a very important king. It is very unfortunate that this picture of a king does not have the significance that it did in the past. Very few people in the twenty-first century have an accurate picture in their minds as to what it means to be a king.
One picture that may be helpful that has been present from almost day one—actually this happened on day four—is that the things in the sky have some dominion. Here are those words in a somewhat-literal translation [Genesis 1:16-18]:
And God made two of the great lights, the greater light, for governing of the day and the lesser light, for governing of the night, and also the stars. And God gave them in the expanse of the heavens to cause light upon the earth, and to govern in the day and in the night and to separate between the light and between the darkness, and God saw that it was good.
The sun, moon, and stars all govern in a way, and they are over the people of the earth. In much the same way, a king reigns over some people. In a very simple way, it is a height issue. The king is over those he governs. He sometime does this by sitting. The problem with sitting is that the king would usually be lower than the others if the others are standing. But the others may be doing something like falling on their faces, and that ends up being an extremely low position.
One interesting tradition is the use of stars in the thrones of the ancient kings. Stars have been grouped into constellations for centuries, almost from day one. I mentioned last week that the book of Job mentions the constellations of Pleiades and Orion, and that is a very old book.
One very interesting connection is between the constellations and the living creatures of the LORD’s throne that are mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New, although they basically have a different order each time they are mentioned, and that can be confusing.
The various constellations are below. The first row are the names of the constellations if you are interested in something like astrology (having the stars determine the future—that seems to be VERY much out of the range of their authority, although it is certainly NOT out of the LORD's authority). The second row are the more typical names of all the constellations. The third row are the four living creatures that come up, each at the same interval (except for the difference between an eagle and a scorpion; this may be explained in that a scorpion has been connected to evil because of its ability to kill; and if you would like to look at the stars that make up this constellation, one might see an eagle's head calling out).Aires ram
Taurus bull ox
Leo lion lion
Scorpio scorpion eagle
Aquarius water-bearer man
July 11, 2021
For the Old Testament Reading on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, this time we go to one of the so-called ‘minor’ prophets. (They were called that because of the length of their works and not because of the frivolity in their messages.) The text is from Amos 7[:7-15].
Sometimes prophets are quickly and easily dismissed. But they usually have some very good and important things to say. This prophet will be quoted twice in the book of Acts, once at the very important Council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15).
Councils are important, and Amos mentions an extremely important council somewhat earlier in the book. Here is a somewhat-literal translation of 3:7
Specifically, the Lord Yahweh will not do a thing, specifically, unless he reveals his ‘plan’ to his servants, the prophets.
This word translated ‘plan’ here is much more complicated than just having one word as its equivalent. In Holladay’s ‘concise’ lexicon, the definition of ‘confidential conversation’ is given for its occurrence here [William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament; Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: Eerdmans Publishing, 1971; page 254]. The verses that are cross-referenced within the Concordia Self-Study Bible are the following: Genesis 18:17, I Samuel 3:7, Daniel 9:22, John 15:15, and Revelation 10:7. There are the LORD’s plans from literally Genesis to Revelation. Plans are important, and prophets are important throughout the Old and New Testaments; they often reveal the LORD’s plans.
Some people have described the Old Testament as the LORD gradually becoming less involved than he was before, and that can certainly be seen in some ways. It seems as though the LORD was used to walking in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. And then things, of course, started to fall apart.
Then things continued to fall apart even more. The prophets usually promised that some bad things would happen in the future. That seemed to be pretty normal, but, they were still despised, and people did not want to hear this bad news. That is pretty normal as well.
Amos was one of the first of the minor prophets (about 700 years before Christ), and there were more after him, but you can tell that, at this point in time, the people wanted to hear some good news.
As things continued on through the centuries, this desire for good news continued to grow. And it may also be seen in the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek. What follows are a couple of examples of this.
In the Greek translation of Amos 5:8, the LORD is not described as one who made the constellations Pleiades and Orion (this is, incidentally, the only time, other than the book of Job, where these constellations are mentioned), but, very simply, he ‘who makes all things.’ It seems that the mention of these two constellations was somewhat negative and that the translator wanted to be more positive.
At Amos 7:7, the Hebrew text simply has the following: ‘This he showed me.’ But the Greek, ‘This the Lord showed me.’ The translator wanted to make sure that the reader knew who was talking.
And one of the most interesting changes is in Amos 4:13. Here is the Hebrew text in a somewhat-literal translation:
Specifically, behold, one forming mountains and one creating wind and one revealing to man what is his thought, and one making dawn, darkness, and one walking upon the high places of the earth, Yahweh, God of hosts, his name.
Here is the Greek translation of the same verse:
For, behold, I am strengthening thunder and creating wind and proclaim to men his Christ, forming morning and darkness, and mounting upon the high places of the earth; Lord, the God, the ruler of all, his name.
Did you catch the most significant difference? The Greek starts with a first-person reference, and this is not that important. But instead of ‘what is his thought’ (in the Hebrew—and that phrase is very similar in its letters to the one word for ‘Messiah’), the text has the anointed one, the Christ (in Greek). People were waiting for the Christ for a LONG time.
When the Christ finally came, he came with a special prophet who prepared the way for him. But he surprised the people by the way this Christ acted, going to the cross. And this Anointed One continues to surprise, since we are often so focused on ourselves.