June 30, 2006

1 Sa 25-27 / Tidbits

(For comments on the seasonal canticle for June, Isaiah 12:1-6, see here.)

Still in the major section that deals with David’s rise to the throne and the decline and end of Saul’s reign, 1 Samuel 25-27 today finishes the subsection that tells of David's serving Saul and fleeing for his life and begins the subsection that tells of David's seeking refuge in Philistia and Saul's and his sons' being killed in battle. More specifically, chapter 25 tells of David, Nabal, and Abigail; chapter 26 tells of David sparing Saul’s life again, and chapter 27 tells of David among the Philistines. At the beginning of chapter 25 the narrative tells of Samuel’s death; we hadn’t heard about him since chapter 19, but that he’s dead will be important for chapter 28. There does also seem to be some relevance in this location, too, since David and Samuel were thought to be together in 19:22, and here David moves on after Samuel's death. We apparently were not told about when David was at Carmel helping protect Nabal’s flocks, although there is no doubt that it happened. One commentator points out a number of important functions of chapter 25: indirectly characterizing Saul as a fool, showing David’s natural vengeful tendency to contrast the two times he spares Saul’s life that this account is sandwiched between, the Lord keeping David from vengeance by Abigail’s action, Abigail anticipating David’s dynasty, and the Lord providing a replacement wife for Saul’s giving Michal away. Despite David’s mercy towards Saul in chapter 26, David still won’t live near Saul or anywhere in Israel, and so David goes to live among the Philistines in chapter 27, events that are important background for what is going to happen in later chapters.

Tidbits today begin with Roman Catholic officials saying there'll be no communion for stem-cell researchers. ... British Methodists won’t bless same-sex unions. ... Presbyterian Church USA leaders say their recent convention was “the process of doing things at its best”, apparently being faithful to God’s word isn’t a part of that process. ... New York State is now investigating the case of the Christian skating rink. ... The U.S. Supreme Court lets a lower-court ruling stand so pro-life license plates can hit the roads. ... And as the 4th of July nears, cartoons are being called a measure of freedom.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 29, 2006

Ps 27 / 1 Sa 22-24 / Baptism in Acts / Folo / Tidbits

My previous comments on Psalm 27 offer a good summary of the Psalm, but this time as we read it I also want to focus in on one verse. Verse 10 speaks of parents forsaking the psalmist, David, but the Lord receiving him. Like David, those of us brought up in faithful Christian families are truly blessed. There is no evidence that David’s parents actually did forsake him (see, in fact, 1 Samuel 22:3, which we read today), and so some take the first part of this verse as hypothetical: “Though my father and mother might forsake me”. In faithful Christian families forsaking on account of the faith is not too likely, although those who convert to Christianity from other religions have always risked being abandoned by their family, especially converts from Islam. If things continue the way they are in the Missouri Synod, we may find applications we never anticipated to such passages as Matthew 10:32-39 and Luke 12:51-53 and 14:26-27, which sound harsh, but we also remember the promise of Matthew 19:29 and parallel passages (Mark 10:29 and Luke 18:29).

As with yesterday, today’s reading of 1 Samuel 22-24 continues the major section that deals with David’s rise to the throne and the decline and end of Saul’s reign by continuing the subsection that tells of David serving Saul and fleeing for his life. First we read of David at Adullam and Mizpah (22:1-5), and then we read of Saul killing the priests of Nob (22:6-23). Next is David saving Keilah (23:1-6) and Saul pursuing David there (23:7-29). Finally, chapter 24 tells of David sparing Saul’s life. When reading 1 Samuel 22:3 remember that David’s great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabitess, so he had a family connection there. In 22:5 note the introduction of the prophet Gad who would continue to serve David as the Lord’s representative, and note in 22:20 the introduction of Abiathar who would continue to serve David as a priest. Saul is convinced that David is going to kill him, but we will see in chapter 24 how that was not the case.

After recently finishing reading a chapter that dealt with Baptism in the book of Acts from G. R. Beasley-Murray’s book Baptism in the New Testament (available in the collection of Founders Library at Concordia University-Austin), I wanted to share some more thoughts on Baptism in Acts. I still stand by statements such as those in this Q&A, but I wanted to make a couple more observations. Some who try to explain what appear to be conflicting statements in Acts about Baptism and the Holy Spirit will cut out portions of the text or attribute them to other sources poorly edited by Luke in order to get around the difficulty. We will not do so, nor is it necessary to do so. I have given plausible explanations that are widely accepted. The different ways of referring to the name used in Baptism ultimately must be just that: different ways of referring to the Triune Name used in Baptism. The Lord’s command to the apostles as to how to make disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 would certainly have been known to all in their fellowship. The Name would both be confessed by the person being baptized as well as be used in the application of the water. The confession by the person being baptized or his or her sponsors, we say in the Baptismal rite we use, is “to signify thereby what God in and through Baptism works in him”. There is a difference between the Holy Spirit being present and working in conversion and baptism and the Holy Spirit as a special gift manifest in various ways, and, as I have previously indicated, we do not expect such miraculous manifestations anymore since God’s Word as recorded now has its own authority. Still, even we who have the Holy Spirit present and active in our lives can pray for Him to be more present and more active: “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Today’s Biblog folo comes in response to a tidbit about “a group of ex-gay teachers” forming a caucus in the National Education Association linked in Tuesday’s post; a reader emailed the following comment.

Fantastic! Both that it exists (because it will get opposition) and that there are enough “ex-gays” in education to form one!

I agree, and I pray they are strong enough to keep the endorsement of pro-gay curricula from passing.

After one day off from tidbits, I have a dozen today. A Virginia woman who shot and killed her unborn baby the day she was to deliver it hasn’t been charged yet, in part because a judge ruled she wasn’t a third party who could be charged with producing a miscarriage or abortion. A pro-life activist says it shows how little the country regards children not yet born. ... A U.S. House committee fails to advance a measure to protect “God” in the pledge. ... Fewer Americans appear to want the federal government should take the lead on moral values, and Americans reportedly do not rank moral issues very high among congressional priorities and do not think Republicans can handle the issues better. ... A controversial Navy chaplain now says he’s in more trouble because he preached an exclusive Gospel message at an optional service. ... A Federal Aviation Administration employee says he was disciplined for telling a coworker his view of homosexuality. ... Opposition supposedly forced the National Education Association to change the language in a pro-gay measure going before convention delegates. ... The Anglican Communion is all but divided by a schism over gay bishops as its leader calls for two tiers of membership. ... A reader sent in this link about a Plano Episcopal congregation leaving its national church body with the comment that it’s “nice to have a sympathetic bishop!” ... The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship tries to show it isn’t wrestling with the basics. ... A story about insuring some nuns against an immaculate conception when Jesus comes again turns out to be just that: a story. ... A reader sent in this link about the decline of playground games like tag and soccer with a comment that seven-year-olds can play soccer and little league and that supervision makes the difference. ... And, on the media watch, Star Jones is leaving or was fired from ABC’s “The View”. Lesibian Rosie O’Donnell is already in line to replace Meredith Viera, who is going to NBC’s Today Show, and, although no one is saying it yet, one wonders if Jones being a devout Christian didn’t have something to do with her departure. A viewer’s comment in this forum before noted that Jones’ Christianity was a source of contention before.

There's a new Q&A here, and keep those questions, comments, and links coming! God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 28, 2006

1 Sa 19-21

(When you read Psalm 26, you may want to read these comments.)

In 1 Samuel 19-21 we continue the major section that deals with David’s rise to the throne and the decline and end of Saul’s reign and the subsection that tells of David serving Saul and fleeing for his life. Chapter 19 tells of another of Saul’s attempts to kill David, chapter 20 tells more about David and Jonathan, and chapter 21 tells about David at Nob (21:1-9) and at Gath (21:10-15). As you read, notice how faithless Saul continues to break oaths he takes and how David's and Jonathan’s faithfulness continues. The Spirit of the Lord worked to keep David safe, even overwhelming Saul himself again (this second occasion of Saul’s prophesying reinforced what people said about him after the first one). I was struck by Jonathan’s awareness that David and not he himself would succeed his father and his resulting plea for mercy for him and his family and how it contrasts with Saul’s false hope that Jonathan will still receive a kingdom, especially after Samuel made it clear to Saul that Jonathan wouldn’t. The incident with Ahimelech giving David the Bread of the Presence is significant, especially as Jesus uses it in Matthew 12:3-4.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 27, 2006

Ps 25 / 1 Sa 16-18 / Tidbits

In reading Psalm 25 today, I was struck by verse 10: “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant” (NIV). Many people today would like to stop half-way through that verse: “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful”. So often we hear, “My God wouldn’t do such and such” or “A loving God wouldn’t do so and so”. In the case of “My God”, people generally want to create God in their own image and want to have nothing to do with the God of the Bible. In the case of “A loving God”, we hear in this verse that all God’s ways are loving “for those who keep the demands of his covenant”. Although there is no one who perfectly keeps the demands of his covenant, we should not read that second part of the verse in such a way as to exclude everyone. Rather, we should understand that as we believe in Christ God sees us with Christ’s righteousness of having kept the covenant demands. We fear the Lord (verse 14) and pray for forgiveness as the psalmist does (verses 1-7, 16-22), and we know that He mercifully hears our prayers and that His answer to those prayers are loving and faithful. (You can read my previous thoughts on Psalm 25 here.)

Today with our reading of 1 Samuel 16-18 we begin the next major section of the books of Samuel, that dealing with David’s rise to the throne and the decline and end of Saul’s reign. The first subsection, 1 Samuel 16-26, tells of David’s anointing, his serving Saul, and his fleeing for his life. What we read today tells of Samuel anointing David (16:1-13), David serving Saul (16:14-23), David fighting Goliath (chapter 17), and Saul being jealous of David (chapter 18). As always, you are welcome to ask about anything, but a few things in these chapters seemed worthy to me to note. That David is a shepherd (16:11) is significant, for he will shepherd the Lord’s people. There is an intended contrast between the Spirit coming to David in 16:13 and departing from Saul (16:14). David’s exposure to Saul as a musician (16:14-23) and warrior (chapter 17) are also significant, for they are strengths of David that serve him spiritually and politically and make him renown in Israel.

First the music gives David what was probably occasional employment by Saul, the position of armor bearer likely being a title for those who attended the king. David likely went back and forth from the sheep to Saul’s service as the king had need of him due to the evil spirit. The idea of having one person fight the Philistine’s champion, Goliath, instead of the full armies of both sides facing off appears to have its precedent in the Philistine’s Greek heritage. The terror of Israel’s champion, Saul, and his army indicate how much they had lost their faith in the Lord and how their hope of security in a human king had also failed. David recognizes the matter clearly (17:26) and goes forth and is the Lord’s hand to defeat Goliath, making it clear the Lord was the victor (17:45-47). Abner, Saul, and David’s conversation in 17:55-58 seems to have to do with getting more background about David’s family than Abner and Saul already knew; one commentator suggests the information was needed to deliver the reward promised in 17:25. The victory over Goliath brings David and Jonathan into a close friendship and covenant relationship and ultimately leads to Saul’s daughter Michal loving David. But, the people’s giving more glory to David than to Saul begins his jealousy of David that drives Saul to try to kill David in a variety of ways.

Today's handful of tidbits begin with the new chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court deciding a split decision in favor of the death penalty. ... The mainstream media are making much out of Warren Buffett’s donations to the Gates Foundation, but few are talking about how he’s funding abortion. ... A Christian skating party gets the rink and a newspaper in hot water. ... Prayers have been banned at some Indiana 4-H meetings. (I guess God doesn’t have anything to do with head, heart, hands, or health.) ... And a former lesbian is going to try to convince the National Education Association people can come out of homosexuality, as that group is expected to push gay curriculum.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 26, 2006

1 Sa 13-15 / Tidbits

(Psalm 24 is appointed to read today, and my previous comments are here.)

1 Samuel 13-15 tells how Saul’s kingship failed. Right away in chapter 13 is the introduction of Jonathan, Saul’s oldest son, who is an important figure in the relationship between Saul and his successor, David. Although there are some difficulties with the text of 13:1 that might be taken to suggest otherwise, Saul’s meeting with Samuel at Gilgal in 13:8 appears to be that meeting planned back in 10:8. Saul’s impatience led him to disregard Samuel’s instructions and act as if he, as king, could be independent of God’s Word, which Samuel spoke and represented. Even at a surface level, Saul thought the offerings were just a rite that he himself could order to be performed without recognizing the role of the prophet and how even ordering the performance of the rite indicated what was supposed to be an underlying right relationship with God. But, Saul’s rebellion against God was deeper than that, and his family would pay a heavy price for the rebellion. While Samuel spoke of God not establishing a dynasty with Saul and his family, God did not completely abandon Saul’s reign or Israel (at least not at this point, despite what 13:14 might seem to suggest on the surface), as their success in the somewhat-miraculous battle of chapter 14 indicates.

In chapter 14, Jonathan acts boldly, having faith that God would keep His promise to his father, Saul, about delivering Israel from the Philistines. Jonathan’s words in 14:6 highlights the covenant relationship Israel with God and the land that was rightfully theirs as a result. As Jonathan expected, the Lord gave him a sign, and he successfully attacked. Saul, meanwhile, while seeing an opportunity to attack, at first is going to seek the Lord’s will regarding the battle (more likely by way of the Urim and Thummim that were with the ephod of 14:3 than by way of the ark mentioned in 4:18—the text here is disputed), but then, apparently fearing that the opportunity would pass too quickly, Saul goes with his own judgment, instead of getting direction from the Lord. More unfaithfulness from Saul follows, including Saul's acting as if the battle were his and not the Lord’s and thus binding the troops to an oath, of which Jonathan was unaware and broke; building an altar; and thoughtlessly taking an oath to kill his son. (Note that in 14:27 “brightening the eyes” reflects the returning of strength.) The Lord helped Saul to recognize that the oath, which surely involved God’s Name, was an occasion for sin (14:37), but it took some doing before Saul realized that the sin was his and not Jonathan’s. Even though it was Jonathan who inadvertently broke the oath, God’s verdict was indicated by Jonathan’s God-given victory in battle and the troop’s opposition to Saul’s oath to kill Jonathan. What one commentator calls Saul’s “arbitrary and despotic command” brought the guilt on Israel and kept the Lord from answering Saul’s inquiry. The oath Saul made the troops swear also might be said to have led them into the sin of all too quickly eating the spoils of their battle (14:31-32).

Chapter 15 narrates the events that led the Lord finally to reject Saul himself as king: Saul’s failing to completely destroy the Amalekites. Saul openly rebelled against God and tried to rule according to his own will. When Samuel at God’s direction confronts Saul about his failure, Saul makes all sorts of excuses (even blaming the people, of whose concerns he was all too conscious in his previous sin). When Saul tries to keep Samuel there and use Samuel for his own purposes, Samuel acts as Saul should have acted, killing the king of the Amalekites. Note that God’s “repentance” over making Saul king (KJV, ASV) is not God changing His mind but rather His “grief” (NIV; “regret” NASB) over sinners’ rebellion. Samuel’s comment in 15:14 is a favorite, as Saul appears like a child with chocolate on his face denying he had eaten any candy. How often we all are caught red-handed and need not pridefully to protest our innocence but humbly to confess our sin in order to receive God’s forgiveness.

Tidbits today begin with Maryland’s Republican governor appointing a gay judge. ... California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is drawing fire for a “gay fundraiser”. ... The sinful pride of unrepentant human beings will see the Lord’s judgment. ... African Anglicans reportedly are saddened by U.S. Episcopals’ recent votes on homosexual issues. ... Here’s some interesting insight into why people don’t seem to care anymore about immorality or essential aspects of the Christian faith. ... There’s more details here than I’ve seen anywhere else about the Presbyterians’ new thoughts about the Trinity. ... And, here’s some insight into how Muslims feel about European terrorism. (Don’t get me started on moderate Muslims' unfaithfulness to their own sacred writings.)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 25, 2006

Ps 23 / 1 Sa 10-12 / Texas District / Augsburg Confession / Tidbits

As you read Psalm 23 today, also read my previous comments on it and the new comments that follow. In giving the account of our Lord walking this earth in His public ministry, the evangelists by Divine inspiration make deliberate allusions to Psalm 23. Mark 6:32-44’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 is one example: note verses 34, 39, 41 and 43. We find Psalm 23 and the feeding narratives like Mark 6 pointing to the heavenly food our Good Shepherd gives us in the Sacrament of the Altar. In this life we do pass through the valley of the shadow of death, but we do not fear any evil, for the Lord is with us; as we remain faithful to Him, His goodness and mercy (KJV; “lovingkindness” ASV, NASB; “love” NIV) in Word and Sacrament stay with us all the days of our lives.

Reading 1 Samuel 10-12 today we finish the major section that tells of God establishing the kingship through Samuel. With chapter 10 we finish the narrative of Samuel anointing Saul privately (10:1-16) and hear of Saul publicly being chosen as king (10:17-27). In the first part of chapter 11 we read of Saul’s victory over the Ammonites “confirming” his selection (11:1-13) and in the rest of chapter 11 and chapter 12 of a covenant renewal ceremony formalizing the beginning of Saul’s reign (11:14-12:25). As you read, remember that prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed and that “Messiah” from the Hebrew and “Christ” from the Greek mean “anointed one”. Samuel gives Saul three signs, including a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to assure him that God is behind the anointing and will be with Saul. The public revelation of Saul as king, probably using the Urim and Thummim, was surely intended to communicate the same thing to the people. Note in 11:7 how Saul includes Samuel in the leadership and in 11:13 Saul gives the glory of the victory to God. As Samuel gives his final official address to the people, he asks for people to accuse him in order to publicly establish his faithfulness as leader, not for his own ego, but to set an example for Saul. Then, Samuel reverses roles and accuses the people of unfaithfulness to the Lord in asking for a king. With an out-of-season thunderstorm, Samuel punctuates his point in calling the people to repent and assuring them that God forgives them, setting a cycle the people—and we—need to follow.

The Texas District Convention wraps up today. Despite promised daily video reports, there’s been little news available online other than the election results.

On June 25, 1530, Lutheran leaders presented to the emperor what's become known as the Augsburg Confession as their answer to his call for a summary of their faith—a presentation commemorated in the Divine Service today. Following precedents found within the Bible itself, the Augsburg Confession makes a positive confession of what the Lutherans believe, teach, and confess, and the Augsburg Confession likewise expresses in negative terms what positions are rejected. Such is to be the way that unity and fellowship (as in the Sacrament of the Altar) are to be achieved. Consider the following portion of the Preface to the Augsburg Confession.

The desire was also expressed [by the emperor] for deliberation on what might be done about the dissension concerning our holy faith and the Christian religion, and to this end it was proposed to employ all diligence amicably and charitably to hear, understand, and weigh the judgments, opinions, and beliefs of the several parties among us, to unite the same in agreement on one Christian truth, to put aside whatever may not have been rightly interpreted or treated by either side, to have all of us embrace and adhere to a single, true religion and live together in unity and in one fellowship and church, even as we are all enlisted under one Christ. (AC Preface:2-4, Tappert, 24-25)

If you want to read more about the Augsburg Confession, you can see Saturday’s Memorial Moment and this page about our Biblical and Confessional standard.

I have seven tidbits for the first day of the week. Just after a judge let “In God we trust” remain on U.S. currency, Florida makes it the state’s official motto. ... Here’s a newsflash: Muslims and people in the West don’t think much of each other. ... Officials for a California shopping mall didn’t think much of a pastor doing evangelism inside. ... The Presbyterian church (USA) wants marijuana to be legal for medical purposes. ... The American Jewish Committee puts its money where its mouth is on U.S. oil dependency. ... This was too strange not to mention. ... And, they killed off Superman once for similar reasons, but now Barbie?

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments! (If you missed our special Bible Study on The Da Vinci Code, you can find its notes here.)

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 24, 2006

1 Sa 7-9 / Tidbits

(Remember today to read Psalm 22 and the comments on it here.)

As we read 1 Samuel 7-9, we finish the opening section that gives the historical setting for the establishing of the kingship by telling more of God’s leadership through Samuel (chapter 7), and we begin the next section on the establishing of the kingship, hearing of the people’s request of a king and God’s answer (chapter 8) and of Samuel’s anointing Saul privately (chapter 9). In 7:2-13a note how the people repent and God forgives and delivers them, as He forgives and delivers us when we repent. The stone “Ebenezer” (the name means “stone of help”) in 7:12 is notable also, as it turns up in hymns and such. Samuel’s service is summarized in 7:13b-17, not that Samuel is disappearing from the scene but more to contrast his service with that of his sons (8:2-3) and help set the scene for the demand of a king (8:4-5). The people want to be like all the other nations, and in the process they reject the Lord, their King (8:6-9). Samuel’s prophecy about the burden of the king (8:10-21) came true, as we will read in days to come. Saul comes into the account as one rounding up straying donkeys, perhaps intended also to be symbolic of his future role as king trying to bring the people back to the Lord, and for both tasks he needed the help of Samuel, the prophet (9:1-20a). Samuel tells Saul he is to be the king, they eat together, and Samuel prepares to anoint Saul (9:20b-27), but for the anointing itself you will have to wait until tomorrow’s reading.

I have five tidbits for you today. As more U.S. soldiers die in Iraq their funerals are getting more controversial at home. (I guess the point of the funeral is long forgotten.) ... The U.S. Congress is considering a ban on attorneys’ fees in First Amendment religion cases. ... House churches are said to be on the rise across America, but they’re not anything new—the Church existed only in that form in its earliest days. ... There’s yet another claim to have found Noah’s Ark, but this time it’s said to be in Iran. ... Is he kidding? Humorist Art Buchwald says there is a God, “but not the one that causes all the trouble in the world”.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments! Remember we’ll be commemorating the presentation of the Augsburg Confession (you can find more about it here) and having a special Bible Study on The Da Vinci Code.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 23, 2006

Ps 21 / 1 Sa 4-6 / Tidbits

In your reading of Psalm 21 today take note of these comments, and I want to add one other observation. In verse 4, the psalmist speaks of the king not just having “length of days” but also of the king living “for ever and ever”. We might be inclined to think of that as a figure of speech in David’s case or apply it only to Jesus, but there are other clues in the psalm that the psalmist is taking a view larger than this life: verse 6’s “eternal blessings” (NIV; “blessed forever” KJV, ASV, NASB), verse 6’s “joy of (or in) Your presence” (KJV “countenance”), and verse 9’s “time of your appearing” (NIV; “time of Thine anger” KJV, ASV, NASB). “O king, live forever” is an expression found frequently in the Old Testament, as is “God save the king” (which lives on in our time as “God save the queen”). The mix of temporal and eternal times should not surprise us. We already have all the blessings of God, even though we do not yet fully experience them.

Yesterday’s reading ended with Samuel rising to influence over all Israel, and as we read 1 Samuel 4-6 today we begin a section in which we hear more of Samuel as judge and deliverer. In 4:1-11, the elders of Israel acted more like their pagan neighbors in bringing the ark up from Shiloh, thinking of it as some magic charm rather than a sign of God’s presence among them. In 4:12-22, Eli dies when he hears not that his sons have died but that the ark has been captured, and before his daughter-in-law dies in labor she names her newborn son “no glory” because God Himself had become estranged from His people. In chapter 5, I love the fact that the Philistines’ idol god Dagon is found prostrate—not once but twice—before the symbol of the God of Israel. The plague on the people of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron also kept the Philistines from thinking that either Dagon or they were responsible for defeating the Israelites and “capturing” the ark, which they finally figured out after the three towns had been afflicted. In chapter 6, the Philistines’ priests and diviners come up with a plan to send the ark back to Israel and further decide whether Israel’s God was afflicting them. The priests and diviners may not have known the ark was only supposed to be carried, but their cart method with cows that were quite unlikely to pull together anywhere, let alone to a city where there would be priests, served God’s purpose for the Philistines and the Israelites. Seventy men of Beth Shemesh died “for their irreverent curiosity” (I was reminded of those who looked into the ark in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), and the rest of the town reacted not unlike the Philistines afflicted by tumors—wanting to get the ark away from them. Notice their question in 6:20, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” (NIV). Psalm 130:3-4 gives an answer.

Tidbits today begin with more scientists taking issue with Darwin’s theory of evolution. ... A new Gallup poll suggests Americans support euthanasia, but the numbers are disputed. ... A court victory and loss Wednesday for a giant cross on top of a San Diego Korean War memorial. ... California’s legislature is one step closer to pulling funding for schools that don’t promote homosexuality and other deviant forms of sexuality. ... The Presbyterian Church USA is “thrown into crisis” over a vote to allow homosexual clergy. ... The Puerto Rican “district” of the United Church of Christ has left the parent body over its liberal policies regarding gays. (Remember to pray for a conservative turn as business begins today at the convention of the Texas District of the LCMS.) ... India’s high court lifted a ban on “The Da Vinci Code” movie, but government officials are planning to appeal the ruling. And, I’ve already heard from people who are looking forward to our Bible study session on The Da Vinci Code (book and movie) this Sunday at 9:15 a.m. Don’t miss it!

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 22, 2006

1 Sa 1-3 / Folos / Tidbits

(Psalm 20 is assigned again today, and you can find comments on it here.)

1 Samuel 1-3 takes us from the time of the Judges into the period of the monarchy. In addition to my comments about the book as a whole in the background for this month’s reading (online here and downloadable here), I want to make a few other general comments. Originally one book, 1 and 2 Samuel were divided into two by the Greek translators of the Hebrew Old Testament and called the First and Second Books of Kingdoms. Although the two books as we have them are named for Samuel, a “judge” whom God used to set up Israel’s kingship, he is not thought to be their author, nor does he figure prominently in the book after 1 Samuel 15. Possibly compiled by Zabud, a son of the prophet Nathan, the books are generally dated around the end of Solomon’s reign and, without denying Divine inspiration, regarded as drawn from other sources existing at the time. The arrangement of the narrative in Samuel is perhaps not strictly chronological, and we will follow an organizational scheme that treats 1 and 2 Samuel as the originally-written one book.

The book of Samuel thus begins with some historical background for the setting up of the monarchy in Israel, beginning with our reading today of Samuel’s birth and youth and God’s judgment on the house of Eli. In the chapters we read today you may note a number of parallels to the infancy narratives of both John the Baptizer and Jesus. Chapter 1 tells of Hannah’s yearning for a child, her vow to God in prayer, of God’s answering that prayer, and of Hannah turning the child over to the Lord. Chapter 2 begins with Hannah’s prayer or song, which we have previously read and discussed. Eli’s sons were serving as priests but were wicked, as the continued reading of chapter 2 tells us, and not only do they bring judgment on their father’s house, but they also serve as “foils” for the boy Samuel, highlighting his character and faithfulness. The prophet who delivers God’s judgment to Eli (2:27) speaks God’s promise to raise up a faithful priest (2:35), which may have most immediately been fulfilled with Zadok’s line through Azariah (which ended in the time between the testaments), but which I think we want to see ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, Who offered the greatest sacrifice of Himself on the cross and continues to intercede for us as our Great High Priest. In chapter 3 we hear how the Lord called Samuel when he was older, perhaps about 12. Often Samuel’s call is used as a model for how we should respond to the need to preach God’s Word, but, while there is always a need for workers in the vineyard, we should never forget that vocations other than church work are also God-pleasing and in many ways just as important. What an amazing response we hear from Eli in 3:18 after Samuel confirms the prophecy against Eli’s house: “He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His eyes” (NIV)—we should all be able to say that in the face of things that happen in our own lives! By such Divine wisdom our very salvation has been accomplished.

Today's Biblog folos begin with a reader's comment that reading Ruth was a nice change, presumably from the unfaithfulness and immorality of Judges. I agree, and the contrast Ruth provides to that period is one of the reasons why people think the book was included in the canon, along with the book providing the genealogy and an episode in the family history of David.

A trio of tidbits in Tuesday's post about new indecency laws, a valedictorian’s speech, and the NEA’s pro-gay curriculum ideas prompted a reader to email the following:

Kids are in school more hours than they watch TV, and parents can do more about TV, for their own kids, if they are so inclined. Fighting the school is an uphill battle.

I agree that resisting curriculum changes can be futile, and I might also point to the internet and the need for parental monitoring and controls there.

Although I have resisted turning the Biblog into a bulletin board for prayer requests, I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that the Texas District of the LCMS begins its convention today, and a reader emailed to comment: “We can pray for God's will to be done, if He wants to bother with this!” I’d say God more than “bothers” where faithfulness to His Word and His Truth are at stake! If you are interested, the convention activities begin today, although the convention itself does not formally open with elections and other voting until Friday.

Tidbits today begin with the report that the U.S. Episcopal church has backed away from electing openly gay bishops in an attempt to stay within the worldwide Anglican communion. ... Newsweek reports what people are thinking about hell, and thanks to a reader for sending in the link. ... And, don’t let this report stop you from making the sign of the cross!

There's one new Q&A here; remember you are welcome to submit your questions and comments using the link on the left near the top of the main Biblog page. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 21, 2006

Ruth / Tidbits

(Psalm 19 is assigned again today, and you can find comments on it here.)

Today we read the entire book of Ruth. Please see the background information for this month’s reading (online here or downloadable here) to find some comments on the book as a whole. Though the story apparently takes place at a time when Israel and Moab were at peace during the time of the Judges (Moab is on the southeast side of the Dead or Salt Sea, and Bethlehem in Israel is on the northwest side of the sea), the story was not recorded until later, possibly, as tradition suggests, by Samuel or even later, as its style of Hebrew suggests, during the monarchy. Naomi is moved from despair, emptiness, and poverty to happiness, fullness, and security by the redemption God worked through Ruth and Boaz. Ultimately all God’s people would be redeemed from their sins by God working through Ruth’s and Boaz’s descendant, Jesus Christ. Even though Ruth was a foreigner, God’s grace included her in His covenant, and her faithfulness to God kept her there. (If you want to read more about the contemporary musical based on Ruth that I mentioned see here.)

As you read the book of Ruth, there are a couple of specific things to note. First, note how God’s control of events is confessed in a number of places (1:6, 13, 21; 2:20; 4:12-15), and active even in others where it is not specifically expressed (for example, 2:3). Second, note the greeting between Boaz and his harvesters in 2:4. Third, see how Boaz uses the wings-as-refuge figure of speech in 2:12, which figure of speech we have seen in the Psalms, and see also the “wings” of the garment in 3:9. Fourth, Naomi (or Mara) recognizes Boaz’s actions protecting Ruth and providing for her and explains to Ruth that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer (2:20). Kinsmen-redeemers had a variety of responsibilities, such as providing an heir for a dead brother (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), buying back land sold outside the family (Leviticus 25:25-28), buying back a relative sold into slavery (Leviticus 25:47-49), and avenging the murder of a relative (Numbers 35:19-21). Fifth, Naomi’s directions to Ruth to “uncover Boaz’s feet” (3:4) were a legitimate way to request the marriage a kinsman-redeemer was obligated to provide (see how Tamar, an ancestress of Boaz through Perez, had done something similar in Genesis 38:13-30). Sixth, in 3:10 Ruth’s earlier kindness to Mahlon, her “deceased” husband, and to Naomi is surpassed by her faithfulness to the covenant customs and finding an older husband who could act in accord with the law. Seventh, though Boaz had already taken—and continued to take—some steps to provide for Ruth and Naomi, he would not ignore the priority that the nearer-kinsman had, but at the same time he promised to act if the nearer-kinsman would not (3:10-13). Eighth, in chapter 4, you see how the town gate functioned as the place for business and legal transactions with some symbolic actions. Ninth, the nearer-kinsman who refuses to redeem because of the risk of losing his own inheritance highlights the love and faithfulness of Boaz (who faced the same risk), just as Orpah’s return to her original family highlights the love and faithfulness of Ruth. Tenth and finally, we New Testament readers are intended to extend the genealogy in 4:18-22 all the way from David to Christ (see Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38), as the somewhat prophetic words of the Bethlehem witnesses also extend.

Today's tidbits begin with Pennsylvania’s two senators sponsoring a bill to allow forms of stem-cell research that are supposed to be less controversial, but not everyone thinks it’s okay. ... The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear another case on partial-birth abortions. ... The U.S. military still correctly sees homosexuality as an aberration. ... A religious think-tank in Britain suggests scrapping legal marriage for civil partnerships. ... A Georgia mom says if the Bible goes out of school libraries so should Harry Potter. ... We can pray this university’s decision regarding the occult won’t set the standard for schools in the United States. (Thanks to the reader who sent in the link.) ... And, recent decisions at U.S. national church body conventions are being called “mainline insanity”. Oh, and the Texas District of the LCMS meets in convention starting tomorrow.

Basketball season is over now (sorry, Maverick fans), just in time for the summer solstice and the days beginning to get shorter. God bless your shorter day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 20, 2006

Ps 18 / Jdg 19-21 / Tidbits

In addition to my previous comments on Psalm 18, I want to point out a couple of other things. First, did you notice verse 41? As David is making progress against his and the Lord’s enemies, the enemies call out to their false gods, who of course are unable to help them. The enemies also call out to the Lord, but He does not answer (see Job 27:9, Proverbs 1:28, and Jeremiah 11:11). The psalmist doesn’t say why the Lord doesn’t answer, but we might gather any or all of the following: that they were not praying from faith, that they were praying for their cause against David and the Lord, and that their prayers to Him were too late (perhaps like the knocking on the closed door in Matthew 25:10-12). Many today lose sight of the need for faith in prayer, for the prayer to be in accord with God’s will, and for the prayer to be offered during the time of salvation. Simplistic happy-clappy praise songs based on Psalm 18, like this one, show little recognition of our sinful state and unworthiness to come before the Lord. (Compare the psalmist’s admission of the need for faith and humility in verses 25 and 27.)

Today by reading Judges 19-21 we finish the book of Judges. These chapters take us through the second part of the Epilogue, telling of a Levite’s bad experience in Gibeah (chapter 19) and of the tribe of Benjamin’s being disciplined for defending Gibeah (chapters 20-21). The involvement of the tribes of Benjamin and Dan in the corrupt events of the Epilogue is notable because the tribes also provided deliverers whose narratives open and close the central section of the book: namely, Ehud and Samson. As in the first half of the Epilogue, there is little behavior to praise, other than perhaps that of the other tribes of Israel, who were prompted to root out the unfaithfulness by the Levite’s sending the parts of his concubine to them to call their attention to the evil that had taken place in Gibeah. Like the request made of Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19:5), the men of Gibeah wanted to have homosexual sex with the Levite, and, like Lot (Genesis 19:8), the old man, under the obligations of providing hospitality to guests, offered his daughter to the men of the city in an attempt to placate them. For Benjamin’s eventual failure to turn over the offenders, the whole tribe suffered mightily, although in God’s grace and mercy He provided for a remnant that could preserve the tribe. No matter the degree of corruption then or now the Lord does preserve a faithful remnant, even as those who should be His people become as corrupt as the pagans of the world.

Tidbits today begin with President Bush signing into law tougher fines for broadcast indecency. ... It's official: South Dakota voters will be able to decide if they really want the abortion ban that recently became the law there. ... A valedictorian got her speech cut short when she violated a ban on mentioning Christ. ... The National Education Association is expected to endorse gay marriage this summer, keeping pace, I guess, with our neighbors north of the border. ... And, the newly-elected leader of the Episcopal church says homosexuality isn’t a sin; I guess she hasn’t read today’s portion of Judges. (Thanks to the reader who sent in the link.)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 19, 2006

Jdg 16-18 / Tidbits

(Remember to read Psalm 17 and see these comments on it.)

With Judges 16-18 we finish reading the account of Samson and read the first part of the Epilogue to the book. The end of chapter 15 indicates an end to Samson’s leadership, and chapter 16 tells of his moral and ultimately physical downfall. Samson’s hair was not magic, but God left him for his repeated unfaithfulness to his calling. Yet, 16:22 gives a hint that Samson’s strength would return, if only momentarily at his repentance and plea to the Lord.

In its two parts, the Epilogue characterizes the era of the judges by depicting the religious and moral corruption of individuals, cities, and tribes—coming this time not from without Israel but from within. The Epilogue’s events are not necessarily after the time of Samson but rather are thought to have happened early in the period. The author simply dates the Epilogue’s events before the monarchy in order to highlight the contrast between the two periods. The first part of the Epilogue tells of a man named Micah’s developing a pagan place of worship (chapter 17) and of the tribe of Dan’s abandoning the quest for all its allotted territory and adopting Micah’s corrupt religion (chapter 18). The brief account in chapter 17 seems to be merely background for the more significant narrative in chapter 18. In chapter 17, the mother who cursed the thief of her money seems to call down a blessing on her son, to reverse the curse, after he was honest enough to confess. Beyond that, it’s hard to find anything positive in the actions of the mother or the son, or even the priest-for-hire Levite who comes along (whose name is eventually given in 18:30). In chapter 18, that Levite speaks the words the spies from Dan want to hear, surely without an actual revelation from the Lord. The spies take the good news back to their clansmen, who then come back and give the hireling Levite a better gig, which Levite then had to rob his thief-boss in the process. That such moral decay was occurring already early in the period of the Judges is a good reminder for us that corruption in our time is already pretty bad, even though we often think it will only get worse. With the faithful of all times, we cry, “Lord, have mercy!”

I have just three tidbits to start your work week. The U.S. Episcopal church elected a female leader, a move that could further harm its relations with the worldwide Anglican communion. ... A Lexington, Massachusetts, school official says he’ll investigate a report that a seven-year-old family activist’s son was attacked because of his father’s anti-gay marriage stance. ... And, here’s a new twist on the old adage “the family that prays together, stays together”.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:48 AM

June 18, 2006

Ps 16 / Jdg 13-15 / Tidbits

As you read Psalm 16 today, refer back to comments made the last time we read it, but also consider the following comments more specifically on verse 5’s “cup”. More of the Old Testament references to “cups” are figurative, and more of those are negative, referring to God’s judgment upon sinners. This reference to “cup” in verse 5, however, is one of the fewer positive references to a “cup”. In the New Testament, too, a goodly number of the references to “cups” are figurative: the cup of wrath (for example, Revelation 14:9-10) and the cup of suffering (for example, Mark 10:38-39, Matthew 26:39). The cup of the Lord’s Supper is perhaps one place where the figurative cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13) becomes a literal cup. The cup of the Lord’s Supper brings blessing, but also in a sense it is the cup of suffering, for in communion with Christ we die to ourselves and to sin and also receive other forms of death in this world. We might say that everyone has his or her own cup and may find, in comparison to someone else, something different in it. Because of the forgiveness that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ, our cups overflows with blessings (Psalm 23:5), even if our portion from the Lord does not always appear to be a blessing. So, we can find our “portion” from the Lord represented as a cup and drink this cup of the Lord (in contrast to the cup of demons, 1 Corinthians 10:21), knowing its contents are ultimately for our good.

We read through three-quarters of the story of Samson today by reading Judges 13-15, although the “sexiest” part of the story isn’t assigned until tomorrow. I want to make a few specific comments on today’s reading, and, as always, you can ask about anything you wish to ask about. Samson’s birth is one of a handful of births heralded by an angel of the Lord, and, like another one of those people, Samson was to be separated from the other Israelites by his vows and dedicated to the Lord. Note that Manoah expresses no doubt in the angel’s words (“when” in 13:12). As you read 14:4, remember that examples of the Lord commanding a union between an Israelite and a non-Israelite are few and far between (in fact, I can’t think of another one off the top of my head) and that this one was for a specific purpose. (I think the text at least suggests some awareness of the Lord’s will before the fact, while the note in my study Bible suggests the Lord used Samson’s sinful weakness to accomplish His purpose, although at least one commentator suggests Samson was seeking an opportunity to fight against the ruling Philistines.) Samson’s statement in 14:18 accuses his 30 “groomsmen” of unfairness, “since heifers were not used for plowing”. The Philistines’ actions in the wake of Samson’s wedding brought down Samson’s wrath upon them, and they even resulted in the death of his wife (15:6). The men of Judah were willing to turn Samson over to the Philistines to prevent endless retaliation (15:11-13), but the Spirit lead Samson to fight against the Philistines and apparently thereby become the “judge” or “leader” of Israel (15:20). Note that on the basis of his prayer in 15:18 Samson appears to have been aware of his fighting for the Lord and with the Lord’s help.

Tidbits today number a perfect ten. Republicans are reportedly trying to create a campaign issue out of assisted suicide. ... Former President Bill Clinton judges Christians (I wonder if instead of “full” possession he didn’t mean “sole” possession). ... The Christian Reformed Church is trying to undo part of its reformation and votes to use the controversial gender-neutral NIV Bible translation. ... The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. replaces a pro-gay leader, but a committee recommends against further restrictions of gay marriage. ... Egypt moves against The Da Vinci Code book and movie. ... Israeli rabbis reverse their previous position and say they will accept American conversions. ... Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. approve a liturgical change going the opposite way of changes in the Lutheran tradition. ... A LCMS committee is working on different approaches and styles for “diverse worship” resources (but not ethnic or cultural diversity). ... According to one analysis there are no Lutheran super heroes. ... And a study says most dads think it’s worth it. Happy Father’s Day to all!

In case you ever wondered, our blogging software says this is the 200th post.
God bless your day, especially as you let Him make it holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 17, 2006

Ps 15 / Jdg 10-12 / Folo / Tidbits

I had to smile at my previous post about Psalm 15, and I also wanted to add a few more words. Note the question asked in prayer in verse 1, answered in general in verse 2 (the latter part of verse 2 is more properly taken with verse 3), and then answered in greater detail in the three remaining three-line stanzas. In terms of verse 1, we might first think of the priests who temporarily lived in the temple complex while they had responsibilities there, but the idea is much more than that. My study bible says, “Not as a priest but as God’s guest”, but the idea is even more than that. Verse 1 includes the idea of a place of rest in contrast to the wandering life of a nomad, and verse 1 also includes the idea of a settled family life. When I sang with the Ft. Wayne Seminary Kantorei the final stanza of a paraphrase of Psalm 23 put it this way:

The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days.
Oh, may Thy house be my abode, and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest while others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest but like a child at home.

Now we frequently experience rest as we come in to gather as children of God around His Word and Sacrament (think of the words of the Baptismal rite), but we also go out to live in the world. Ultimately, though, we will have the uninterrupted eternal rest spiritually and physically. Then, our only “work” will be praise!

Reading Judges 10-12 today we go through the accounts of two minor judges (Tola in 10:1-2 and Jair in 10:3-5), a major judge (Jephthah in 10:6-12:7), and three more minor judges (Ibzan in 12:8-10, Elon in 12:11-12), and Abdon in 12:13-15). Though you are welcome to ask about anything, I want to make just a few comments. We see in 10:18 that the people wanted to fight but lacked leadership, and I thought of a comment I just made to a brother pastor about the state of the conservative resistance in the LCMS. The special empowering of the Holy Spirit in 11:29 is for Jephthah to carry out the special responsibilities God gave him. Jephthah’s vow in 11:30-31 was unfortunate, and it gives us a good example of oaths that are kept even though they hurt (see today’s reading of Psalm 15:4). Jephthah did not placate the wrath of Ephraim the way Gideon placated the wrath of the same tribe (see chapter 8). In 12:6 “Shibboleth” (a flowing stream) and “sibboleth” (an ear of grain or wheat) begin with different letters in Hebrew (some suggest the words could mean the same things), but apparently those from west of the Jordan could not pronounce “shibboleth” correctly. You may be familiar with our use of “shibboleth” as a word, pronunciation, or custom that distinguishes one group from another; that use of the word comes from this account in Judges. Finally, we notice how the number of sons, daughters, donkeys, and towns are indicative of wealth, though I think we can also notice how outcast leaders used their wealth to contract with mercenaries (Judges 9:4; 11:3) instead of inspiring loyal followers, as we will later see David did.

I have one Biblog folo today. A reader’s email prompted me to continue discussion of New York’s euthanasia law in yesterday’s post, and that discussion prompted yet another email. This time the reader suggested healthcare providers are likely making decisions based on what’s profitable for their facility and not on Christian reasons. The reader also asked whether I would approve of letting Christians die but working harder for unbelievers, and I would suggest that at the point such decisions are being made the patient may be beyond conversion. Finally the reader told a true story of a small-town doctor who treated a badly burned child even though he thought the child would not live. The child did live, and the doctor told the reader that he never again said that a patient would not live. Indeed, with God all things are possible.

Today's tidbits begin with an Alabama abortion clinic giving up its license after a woman nearly full-term was told she was only six-weeks pregnant and given the abortion pill RU-486. ... Roman Catholic leaders in the United States back off a national position on communing pro-choice politicians. ... Recent developments may send the Marriage Protection Amendment back to the U.S. Senate for a third vote. ... A member of Washington D.C.’s transit board was fired for calling homosexual behavior “deviant”. ... And a top Church of England official says U.S. Episcopals are not doing enough to heal divisions over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 16, 2006

Jdg 7-9 / Folos

(Remember to read Psalm 14 and see the previous comments on it.)

Judges 7-9 finishes the account of Gideon (chapters 7-8) and takes us through the narrative of Abimelech, Gideon’s son and the so-called “anti-judge” (chapter 9). Once convinced by the signs from God to lead the people, Gideon did so (remember that he is sometimes called “Jerub-Baal”). He took a great number of men, 32,000 to be exact, but the Lord cut that down to 300 so that Israel would recognize the Lord as the conqueror and not boast in its own strength. Under Gideon’s leadership the Lord won the battle against the Midianites, and officials of Succoth and people in Peniel paid the price for not helping in the cause. Gideon’s brothers had been killed by the Midianites, and his sons died at the hand of Abimelech, his concubine’s son, who had leadership aspirations of his own. Unlike Gideon who attacked Baal worship and said the Lord must rule over Israel, Abimelech tried to obtain Baal’s help so he could rule over Israel. That Abimelech’s attempt came at Shechem where Joshua had the people reaffirm their allegiance to the Lord highlights the contrast between father and son all the more. Gideon’s sole-surviving son Jotham uses a parable to prophesy that Abimelech and the people of Shechem will eventually destroy each other. Abimelech eventually did destroy Shechem, and God also made sure that Abimelech was destroyed, essentially by a woman no less.

I have four Biblog folos today. First, in response to June 14th’s reading of Judges 1-3, a reader emailed the following comment regarding 1:19-21.

I was interested to see Caleb “resurface”! He, with Joshua, was a loyal spy, but I don’t remember much said about him after that. But he did get the promised inheritance.

Yes, like Joshua, he got a city for his extended family. (Joshua had dealt with Caleb directly as narrated in Joshua 14:6-15.)

Second, in response to the continued tattoo discussion on June 13th that also branched out to discuss meat with blood in it, haircuts, and the like, one reader emailed about an orthodox Jewish woman the reader knew who soaked chicken parts in ice water to draw out any remaining blood. Another email pointed out that in Acts 21:23-24 we have an example of hair being cut for religious reasons.

Third, in response to a June 13th tidbit about the American Family Association’s concerns over what’s in school libraries, a reader emailed about a school librarian's claim that telling the mother of a ten-year-old that her son checked out a book on how to make bombs would be “invading his privacy”. The reader added, “That’s the way Hillary’s modern village raises the child.” And, I would have said, if the reader hadn’t also, “Of course, he can get the information off his home computer these days, if his parents aren't paying attention. Or the library computer, no doubt!”

Fourth, in response to a June 15th tidbit about New York’s legislators considering an “involuntary euthanasia law”, a reader emailed the following comment somewhat critical of the measure even as the New York State Right to Life Committee would have it amended.

The law can allow a family to transfer a patient to another facility. The fun part will be finding a facility that will accept such a transfer! And, what if there isn’t another hospital “in a hundred miles” that is qualified to administer the questioned treatment?

The article says treatment, food, and fluids would be continued until the transfer was complete, and presumably that means no matter how far away one might have to go. What struck me was what was said to be the provider’s view that the patient is “better off dead”. As Christians we are supposed to know that our fellow-believers are “better off” dead in this world and alive with Christ in the next. Remember Philippians 1:23-24 and St. Paul’s desire there to depart and be with Christ. I think back to Nurse Mowry’s presentations in June of 2005 where we learned to distinguish between acute illnesses (unplanned episodes where treatment focuses on a cure) and chronic illnesses (long-lasting disease where treatment focuses on maintenance) and care that might be appropriate in the case of acute illnesses but not chronic ones. Especially in the case of chronic illnesses, Christians may let the fallen-human nature take its course to death so that the redeemed nature may experience the fullness of eternal life. I think often we hold on to this life too dearly, and, for all the good pro-life organizations do, they can be guilty of losing sight of the life that matters the most.

I've posted five new Q&A: one general one here and four Q&A specific to our June readings, starting with this one. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:03 AM

June 15, 2006

Jdg 4-6 / Tidbits

(Remember to read Psalm 13 again today and to see my previous comments on the psalm.)

Judges 4-6 continues our reading of the main body of Judges, today reading the entire account of Deborah (chapters 4-5) and the beginning of the account of Gideon (chapter 6). On Deborah’s being a prophetess, see this previously posted Q&A. Deborah’s song contrasts her role as a mother in Israel (5:7) and Sisera’s mother in Canaan (5:28-30). Gideon’s question in 6:13 might be found on our lips today, too, as we forget that if the Lord were not with us we would be totally destroyed. The angel of the Lord, again possibly the pre-incarnate Christ, consumed the food offering with fire, indicating the offering was accepted. Gideon wanted a sign (6:17), and pursued the sign in 6:36-40. The Lord accommodated Gideon, even twice, but we should not ask the Lord for such signs (see what Jesus says in the New Testament in places such as Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29; and Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

One day without tidbits leaves us with ten today. A judge regards “In God we trust” to be “a secular national slogan”. ... Oregon’s Pharmacy Control Board last week took steps to make sure pharmacists there don’t interfere with women’s access to the so-called Plan-B emergency contraceptive. ... Iowa’s Komen Foundation gets grief over money going to Planned Parenthood, especially since abortion is said to increase the risk of breast cancer. ... Ethics and morals are debated in Congress’ consideration of abstinence education. ... New York’s legislators are considering what’s being called an “involuntary euthanasia bill”. ... The seven-year-old son of a family activist was beaten up outside his Massachusetts grade school because of his father’s anti-same-sex marriage stand. ... Australia’s prime minister invalidated one of that country’s territory’s gay marriage provisions. ... American Episcopals meeting in convention hear their first openly-gay bishop say, “Jesus is the ‘homosexual agenda’ in the Episcopal church”. ... The new president of the Southern Baptist Convention says funding a mission program is “not about theology” but “methodology”, and its executive committee president says minor divisions should not keep them from focusing on evangelism. (Sound familiar?) ... And a ski jacket of Pope John Paul II’s goes to a Tennessee high school named after him, but religious artifacts aren’t necessarily welcome everywhere.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 14, 2006

Ps 12 / Jdg 1-3

You can find my original comments on Psalm 12 here, and I just want to add one thing. Even in the “golden age” at the time of David he can complain that it seems as if the godly and faithful are gone. Psalm 12 is especially comforting as we look around and wonder if the godly and faithful are not nearly gone now, for we are reminded that the Lord will act to reveal His righteous judgment when the time is right.

For the next seven days we will be reading the book of Judges, beginning today with Judges 1-3. There are some introductory comments in the background on this month’s readings (on line here and downloadable here). I might also encourage you to notice that Judges not only follows Joshua in the Old Testament, but the book also continues the historical narrative pretty much from where Joshua left off. Tradition ascribes the book to Samuel, who may well have assembled some of the book’s content, and final editing may have been done by two prophets associated with David’s court, Nathan and Gad (see 1 Chronicles 29:29 on their writing). The book is not a complete history of the period from Joshua to the beginning of the monarchy, rather it gives a few accounts that are indicative of all Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s mercy that kept Israel from being completely taken in by the pagans around them. The people lost sight of who they were as God’s people doing instead what they saw fit to do. The cycle of disobedience, chastening, repentance, and deliverance is instructive for us today, especially as it highlights the people’s unfaithfulness and God’s faithfulness. The book can be divided into a prologue (1:1-3:6), main body (3:7-16:31), and epilogue (17-21). We will explore the structure of these sections more as we read our way through them.

Judges 1-3 takes us completely through the prologue and into the main body of the book. The prologue has two parts, each with a different purpose and chronologically connected. Judges 1:1-2:5 sets the stage for the narratives in the main section, and 2:6-3:6 introduces the cycle that recurs during the period. Easily recognizable by a formulaic beginning and conclusion, the six principle accounts in the main body generally tell of principle leaders, with a sequence that may be arranged more for purposes of emphasis than in order of the actual events. I want to explain just a few specific things. Defeated kings were mutilated so they could not serve militarily and were treated as if dogs (1:6-7). The angel of the Lord in 2:1 could again be the pre-incarnate Christ. Reading 2:10 I was reminded of Exodus 1:8. Baal and “the Ashtoreths” (for example, 2:13) were pagan gods of the residents of the land. Baal worship could involve prostitution at his temples. The Ashtoreths refers to Ashtoreth, the companion of Baal, and Asherah, the companion of El, another pagan god. That idolatry is often referred to in terms of marital unfaithfulness is significant not only because the idolatry often included marital unfaithfulness but also because they were covenant violations of the most intimate kind. Left-handed Ehud of the tribe named “son of my right hand” killed Eglon, who apparently was rather large, and, yes, Eglon’s servants thought the king was taking too long in what we would call the bathroom (3:12-30).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:18 AM

June 13, 2006

Ps 11 / Jos 22-24 / Folos / Tidbits

Psalm 11 is assigned again today (see my previous comments here). This time as I read it I reflected also on the different “places” you and I might flee instead of to the Lord. David was advised to flee the capital to get away from his enemies, and you and I might get bad advice to find other means of comfort than trusting in the Lord and His ultimate justice. No other person to whom we might flee can help us the way the Lord can, only He is all-powerful and knows all and thus can properly deliver justice. Let us believe in Jesus Christ for our salvation from sin and trust that God will deliver us from our troubles in His way and time that best serve His purposes for us.

Though in some ways it seems we just started reading this book, with Joshua 22-24 today we finish it. These chapters form an epilogue of sorts, telling of the eastern tribes returning home and the building of the so-called “Altar of Witness” by the Jordan River (chapter 22), of Joshua’s final “sermon” (chapter 23), of the covenant renewal at Shechem (24:1-28), and of the deaths of Joshua and Eleazar (24:29-33). At first the western tribes thought the eastern tribes building an altar was a divisive act, apostasizing from and rebelling against Israel’s God, but the western tribes learned that the eastern tribes intended it as a witness to both sides that they shared faith in the same God. Joshua’s final words to Israel refer to writings of Moses and emphasize two key dangers the people faced: allying with remaining Canaanites and intermarrying with them, both of which would likely lead the people to abandon their faith in the true God and bring down His wrath upon them. The covenant renewal begins with a recounting of the past relationship between the two parties; remember that in 24:2-13 Joshua is speaking for the Lord in His first-person voice. Joshua calls the people to be faithful and serve the Lord, and he gives his own pledge on behalf of his household. (Do not let some wrong idea about “deciding for Christ” be based on Joshua 24; note especially verse 19.) The burials of Joshua, Eleazar, and Joseph remind us that the people were finally in their promised homeland, although the author of the closing verses with verse 31 helps us anticipate the turn of events about which we begin reading tomorrow in Judges.

Today’s first Biblog folo consists of reader comments on our recent reading of Joshua. Regarding the various conquests, a reader emailed the following comment.

So many people only want to think of our Lord as a loving and caring God and not that our God is a jealous God that will deal accordingly. These folks need to read some of the Old Testament, Joshua being a good example. I’m sure these battles were very bloody and destructive, but they were God’s will!

People want to make God in their own image, that’s for sure, and in so doing become enemies of God and His people. A reader emailed the following comment about the enemies of God.

I found my NASB comment on Joshua 11:20 thought provoking: “God has sovereign control of history, yet his will never denies our personal and moral freedom.”

My self-study Bible had the same comment, and we are reminded that the day of grace can come to an end for those who are unfaithful. For those who are faithful, however, there are the promises of the Gospel. Another reader comment pertains to those.

What a wonderful, comforting passage Joshua 21:45 is. We know that God keeps His promises!

Amen!

The second Biblog folo has to do with a tattoo tidbit linked in my June 11th post. I indirectly called tattoos a sin and referred to Leviticus 19:28, but a reader emailed asking whether we were still bound by such “Levitical rules” and asked about other items in the same context (Leviticus 19:26-28): food with blood (the reader named blood sausage), fortunetelling, hair cutting and beard trimming, and cutting of the flesh. Let’s take each of these in turn and see what the whole says of tattoos. I don’t want to step on anyone’s German heritage, but the Jerusalem council described in Acts 15 kept the prohibition against consuming blood and meat with blood still in it, although at least one commentator on Leviticus suggests what’s being targeted is meat sacrificed to idols, especially in the context of ancestor worship. (I like my meat rare, but is that blood or just red juices?) The Synod’s Explanation of the Small Catechism says sinful forms of witchcraft by God’s name include fortunetelling with the help of the devil. I cut my hair, shave my face, and trim my goatee, but there are orthodox Jews who still take this prohibition seriously. Cutting “for the dead” (presumably in mourning for the dead, as perhaps also in the case of shaving heads) is prohibited in Leviticus, but other than surgery I can’t imagine we would ever condone cutting or any form of self-mutilation. (In the movie X-2: X-Men United, the character Nightcrawler, a devout Roman Catholic, has decorated his blue skin by cutting into it what he says is one “angelic symbol” for every sin he committed.) That the Acts 15 council emphasized only a few of the Levitical proscriptions does not mean we are free to do all the others, such as fortunetelling or sorcery or divination. What may be critical to understanding the condemnation of cutting and tattooing is that the pagans did such things and the people of Israel were not to disfigure themselves as the pagans did. To that extent, I think we are safe to say the prohibition against cutting and tattooing continues. What also comes to mind is St. Paul’s repeated “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV). I suppose these prohibitions could be pushed to the point of violating our Christian freedom so that we would have to do the things forbidden as a matter of confession, but I don’t think anyone is going that far. The prohibitions of verses 26-28 may all have originally related to pagan ancestor worship, but we are still to be holy, set apart, from those who are of the world, and we do not want to give anyone cause to stumble.

Today's tidbits begin with the Tennessee woman accused of killing her minister husband who was yesterday indicted on a murder charge. ... ’Tis the season for church body meetings. The U.S. Episcopal church begins meeting today in Columbus, Ohio, and actions there could determine the future of the body in the worldwide Anglican communion. The Southern Baptist Convention begins its annual meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, today, and the election of a new president could bring a new direction to that church body. The Christian Reformed church began its meeting over the weekend and already elected a new president. And, West Virginia United Methodist voters over the weekend rejected a proposal for open membership (third item here). ... The American Family Association is raising concern over what’s in school libraries and giving parents resources to do something about it. ... Allegations of gay innuendo in comic-book based movies have reached the Man of Steel himself. (Check out the following three articles linked in reverse order of their appearance in Reuters, the LA Times, and the Advocate). ... And, after pouring through a lot of "da Vinci Code" debunking, this humorous one sent in by a reader was a welcome change.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 12, 2006

Jos 17-21 / Tidbits

(Be sure to read Psalm 10 again and see my previous comments here, where I corrected three previously uncorrected typos!)

Joshua 17-21 finishes the major section we have been reading dealing with the distribution of the Promised Land. The reading is relatively straightforward, so I want to comment on just a few things. Remember that since the Levites serve the Lord they do not technically count as one of the tribes, so Joseph’s line is counted twice as Ephraim and Manasseh. In 17:3-4 Joshua is faithful to Moses’ promise to the five daughters (see Numbers 26:33; 27:1-7 [and 27:8-11 is also relevant]). In 17:12-13 you see an example of how the land was distributed despite the conquest not quite being complete; waiting to drive all the people from the land until the people of Israel were stronger and more populous was part of the Divine plan and made sense. In 18:3 you see that some of the tribes were apparently reluctant to take the land—either being accustomed to nomadic life or perhaps doubting that God would really allow them to take the land. Note the summary statement in 19:51 that closes the specific section begun in 18:1. The cities of refuge set up in Joshua 20 according to the Lord’s command through Moses provided a court system of a sort, conducted at the city gate; removing the manslaughter cases from local jurisdiction is said to be a significant safeguard and to benefit from those cities also being cities of the Levites as designated in chapter 21. Note the summary statement in 21:43-45 that closes the larger section.

I have five tidbits to start your work-week. Several “adopted” children in Indonesia were reportedly killed in the recent earthquake. ... The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say fewer high-schoolers are having sex. ... The Ten Commandments will go on display in Michigan’s capitol as part of the history of law (no Gospel there, I guess). ... West Virginia’s United Methodists want their churches to have open membership. (Don't get me started on that topic.) ... And, the situation this story and this (more objective?) story tell is just messed up on all sorts of levels.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 11, 2006

Ps 9 / Jos 12-16 / Folos / Tidbits / Trinity Sunday

Reading Psalm 9 today, I was struck again by its changed tone, as I was when I posted about it previously. So many of the psalms pray for God’s deliverance, but few like this one so fully praise Him for the realization of that deliverance. Perhaps we can take home from that awareness that in this lifetime we should not expect to see often such full deliverance. Notice also how in 9:15 we see the direct fulfillment of 7:15. Like I do, you might know 9:18 from the order of Responsive Prayer 2 in Lutheran Worship (p.274).

Joshua 12-16 summarizes the conquering of the land with a list of defeated kings (chapter 12) and then begins the distribution of the land (chapters 13-16). In chapter 12 you can see that both the land conquered by Moses on the east side of the Jordan and the land conquered by Joshua on the west side are included, helping to preserve the unity of the nation. You can imagine how the reading of the list and the counting of kings in 12:9-24 was dramatic for the people hearing; some of the towns were specifically named earlier in Joshua, and others were not originally named. Before the land is allotted, God in 13:1-7 promises that land not yet conquered will be conquered and commands that it be distributed, as well. The repetition of the assignment of the lands east of the Jordan in 13:8-33 again reminds people on both sides of the river that they are part of one nation. As you read chapters 14-16 you may make use of a map in your Bible that helps you locate the significant landmarks that provided boundaries between the territories distributed to the different tribes.

I have three Biblog folos today. The first has to do with my comment in Friday’s Biblog post about Psalm 7: “You see, the evil leads the one perpetrating it to not recognize it as evil”. A reader emailed the following comment:

I hadn't seen that. I guess that’s the way people can convince themselves they’ve “never done anything wrong” (so it must be all the other persons’ fault if things are wrong). I have had people tell me they “didn’t need church because they hadn’t sinned.”

I have had similar experiences, especially when doing evangelism “cold calls” on people in neighborhoods around congregations I have been involved in. These experiences remind us that the preaching of the law generally must precede the preaching of the Gospel. Of course, we recently read 1 John 1:8 and 10, which are both on point in such cases. You might also take another look at Romans 1:18-32, which describes the progression into greater evil that comes with such self-deception.

Today’s second Biblog folo has to do with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Roman Catholics, and the Church of England (Anglicans). In Friday’s Biblog I answered a reader’s email about whether the ELCA and Roman Catholics might be working towards altar fellowship (where members of one can commune at the altars of the other), and I also included a tidbit where a Vatican official told the Anglicans that if they ordain women they will not be able to be united with the Roman Catholics. In that context a reader emailed the following.

Didn’t the Roman Catholics tell the Anglicans that women priests would prevent reconciliation between them? Why would the ELCA think its “women in the pulpit” would be a different story?

I don’t know, but I think there are a couple of possibilities. First, the ELCA may be thinking that eventually Roman Catholics are going to move away from its “outdated” position and ordain women. Or, second, the ELCA may be thinking about existing inconsistencies in fellowship, such as its fellowship with the Episcopal church in the United States, which is the American equivalent of the Anglican church, and which, if I’m not mistaken, has women in its pulpits, and is nevertheless in fellowship with the Anglicans in Canada who also do and with the Church of England, which does not. We don’t have to look that far to find such inconsistencies in fellowship, however, as the LCMS is in fellowship with Lutheran Church–Canada, which is in fellowship with the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), even though officially the LCMS is not in fellowship with the LCA.

The third and final folo today comes after I posted this Q&A Friday in which I said of the book of Acts, “it is the only historical book in the New Testament”. A reader emailed asking if the Gospel accounts “don’t rate as ‘historical’?” Originally I had considered adding some sort of qualifying word, such as “specifically”, or putting “historical” in quotation marks, but in the end I’m not sure any subtle qualification would have been perfectly clear. In fact, the Synod’s Short Explanation of the Small Catechism does list the Gospel accounts as historical books. I guess my problem with that is elevating Acts to the same category as the Gospel accounts, which to me are unique as Gospel accounts and because they have more of a theological than historical purpose, but one can somewhat say the same thing about Acts. Moreover, Acts is the second part of St. Luke’s writing to Theophilus, and of the first part, the Gospel account that bears Luke’s name, he himself says he has “set forth in order”. In the final analysis, such classifications as “historical” or “prophetic”, of course, have no real weight other than helping us group the books. All of the Old Testament and New Testament books are inspired and at least contain historical details, even if they do not set out to give a more or less blow-by-blow account of the events of a period of time. Finally, aware of scholarly debates about what even constitutes an historical account and to the point of the original question, Paul’s story is not continued in any historical fashion in any other book.

Seven tidbits follow. Religious leaders are joining in State Department criticism of the Pentagon for omitting from its detainee policies a provision of the Geneva Convention that bans “humiliating and degrading treatment”. ... A retired Roman Catholic archbishop says the Roman Catholic church can live with civil unions of homosexuals, but his comments are drawing fire. ... A Vatican official is criticizing the World Cup for increasing prostitution in Germany. ... The not-for-profit Planned Parenthood reportedly turned a $63-million profit, one-third from taxpayer dollars. ... Tattoos may be part of the culture, but so are alot of other sins (see Leviticus 19:28). ... Three religious movies make a list of the top 25 most controversial of all time. ... And one “reviewer” says two horror movies opened a weekend ago, and one of them might not be one you would describe that way.

Today is Trinity Sunday, a festival that goes back to the tenth century. We celebrate not a doctrine but the richness of the being of our God, timely as we have completed our review of the Father working through the Son in the Holy Spirit to complete our redemption. In addition to the use of the Athanasian Creed (see The Lutheran Hymnal, p.53), you will note propers unique to the day, including the following words from the Introit, with which I exhort you this day.

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity:
Let us give glory to Him because He hath shown His mercy to us.

(Introits usually consist of passages of Holy Scripture; these phrases are from an ancient liturgical passage, said to be based on Tobit 12:6. If you want to reflect more on the Trinity, I commend to you the Memorial Moments from this past week.)

There are two new Q&A beginning here, and some of you may have noticed a new link on the Daily Lectionary pages. Our webmaster has put together a Daily Lectionary Index (DLI), which allows you to access the readings and the Biblog posts and Q&A about them by book of the Bible. This DLI will be especially helpful for people behind in their reading and as we go through the readings again next year. Thanks to our webmaster for not only creating the pages but also for keeping the data up to date and for all the other work he does.

God bless your day today, especially as you let Him make it holy for you by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 10, 2006

Ps 8 / Jos 9-11

My previous comments on Psalm 8 are here, and I might point out that these days where I swim one almost has to swim early in the day or late in the day to have water cool enough to swim. I might also add that verse 2 is especially connected with the events of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (see Matthew 21:16). The leaders of the Jews did not like Jesus being welcomed as if He were the Messiah, but Jesus points to David’s words in this psalm as being prophetic of such praise from sucklings (little children) to silence His enemies. I am reminded that even though the opponents of the Lutheran reformers did not know what the Church was, Dr. Luther could write, “thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who heard the voice of their Shepherd” (SA III:xii:2, Tappert, 315). In writing this psalm, David may have recalled his own nights as a shepherd boy under the stars, but he gives voice to the Church’s praise of Her Lord. Though we are spiritually little children, the Lord brings forth praise from our lisping and stammering tongues.

Moving beyond the initial battles in the Promised Land, Joshua 9-11 tells about the campaign in the south (chapters 9-10) and the north (chapter 11). The campaign in the south can be further broken down into the treaty with the Gibeonites (chapter 9), “the long-day of Joshua” (10:1-15), and the conquering of Amorite kings and the southern cities (10:16-43). Though the Gibeonites (also called “Hivites” in 9:7 and 11:19) deceived Joshua and the leaders of the assembly, Joshua and the leaders of the assembly were also to blame for not consulting the Lord; note how faithfulness to even the oath made after a deception is emphasized (even fighting on their behalf in the next subsection). The “long-day” and the hailstones are examples of God’s intervention in the battles of Israel; other than what the text says, we do not know exactly what happened that day (for example, did the earth stop rotating? did it, on the basis of v.13’s “haste”, simply slow down?), but, however we might explain it, we do not want to out of hand dismiss supernatural possibilities. (We already read in Isaiah 38:1-8 of another possible lengthening of the day, of which we will read again in 2 Kings 20:1-11 and 2 Chronicles 32:24.) In the conquering of the Amorite kings, note in 10:24-26 especially how Joshua turns the enemies into “footstools”. In the narrative of the northern campaign, note especially the length of time, perhaps seven years, treated summarily in 11:18 and the concluding peace in 11:23. Even though we still face daily battles, on account of the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith, we have a greater rest in Christ, Who has already and decisively won the war with the forces of evil in this world.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 09, 2006

Ps 7 / Jos 6-8 / Folos / Tidbits

Psalm 7 is appointed again for today, and you can find my previous comments here. I just want to add one comment on verses 14-16 that struck me as I read the psalm this time. There are three vivid illustrations of not only how “crime does not pay” but also how the very evil that we produce will end up doing us harm. I was especially struck by verse 14’s pregnancy-birth illustration and its end result of “falsehood” (KJV, ASV, NASB) or “disillusionment” (NIV), which one commentator elaborates on as “self-deception, delusion, vanity”. You see, the evil leads the one perpetrating it to not recognize it as evil, almost as if the judgment of God that eventually comes will come as a surprise. The ultimate judgment of God is what prompts the psalmist’s praise in verse 17—not as if the psalmist is glad to see the sinner punished but joyful more for his own righteous redemption. (Incidentally, an email from a reader expressed being glad to be rereading the Psalms, indicating they were harder to understand and hoping a second time through would help. I agree that we can hardly read and pray them too much!)

Joshua 6-8 continues the narration that we began yesterday of the initial battles in the conquest of the Promised Land. Chapter 6 narrates the victory at Jericho, and chapter 7 tells of the defeat at Ai because of Achan’s sin. Then comes the victory at Ai (8:1-29) and the renewal of the covenant at Shechem (8:30-35). The procedure of marching around Jericho with the ark and blowing the trumpets made it clear that the Lord was giving the city into the hands of the Israelites—no battering rams or siege-works were necessary. Faithful Rahab and her family were spared according to the spies’ promise to her, and the rest of the city and its contents were devoted to the Lord: the people and animals killed; the silver, gold, bronze, and iron items put into the Lord’s treasury; and the city itself burned (for more on the devotion and destruction of such things see here). After the city was burned, Joshua pronounced a curse on anyone who might rebuild it (for more on Jericho’s curse see here). Unfaithful Achan, however, took some of the devoted things for himself and lied about them, bringing harm upon the whole people of Israel. There may have been a little arrogance in the recommendation of the Ai spies (7:3), since the Lord was giving or taking the victory regardless of the number of Israelites that went into battle. Joshua and Israel’s elders repent without even knowing exactly what sin had kept the Lord from being in the battle. The selection of the tribes described in 7:14, 16-18 may have been done by the casting of lots with the Urim and Thummim kept in the high priest’s ephod. Notice in 8:2, 27 that the Lord allows the people to plunder Ai and its livestock. The king of Ai is thought to have been impaled on a pole after being executed (8:29). The covenant renewal at Shechem is similar to that described in Deuteronomy 27-28 (see comments here and here).

I have five Biblog folos today. First, as we re-read Psalm 5 on June 7 and referred back to my previous comments on the psalm here, a reader emailed the following question.

Your last comment on Psalm 5 of “We dare not expect God's forgiveness to come to us directly but rather expect for His forgiveness to come to us through the very means He has established for giving us grace.” Does this mean that just because we ask God for His forgiveness in our daily prayers that we should not expect for Him to simply grant it to us then and there? But rather we should only expect to receive His forgiveness when we receive His body and blood? Forgive me if I have asked this before. But as the Bible does so often, hearing something over and over again only helps to remember it.

I don’t know that anyone has asked this question before, and, even if someone had, I am still happy to answer it. The context of my comment in regards to Psalm 5 had to do with the presence of God. God can surely answer our prayers for forgiveness and other things immediately as we pray them, yet prayer is not a means of grace like the Word and Sacraments. We can pray for forgiveness and know that we are forgiven, but we will not know we are forgiven the same way we know we are forgiven when we hear the Word preached, are baptized, are absolved, or receive the Supper. In the Smalcald Articles, Dr. Luther writes the following:

We should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil. (SA III:viii:10, Tappert, 313.)

In short, don’t let this matter stop you from praying for forgiveness and drawing peace from such prayers, as long as such prayers do not stop you from hearing the Word, seeking individual absolution, and receiving the Sacrament of the Altar.

The second Biblog follow relates to the LCMS statement on immigration linked in the June 7th post, which prompted several emails. The first reader emailed agreement with the points I made and added the following.

Also as an immigrant’s daughter, whose family survived Ellis Island’s intrusive examinations of physical and financial condition, I resent the idea that our Synodical President doesn't know the difference between “legal” and “illegal”. [And,] to his “long list” [of factors to be considered] he could add drug resistant TB and other health problems that put the citizenry at risk, hospital/medical costs, school costs and police and jail costs, all accruing to the taxpayers!

Another reader emailed that further discussion of the statement and my comments might make for an interesting Bible study topic one Sunday morning. I’d be happy to do so if asked, and, in the meantime, I might direct you to my previous lengthier comments here and here and remind you, as I have briefly commented elsewhere, both that we can keep to our Lord’s command by showing love to illegal immigrants in prison (Matthew 25:36, 38, 43-44) or in their home country and that even Paul sent the wrongly-run-away slave Onesimus back to Philemon.

The third Biblog folo is in response to a June 7th folo (to a June 2nd tidbit) about the ELCA movie on Roman Catholicism. A reader emailed the following.

Will this soon lead to ELCA having open communion with the Roman Catholics? Just from what I read of ELCA’s comment about the film, it sounds like it could be a possibility.

I’m not exactly sure whether you are referring to my comment or some ELCA comment about the film or video. I don’t think that officially the Roman Catholic church is preparing for communion with the ELCA, however, especially as the much touted Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was an agreement in name only. The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), on the other hand, may be trying to work toward communion with the Roman Catholics. In fact, after watching the video and reading other material (both linked here), I think the video is a propaganda piece to make members of the ELCA prepared for joining up with the Roman Catholic church in some way. Having said that, I can also tell you that I was struck by a number of things in the video. First, there was a simple factual error about the Chi-Rho symbol, which is made up of the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek, not the first and last, as the video indicated. (In response to my email about this, Mosaic Producer Tim Frakes has already emailed me his "mea culpa".) Second, the video speaks from a modern perspective of the line between church and state, whereas such a line hardly existed at the time they are saying it was “blurred”. Third, the video claims Protestants and Romans Catholics have the same Christ, but if the Roman Catholics are honest they will have to admit that their Christ doesn’t do everything needed to fully save them, whereas ours does. (Note if you read the transcript to the video that it is not quite a 100% accurate representation of the video.)

The fourth Biblog folo is in response to a June 7th tidbit linking to an interview with Massachusetts’ Mormon governor who may run for president. A reader emailed the following answer to my question, “What would you think about a Mormon president?”

We might know more about what he believes than we do with this one! ... It's interesting that Massachusetts courts have declared gay marriage “legal”, but the governor is against it. One wonders what the citizens of the state think!

I wonder if Romney is a Mormon polygynist! Though the Mormons have twice officially denounced polygyny, some practice it secretly and others, so-called “Mormon Fundamentalists”, have broken away from the main body in order to continue their polygynist practices. Meanwhile, the citizens of Massachusetts are probably not going to get a chance to give their opinion of gay marriage, as, if my memory of previous tidbits serves me, a judge there has kept a voter referendum on the matter off the ballot.

The fifth and final Biblog folo is in response to this Q&A. A reader emailed to say that “anaesthesia, except alcohol, is a fairly recent invention” and “That’s what made the [American Civil War] so particularly gruesome: lots of amputations and almost no painkillers.” I’m the first to admit that I’m not expert on the history of anaesthesia, but the article on “anesthetic” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica online (accessed 6/8/2006) states the following.

Drugs of various kinds have been used for many centuries to reduce the distress of surgical operations. Homer wrote of nepenthe, which was probably cannabis or opium. Arabian physicians used opium and henbane. More recently powerful rum was administered freely to British sailors before emergency amputations were carried out on board ship in the aftermath of battle.

Although Homer is thought to have lived 8 or 9 centuries before Christ, I certainly don’t know for sure what, if anything, was in use during New Testament times.

Tidbits to end your work-week number a complete ten. A study released this week says 10 of the world’s 20 ethnic groups least-reached with the Gospel are in Afghanistan and China. ... A top Vatican official tells the Church of England (Anglicans) that if they ordain women they won’t be able to unite. ... Muslim women say they want more rights but don’t think gender inequality is a problem. ... I remember these kind of visits (along with Young Life?) when I was younger, but now an Oregon school district is keeping pastors from visiting students in schools. ... South Dakota voters reportedly ousted four lawmakers who didn’t support the state’s abortion ban. ... Pennsylvania’s State House this week started down the state’s long road to amending that state’s constitution to ban gay marriage. ... Macy’s removed a gay pride display from its Boston store after people complained. ... A pro-family activist is criticizing DC Comics for its lesbian Batwoman expected next month. ... A high-school football movie gets a PG rating for fear of offending people. ... And televangelist Pat Robertson, in his latest wacky episode, is standing by his claim that he leg-pressed a ton.

Here’s one new Q&A, and, as always, thanks to those emailing comments and questions. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:47 AM

June 08, 2006

Jos 1-5 / Tidbits

(Be sure to read Psalm 6 today and see my previous comments on it here.)

With the reading of Joshua 1-5 today we return to the Old Testament and its historical narrative where we left off in mid-March (we will be in the Old Testament until we wrap up our year of reading with Matthew in November). Although you can find some comments about the book of Joshua in the background for this month’s reading (online here and as a downloadable PDF here), a few more preliminary words about the book are in order. The book of Joshua is the first of what are sometimes called the Former Prophets, which also include Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and which tell Israel’s history from a prophetic standpoint. We generally hold that Joshua wrote most of the book that bears his name (we will see first-person plural pronouns used and references to Joshua writing or ordering things be written), although the final verses of the book may have been written by others, and although there may have been other even later editors. You may recall from our reading of the Pentateuch that the son of Nun was earlier called “Hoshea”, which means “salvation” (see Numbers 13:8, 16), but Moses changed his name to “Joshua”, which means “The Lord saves”. Joshua knew first hand the slavery in Egypt and the deliverance from it, and he had led the troops in battle (Exodus 17:8-13), accompanied Moses when the law was received (Exodus 24:13-14), and stood watch at the tent of meeting (Exodus 33:11). When sent to spy out the land, only Joshua and Caleb wanted to follow God’s will and receive the land (Numbers 14:26-34), and, consequently, the rest of that generation died in the desert. Joshua is said to have had the Spirit (Numbers 27:18) and was chosen to bring Moses’ work to completion (Joshua 24:29).

Joshua 1-5 tells of the entrance into the Promised Land and the very beginning of its conquest: the exhortations to conquer in chapter 1, the scouting of Jericho in chapter 2, the crossing of the Jordan in chapters 3-4, the consecration at Gilgal in 5:1-12, and Joshua’s encounter with the commander of the Lord’s army in 5:13-15 (one of my favorite Joshua passages). Note the exhortation in 1:6 for Joshua to “Be strong and courageous” (NIV), as it recurs almost immediately in various forms; the same exhortation is made to us. Remember from our Pentateuch reading how some of the people were staying on the east side of the Jordan but how their fighting men had to help secure the land on the west side of the Jordan before they could really rest. Joshua sent spies into the land as he had been sent some 40 years earlier. Rahab in 2:1 is described as a “harlot” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “prostitute” NIV), although some other sources call her an innkeeper (but compare Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25). Either way, she protected the spies, confessed faith in God, and pleaded for mercy for herself and her family. The scarlet cord she was to use to identify herself and her family is like the use of the lamb’s blood to mark the homes the angel of death passed over as part of the last plague in Egypt, thus also pointing to the redeeming and life-saving blood of Christ. Likewise, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan recalls the parting of the Red Sea and points forward to Holy Baptism that saves us. I was struck by how the Lord’s exalting Joshua (3:7 and 4:14) is also said to be making a point or two to the people of Israel (3:10). You might also notice the good “catechism-like” question and answer in 4:21-24. Those who had not been circumcised previously were circumcised on the western side of the Jordan (5:2-8), just in time for the celebration of the Passover (5:10), after which the provision of manna also ended. The commander of the Lord’s army (5:13-15) is sometimes said to be a pre-incarnate Christ, although it could also have been an angel. I especially like the answer given to Joshua’s somewhat presumptive question, and I think we can always be reminded to ask ourselves if we are on the Lord’s side and to properly prostrate ourselves in the Lord’s presence and on His holy ground.

I have seven tidbits for you today. The U.S. Senate yesterday failed to meet the vote total needed to move forward on the Marriage Protection Amendment. ... Gay marriage is just one of the things the Vatican says make families more endangered now than ever. ... Maybe marriage doesn’t matter: these new parents say such a ceremony is “nothing”. ... A new poll suggests more Americans want to restrict abortion. ... The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reportedly filed a court brief yesterday supporting a New Jersey second-grader’s right to sing a religious song in the school talent show. They’ve been supporting her for a while now, prompting columns like this one defending the ACLU. ... Here’s the latest attempt to come up with a creation account different from the Bible. ... Would you like to pick your own cable channel lineup? Focus on the Family supports such an idea, but the move could also hurt Christian networks’ access and profits.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 07, 2006

Ac 27-28 / LCMS on Immigration / Folo / Tidbits

(Be sure to read Psalm 5 today and see here for my previous comments on Psalm 5.)

With Acts 27-28 today we finish the book and our reading of the New Testament until November. Chapter 27 tells of the beginning of Paul’s turbulent trip to Rome, and chapter 28 tells of his arrival on Malta and eventually in Rome. Despite the tumult of the sea, God safeguarded Paul’s passage. You can see how God blessed Paul and how his “chains” were not all that restrictive, even after he reached Rome. You might notice in 28:22 that the Roman Jews speak of Christianity as a “sect”, as Paul says the other Jewish leaders also did (Acts 24:14). The Greek word used in these places is hairesis, which gives us our English word “heresy”. The word, which means an opinion or doctrine that varies from established beliefs, can be used as an argumentative label, but such use does not deny that there are necessary divisions over doctrine to show who has God’s approval (1 Corinthians 11:19). As for Acts 28:30-31, remember the previously noted purpose of the book of Acts and how what might be described as its abrupt ending fits that purpose.

This statement was put out yesterday by the LCMS on immigration. I have a number of comments. First, I think there’s a more significant vote in Congress this week with religious implications, but I guess we’ve heard from St. Louis on that matter already. Second, someone in St. Louis needs to figure out the differences between a memo and a letter and stop merging the two. Third, what do you think the C.E.O. memo format indicates about how the two officials view their jobs in relation to the church body as opposed to a pastoral letters? Fourth, given what we believe about the two kingdoms, I’m not sure we should expect the government to care what the Church says. Fifth, the two Synod officials making the statement seem to have lost the distinction between legal immigrants like our forebears and those in the country illegally now. Sixth, as you will know if you’ve read my previous comments on this matter, I don’t think the Old Testament passages regarding strangers and aliens are exactly on point to the American situation with illegal immigrants. (One other thing, in talking to someone recently about Hillary Clinton’s comments about the House bill that would make it a crime to help illegal immigrants criminalizing the Good Samaritan and Jesus, I realized that the Senator from New York also failed to realize the foreign Samaritan was the one doing the helping not the one being helped.)

A Biblog folo today relates to a tidbit linked in my June 2nd post regarding the ELCA’s film on how Roman Catholics view themselves. A reader emailed the following:

That is rather interesting that the ELCA would put out a film on how Roman Catholics view themselves. That might be some interesting viewing.

I imagine the film would be interesting to watch, and, of course, anyone is free to order it. I would just caution that there is an agenda behind the film’s production that may mean it doesn’t quite tell the whole story. For example, the reported comment of an Illinois priest that “we are brothers and sisters in Christ” is not quite an accurate reflection of the Roman Catholic declaration that we are “separated brethren”.

Tidbits today are maybe more religious than usual. Christianity is said to be on the rise in Indonesia, but so is Muslim persecution as a result. ... Google admits censoring in China, but apparently not in the United States, where at least one person is now arguing the government should step in. ... Conservatives students are said to have less academic freedom than liberals. ... There’s a new development in the ongoing battle over religious freedom at the U.S. Air Force Academy. ... What would you think about a Mormon president? ... Today’s a sad anniversary in the U.S. history of abortion. ... And as we wait for the U.S. Senate’s vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment, here’s an interesting commentary on the desire for gay marriage.

There are two new Q&A posted, starting with this one, and thanks to those who submit questions. God bless all y’all’s day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 06, 2006

Ps 4 / Ac 25-26 / Tidbits

In addition to my previous comments on Psalm 4, I want to make one other comment, this one regarding verse 4. The Synod’s Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism Question #59c tells us, “God forbids us to bear anger and hatred in our hearts against our neighbor,” and it cites Ephesians 4:26, which itself cites Psalm 4:4. Anger can lead us to knowingly and willingly hurt or harm our neighbors, and Christ seems to especially forbid anger towards brothers or sisters in Christ (Matthew 5:21-24). Ephesians 4:26 and Psalm 4:4 both seem to have in view extended or continuing anger, since we are supposed to forgive those who sin against us. Notice how David in the same psalm verse says we should search our own hearts, perhaps recognizing our own sin, and be silent. Forgiving the sin committed against us and humbly repenting of our own sin and thereby receiving God’s forgiveness in faith, we can “lie down and sleep in peace” (Psalm 4:8).

Acts 25-26 continues the final major section of Acts by telling of Paul’s hearing before Festus and Agrippa. Festus was not on the job very long before he went to Jerusalem to hear from the Jewish leaders the charges against Paul. They were looking for a favor from him that would play into another plot to kill Paul. Festus, although said to be wiser and more honest than Felix and made the Jewish leaders go with him to Caesarea, still tried to do the Jews that favor and send Paul back to Jerusalem, but Paul appealed to Rome. While entertaining King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, Festus let the King hear Paul’s story, which includes in 26:14 a Greek proverb on the lips of our Lord about the futility of animals resisting metal that was prodding or goading him (by which resistance they would just hurt themselves), perhaps a reference to Paul’s conscience that may have been trying to convince him Jesus was resurrected. The King in verse 28 does not answer Paul’s question of verse 27, and Paul in verse 29 indirectly tells the King God is the source of conversion. Verses 31 and 32 are interesting in that Paul’s innocence is witnessed by two or three (again like our Lord’s), and, yet, despite the witness of innocence, God’s purpose of getting Paul to Rome to make a wider and more significant witness to the faith is served by Paul’s appeal to Caesar that Agrippa thinks was counterproductive.

I have five tidbits for you today. A former Wal-Mart pharmacist in Wisconsin who wouldn’t help people get birth control lost his lawsuit claiming his firing was religious discrimination. ... More abortions are said to be leaving Taiwan underpopulated. ... Louisiana’s abortion ban is on its way to the governor’s desk. ... Here's another sign of sin-sickness in the world and of the futility of trying to relieve it in other ways. ... And, does the fact that we informally talked about it yesterday at a theological conference make this a relevant link?

Enjoy your second to the last day reading the New Testament until November! God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 05, 2006

Ac 23-24 / Tidbits

(Be sure to read Psalm 3, which is also assigned for today; click here for my previous comments.)

Reading Acts 23-24 today we continue the final section of the book, which tells of the power of the Word of the Lord made perfect in weakness (summarized in 28:31). Chapter 23 tells of Paul’s “trial” before the Sanhedrin (vv.1-11), a plot to kill him (vv.12-22), and of his transfer to Caesarea (vv.23-35); chapter 24 tells of Paul’s trial before Felix. Paul used his knowledge of doctrinal differences within the Sanhedrin to basically result in a hung jury, and the Lord encouraged Paul by telling him he would testify in Rome. The plot to kill Paul was reported by his nephew to the commander, who then arranged for Paul to be transferred to Caesarea to escape the plot. Note how the commander, Claudius Lysias, finds there to be no charge against Paul that deserves death or imprisonment (reminding me of the Roman findings regarding Jesus). Felix heard both sides and seems to have enjoyed talking with Paul but left Paul in some form of custody for two years before being recalled to Rome.

I just have a trio of tidbits for the start of the work week. Six of those arrested in the Canadian terror plot reportedly attended the same mosque in a community outside Toronto. ... President Bush speaks with gay marriage supporters today as the Senate is expected to take up the Marriage Protection Amendment this week. ... And “The Da Vinci Code” movie fell from #2 to #4 at the box office this past weekend, grossing less than $20 million, keeping it still some $27.5 million shy of the $200 million mark for a blockbuster in the United States; it has already passed the $400 million mark for an international blockbuster, although not completely international, since Pakistan now has banned it.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 04, 2006

Ac 21-22 / Tidbits

(For my previous comments on Psalm 2, which is assigned for today, click here.)

Acts 21-22 continues the final section of the book, which tells of the power of the Word of the Lord made perfect in weakness (summarized in 28:31). Paul continues on his way to Jerusalem (21:1-15), arrives there (21:17-26), and is arrested (21:27-36). He speaks to the crowd (21:37-22:21), but his comments further incense them and the guard begins to flog Paul at which point he identifies himself as a Roman citizen (22:22-29), and then is taken before the Sanhedrin (22:30).

The Holy Spirit had told Paul to go to Jerusalem despite what might lie ahead (Acts 20:22), and the Spirit apparently also revealed to disciples in Tyre what was going to happen to Paul, which prompted them wrongly to urge Paul not to go (21:4)—in other words, they didn’t urge him not to go at the direction of the Holy Spirit. (See this February Q&A for some explanation of Philip’s four prophetic daughters.) As he had done in 11:27-29, Agabus prophesied accurately in 21:11, and in 21:12-14 people, including Luke, for their own personal reasons again tried to convince Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul followed the example of His Lord, who, despite urging from His disciples, “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). (It is hard not to understand from such narrative that well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters can be used as tools of the devil to tempt us.)

In Jerusalem the leaders of the church glorified God for Paul’s work with the Gentiles and warned him that the Jewish believers had heard false reports about Paul’s disregard for Judaism, so Paul in Christian liberty went to observe some purification rites (21:17-26). Nevertheless, a riot did break out as the leaders had feared, including some false charges against Paul (21:27-36). Paul gave a defense of his faith (the Greek word used gives us our English “apology”), and we are to always be ready to give an answer for our faith, too (1 Peter 3:15, for example, uses the same Greek word). In his defense (22:1-21), Paul tells how the Lord converted him, and he tells more about how the Lord directed him to the Gentiles. The Roman commander did not understand the religious dispute and ordered Paul to be interrogated, but Paul stopped him.

I think it was back in March when that man from Afghanistan was on trial for being a Christian (you may recall he ultimately escaped that persecution by fleeing to Italy) that I had some off-site discussion with a reader about Paul’s invoking his Roman citizenship in order to not be beaten. If memory serves, one point I made was that Paul was not at this point specifically on trial before the Romans for being a Christian, and a second point was that Paul’s use of the appeal process served the greater purpose of going to Rome. At least right now in the United States we have freedom of religion, and there’s nothing that says we shouldn’t make use of it and at least attempt for the courts to defend our use, though we shouldn’t expect this freedom to last forever and should be willing to suffer all, even death at the hands of our government as St. Paul ultimately did, rather than fall away from the faith.

Tidbits number seven even on this first day of the week. A U.S. federal judge said a Bible-based program violated the separation of church and state and ordered it out of Iowa prisons. ... President Bush in his radio address yesterday called for passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment banning gay marriage. ... Troubled by disagreements over gay issues, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. suffered its biggest loss in more than 30 years. ... Wisconsin’s Roman Catholic governor and the state’s bishop are fighting over embryonic stem-cell research. ... Some Roman Catholics in California are contending over kneeling. ... A member of Opus Dei is thanking Dan Brown and Ron Howard for making it easier to talk about the Roman Catholic group central to The Davinci Code. ... And today is supposed to be the Global Day of Prayer; it’s too bad its organizers don’t recognize that we can’t be a united body of believers not because we are divided by rebellious pride but because we are divided by false teaching and teaching.

There are three new prayers posted for you: a general one for Bible reading, one for before your reading, and one for the season including Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and the days following them. God bless your day today, especially as you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 03, 2006

Ps 1 / Ac 19-20 / Tidbits

He is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Today we begin reading the Psalter for the second time. My intention is to always provide you with the link to my previous comments on the psalm assigned for the day and to make additional comments as circumstances may warrant or allow. I hope that you will not skip actually reading the psalm, as if once was enough. Remember not only that we are to read the Psalter twice in the year but also that we are to repeat the whole cycle of Bible reading year after year. So, let us begin the Psalter again with my previous comments on Psalm 1 (and you can use the “back” button on your browser to return here for the additional comments on Psalm 1 and the comments on Acts 19-20).

One additional comment I might make about Psalm 1 pertains to the “chaff” in verse 4. The “ungodly” (KJV; “wicked” ASV, NIV, NASB) are likened unto the chaff, which the wind drives away. “Chaff” is frequently used to refer to the wicked (as in Hosea 13:3), usually in connection with gleaning (but compare in some ways Isaiah 17:13). Turning mountains to “chaff” can be used to indicate the result of God-given power (Isaiah 41:15, see also the “stubble” in Isaiah 41:2), however, and “chaff” also can be used to symbolize passing time. In gleaning, one throws the wheat up into the air with a “fan” or “winnowing fork”, and the wind blows away the chaff, that is the husks and straw (which presumably still need to be destroyed), while the heavier grain falls back to the ground. After the wind has separated the two, the grain is stored in the barn, and the chaff is burned. In Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17 John the Baptizer uses such imagery to speak of the work of the One coming after him, Jesus, and the Spirit He will bring. The use of “fire” in Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17 might be connected to the “fire” in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16, as if for some, such as those foregoing water-Spirit baptism, the coming of the Holy Spirit means eternal destruction in the fire of judgment. The believers, who bear fruits in keeping with repentance, survive the coming of the Spirit and can be said to be purified in its river of fire. The Spirit (the same word as “wind”) is likely a common, though unexpressed, idea between the two consecutive verses.

Reading Acts 19-20 today we finish one major section of the book, which tells of the Word of the Lord in conflict and triumph in Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia (summarized in 19:20), and we being the final section of the book, which tells of the power of the Word of the Lord made perfect in weakness (summarized in 28:31). At the same time, both chapters 19 and 20 continue the narrative of Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul on the way to Ephesus encounters some baptized “disciples” who perhaps at least had not heard that the Holy Spirit had been given at or after Jesus’ crucifixion (Acts 19:1-7). They may have been taught by Apollos, whose faulty teaching was just described (Acts 18:25). In light of some serious deficiencies and perhaps also their doubts once properly taught, Paul teaches them correctly and baptizes them, immediately also giving these “disciples” a gift of the Spirit like that given to the Gentiles in Caesarea (see Acts 10:46). Luke does not tell us whether these twelve men were Jews or Gentiles, but they are often presumed to be Gentiles, and, if they were totally ignorant of the Holy Spirit, such ignorance is easier to understand if they were not Jews. (Admittedly some of the events in the Divinely-inspired record, like this one, defy easy explanations.) As we continue reading, we note how Paul worked in available space and until the message had penetrated to the level desired (19:8-12). The contrast between God’s power and the power of demons is especially vivid in 19:13-20.

As Paul prepared to move on from Ephesus (sending Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia), there was a near riot stirred up by people who profited from pagan gods (19:23-41). Gaius and another of Paul’s co-workers named Aristarchus (see also 20:4) were seized but presumably let go, and we see how even pagan governments can be made to provide an atmosphere helpful to the spread of the Gospel. Paul seems to be traveling with a larger-than usual delegation here (20:1:6); representatives of the Macedonian congregations were likely accompanying him with their offerings for the Jerusalem saints. Note Luke appears to join up with the group, as indicated by the first-person plural forms used in 20:5 and the verses following. In a Troas Divine Service, Paul’s long preaching provided an opportunity for a miraculous raising from the dead (20:7-12). On the journey to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost (our reading is so timely again!), Paul gives a notable farewell to the elders from Ephesus (20:13-38). We note not only his awareness of things that may happen in Jerusalem but also, at the same time, his confidence that the sufferings of this life are nothing in comparison to the glories that are to be revealed. As for Paul’s statement that he would not see the Ephesian elders again (20:25), it may be that by the time he got back to Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:13) none of these elders were alive, but more likely Paul’s personal expectation expressed here was incorrect (the Greek indicates he’s speaking for himself, as opposed to speaking on the basis of a divine revelation). More important is the exhortation Paul gives the elders (vv.28-32). Strikingly the “elders” are also called “overseers” (“bishops”) and told to “pastor” (“shepherd”) their flock, the church. Keeping with the shepherd-flock imagery, Paul speaks of wolves that arise from within the flock (perhaps “in sheep’s clothing”, Matthew 7:15). Paul’s concluding quotation from Jesus is rare in that we do not find this specific statement of our Lord in the any of the Gospel accounts.

Tidbits on this seventh day of the week number seven. Televangelist Pat Robertson’s plane crashed into Long Island Sound Friday, killing the two pilots; Robertson was not onboard. ... A Ten Commandments display is being set up today across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court building. ... In Washington state more signatures are needed by Wednesday in order to get a gay rights repeal measure on the ballot. ... Methodists in Minnesota want the United Methodist Church to be more “inclusive” when it comes to gays. ... A senior Church of England bishop says traditionalists need to be “converted” to see that the Bible supports gay marriages. ... The American equivalent of the Anglican church will consider apologizing for supporting slavery and segregation. ... And, tell your friends to use the Daily Lectionary, especially since it would probably look good on their records!

May the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection fill your heart and comfort you today and always, and may you tomorrow join in celebrating the birthday of the New Testament Church by receiving God’s Word in all its forms.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 02, 2006

Ps 150 / Ac 17-18 / Tidbits

He is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

The last both of the final five Hallelujah Psalms of all the psalms and the conclusion both to Book V and to the Psalter, Psalm 150 is a call to praise that gives us the “where, why, how, and who” of praise. Psalm 150 echoes the call of Psalm 149:3 with some modification, especially being addressed to every living creature and elaborating on all the instruments (including two different kinds of cymbals or castanets, smaller clear-sounding and larger deeper-toned). In this psalm also there is a perfect number (10) of calls to praise. How we all long for the day when this psalm’s call to praise is perfectly answered by every creature living in harmony and the full appreciation of God’s work of restoration in Jesus Christ (see also Romans 8:19-23).

As we read Acts 17-18 today, we continue the major section dealing with the Word of the Lord in conflict and triumph in Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia, finishing the narrative of Paul’s second missionary journey (17:1-18:22) and barely beginning the narrative of Paul’s third missionary journey (18:23-28). We note how in the synagogues Paul can presume a good deal of Scripture knowledge (for example, 17:2-4); would that people in the world today to whom we reach out with the Gospel had such a good background. Note how the Bereans in 17:11 examined the Scriptures every day; I’ll bet they didn’t have a website to help them, though! Such examination, to see if what is being preached is true, is the responsibility of every hearer, and so sheep are able to distinguish the voice of the shepherd from the voice of the stranger (John 10:1-18). We must be careful in how we understand Paul’s activities in Athens (17:16-34), especially with the Greeks in the marketplace and the Areopagus (also called Mars Hill): he is not joining in any sort of syncretistic worship but meeting the people where they are and teaching them the truth. The approach in principle was the same as in the synagogues; although the starting point was different, the ending point was the same. In Corinth, Paul helped make tents while waiting for Silas and Timothy (18:1-5), but he was not setting a “tentmaker-priest” precedent that necessarily should be followed in modern situations where established congregations need full-time workers. Priscilla and Aquila go with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus (18:1-2, 18-19), and there they have occasion to help shape an undershepherd’s voice (18:24-26, note how they did so privately). Thus, when Apollos moved on, he was commended by those in Ephesus (18:27-28).

Tidbits number ten today. North Korea is said to be putting political opponents in concentration camps bigger than those of WWII. ... The Pope didn’t say much at Auschwitz on Sunday, and after being criticized for not specifically condemning anti-Semitism he amended his statement Wednesday. ... The U.S. Supreme Court lets the Boy Scouts insist on a pledge to God and country. ... Research suggests those who take virginity pledges frequently lie (as opposed to the rest of us?). ... Louisiana’s House of Representatives passes a “symbolic” abortion ban. ... An Alabama woman was supposedly struck by lightning as she said “Amen” to a prayer for safety in a storm. ... The Colorado Rockies reportedly say they are a Christian baseball team and that God is favoring them as a result, but not everyone on the team’s happy with that story. ... Lutheran provided earthquake relief is arriving in Indonesia, and it’s not too late for you to help. ... The ELCA has put out a film on how Roman Catholics view themselves. ... And, thousands of years since the Garden, and human beings still want to be gods.

Thanks, as always, to the person who submitted the question for this latest Q&A. May the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection fill your heart and comfort you today and always.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

June 01, 2006

Is 12:1-6 / Ac 15-16 / Folo / Tidbits

He is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

The seasonal canticle for June is Isaiah 12:1-6, and you can find some comments in the background information for June’s readings, both online here and as a downloadable PDF here, and you can find more comments in the December 12th Biblog post. Basically, the canticle consists of two psalms Divinely-inspired to praise the Lord for His deliverance. “That day” (vv.1, 4) is the time of the Messiah, when the Lord gives victory and joy to the believers. Believers praise God for their experiencing His salvation (vv.1-3), and, by praising God in corporate worship, believers participate in the proclamation of salvation that makes God’s salvation known to others (vv.4-6). Verse 3 was used in the liturgy of the Feast of Tabernacles, referring not only to God’s literal provision of water in the wilderness but also to the life-giving water of redemption we find in the Baptismal font (see also John 7:37-39). For such reasons we also should “shout aloud and sing for joy” (v.6, NIV; “cry out [or “aloud”] and shout [for joy]” KJV, ASV, NASB)!

Acts 15-16 today finishes one major section, telling of the Word of the Lord uniting Jew and Gentile in one, free Church (summarized in 16:5), and the chapters begin another major section, telling of the Word of the Lord in conflict and triumph in Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia (summarized in 19:20). Chapter 15 and the beginning of chapter 16 narrate the Jerusalem conference and some reconfiguration of the missionary team (15:1-16:5), and the rest of chapter 16 begins the narration of Paul’s second missionary journey (vv.6-40). Notice how the trouble in Antioch came about when people without authorization went from Judea to teach (15:1, 24). They and the other so-called Judaizers wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (15:1, 5)—as if we fallen human beings can keep the law! With the direction of the Holy Spirit and under James’ leadership, the Council decided to tell the Gentiles to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, and from blood, which included abstaining from eating the meat of strangled animals, which would still have the blood in it (15:20, 29). Judas and Silas were sent with the apostolic letter as two witnesses (so it just wasn’t Paul and Barnabas going back and saying they were right). When Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit some congregations, including some from the first missionary journey, they had a disagreement over who should go, and they ended up splitting up and taking other workers with them (15:36-41). Paul and Silas also picked up Timothy, whom Paul circumcised so that he would not be a stumbling block to the Jews who knew of his Greek descent (16:1-5).

Proceeding from the Father and from Jesus, the Holy Spirit guided Paul’s direction (16:6-9). Luke seems to have joined the group at Troas, as one of the “we” portions of the account begins in verse 10 and runs through verse 17. One of the notable events of this second missionary journey was Paul casting out a spirit from a slave girl, which exorcism so much upset the people who made money from her that they had Paul and Silas arrested. Judaism was a legal religion, but Christianity was not. Paul and Silas had an opportunity to escape but did not, sparing the life of the jailer, who, with his whole family, came to faith and was baptized. Though Paul and Silas were going to be unceremoniously released, for the sake of the church at Philippi they made it so their innocence would be obvious.

I have one Biblog folo today, which came in response to this tidbit linked yesterday regarding the constitutionality of stickers placed on science textbooks indicating, among other things, that evolution is a theory that should be critically considered. A reader emailed the following.

I don’t know you could be more “neutral” or “scientific” than to say “Evolution is a theory” as the school textbook stickers did. Anyone who gets past general science knows that much.

The reader also sent along evidence that evolution is alive and well in a Texas Memorial Museum five-day science immersion “workshop” for sixth- through ninth-graders that is also an educational research study.

Today I have a perfect number of tidbits. A South Dakota Native American reservation moves to follow the state and ban abortions, removing a leader who said she would ignore the state’s ban. ... Nine years after he came out to his parish, a gay priest in Michigan has been removed. ... Elsewhere in Michigan there reportedly was an effort to ban the use of “America” in public school classrooms. ... A Virginia pastor is fighting for the right to pray the way he wants in order to open city council meetings. ... Dan Brown’s book that came before The Da Vinci Code is prompting response books and new TV specials that are attracting ire. ... Fewer Americans supposedly believe the Bible is “the literal word of God”, but I think what the Bible teaches and what we believe about inspiration is more sophisticated than that. ... I first heard it on the radio, and, though this is not a religious story, it is an extremely sad case of mistaken identity in Indiana (where maybe they haven’t heard of DNA?).

With June 1 we are essentially halfway through this year of Bible reading—congratulations to those of you who are reading along! There is one new Q&A here, and remember you can submit your questions for answers at any time (use the link near on the left near the top of the main Biblog page). May the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection fill your heart and comfort you today and always.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:02 AM