September 30, 2006

Jer 29-31 / Folos / Tidbits

(For comments and links to other comments on September’s seasonal canticle, 1 Chronicles 29:10-13, click here.)

Still in the section on warnings and exhortations to Judah, Jeremiah 29-31 finishes the subsection telling of the exile to Babylon (chapter 29) and beings a section concentrating on the promises of restoration and the New Covenant (chapters 30-31). Chapter 29’s letter to the exiles (29:1-23) tells them not to believe the false prophets who say that they will be returning home soon but instead to put down roots (literally!) in exile, at least until the 70 years have passed. Understand that, while the sons were to marry and the daughters to be given in marriage, they were to do so among their own people. The comforting truth of 29:11 is ours, also, despite what otherwise may appear to be the case. We may think that what is happening is harming us, but God knows things we do not, and He Who is in control not only has the plans to prosper us but made them and will carry them out. When reading 29:17 remember the prophetic vision Jeremiah had, about which we read in chapter 24, especially verse 8. Also in chapter 29, after Jeremiah’s letter, we read of God’s judgment on the false prophet Shemaiah (29:24-32), who responded to Jeremiah’s letter with letters of his own from exile back to Jerusalem calling for Jeremiah to be imprisoned.

The subsection begun with chapter 30 is sometimes called Jeremiah’s “book of consolation”, and it is so called for good reason: it “is the longest sustained passage in Jeremiah concerned with the future hope of the people of God”. Not only does the subsection deal with the restoration of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, but it also looks forward to the Messiah’s redeeming His people from their spiritual bondage. (The section most certainly does not apply to any literal restoration of Israel beyond the return from exile, such as that of the 20th century.) Do not be too concerned trying to distinguish the more immediate prophecy and fulfillment from the more distant prophecy and fulfillment; doing so is like when a mountain range is some distance away, and it is hard to tell how far apart the mountains themselves are and what valleys are between them. The Lord’s opening words refer to sounds of battle and destruction that appear to bring the doom of judgment but nevertheless result in the victory of deliverance for the faithful. Judah’s situation seems hopeless, but with God all things are possible. Praise and thanksgiving will come again from God’s people, and He will raise up a leader for them, ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah (from the Hebrew), or the Christ (from the Greek), namely, Jesus.

Chapter 31 continues the subsection with even more-vivid and joyous images of the people returning from exile. Jeremiah calls for the word to go out to all the captives and describes the Lord gathering and watching over them as a Good Shepherd does His flock. Worth noting is 31:15, which refers to the mourning in Ramah, a town north of Jerusalem, through which the exiles from Jerusalem went en route to Babylon; Rachel, Jacob’s more-favored wife, as the grandmother of Ephraim and Manasseh, in this verse personifies or represents those most-prominent and powerful tribes of the northern kingdom. By Divine Inspiration, St. Matthew the Evangelist says this verse was fulfilled (Matthew 2:17) in connection with King Herod’s order to kill all the male infants in and around Bethlehem, the so-called “slaughter of the innocents”. Also worth noting is 31:22, the meaning of which has been much disputed. A popular interpretation is that a virgin will carry in her body the Man Who surpasses all others in strength and vanquishes all, but the Hebrew word translated “compass” (KJV; “encompass” ASV, NASB; “surround” NIV) does not mean conceive in a mother’s womb. A better meaning may be Israel’s figurative embrace of the Lord. This new relationship should motivate the exiles to return to the land and anticipates the description of the New Covenant that comes a few verses later in the chapter. Before we get to the New Covenant however, we find in 31:29 a saying of sorts that people had developed apparently as a misinterpretation of passages such as Exodus 20:5 and Numbers 14:18, blaming their ancestors for their predicament and more or less excusing themselves from any responsibility. People are always punished for their own sin, but often the sins of the parents are also the sins of the children. At last we get to the high point of Jeremiah, 31:31-34, what is also the longest passage of the Old Testament to be quoted in its entirety in the New Testament (Hebrews 8:8-12, and see also 10:16-17), and which passage also, via Latin, gives us the only Old Testament reference to the “New Testament”. Of course we immediately recall also the “cup of the New Testament” (Luke 22:20) and the covenantal meal that both seals the New Covenant and that fulfills and surpasses the Old Testament Passover. For, it is from the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar that we most concretely receive the benefits of the New Covenant, the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34). (Note that Jeremiah’s description of a Jerusalem that lacks a Temple and will never be destroyed applies more directly to the Heavenly Jerusalem, such as that we find described in Revelation 21.)

We have a bunch of Biblog folos today. Reading Jeremiah 28:15-17 yesterday, about the death of the unfaithful prophet Hananiah, and no doubt thinking about faithful professor Kurt Marquart’s recent departure from this world, prompted a reader to email the following comment.

One wonders, when good men are stricken and die while those who teach the people to trust in lies seem to flourish, how long this will go on.

“How long?” Indeed! That very question is asked some 61 times in the King James Version of the Bible and by various people. Perhaps the one that comes most immediately to my mind and is closest to the reader’s comment is Revelation 6:10. I am also reminded of the plaintive lyrics of the U2 song “Forty”, based on Psalm 40 but clearly with the influence of other psalms, which song often ends their concerts.

In response to an item linked Friday regarding the cancellation in Germany of a Mozart opera in deference to Muslim sensibilities, a reader emailed the following comment.

There was a time when the followers of Jesus would have boycotted this blasphemy. Now it’s one more demonstration of “equality” and we are supposed to worry about Islam’s reaction! I read a summary of the opera. I don't see a reason to add anything to this myth, except to be insulting to Christians as well as Muslims and Buddhists and to get publicity.

I had previously been unfamiliar with Mozart’s “Idomeneo”, but as near as I can tell the original work is quite significant and Mozart isn’t to blame for the head of anyone other than Poseidon (or Neptune)—the contemporary director Hans Neuenfels is. (A reader sent this link to a summary of the opera.) Still, I’m not surprised that Christians are expected to turn the other cheek over such matters (Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29) while Islam rants and rages. (Although Christians are nevertheless ranting and raging over NBC’s plans to broadcast Madonna’s “crucifixion” concert.) Given a hint at what I was going to post today, a reader sent this link, emphasizing that blogger’s comment that the dire consequences did not come from followers of Poseidon, Christ, or Buddha. And, there’s this late word that the opera house might reverse its decision.

Speaking of Islam’s reaction, a reader sent this link to a September 19th story about how the pope’s recent “apology” relates to papal infallibility, which is usually invoked only in matters of faith and morals and when the pope speaks ex cathedra, literally “from the chair” or “throne”. And, there was this news Friday about a pastor in Florida who lost some political clout for calling Islam a cult.

Nearly two weeks ago I made some extensive comments about the pope’s statement about the Muslims regarding the god they worship and related those comments to our own controversies in the Missouri Synod. I have since been able to do a little more digging into the matter, including checking the Latin version of the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, and wanted to let you know what I found. The Latin clause qui unicum Deum adorant is perhaps better translated “who adore the one God”, essentially as given by Cardinal Bertone and by the Vatican’s website, and perhaps not “God, who is one”, as in the English version of the document in a book I have by Austin Flannery. A person I talked with in the Communications Office of the Austin Roman Catholic Diocese indicated that the second translation and others that differ are not necessarily “wrong” but that “translation, by its very nature, is interpretation”. If so, the Vatican and other translators appear to be following a standard literary tradition that holds Muslims worship the one God, where Father Flannery seems to be more sensitive to the fact that the Council’s treatment puts them in the category of non-Christians. Can someone worship the one God and be a non-Christian? I would say, “No”, where Rome, on the other hand, seems to say “maybe”. The person from the Austin Diocese did not answer my question about whether the translations are significantly different, seemingly suggesting instead that differences in the translations were over words and phrases of lesser importance and that a spirit of charity ought to prevail. Perhaps that understanding of “charity” or “love” includes ambiguity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the Roman Catholic relationship with the Muslims in the words of another Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”, dated November 21, 1964).

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. (Par. 841, LG 16.)

Yes, God wants the Muslims to be saved, but are they really “included” in “the plan of salvation” by acknowledging the Creator while rejecting the Redeemer? They might “profess to hold the faith of Abraham” but do they actually hold the faith of Abraham, whose belief in the Triune God was credited to him as righteousness? Still, I temper my criticism of Rome knowing we have those in our own midst who are equally unclear as to just how necessary belief in Jesus is for salvation. People in every denomination will teach what they want, sadly, despite what Scripture and their confessions, if they have any, might say.

In response to a tidbit linked Friday about a court letting a father teach his daughter about polygamy, a reader emailed the following comment.

The girl is a child of her mother, too, isn't she? Roberts’ fear that Shepp will talk their daughter into an underage marriage is no doubt very real. Who should she ask for help? The church excommunicated Shepp, but I don’t think they pursue under age marriage any more vigorously than the Latter-Day-Saints-dominated courts in Utah.

I’m sure the mother is free to teach the daughter whatever she likes, too. The concern is that if the courts use a standard of what is legal and illegal in society to judge the content of religious teaching in the home, soon enough we will not be allowed to tell our children that such things as abortion and homosexuality are wrong, because they are “legal” in society. We all think it is reasonable for people who need blood transfusions to receive them, but I wouldn’t want a court to force a blood transfusion on someone who objects to it for religious reasons. The problem American law and politics trivializing religious devotion was well documented some thirteen years ago in this book.

And, in response to the tidbit Friday about ATM-like donation kiosks in “lobbies” of church buildings, an email highlighted the opportunity to earn bonus miles off donations and wondered if, after his recent experiencing of missing a connection and being stuck in Detroit, Pr. Sullivan would like a free trip there. The same reader mentioned the idea in vogue in some places of having the congregation automatically withdraw funds from a member’s checking or saving account. Most faithful pastors I know object at least the automatic withdrawal because it minimizes that actual act of giving and treats what should be the joyous offering of firstfruits to the Lord as just another bill to pay.

Tidbits today begin with a Massachusetts activist judge ruling about Rhode Island laws so two lesbians can get married. ... Wal-Mart’s donations to Republicans are interesting, given its support of the gay agenda. ... The head of the U.S. Episcopal church is worried a separate body would raise questions about the nature of the church, but maybe those questions would help him realize a church body divided over doctrine is not the church. ... A reader sent information about University of Texas at Austin professor Robert W. Jensen giving repeating Monday at 7:00 p.m. in the Whitis Residence Hall a lecture that he’s given elsewhere, “The Paradox of Pornography: Feminist Critique and the Hope for Men”, wondering how the feminist view would improve things. ... The U.S. Senate Friday failed to finalize a vote on a measure that would have prohibited taking minors across state lines to get an abortion, but the vote is still thought by some to be a political victory for the Republicans. ... A reader sent this link to an article about an Ohio judge striking down a law that would have restricted the use of the abortion pill RU-486 to women less than seven weeks pregnant; the reader commented, “But, if it’s women’s health they are worried about, they won't prescribe it.” ... Remember that other boy that was ripped from the womb in Illinois? ... Here’s the latest from the LCMS public relations office; an account I received from someone who was there and who has a conservative viewpoint was quite different. ... Speaking of PR, a reader sent this link to a bit of good, Texas-related news out of New York City. ... And, finally, a reader sent this link to a “must-see” video about domino pool.

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

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:42 AM

September 29, 2006

Jer 26-28 / Tidbits

(As you read Psalm 113 you may find these comments helpful.)

Jeremiah 26-28 today continues the section of warnings and exhortations to Judah and its subsection that foretells the exile in Babylon. Chapter 26 tells of death threats against Jeremiah very early in the reign of Jehoiakim, possibly in connection with the so-called Temple messages we read in chapter 7. Notice how in chapter 26 the message is quickly summarized (verses 2-6) and the results are given at greater length (verses 7-24). The spiritual leaders of the people (the priests and false prophets), who you might think would have been more likely to recognize Jeremiah as a prophet but had too great of a self-interest in the Temple and city, take the lead in trying to put him to death, but the officials of Judah recognized Jeremiah’s words as the Lord’s, and the elders remembered other faithful prophets (such as Micah, whose book we will read in November) who years earlier had prophesied against the Temple and Jerusalem but were allowed to live. The people at first supported the priests and prophets in wanting Jeremiah dead but then backed Jeremiah after the officials ruled. (I am reminded both of the fickle crowds following Jesus and of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day who were so threatened by Jesus that they also failed to see the truth.) Most likely to contrast the more-faithful king Hezekiah with the current less-faithful king, we have in 26:20-23 the account of Jehoiakim executing Uriah. When Shaphan’s son Ahikam, who had been an official in Josiah’s court and apparently was still highly-placed in Jehoiakim’s court, came out in support of Jeremiah, he was spared.

Chapter 27 tells of another symbolic action Jeremiah performed in connection with his prophecy against Judah and the other nations that apparently were trying to join together to rise up against Nebuchadnezzar, which prophecy was given during the reign of Zedekiah, before the events of chapter 26. Note well how Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as the Lord’s servant, not in the sense of a believer but in the sense of His agent executing wrath on the people. Be sure not to miss the glimmer of hope in 27:7: Babylon’s day of judgment will also come, and that means the Lord’s people will be delivered. In keeping with the Lord’s call to submit to the Babylonians, Jeremiah told Zedekiah and the people to submit and ignore the false prophets. Some of them were saying that the articles from the Temple already taken to Babylon would be returned, but Jeremiah prophesied the opposite: that those articles remaining in the Temple would also be taken. (None of the references in 27:16-22 or chapter 28 needs necessarily include the Ark of the Covenant, as we have previously discussed.) Chapter 28 illustrates such a false prophet, Hananiah, who even used symbolic action to prophesy against what Jeremiah had said, and the chapter also tells how Jeremiah dealt with him. Jeremiah would like Hananiah’s prophecy to be true but points out that given its content only its ultimate fulfillment could be the sign that the prophecy was true. Jeremiah indicates that the true prophets before them generally foretold doom and that false prophets foretold peace. The prophecy the Lord had Jeremiah declare against Hananiah, who had proclaimed peace in two years, came true two months after Jeremiah’s prophecy. How much do we yearn for a speedy fulfillment of God’s prophecies about us?

Tidbits today begin by asking whether bowing to Muslim demands worth not letting Mozart “bow”. A German official says the decision was “crazy”, but here’s another opinion. ... I don’t condone polygamy, but I also don’t like the idea of courts telling parents what religious values they can and cannot teach their children. ... Wal-Mart reportedly wants to tell you to vote against gay marriage bans, and here’s one way you can express your opinion. ... Teen pregnancy dropped more than one-third over a decade, according to this report of a report. ... Wait! The liberal media passed up an opportunity to slam conservatives? Maybe they're not so liberal after all. ... The unusual movie “Facing the Giants” today is released “nationwide” in 441 theatres, but the closest ones to Austin I could find are in Kileen, Live Oak, and San Antonio. And, NPR is calling them “21st century offering plates”; here’s the story that prompted the radio piece (be sure to note that the man promoting them gets a piece of the action).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 28, 2006

Ps 112 / Jer 23-25 / Tidbits

We are to read Psalm 112 again today (my previous post is here). Right away I was struck by how verse 1 sheds some light on yesterday’s discussion about translating and interpreting Psalm 111. You might notice the sharp contrast between verse 1 and verse 10, between the person who fears the Lord and the wicked person who does not. You might also notice verse 7 and how it does not say the person who fears the Lord won’t have bad news but that that person won’t fear bad news. Since the vast majority of the psalm is describing what our lives should be like but aren’t like, we probably hear the psalm as mostly law, either telling us that we are sinners or how our redeemed nature should live—which our sinful nature still hears as accusing us. Amidst all that law, we should not forget the Gospel that our sins are freely forgiven us who are sorry for them and believe in Jesus Christ. That forgiveness is the greatest blessing that comes upon us who fear (that is, believe in) the Lord (verse 1).

Jeremiah 23-25 comes close to the center of the book and contains what may well be some of its most important content. Continuing the section on warnings and exhortations to Judah, we first finish the subsection condemning kings, prophets, and people (chapters 23-24); and then we begin the subsection foretelling the exile in Babylon (chapter 25). Chapter 23 begins with the Lord’s judgment on the political and spiritual leaders of the people, but that judgment is closely coupled with the Lord’s promise to return the people from exile and give them better leaders, including the Davidic King, the Messiah. All such prophecies about the remnant (as in 23:3) should be heard by us today as also applying to us who find ourselves among the seemingly-small number of faithful believers. Not coincidentally, the prophets who supported the bad kings and led the people away from God come under fire next, and they receive sharp condemnation. Notice how the Lord says they have never been in His council, which means they do not speak on His behalf or know His words. (Jeremiah 23:29 may be to you a familiar description of the power of the Lord’s Word; the verse provided the title to this well-known book.) Reading 23:33 and verses following, especially verse 36, I thought of those who claim God speaks to them directly or otherwise tells them to do things that contradict His Word. Chapter 24 begins with a prophetic vision of figs representing the people meeting the Lord at the Temple. Note how judgment leads to salvation. Those who by that time had been carried into exile in the first deportation the Lord would protect, while He would destroy those that remained in Judah and its capital, Jerusalem. Chapter 25 tells of the destruction of Jerusalem and exile to Babylon not only for those of Judah but all the surrounding nations. More importantly, however, the chapter in telling of the seventy years of captivity (a symbolic but also literal number) thereby also promises that the Lord will deliver His people at a fixed time, and that prophecy came true, as do all of the Lord’s promises to His people, including those He makes to us today in our Baptisms, and the like. (Note that Jeremiah’s taking the cup of wrath from the Lord and making the leaders of the surrounding nations to drink of it is a figurative expression describing Jeremiah’s work of proclaiming divine judgment against those nations.)

Tidbits are back today, beginning with a potentially significant Texas case that illustrates the danger when clergy try to be secular counselors (you may need to log-in to get to this link, but you shouldn’t to get to this one). ... The Roman Catholic church has now excommunicated that controversial archbishop who was calling for priests to be able to get married. ... A Muslim professor can’t get into the United States to teach at a Roman Catholic university because he donated to a Palestinian organization. ... According to this piece, the next time you tune-in “M” TV you may not get what you might otherwise expect. ... A reader sent this link to a mainstream news story about the controversial “Jesus camp” (about which I’ve been seeing reports in other media outlets) that in some cases is being compared to training of Muslim extremists. ... A New York Times reporter in public remarks is said to have criticized what she called an “assault on women’s reproductive freedom” (I guess she doesn’t think much of babies’ freedom to live). ... And, this radio story I heard Wednesday morning was a vivid reminder that people do still worship idols.

The only, true God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 27, 2006

Ps 111 / Jer 19-22

Psalm 111 is before us again today, as it was six months ago. I incorrectly remembered that at that time I had pointed out in verse 8 how “they” at the beginning of the verse can be taken to refer either to the last plural noun, “His precepts” (ASV, NIV, NASB; “commandments” KJV), or to the one before that one, “the works of His hands”. I discuss this and a somewhat related point about this psalm in what follows, thanks in part to a “research assistant” who did some of my leg work. From a strictly grammatical point of view, the pronoun should refer to the closest preceding noun with which it agrees, but in this case I think the better connection is with “the works of His hands”, since they or their Gospel equivalents have been the focus of each of the preceding verses and are also of the following verse. If taken with the law meaning of “precepts” or “statutes”, one might also ask whether we can do the “statutes” of the Lord in “truth and uprightness” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “faithfulness and uprightness” NIV). Led by the Holy Spirit, of course, we can, but clearly the psalm is focusing on what the Lord has done. Interestingly, the Hebrew word piqquwdim translated “statutes” is used only in the psalms and only three times outside of Psalm 119; its meaning is generally understood for the responsibilities God puts on us. Mention of our covenant responsibilities (confer the covenantal meal in verse 5) is not out of place in the psalm, but those responsibilities hardly seem to me to be the subject of verse 8. Verse 10, which may have more meaning for you after reading the so-called wisdom literature, is related, at least by some translations. The noun for “precepts” (NIV) or “commandments” (KJV, ASV, NASB) is not in the verse, however; in fact, the verse appears to say “a good understanding [is or belongs] to all those doing”. (One commentator goes so far as to render: “the understanding of the Good One belongs to all who acquire it”.) The ESV, which the Synod is promoting in connection with the new Lutheran Service Book renders verse 10 “all those who practice it have a good understanding”, with “it” referring either to the more immediate “wisdom” or the earlier “fear of the Lord”. The Hebrew word order seems to suggest “wisdom” is parallel to “good understanding”, and so “the fear of the Lord” would be parallel to that which is being “done” or “practiced”. (Beck is similar, “To be wise, first fear the Lord; it is good sense for all to do that”, and so is the NEB, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and they who live by it grow in understanding”.) Having said all that, understanding “commandments” in verse 10 does not produce a meaning for the verse that is impossible to reconcile, for faith does produce the good works of keeping the commandments. The Hebrew verb asah “is often used with the sense of ethical obligation”, but then, of course, our greatest obligation is to believe.

Reading Jeremiah 19-22 today we finish one subsection of the section on warnings and exhortations to Judah, and we begin another subsection. First chapters 19 and 20 conclude the lessons from the potter, and then chapters 21-22 speak of the Lord’s condemnation of kings, prophets, and people. In contrast to the malleable clay of chapter 18, chapter 19 starts with a hardened jar from the potter and proceeds to the Potsherd Gate (NIV, NASB; “east” KJV; “Harsith” ASV, a transliteration of an alternate reading of the Hebrew). The gate was apparently so called because it looked out over the principal dumping grounds for broken pottery. What we have is another symbolic action, or object lesson, if you will, that God has Jeremiah carry out in an attempt to drive home His point to the leaders of the people, including the statement that the lack of food during the siege will be so bad people will resort to cannibalism (19:9). The reading does not make it explicit, but the implication is that the people, as one commentator puts it, “had so absorbed sin that they had to be destroyed according to God’s law regarding polluted pottery (Leviticus 11:33).” “Topheth” in 19:11-14 seems to connected with this particular gate, which was perhaps located near the southeast end of Jerusalem near the part of the valley declared unclean by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10) and used as place for burning garbage (the word literally means “place of fire”). The idea is that the Jerusalem itself will become unclean and a dumping ground for bodies as a result of the destruction the Lord will bring on account of the people’s idolatry.

Chapter 20 tells how the priest Pashur reacted to Jeremiah’s prophecy and prophetic action (20:1-2) and how Jeremiah responded to him (20:3-6). The chapter also gives us what is called Jeremiah’s sixth and last “confession”, which is also said to be the longest, “most daring, and bitter of them all.” Yet, Jeremiah’s deep feelings are not only somewhat bitter (vv.7-8) but also recognize the compulsion to prophesy (v.9) and his unfailing confidence in the Lord (vv.11-12) that leads him to praise Him (v.13). However, from that height of praise Jeremiah plunges again into the despair of wishing he had never been born.

As we begin the next subsection with chapters 21 and 22, beware that the chronology may be a little looser in this subsection. The overall message of destruction on account of unfaithfulness is the same, but in this subsection God directs it most specifically to kings, prophets, and people. In the chapters we read today, the kings are the primary addressees. (Notice that the more-faithful Josiah is not mentioned.) Even in promises of sword, famine, and plague, however, we find mercy to those who surrender to the Babylonians (21:9) and promises that faithfulness can yet keep a son of David on the throne (22:3-4). Likewise, God’s mercy extends to us today who submit to His discipline in sorrow over our sin and faith in Jesus for forgiveness, by which we receive the promise of eternal life.

Thanks as always to those who keep us supplied with questions, and you will find four new Questions and Answers (Q&A) posted, starting with this one (you can read down from there for the other three). God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:42 AM

September 26, 2006

Jer 16-18 / Folos

(Psalm 110 is appointed again today, and this is the previous post about it.)

Jeremiah 16-18 takes us completely through two subsections and partially into a third subsection of the major section we have been reading, that of warnings and exhortations to Judah. Chapter 16:1-17:18 deals with disaster and comfort, and 17:19-27 deals with the command to keep the Sabbath holy, and chapters 18-20 are lessons from the potter (today we only read through chapter 18). In the subsection centering on words of disaster and comfort we find God’s command to Jeremiah not to marry (16:2-4), and we might recall St. Paul’s somewhat similar words regarding the exigencies of our times (1 Corinthians 7:26-35). Remember as you read 16:10-13 that the people are not being punished for their parents’ sins but for their own intensification of that same sin. Amidst all the talk of disaster, be sure not to miss the wonderful good news in 16:14-15; if it sounds familiar it may be because we heard those words as part of our Old Testament reading for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Jeremiah 16:14-21), and we will hear almost the exact same words later in Jeremiah 23:7-8. The point is that as great as the Exodus from Egypt was, the Lord’s returning the people from exile in Babylon will be greater deliverance, and, of course, both deliverances point to and are surpassed by the Lord’s delivering us from sin by the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Note that the reading is paired on the Fifth Sunday after Trinity with Luke 5:1-11, which is a positive reference to fishers, but the reference in Jeremiah 16:16 is negative, referring to destroying not rescuing. Jeremiah’s words of 16:19-20 look to the positive part of the prophecy. When the Lord resumes speaking, however, He continues to focus on the warnings and the extent of the people’s sin. Still, the Lord does not speak only of curses but also of blessings. You might notice the similarities between 17:5-8 and Psalm 1. In 17:9 Jeremiah makes a statement and asks a perhaps rhetorical question of the Lord, Who answers in 17:10 before Jeremiah continues to speak. Don’t let 17:10 make you think of works righteousness as if faith didn’t matter; remember that in such descriptions believers are judged righteous in view of the works their faith has produced. Notice in 17:14-15 how Jeremiah continues to trust in the Lord but is a little anxious for the prophecy to be fulfilled, as the Lord’s delay is leading others to call Jeremiah a false prophet. In 17:16 notice the use of the “shepherd” imagery in connection with Jeremiah’s prophetic office.

In the short subsection on remembering the Holy Day we should note especially the Sabbath’s importance as a sign of God’s covenant with His people and thus also His delivering them (see Exodus 31:13-17 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15). You might also notice 17:23 and the connection between being “stiff-necked” and failing to respond to the Lord’s “discipline” (NIV; “instruction” KJV, ASV; “correction” NASB). You can see why kneeling and bowing the head symbolize repentance! The gate of the city figures prominently in this section both as the location of the specific piece of prophecy and in the content of the prophecy itself.

So, too, in the next subsection, the potter’s house is the location for and central to the content of the prophecy. On 18:4, one commentator points out that the fault was with the clay, not with the potter’s skill. The potter can do as he pleases with the clay, and the Lord likewise with the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God makes it clear that He is willing to change his plans if the people repent. Yet, the people of Israel are fickle, especially in comparison to such things as snow on the mountain peaks of Lebanon. By one commentator’s count, 18:18-23 is the “fifth” of Jeremiah’s so-called “confessions”, and we notice how Jeremiah can call for the Lord’s righteous wrath against his and the Lord’s enemies much like the psalmists.

I have a number of quick Biblog folos today. First, in response to my comment yesterday about hearing Jeremiah 15:1 as an insult, a reader emailed that Jeremiah was not sent to intercede for the people and that Moses and Samuel “were the ‘giants’ of those days”, adding, “These days, we have (had) a lot of church leaders but not many Kurt Marquarts!” Speaking of which, a reader sent this link to another church body’s acknowledgment of Professor Marquart’s departure from this world, and late on Monday the LCMS finally sort of announced the same, although in a back-handed sort of way. Yesterday’s tidbit about cemetery orientation prompted an email commenting on the publicity the cemetery has received, the small number of Muslims likely to need such orientation, and experience in some cemeteries oriented north and south. (I’ve been in at least one where the faithful are placed in a circle oriented to a center section where their pastors are interred.) And finally, yesterday’s tidbit linking to a report on Jerry Falwell’s speech at a prayer breakfast prompted a reader to email about his statement that God wants a Republican majority in Congress, commenting, “Granted, Democrats are saddled with the abortion platform, but are Republicans God's chosen people?” I’ll say again what I’ve hopefully said in previous Biblog posts: God is not the possession of any political party; they need to read Joshua 5:13-15.

Our uploading software says today’s post is the 300th! That number tells me we have 65 days to go before our first year of reading is complete—we are nearly 10/12 or 5/6 of the way through. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:13 AM

September 25, 2006

Ps 109 / Jer 13-15 / Tidbits

As you reread Psalm 109 today and these comments on it, I also direct your attention to verse 25, which the Divinely-inspired Gospel writers connect to the treatment Jesus received on the cross (see Matthew 27:39 and Mark 15:29). Of course, all the psalms find their greatest fulfillment in Jesus Christ, for He above all was innocent and righteous and falsely condemned. Talk about a bad thing happening to a Good Person! Yet, His birth, death, and resurrection made possible a good thing that happened to bad people: the forgiveness of our sins!

We continue the major section of Jeremiah’s warnings and exhortations to Judah with Jeremiah 13-15 today. Chapter 13 finishes the subsection on covenant and conspiracy, and chapters 14-15 relate messages concerning a drought. The events related to the linen belt in 13:1-11 are the first major example of God having Jeremiah perform actions that symbolize the message being proclaimed against the people. The priestly garments were made of linen and symbolize holiness, but the people, filthy with sins, would not repent and so became worthless. A parable about wineskins helps Jeremiah tell of the Lord’s wrath, and he also condemns the sinful pride of the nation’s leaders. Some say Jerusalem personified as a woman is addressed in 13:20 and verses following, but to me it seems an extension of the address to the king and queen mother that began in verse 18. Jeremiah is apparently speaking in verses 20-23 and the Lord in 24-27. Note especially the shepherd-sheep imagery in 13:20 and the reference to the pain of labor in 13:21 (perhaps compare Jesus’ teaching in places such as Matthew 24:8 and Mark 13:8). Verse 23 is a famous statement of humanity’s inability on its own to repent or to rid itself of sin. The ideas of tearing off skirts (13:22) or of lifting them over one’s head (13:26) relate to the disgrace of prostitutes and exposing one’s “shame”, that is, those parts of the body that brought shame when exposed publicly.

An especially severe drought at one point plagued the land apparently as punishment upon the people. Chapters 14-15 first describe the drought (14:2-6) and then give alternately Jeremiah’s prayers and the Lord’s responses. Jeremiah confesses on behalf of the people, but they are not in fact repentant, which is why the Lord does not hear their prayers for deliverance but instead promises sword, famine, and plague (as in 14:12, a recurring refrain). In 14:13 Jeremiah refers to the false prophets, and the Lord promises they will see the very destruction Jeremiah prophecies truly. Even as the Lord commanded Jeremiah not to pray for the people (14:11), he continues to do so (14:19-22). The Lord’s answer in 15:1-9 includes an indication that the situation is so bad not even the famous intercessors Moses and Samuel would be effective (15:1), which statement probably was meant to comfort Jeremiah, but my sinful ears would probably still hear as an insult. The Lord’s answer to Jeremiah’s prayer prompts his third so-called confession (15:10 and 15:15-18, although at least one commentator numbers it the first and prefers to calls it a soliloquy or a lament), in which the Lord’s answers are interspersed (15:11-14, 19-21). As intended, Jeremiah hears comfort in the Lord’s words of verses 11-14 but still doubts. The Lord’s words in verses 19-21 may be familiar to you (they are the Old Testament reading for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity). The Lord calls Jeremiah to repent and then affirms his prophetic call.

I have a handful of tidbits today. A cemetery in England reportedly will orient all burials the way Islam recommends. ... The pope yesterday praised the nun who may have been killed as a result of his comments about Islam. ... A probe of Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States is completed, but so far they’re not saying what they found. ... Jerry Falwell says a comment comparing Hillary Clinton to the devil was tongue in cheek. ... And, did you know President Bush declared today “Family Day”? (I didn't either, that's how big of a deal it must be.)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 24, 2006

Jer 10-12 / "News" of Marquart / Tidbits

(The previous post on Psalm 108 is here.)

Jeremiah 10-12 touches two different subsections of the larger section of Jeremiah’s warnings and exhortations to Judah. First, chapter 10 finishes the Temple message subsection, and then chapters 11-12 begin the subsection on covenant and conspiracy. Chapter 10 wraps up the Temple message by alternatively condemning idols and the people who worship them and praising the Lord. Even though the idols are impotent and inanimate (10:5), some actions are still passively attributed to them, such as their teaching the people instead of the Lord (10:8). As Jeremiah in 10:17 and verses following anticipates the coming destruction he uses concrete language of other types of disasters, and he again criticizes the political and spiritual leaders of the people using the shepherd-flock imagery with which by now you are likely familiar. Note 10:23-24, not in some fatalistic way, but what it says about submission to God and accepting His discipline.

In chapter 11 the Lord through Jeremiah details the people’s violations of the covenant and tells how the people are going to be exiled to Babylon as a result. Very importantly note that God’s deliverance was to motivate the people to keep His commands, not that their obedience saved them. As we read in 11:18-23, the Lord revealed to Jeremiah a plot against him by people in his hometown, and note how some of the expressions in those verses (such as 19’s “lamb led to the slaughter” and “cut off from the land of the living”) are also found in Isaiah 53 and later applied to Christ. In chapter 12, verses 1-6 are said to be Jeremiah’s second “confession” and at the same time continue his first “confession” (11:18-23). Jeremiah speaks in verses 1-4, and the Lord answers in 5-6 and then continues speaking. Like the psalms often do, Jeremiah here calls for the Lord to vindicate the Lord’s own righteousness by judging and punishing His and the prophet’s enemies. The Lord’s answer tells Jeremiah things are only going to get worse. From verses 12:14-17, we hear that the Lord has also judged Israel’s neighbors and will carry them into exile, too, but His Gospel also applies to them, that, if they repent and believe, they will be regarded as God’s people, too. So also today, anyone who is sorry for their sin and believes in Jesus Christ receives forgiveness from God and has eternal life.

"News" of Professor Marquart's death reached the Ft. Wayne community the day of his death in reports like this one, and the news reached Lutheran Church-Canada one day later by way of the following short news release.

Dr. Kurt Marquart, associate professor, Systematic Theology at Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. was called to home to be with His Lord yesterday (Tuesday, September 19). The funeral will be in the chapel at Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, on Friday, September 22.

LCC President Ralph Mayan said that Dr. Marquart was well-respected for his confessional theology and noted that he was very supportive of the formation of Lutheran Church-Canada.

Professor Marquart's own church body's news service still has not noted his passing.

Tidbits today begin with the latest in that case of the baby stolen from a woman’s womb. ... A reader sent this link to a piece about North Dakota first death penalty case in a century, commenting that lots of people probably had similar childhoods and didn’t kill anyone and that executing him may well save the lives of other potential victims. ... Gunshots reportedly hit a Florida mosque as Islam begins its holy month, and elsewhere Christians are praying for Muslims, but that doesn’t necessarily make the Muslims happy. ... U.S. Presbyterian officials got in the middle of the president of Iran’s denial of the Holocaust. ... Have you heard about the Republican Senator who just learned he had a Jewish background? ... South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he’s ashamed of conservatives in his church body that reject gays, and in the United States the New Jersey diocese of the related Episcopal church Saturday rejected a gay candidate for bishop. ... And, if you were visiting Israel, this brochure wouldn’t help you find Jerusalem!

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by rightly using His Word and Sacraments.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 23, 2006

Jer 7-9 / More on Marquart / Komen and embryos / Tidbits

(As you reread Psalm 107 you may want to refer to this post.)

Jeremiah 7-9 begins the next subsection on the Temple message (so-called for where it was delivered), which is still part of the warnings and exhortations to Judah. (Chapter 26 may refer to this same “sermon” in a more summary fashion as to its content but with more historical detail, and some speculate that after this sermon Jeremiah was kept out of the pulpit, as it were.) Note in chapter 7 and into chapter 8 (7:1-8:3) how God through Jeremiah again condemns the false prophets and their message that the Temple building itself would be enough for God to protect the land or city or Temple itself. Shiloh, in Ephraim, where the Tabernacle, the predecessor to the Temple, had been, was presumably destroyed some time after the ark left there and was captured by the Philistines (the Tabernacle itself also having apparently moved on from there later). We appear not to have a Biblical record of the historical event to which reference is made, although there is some archaeological evidence that confirms a Philistine destruction of Shiloh around the appropriate time, and we can gather from the context here in Jeremiah that God willed that destruction as punishment on the people for their idolatry during the time of Eli. Idolatry is in this Jeremiah context, too, and note how 8:2 can apply to astrology and horoscopes. (Although the “queen of heaven” reference in 7:18 apparently is to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, one would think that mention of that name in this context would be enough to scare Roman Catholics off of using it to refer to Mary.)

In the rest of chapter 8 (8:4-22) and essentially all of chapter 9 the Lord speaks both of the people’s refusal to be reformed and repent and of His imminent judgment. We can only imagine the Lord’s profound sadness in such verses as 8:6, “listening attentively” (NIV, NASB; “hearkening and hearing” KJV, ASV), but not hearing the people confess Him as God and themselves as sinners. In 8:8 we may have the first mention of “scribes” as a distinct group or the word may just refer to the false prophets and priests (see verse 10), but either way we notice again that the spiritual leaders of the people were misleading them. The message that typifies the false prophet is found again in 8:11, and I can hardly hear that and not think of religious leaders today who say there is agreement between religious bodies or even within one, when in fact there is not. In 8:18-19 Jeremiah’s “own words” introduce the future voice of the people in exile still wondering why God permitted such destruction that will come, and he anticipates God’s answer in the midst of their complaint, which continues in verse 20. Jeremiah speaks again in 8:21-9:2. The “balm in Gilead” in 8:22 (and Jeremiah 46:11 and 51:8) refers to the territory of Gilead and its spices and herbs that were used for healing (see a similar reference in Genesis 37:25). Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet”, and in 9:1 you get an obvious reason why. He does not want to be anywhere close to Jerusalem, but knows that is where he has to be. The Lord speaks through Jeremiah in 9:3-9, and then apparently Jeremiah speaks verse 10, with the Lord answering in verse 11, the prophet speaking in verse 12, and the Lord more or less continuing direct speech through Jeremiah for the rest of the chapter. Our little glimmer of Gospel, in the midst of this prophecy of death and destruction, comes in 9:24. That the same God Who brings such wrathful judgment on people describes Himself as merciful, just, and righteous seems almost contradictory and wouldn’t be very comforting if we didn’t know that, when we repent and believe that God forgives us for the sake of Jesus Christ, God mercifully forgives us and judges us righteous for Christ’s sake. (Note the references to this passage in 2 Corinthians 10:17 and 1 Corinthians 1:31.)

Today I have a little more on Marquart, the now-sainted Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart, that is. If you are interested, you can find the bulletin for his funeral as a PDF here and listen to the funeral itself here—sadly, at the very beginning the officiant at the back of the chapel is very far from any microphone, but the sound does get better as they process forward, and you can hear well especially the readings and fine sermon. (They used the new Lutheran Service Book, but parts of the Matins service will still be familiar, and the hymns sung are roughly equivalent to those found in The Lutheran Hymnal #251, #664, #210, #429:3, and #262.) Also, a reader emailed this link to an excerpt from the radio program “Issues, Etc.” that includes reflections on Professor Marquart’s life by his own pastor (note that the piece starts with an audio clip of Prof. Marquart himself).

Some otherwise unreported news about Komen and embryos follows. According to the Fall 2006 issue of frontline, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Newsletter, “Cancer Stem Cell Research Shows Promise”. The article mentions embryonic cells from in-vitro-fertilized eggs that have been donated for research purposes potentially helping understand cancer development. At greater length the article talks about adult stem cells and their possible role in the development of cancer by somehow becoming cancer stem cells such as those identified in breast cancer. Komen, the article says, has given nearly $400,000 to a doctor working on cancer stem cells. Although Komen did not answer an email I sent inquiring about its funding of embryonic stem cell research, earlier this week I was able to speak on the telephone with someone there who was able to answer some questions. As the article could be taken to imply, Komen is particularly interested in the adult side of stem cell research. The person said the foundation has not given any funding for embryonic stem cell research to date. However, the person said Komen reviews all applications for funding and does not have a policy against funding embryonic stem cell research, which means any money donated past, present, or future, could easily be going towards the destruction of those human lives.

My own personal donations to the Komen Foundation were already restricted to research, since Komen has been under fire for giving cancer prevention money to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortion (see the previously linked items here and here). Even though the money Komen gives to Planned Parenthood is designated for cancer prevention, Planned Parenthood, as others have reported, uses its own money that was going to those programs anyway to increase funding for the destruction of human lives by abortion. Similarly, even if Komen would let donations be earmarked for research other than on embryonic stem cells, any money such donations freed up from the unrestricted research funds could still be spent on the destruction of human life. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and benefited from the work of the Komen Foundation, and we are saddened by not at all being able to continue to support the Komen Foundation.

Tidbits today are in some ways off the wall. Stealing babies from women’s wombs? To what is this world coming? No, it’s been there and worse. How about parents forcing their daughter to have an abortion because they are racist? ... A liberal congregation in California is refusing to turn over requested documents to the Internal Revenue Service. ... One family activist says Canada is not likely to reconsider gay marriage this fall. ... Another Episcopal diocese is rejecting the authority of the church body’s incoming leader (and this latest one is based in the generally conservative city where I grew up). ... The pope is inviting some Muslim ambassadors to his summer home, while some protests continue but one group of Muslims is collecting money to rebuild churches burned in the violence over the pope’s comment. ... Don’t let this news release mislead you: the Synod is not putting more missionaries into the field: it really sounds like Synod-funded missionaries continue to be reduced. (And, the PR department can get out that kind of news but nothing to date on the passing of one of her preeminent churchmen.) ... And here’s how one jokester got the last laugh.

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

September 22, 2006

Jer 4-6 / Tidbits

(Today we reread Psalm 106, and if you reread these comments on it, note that by now regular readers of the Daily Lectionary have been exposed to all the events of Old Testament history.)

Jeremiah 4-6 finishes the subsection of Jeremiah’s earliest discourses in the larger section of his warnings and exhortations to Judah. Note that the Lord’s particular address through Jeremiah that begins chapter 4 really was introduced in 3:21 and began in 3:22. The Lord through Jeremiah called the people then to repent, even as He calls people today to repent. Note that the figure of speech in 4:3 is similar to that which Jesus uses in the so-called Parable of the Soils (see Matthew 13:7). The inner circumcision referred to in 4:4 is to reflect the outer circumcision and in this case again refers to the change of heart in repentance. The sackcloth and wailing of 4:8 are outward indicators of repentance. (See also 4:14, what can be understood by us as a reference to Baptism.) Jeremiah in 4:10 refers to how those who had hardened their own hearts God “deluded” so that they would believe the false prophets who said there would be peace when, in fact, there would not be peace (see also 5:31, 6:13-14). In this case, the lion or destroyer (4:7) is Babylon. The people in the country would take refuge in the fortified cities (4:5), so when the cities were destroyed it often was the end of the people in that area. Jerusalem (also referred to here as Zion), was not only Judah’s capital but also an especially unconquerable city, something the Israelites had discovered for themselves when they took the land, as you may remember. Note how 4:15 figuratively charts the progress of the enemy coming south, closer to Jerusalem. In all of the Lord’s speech here, there is no doubt the people are themselves to blame for the destruction on account of their idolatry.

Chapter 5 begins with a further rhetorical charge of the penetration of wickedness: there isn’t one righteous person in the city (I was reminded of Abraham’s mediating with the Lord over Sodom and Gomorrah; see, for example, Genesis 18:2). God is not being unjust in this matter, He has given the people repeated opportunities to repent, and they have repeatedly apostasized (see, especially, 5:6). Adultery and prostitution are both figurative and literal: each in some cases leads to the other. As the description of destruction continues in chapter 5, be sure that you do not miss the Gospel promise in 5:18.

In chapter 6 note how the call to flee to the cities turns into a call to flee from the cities, for even they will be destroyed. The figure of shepherds and flocks in 6:3 means rulers and troops. In 6:10-11, in the midst of the Lord’s speaking through Jeremiah, Jeremiah sneaks in a few words of his own before the Lord’s speech resumes. Even as the destruction of judgment continues, there are still calls for repentance (6:26). Verses 27-30 are directed to Jeremiah, describing his work as a refiner testing metals, but the process does not work because, as one commentator put it, “the ore is not pure enough”. Is ours?


I have a handful of tidbits for you. Indonesian officials apparently have executed three Christians but the controversy over the matter appears to be far from over. ... The man who shot John Paul II warns the current pope against visiting Turkey in November. ... The U.N. Secretary General reportedly fears a global war over religion and says only the United Nations can solve the world’s problems. Meanwhile, there’s concern over what could be the first step towards United Nations taxing authority. ... A U.S. Appeals Court says public libraries can keep worship services out of their meeting rooms. ... And, the rift in the Anglican church over homosexuality seems to be only widening.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 21, 2006

Jer 1-3 / Marquart folo / Tidbits

(Psalm 105 is appointed to read again today, and my previous post on it is here.)

The appointment of Jeremiah 1-3 brings us to our next Old Testament book, one of the longest in the Bible, which we will be reading the rest of this month and four days of next month. As you might by now expect, then, you can find some information about the book in the background information for September’s and October’s readings (online here and as PDFs here). To that information I add that the approximate dates for Jeremiah’s prophetic work are 626-586 B.C., during the kingships of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Where Jeremiah was close to the Godly court of Josiah, Jeremiah’s faithful prophecy put him at odds with Josiah’s successors. Remember that in the larger region the power was shifting from the Assyrians to the Babylonians, with the Egyptians at least one time getting in the middle; the history of the period may be more important to understanding Jeremiah than to understanding any other book. Jeremiah was perceived as a traitor for calling people to submit to the Babylonians as God’s judgment and discipline. The prophet Zephaniah was a likely predecessor of Jeremiah’s, and Habakkuk and Ezekiel (and possibly Obadiah) were contemporaries. (We read Ezekiel next month and, in November, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Obadiah, among others.) You might be a little shocked to read how Jeremiah struggled personally and spoke about his feelings toward God, but prophets then, like pastors today, are sinful human beings subject to the same doubts and temptations as everyone else. Jeremiah’s prophetic oracles are not thought to be chronologically arranged in the book that bears his name as we have it, so be prepared for some historical jumping back and forth. You might also notice the variations in the book between poetry and prose. Regardless of the arrangement or the form of the message, ponder at God’s great patience waiting for His people to repent before executing judgment upon them, and, even then, at His comforting them with the sure and certain promise of restoration. As it was for them, so it is for us!

Jeremiah 1-3 today tells of the call of the prophet (chapter 1) and begins a section of his warnings and exhortations to Judah (chapters 2-35), specifically by starting a subsection of his earliest discourses (chapters 2-6). The opening verses of chapter 1 may have been penned by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch. The statement in 1:4 is a common way to introduce an oracle (confer also 1:11). In the background information linked above I noted the implications of 1:5 for those who say life begins at birth. In 1:6 Jeremiah describes himself as only a youth of marriageable age, probably not older than 20. In reading 1:9-10, note how the terms of Jeremiah’s call, and essentially any pastor’s call as I indicated when I preached my inaugural sermon at Grace on this text, include speaking God’s Word to destroy and restore to kill and make alive, to preach law and Gospel, judgment (discipline) and salvation. Such is the polarity of the book and any faithful ministry. In the verses that follow it is clear that God is using the Babylonians to execute His judgment against His people for their idolatry. The Lord comforts Jeremiah in 1:19 by telling him he is His authoritative representative; how Jesus speaks to His disciples, about someone who rejects them actually rejecting Him, is similar. Fresh off of reading Song of Songs, note how in chapter 2 the covenant between God and His people is likened unto a marriage. The adultery and unfaithfulness of the people was so great it even was evident in their religious leaders. The scene, especially in such verses as 2:9, is that of a court where the people are on trial for breaking their end of the agreement with God. They hoped for deliverance from the Babylonians by trusting in Egypt or Assyria instead of the Lord. The idols the people have set up for themselves are not gods at all; made out of stone and wood they are unable to help those who worship them. Jeremiah 3:1 must be understood in light of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which held that divorced spouses who remarried should not return to their original spouses, for that was an abomination worse than the divorce and remarriage. Perhaps the Lord sees Israel as having only been adulterous (that is, not having “married” any of the other gods [see 3:2-5]) and that is why He is willing to take them back. Remember that Jeremiah is prophesying well after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, so sometimes “Israel” means “Judah”, although at other times, as in 3:6-11, “Israel” means the northern kingdom and “Judah” means the southern kingdom. The Lord did not establish or condone divorce and remarriage but legislated it by means of the certificates of divorce among those who were unfaithful. Judah’s faithlessness was in a sense worse because she had failed to learn from Israel’s example, and the Lord seems to be almost more hopeful that faithful might be found among the Israelites living in exile than among Judah’s own people. (We’ve talked previously about what 3:16 means for the existence of the Ark here.)

After the death of The Rev. Prof. Kurt E. Marquart and my post yesterday, I have a number of Marquart folos. I’m told there won’t be a live webcast of Friday’s funeral service, but an audio recording is supposed to be on this page of the seminary site by 1:00 pm. Memories of the now-sainted professor are all over the place. A reader sent this excerpt from one that was expressed in a web forum (note that Allan County is where Ft. Wayne is).

... Dr. Marquart, in addition to being active in Allan County Right to Life and Lutherans for Life, the latter of which began on campus in Fort Wayne before the national organization was founded, was the one seminary professor whom she remembers showing up at the picketing of an abortion clinic in Fort Wayne back in the late 1970s and early 1980s ...

I think there must be a picture somewhere of him doing that picketing, because I can see the image in my head but wasn’t there for it. Another email brought both this link to the tune for the hymn I referenced in yesterday’s post and the last line of that stanza the way the emailer learned it, “Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine”, which is also how I learned it out of The Lutheran Hymnal #463:4 and how Lutheran Service Book supposedly reproduces it (I like the way LW handles the tune, so I guess that’s why I went there first).

Tidbits today begin with Venezuela’s president calling President Bush the devil. ... Opinion pieces like this one are still spewing forth on the pontiff’s statement about Islam last week, but why should he sympathize with other faiths? Why should any one who truly believes what they say he or she believes? A reader sent in this link to the latest from the Vatican, asking the related question, “Why does a Christian clergy man have to have ‘deep respect’ for false religion that is leading billions to eternal damnation?” ... A reader sent this link to a piece that gives an update on a married Roman Catholic archbishop and an organization, which we’ve read about in previous links, that wants to make celibacy optional in that church body. ... Someone is pointing out the logical inconsistency in the new liberal position on abortion. ... The so-called “right to die” movement reportedly fears the so-called “religious right”. ... That CBC documentary discussed yesterday is apparently an older BBC show, and here’s the link to a piece a reader found and sent that takes it to task. ... And, a reader sent this link to word of a major movie studio increasing its work with Christian movies and commenting that the executive’s comment, “We saw the opportunity to fill the needs of an underserved marketplace,” is to be understood as, “We saw a gold mine”.

Thanks to all those who send links, comments, and questions! Speaking of which, here's the latest Q&A. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 20, 2006

SS 5-8 / Tidbits / Alleluia!

(These previous comments on Psalm 104 that we reread today are still timely, even down to the reference to recent rain.)

Reading Song of Songs 5-8 today finishes the book, taking us through the rest of the third meeting (5:1), the fourth meeting (5:2-6:3), the fifth meeting (6:4-8:4), the so-called “Literary Climax” (8:5-7), and the book’s conclusion (8:8-14). You likely will recognize similarities with what was read yesterday, including the beloved’s confrontation by the watchmen (compare 3:3 to 5:7) and the embrace and warning (compare 2:6-7 to 8:3-4). Overall I think we do well to remember that the book has both its literal and historical aspect and its built-in second meaning in that the Holy Spirit helps us understand that “human love is both an echo of divine love and a transparency of another order of perfect love.”

Tidbits today begin by noting that how Islam is reacting to the pope’s comments apparently depends on who you ask. ... A reader sent in word of two interesting viewpoints in a local newspaper about the pope’s recent comments: this one sees the pope as intolerant and his comments as the latest step towards an ultimate clash of civilizations, and this one defends what he sees as the pope’s real message (although I take issue with the idea of a marriage between religion and reason, since the reason’s correct role is a humble maidservant to theology—but don’t get me started on my dissertation topic). ... I meant yesterday to link these cartoons about the pope’s comments. ... Muslims aren’t the only ones being called violent; a reader sent in this link to a story about a documentary being aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the Canadian equivalent of the United States’ NPR and PBS) that calls all religious adherents “would-be murderers” intent on destroying science-based society (never mind Christianity came first). The reader also sent this link the CBC’s page on the documentary itself, noting that the piece itself recognizes that the pro-evolution atheist’s own certainty in his position could be described as a form of fundamentalism. ... A report out this week says there’s been an increase in “violence” against Muslims. ... The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and possible candidate in 2008 gave what could be his most extensive remarks about religion, and there’s a new group that’s said to be promoting liberal Christian values (there’s another oxymoron if ever). ... And, a Dallas-area Episcopal congregation reportedly bought its way out of its local liberal diocese.

“For the faithful who have gone before us and are with you let us give thanks to the Lord,” the Litany of Lutheran Worship’s “Evening Prayer” bids us, and in response, instead of the usual “Lord, have mercy”, comes a striking “Alleluia!” So, too, for those of us who have been praying for The Reverend Professor Kurt E. Marquart—who for many of us (as one reader put it) was professor, pastor, and friend—the petitions have turned to thanksgiving and praise. Early Tuesday morning, after he had assisted with the Baptism of his new great-grandson and received the Holy Supper with his family, the Lord summoned his soul out of this Vale of Tears to his eternal home. As the Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray put it, the beloved professor “now sees what once he believed.” During the last year or so his struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) had taken an increasing toll, especially on his body. I am especially thankful that his time under the cross has ended and that, faithful unto death, he has received the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). As the teacher of Ecclesiastes most recently reminded those of us who are following the Daily Lectionary, there is a time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4), and this is that time for his friends and family, especially his dear wife Barbara, but the time to dance will come again. We all will miss him, and so we mourn, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He lives with the Lord, and we who believe will see him again, for we all are wretches saved by “amazing grace”, a hymn dear to the now-sainted professor, as he remarked again during our class with him this past July.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 NASB)

The funeral is to be held in the daily chapel service at the seminary this Friday, and I am pleased that Pr. Sullivan will represent those of us at Grace. (I’m checking into whether there might be a live webcast of the funeral.) Before then, if you want some small sense of the regard with which this man was held you might read the entries here (part of what follows reiterates the conclusion of my post there). In keeping with our Lutheran Confessions (such as Apology XXI:4-7), we honor this sainted man by thanking God for giving us such teachers and other gifts to His Church, by strengthening our faith seeing in him that God’s grace abounds more than sin and its effects in the world, and by imitating his faith and other virtues in our various vocations. Professor Marquart was a churchman of the highest order who faithfully contended for the Truth. With his transfer to the “church triumphant” there is a gaping hole on the front lines of the “church militant”. May God move other faithful men to fill the void Kurt’s absence leaves, even as we know that he is not really gone.

Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia! (TLH 463:4)

Let all God’s people say, Amen.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 19, 2006

SS 1-4 / Tidbits

(As I reread Psalm 103 it helped me to review the notes in this post.)

The appointment of Song of Songs 1-4 for today brings us to the next book in Old Testament order, which we read today and tomorrow. Sometimes also called “Canticles” by virtue of the Latin word for “song” that is used to translate the book’s Hebrew title, the book is regarded as one of the “writings”, but its classification among the “wisdom literature” is debated, although some connections can be found on a number of different levels. You can find some other introductory comments on the book in the overview of this month’s readings (online here and as a PDF here). In that overview I describe the usual two general interpretations of the book, and I should mention also that on the most literal level the book seems to tell of “the wooing and wedding of a shepherdess” (the “beloved”), presumably by Solomon (the lover). Remember that their friends apparently interject comments here and there; hopefully the Bible edition you are reading from identifies the speakers as they change, although the demarcations are by no means certain. The book appears to be a series of scenes (some with dreams) or songs connected by the progression of love between the two characters, from her desiring his kiss in the beginning to desiring “love’s intimacy” in the end. Just as a rating or warning of sorts: the rabbis said no one under the age of 30 should read the book.

With Song of Songs 1-4, we read the book’s title (1:1) and hear of the first meeting (1:2-2:7), the second meeting (2:8-3:5), and part of the third meeting (3:6-5:1, although today we only read through chapter 4). You may recognize the reference to the “rose of Sharon” in 2:1 and the familiar warning in 2:7, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires”, which warning is repeated in 3:5 at the end of the second “scene”.

I have a few tidbits for you today. The pope’s comments prompt Islamic militants to vow war. (Doesn’t that make his point precisely?) Here’s an interesting piece about how news of the speech broke around the world (though I don’t necessary buy the claim of an agenda). ... The Muslim executions of three Christians previously given a reprieve after an appeal by the pope are back on the schedule. ... The U.S. Congress reportedly could go either way on allowing military chaplains to pray as they see fit. ... A Nevada second-grader gets to display her poster, which has a religious theme, alongside everyone else’s artwork—after her parents took action and the school board realized it would likely be sued and lose. ... And, NBC plans to give Madonna’s mocking Christ’s crucifixion a national audience during the November ratings period, and here is what you can do about it.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 02:18 AM

September 18, 2006

Ecc 10-12 / Tidbits

(As you reread Psalm 102 you may find this post helpful.)

Today with Ecclesiastes 10-12 we quite quickly finish the first part of the discourse (chapter 10-11:6), go through all of its much shorter second part (11:7-12:7), hear the book’s theme again (12:8), and read the book’s conclusion (12:9-14). The final verses of chapter 9 (vv.13-18) really go with chapter 10’s discussion of wisdom being better than folly. Some verses will be familiar from Proverbs again, and notice how the second half of 10:19 can be understood in a couple different ways. As for 10:20, have you ever heard someone say, “A little bird told me”? The verse at the beginning of chapter 11 is fairly well known, though I know that, if taken literally, I would not want to find again bread that had been floating on water for many days! The saying in the second half of 11:3 seems fairly obvious, but the point is that after the tree has fallen there’s no point to one standing around wishing it had fallen the other direction. Jesus in John 3:8 seems to be reflecting 11:5, especially when you know that the word for “wind” and “spirit” is the same in the original languages. The second part of the book’s discourse, some of the finest “literature” in the Old Testament, emphasizes the need to be wise while young for life is fleeting and one never knows when one’s opportunity to come to faith will have passed (note the exhortations to “remember” the Lord in 12:1, 6). The beginning of chapter 12 somewhat graphically describes the aging process, potentially with figures of speech referring to the various parts of the body. (One commentator says there are two metaphors that intertwine.) If you’ve been struggling with what to make of the melancholy teacher’s reflections, God-willing 12:13-14 will be clear for you, and note that faith comes before its fruits.

Tidbits today begin with this one a reader sent with the latest on the pope’s apology for people taking offense at what he said but not apologizing for what he said, and this nun’s murder may be related to Islam’s reaction to the papal remarks last Thursday. ... This analysis I heard yesterday of the pope’s remarks said what he really wants from Islam is “reciprocity”, essentially equal tolerance of and by Muslims in such places as Saudi Arabia, which nation the United States just listed a country of particular concern when it comes to religious freedom. ... The IRS meanwhile is investigating a large liberal Los Angeles congregation for possible wrongdoings related to the 2004 presidential campaign, and the IRS has already revoked the tax exemption for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue West after it threatened to sink John Kerry’s presidential bid that year, but that anti-abortion group at the same time is saying the abortion battle is winnable on the level of the clinics it describes as providing substandard care. (If you can even call ending life “care”!) ... An Australia abortionist may be going to jail for irregularities in her practice. ... Episcopals and some nominal Lutherans hope to do something Jesus essentially said wouldn’t be done. ... The Episcopals’ larger body, the Anglicans, meanwhile spoke to divisions festering in their worldwide group, while Presbyterian officials in this country are reportedly plotting how to keep the property of departing congregations. ... And, speaking of God and money (really!), as I was leaving Austin yesterday morning to go to church I heard this interview in the car, which had me at various points between laughing and crying—the latter since I don’t think the interviewee really discerned God’s will on the matter he mentions. Still, as Norm MacDonald used to say on “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live”, “It just goes to show Germans love David Hasselhoff!”

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 17, 2006

Ps 101 / Ecc 7-9 / The Pope et al.

Psalm 101 is appointed again today, and my last post on it is here. Today I encourage you to reflect, as I did, on what the psalm says in light of one’s vocation. We do not all have the same calling with the same responsibilities as Solomon (if indeed that is for whom the psalm was first written) or as Jesus (Who ultimately fulfills the psalm and all psalms). Yet, within our various callings we do have some responsibility for following faithful spiritual leaders and limiting the influence wicked people have over us (verses 6-7). We may not bear the sword the way civil leaders do, but we all have responsibility related to keeping open and unrepentant sinners from the fellowship of the Church, either initiating such action or affirming it. Christ gave the keys to heaven and hell for the benefit of His Church; their exercise is entrusted to His Stewards of the Mysteries, and His people have the privilege of saying “Amen”. We ourselves also want to make sure that we are those who as much as possible avoid scandalous sin and repent of all our sin with full faith in our Savior Jesus Christ so that the absolving key always opens for us the way to heaven.

We continue to read the first part of the “teacher’s” main discourse with Ecclesiastes 7-9 today. Chapter 7 reads like some of the short proverbs we encountered in the book by that name recently. The opening six verses somewhat contrast life and death. Verse 2 is especially striking, but I suggest that in the case of Christians there should be feasting over the death of believers, for they have received their eternal reward, even as we mourn their loss here on earth. As with Proverbs, we also find some thoughts repeated in this section of Ecclesiastes that we have read earlier in the book. Verse 14 brings to my mind Job’s words to his wife in Job 2:10. In 15-18 the idea seems to be that we should avoid both extreme legalism and libertinism, living a balanced life of true wisdom and righteousness. Verse 26 recalls the teaching of Proverbs 7:6-27 against the Adulteress. Chapter 8 primarily considers obedience to the king’s leadership and how his punishment of crimes is to serve as a deterrent (in both matters we might think of our secular government). The second half of verse 8 is certainly challenged by those who would take their own lives, whether young by more usual suicide or old by so-called “euthanasia”, both of which are sins against the Fifth Commandment. Reflecting on 8:14 we might recall Peter’s words about suffering justly or unjustly (1 Peter 4:12-19). Regarding 8:15, notice that the words here are said with thanksgiving and contentment, not as an arrogant boast, they way they are said in Luke 12:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:32. Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 does not mean that we have no knowledge but that our knowledge is limited (see Deuteronomy 29:29). Setting aside until tomorrow 9:13-18, chapter 9 again speaks to what appears, to human wisdom, anyway, the common destiny that all people have: going down to the grave where life is no longer enjoyed or one’s labor rewarded. (Ecclesiastes 9:5 is sometimes wrongly used both to deny the immortality of the soul and to support the false teaching of “soul sleep”.) The “teacher” here speaks of time and chance controlling the future, but Christians illumined by the Holy Spirit’s wisdom know better. God works all things together for the good of His Church and those in Her, who are washed by water and the word.

The Pope, Islam, the Large Catechism, and the Missouri Synod are all connected, oddly enough, in the recent spat over Benedict’s remarks in Regensburg, Germany, Thursday. A reader, who got to this news of the pope’s “regret” over the offense taken from the remarks before I did, correctly pointed out the connection in an email to me yesterday. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Pope’s position was consistent with the Second Vatican Council (also known as “Vatican II”) document Nostra Aetate (“In this age of ours”, dated October 28, 1965). News reports of Bertone’s statement, like the one linked above, say the document “regards Muslims, ‘with esteem,’ noting their adoration of ‘the one God’”. (Not all news reports, such as this one, went that far in Bertone’s comments.) In Benedict’s actual speech, the pope was quoting a Byzantine emperor who characterized Mohammed’s teaching on jihad (“holy war”) as “evil and inhuman”, and Bertone said the pontiff neither intended to take nor takes those comments as his own. I’m inclined to agree with this columnist a reader emailed that if that were the case the Pope did not distance himself enough rhetorically from the quotation (the reader emailed the link for the 1:33 AM comment of “Spinozist” under the blog, where the pope is likened to Khomeni and other Islamic fundamentalists).

Next, let me tell you a little more about the document in question and note how the official English translation of the Vatican II documents I have gives the text. Nostra Aetate, the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”, begins with a paragraph about a statement about the strengthening of friendships between different peoples and the common descent of humanity from God’s creation. The second paragraph remarks on Hinduism and other such religions that are aware of a supreme being, even a “father” and thus live “with a deep religious sense”, but to which it says the Catholic church must “still proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 1:6)” [sic for Jn. 14:6]. The third paragraph, the one in question, begins as follows.

The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting. (Pp.739-740.)

The paragraph continues with a call for Christians and Muslims to forget the past and strive for mutual understanding. The fourth paragraph of the document deals with the Jews, and the fifth paragraph calls for Roman Catholics to treat all people in a brotherly fashion and not discriminate against people or harass them “on the basis of their race, color, condition in life, or religion.” I think the most important thing to notice is that the official English quotation does not say Muslims worship “the one God” and that the document itself makes it clear that Muslims are non-Christians.

There’s a somewhat similar contested quotation from the Large Catechism. That paragraph comes near the conclusion of Dr. Luther’s treatment of the Apostolic Creed and reads as follows:

These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks [for our purposes, Muslims], Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (LC II:66, Tappert, 419, emphasis added.)

Although the more recent Kolb-Wengert translation is similar to Tappert’s older one, the much older English translation in the Triglotta (and the even older still Henkel and slightly older Jacobs translations) omits the italicized “the”, as does the most recent McCain translation in the so-called “Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord”, the doctrinal certification of which was revoked earlier this year, seemingly in part because of its translation of this paragraph. The definite article equivalent to “the” is not present in either the authoritative German of the Large Catechism in The Book of Concord or the Latin translation. People much smarter than I am have written elsewhere (see pp. 232-234 and 235-239 of this PDF, and see pp.366-369 of this one) that the sense intended in this paragraph is that Muslims and Jews and others might be monotheists (that is, believe in only one god), but they do not believe in the one, true God. (Nor do they believe in “the one God”, as the quotation in the news reports about the Roman Catholic’s Nostra Aetate might suggest.) Muslims reject the divinity of Christ and thus do not believe in or worship the Triune God, which leaves them outside the Christian church (which is also where Nostra Aetate puts them) where there is no forgiveness of sins (a point Luther made just a few paragraphs earlier in the Large Catechism [par. 56]).

All of what is going on with the flap over the pope’s statements is relevant to us in the LCMS because there are those in our midst who think that Muslims, Jews, and others worship the same God we worship, and some of those same people in our Synod wrongly have joined in worship with them. Their supporters use LC II:66 to claim that even Luther thought Muslims worshipped the same God, when nothing could be further from the truth. The pope rightfully condemned Islam for spreading its religion at the point of a sword, although Christianity is hardly innocent of the same crime over its extended history. We should today respect people of all kinds and establish honest and frank conversations with them about matters of faith. To that end, too, the pope and the Second Vatican Council can themselves be regarded “with esteem”. What cannot be regarded with esteem is any placation, especially by those in our own midst, of those who want false religion and false gods to be given the same status as Christianity and the one, true God. As Christians, we cannot—in the name of the false god of tolerance—grant equal standing to any other ideology, religious or secular. While some in society, such as governments and schools, may have to grant all religions equal standing, when we as Christian individuals do so, we deny our Lord and Savior and risk finding ourselves outside the church and without the forgiveness of sins.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by rightly using His Word and Sacraments.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:32 AM

September 16, 2006

Ecc 4-6 / Folo / Tidbits

(As you read Psalm 100 again, you may find these comments helpful.)

Ecclesiastes 4-6 continues the first part of the book’s discourse that we began yesterday. The “teacher” speaks about oppression, toil, and friendlessness in 4:1-12, and we should be sure to remember that in 4:2 he speaks from a human perspective about the dead as not living (there are similar issues in 6:3-6, where again human experience that all go into the ground is in view). In 4:13-16 he describes the meaninglessness of advancement without God, and I can see why some people question Solomon’s authorship, since this particular statement doesn’t seem to fit his experience. Chapter 5 begins with words about how superficial religion is meaningless (vv.1-7). The rest of chapter 5 and chapter 6 offer more about the meaninglessness of riches, including 5:15 that may be familiar to you from Job 1:21. Beware of taking 6:10 as if God’s predestination and foreknowledge control things fatalistically. (I should perhaps take 6:11 to heart as I write my dissertation.) Remember that the real wisdom here is more than suggesting just a quiet resignation with one’s fate in life; the real wisdom is an understanding that contentment with what God has given is itself God-given and that the better life is to come, what God reveals will happen under the Son after one is gone from this world. Such a blessed life is a certainty for those whose sins are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

I have two Biblog folos today. First, the “teacher” of Ecclesiastes’ commenting about “ephemeral” things prompted a comment via email about “ingenious” technologies intended to preserve information that are now out of date, such as Beta format videotapes. The emailer went on to say stuff is being deliberately destroyed to not “leave tracks” and related reading a columnist who said we will know more about the Civil War than the Bush administrations. I know I have a few 5-1/4” floppy discs somewhere, containing some of my earliest word-processing that I’ll never be able to re-access, which may be just as well.

Second, in response to the piece linked yesterday about Rosie O’Donnell’s blast at Christians, I received the following one-line email: “Let me know when you see a Christian yelling ‘Praise be to God’ blow something up.”

I have a "perfect" ten tidbits for you today. The Pope has inflamed Islamic and Christian wrath for comments he made that Mohammed was “evil and inhuman”, when all he did was call it like it is. (One Turkish lawmaker is even comparing the Pope to Hitler.) ... As Canada’s Parliament nears a vote to reconsider the matter of so-called “gay marriage”, other religious leaders are joining the pope in telling their member-politicians to vote their church’s position—sort of. ... Roman Catholic Democrats in this country are proposing legislation to reduce abortion—I guess they’re still okay with some babies being murdered—but pro-life lawmakers are against the measure. ... A pro-life lawmaker says he’ll hold up the approval of the new FDA chairman until a dangerous abortion drug is taken off the market, and the abortion rate in Britain is still on the rise despite greater use of so-called emergency contraception there. ... A Presbyterian pastorette is charged with breaking her church body’s laws. ... Rabbis have been ordained in Germany for the first time since World War II. ... That controversial Navy chaplain is reprimanded but says he’ll appeal. ... Bible classes in Texas high schools are criticized but still go ahead. ... NBC will air a sliced, diced, and julienned version of “Veggie Tales” on Saturday mornings (thanks to the reader who sent this link). ... And, I don’t want to “market it”, but I do want to let you know that “One Night with the King” is coming in October.

There's a new Q&A here, and thanks to readers who comment, send links, and ask questions. 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

September 15, 2006

Ps 99 / Ecc 1-3 / Folos / Tidbits

Even before I reread these comments, as I reread Psalm 99 I was struck again by the simple statement of verse 8 and what it says about God. Maybe it is just me, but when I think of the Old Testament Israelites I tend to think of God’s holy law and of how they disobeyed it, maybe even wrongly thinking that somehow we in New Testament times are better since we have Jesus and since we don’t disobey God like that. Au contraire! (To use one of the few non-culinary French expressions I know.) On the contrary! We may have the fulfillment of what they had to believe as a promise, but that almost makes our equal disobedience the more offensive. Like God did with the Old Testament Israelites, He may take vengeance (KJV, ASV; “punish” NIV; “avenge” NASB) on our evil deeds (KJV “inventions”), but far more importantly He is a forgiving God, Who answers our cries for help with mercy and love shown to us in the birth, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The appointment of Ecclesiastes 1-3 as today’s reading brings us to the next book in canonical sequence and another work of wisdom literature at that. You can find some introductory comments about Ecclesiastes in the background for this month’s reading (online here or as a downloadable PDF here), and note well that Ecclesiastes is not to be confused with the apocryphal book sometimes known as Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach. (In fact, to avoid such confusion, some have taken to referring to this book by a Hebrew title we will see below.) Reading Ecclesiastes, we are reminded that apart from God there is a void we cannot fill and a purpose we cannot see. With God and His revelation, however, we are at least content and can trust that there is a greater purpose. While God remains hidden to unbelievers in spite of His revelation, to believers God, Who is only partly revealed now, will ultimately be fully revealed. (Remember how the book of Job discussed the Hidden God, Deus absconditus.) Though somewhat subjective, the outline we will follow breaks the book down into an identification of the author, a statement of the theme, an introduction, the first part of the discourse, the second part of the discourse, a restatement of the theme, and a conclusion. More than anything else, amidst all the “meaninglessness” of Ecclesiastes and its preaching of the law, remember the Gospel and that a life centered on God has meaning (something the book itself eventually makes clear but that is easy to forget in our short sections we read the first three days). As is at least in part the message of the book, patience in affliction pays off in the end!

Reading Ecclesiastes 1-3 today, then, we make our way through the identification of the author (1:1), a statement of the theme (1:2), and the introduction (1:3-11); we also begin the first part of the discourse (1:12-11:6), which is characterized with the statement, “In spite of life’s apparent enigmas and meaninglessness, it is to be enjoyed as a gift from God”. The identification of the author as qoheleth in Hebrew goes into the Greek as ekklesiastes, which gives us the title of the book we have, and is translated in this verse as “preacher” (KJV, ASV, NASB) or “teacher” (NIV), perhaps best understood in the abstract referring to the office and such, although possibly used here as a penname. (Given the predominantly philosophical aspect of the book’s contents, “teacher” almost seems preferable to “preacher”.) That this preacher or teacher is a “son of David” does not necessarily have to be taken as literally as understanding Solomon takes it; the expression also allows understanding a much later descendant or someone unrelated who follows in David’s footsteps. Given Solomon’s reputation for wisdom, however, he does seem to be the most likely author (don’t tell Luther I said that). The statement of the theme in 1:2 is quickly elaborated in 1:3-11. Note well already in these earliest verses two famous refrains of the book: in 1:2 “vanity of vanities” (KJV, ASV, NASB; “Meaningless! Meaningless!” NIV), which is repeated some 31 times in the book, and in 1:9 “nothing new under the son”, which is repeated some 25 times. (The Hebrew of the first refrain has to do with “breath”, emphasizing something that is ephemeral, fruitless, or pointless.) In the first part of the discourse (1:12-2:26), the meaninglessness of human wisdom, pleasures, folly, and toil are quickly addressed. All ultimately disappoint. (As a good doctoral candidate, if I were writing it, I might say in 1:18 that with more knowledge comes the realization that there’s much wisdom that one will never and cannot ever know—which is a form of sorrow and grief, to be sure.) We should note that what is described in 2:14-16 (similarly 3:18-21) only appears to the uninformed to be the case: the wise believer is given heaven, while the foolish unbeliever earns hell. You will probably recognize 3:1-8’s description of God’s sovereign but not fatalistic control. The repetition in nature (chapter 1) has its counterpart in human lives, as described in these verses. I knew these verses first from the Byrd’s song that I think we sang in chorus in grade school (lyrics here and a 30 second sample if you scroll down this page). Then there’s this book


The first of two Biblog folos comes after my comment in yesterday’s post about Proverbs 31:10-31’s description of the ideal wife lacking romance. A reader emailed the following comment.

“Romance” has many definitions! Once long ago I read that some Jewish men recited this passage to their wives at the Sabbath meal on Friday night. To feel respected and have one’s contribution to the home valued is no small thing to a woman. Perhaps some of the “contentious” women previously described lacked respect in their marriages.

As I like to “preach” when I pray, and have gotten Pr. Sullivan hooked on it, too, husbands and wives truly can live together only in the forgiveness of sins.

Second, the tidbit linked yesterday about the permeation of the errant so-called “prosperity theology” prompted a reader to highlight Proverbs 30:8-9 and comment, “The ‘prosperity’ theologians must not read Proverbs.” Perhaps not, nor do they appear understand the true nature of life under the cross. At the same time we must remember that Christians may or may not be blessed materially, and it is the love of money—not money itself—that is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Tidbits today begin with new “View” hostess Rosie O’Donnell equating radical Christians to radical Muslims, and here’s how you can make your opinion known. ... Reflecting some errant theology, the Commander in Chief says we’re experiencing a “Third Awakening” (the quote is near the end of this page). ... The U.S. military in Iraq is said to be facing a growing porn-addiction problem, and a chaplain trainee in the British Royal Navy quit after being told to ignore pornography at sea. ... The pope welcomes home some “schismatics” by allowing the Latin mass. ... Thursday was Holy Cross Day on some liturgical calendars, and The Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray had an excellent “Memorial Moment” on the occasion. ... There’s this new children’s book to combat others in the genre condoning gay marriage (I’ve not seen it, so I don’t know how good it is). ... And after hours in front of the computer I'd better stop before I turn into more of a mouse potato (although in my case I guess I'd be a "touch-pad potato", which I don't think has made it onto the list of new words).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:03 AM

September 14, 2006

Pr 29-31 / Folos / Tidbits

(I hope you enjoy rereading Psalm 98 as much as I do; the previous post on it is here.)

Proverbs 29-31 finishes the other collection of Solomon’s proverbs and the book itself. We not only read the end of Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs (chapter 29), but we also read the words of Agur (chapter 30), the words of King Lemuel (31:1-9), and the book’s epilogue about the ideal wife (31:10-31). (Agur and King Lemuel, if taken as actual names both appear to be non-Israelites, although some regard “Lemuel” as a penname of Samuel.) In chapter 29 we find proverbs on familiar themes in the form that has become familiar by now as well. I especially noted those that emphasize humility and the need for the Lord’s revelation and discipline. Be sure to ask about any that are not clear to you. In chapter 30, you might recognize the opening rhetorical questions from other Biblical literature; I especially thought of Romans 10:6-9 that says we do not need to go up into heaven to gain wisdom, for the Lord has come to us! Agur’s words are also ironic in a sense, as we do know the Name of Him Who has gathered the wind, wrapped up the waters, and established the ends of the earth—and we know the Name of His Son! Note in 30:8 the request for daily bread, as the people of Israel received in the form of manna and what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:11). I was struck by 30:12, as we live in a world where I think many would judge themselves innocent, or at least better than most, like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11. In fact, there is no one righteous before God, save Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. Thank God His righteousness is ours by faith in Him! The idea behind 30:18-19 seems to be that they do not necessarily leave a trail that can be followed. (On 30:26 remember that we have talked about the “coney” or “rock badger” before.) Though King Lemuel probably was not an Israelite, what he was taught by his mother (31:1-9) fits well with God’s command to defend the poor and oppressed. We might think of the most defenseless people of all, the unborn baby in the womb, and how our government has essentially forsaken them. The epilogue on the ideal wife (31:10-31) is an acrostic poem, where each verse begins with a successive letter of, in this case, the Hebrew alphabet. The poem corresponds to the opening of the book and a recurring theme throughout. Verse 19 refers to spinning thread and in a sense follows out of the preceding verses and leads to those that follow. From literal clothing the author moves to figurative clothing in 31:25, and we notice that the fear of the Lord in 31:30 is behind the idea wife’s ultimate praise. There’s really no romance in the poem, but it nevertheless testifies to the dignity and status of women and their importance to the family, contrasting well against the contentious and immoral women we read about earlier in the book.

I have essentially two Biblog folos today. In regards to yesterday’s tidbit on the Public Expression of Religion Act moving forward in the U.S. House of Representatives, a reader emailed the comment that seeing who opposed the measure was interesting: a long list of self-described atheists, which you can see for yourself, including links to their own pages, on this page the reader sent. Compare those fighting for the measure and why on this page, also sent by the reader.

Related is an email I got regarding how the founding fathers of our states did not envision excluding God from government and public discourse. To support that claim, the email quoted all from all 50 state constitutions. The following quote was provided from the Preamble to Texas’ Constitution of 1845.

We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God …

After the list, the email concludes thusly:

After reviewing acknowledgments of God from all 50 state constitutions, one is faced with the prospect that maybe, just maybe, the ACLU and the out-of-control federal courts are wrong! “Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”—William Penn

Although Penn, as a Quaker, had Trinitarian, Christological, and other theological problems, he did at least guarantee freedom of religion in the charter of liberties he drew up for colonies in what became the United States.

Regarding the report to the Synod linked Wednesday about its funding, a reader emailed that changing the system of two votes per congregation (at District conventions, at conventions of the Synod there are two votes per circuit) is an effort to give liberals more power. I agree, and the claim that this disparity in representation is something new is disingenuous, since, as I recall, one of the reasons that system was adopted was to give all congregations, regardless of size, the same say. No one told large congregations to get so large instead of planting daughter congregations, which ultimately provide better pastoral care, which is something people in those congregations do not want, anyways. The Synod is not to be a democracy but a theocracy. We already wrongly have votes deciding theology, and a move towards more “representative” representation would only exacerbate the problem. For now, congregations are within their rights to refuse to give to the District or Synod, and when that changes, if not before (and I think this report makes it clear the question is not “if” but “when”), there will be yet another reason for a congregation to voluntarily leave what is supposed to be a voluntary association.

Tidbits today begin with a Montana doctor sentenced for assisted suicide, but the case is almost stranger than fiction. ... Michigan lawmakers consider a groundbreaking law regarding abortion, and here’s a pro-life rundown of Tuesday’s primary results. ... In Europe a pastor preaching against homosexuality is said to be hate-mongering. ... A new means of delivering entertainment is said to be a way around regular broadcast rules. ... Episcopal leaders met but did not reach an agreement on how to meet conservatives’ request for like-minded leaders. ... The false so-called prosperity gospel is reportedly thriving in the United States. ... And, a reader sent this link to word of a judge’s ruling that at least for now has stopped the sale for oil drilling of previously-protected land in Alaska, commenting that the people there need the wildlife for food and that it is nice to know “there is a small corner of the earth not polluted by greed”. (Would that original sin didn't have worldwide penetration.)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 13, 2006

Pr 26-28 / Tidbits

(This post has some helpful notes for your rereading of Psalm 97 today.)

Proverbs 26-28 continues our reading of the other collection of Solomon’s proverbs. As I have been doing I will comment on a few proverbs, but you are welcome to ask about any. The one in 26:4 seems to contradict the one in 26:5, but perhaps the seeming contradiction is explained by understanding that sometimes the fool’s folly must be publicly rebuked. The proverb in 26:11 may be familiar to you, perhaps from its quotation in 2 Peter 2:22. Again a common theme of the proverbs we read today is sins of the tongue, and you will also find some proverbs repeated in today’s reading. The proverb in 27:1 brings to mind Luke 12:19-20 and James 4:13-16. You might notice at least a difference in wording between 27:21 and 17:3, although the meanings themselves do not have to be different. You might be interested to know that the Roman Catholics at the time of the Reformation used 27:23 to justify a priest’s rigorous examination of a penitent’s secrets of conscience during confession, although that is hardly what it is about, as you can read for yourself (see also the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XII:106). We do find legitimate exhortation to confession and absolution in 28:13 and 14. What a blessing it is to be forgiven by grace through faith in the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Tidbits today begin with that controversial Navy chaplain Tuesday pleading not-guilty at his courtmartial. ... The U.S. House of Representatives is moving forward a bill to limit lawsuits against public expression of religion. ... Some local government officials in the state of New York are reportedly trying to recognize gay marriage through a back door. ... A gay couple in British Columbia is said to be rewriting that Canadian province’s school curriculum to make it more gay friendly. ... Although this survey’s methods weren’t the most reliable, its finding that many women later regret having an abortion is consistent with other studies. ... What you think about God is said to predict what your stand will be on some social issues. ... And, the LCMS is calling for a “stewardship renaissance” but it sounds like a desperate, legalistic measure to extract money from people who do not buy into the direction the body is moving.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 12, 2006

Pr 23-25

(As you reread Psalm 96 today, you may find these comments helpful.)

With Proverbs 23-25 today, we finish the Thirty Sayings of the Wise, completely read the so-called Additional Sayings of the Wise, and begin another collection of Solomon’s proverbs. Again we find many proverbs that easily fit under the headings of the commandments dealing with our love of our neighbors (4-10), even as many of them repeat thoughts of proverbs we have already read. I think most of the sayings today are pretty straight-forward, but, as always, you are welcome to ask any questions you have about the readings. Note especially Proverbs 25:6-7, which recalls Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:7-11, and Proverbs 25:21-22, which is quoted by St. Paul in Romans 12:20.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 01:55 AM

September 11, 2006

Pr 20-22 / 9/11 Terror Attacks / Tidbits

(You can find comments on Psalm 95 here.)

Today with Proverbs 20-22 we finish the main collection of Solomon’s proverbs and begin what are called the Thirty Sayings of the Wise, and I continue to comment on a few select proverbs. Right away notice that 20:1 is not criticizing any and all consumption of alcohol but the consumption of alcohol in excess. I would think 20:5 could be taken positively or negatively: a wise person will attempt to discern especially false motives that might lead him or her to act a certain way. We understand 20:14 better when we know that bartering was used in purchasing and so a buyer would complain about the quality to try to get a lower price. That vengeance is the Lord’s is upheld in 20:22. We should not understand 20:24 fatalistically. Let’s keep both husband and wife in mind in 21:9, and let’s remember that even then the household is intact (although compare 21:19). We should see faith as part of 22:4 and remember that as we live each day in penitent faith our blessings will not be fully realized in our life in this world. I know faithful parents who agonize over straying children in view of what appears to be a promise in 22:6, but we should remember that each person must believe for him or herself, that for the most part as long as children are alive they can return to the faith, and that if the child was not brought up in the faith there would be even less of a chance he or she would come to it later. Again in 22:15 corporal punishment need not be necessarily understood. In the Thirty Sayings of the Wise, there are some that are longer than the preceding one-verse proverbs we have been reading. Remember to ask about any proverbs that are unclear to you, regardless of whether you might think they are clear to everyone else.

Today, of course, marks five years since the 9/11 terror attacks. We do well as we did yesterday in the services at our congregation to pray for those who continue to mourn lives lost that day, as well as those lost since as a result of what happened that day. We prayed and continue to pray that those who mourn might find true comfort and peace in the only true God. Thinking back, I was pleased that the Sunday after those attacks we at Grace heard a message that emphasized repentance—a message that we continue to need to hear and do hear. And, I encourage us all to remember that at its core our war on terror or whatever it might be called is in some ways a battle in a much larger war, the outcome of which has already been determined (see, for example, Ephesians 6:12 and Matthew 16:18).

Tidbits today begin with a U.N. official saying that body pressures pro-life countries to legalize abortion. ... Pope Benedict, while visiting his homeland, says people are hard of hearing when it comes to God. ... A U.S. District Court judge said county commissioners in Georgia opening their meetings with prayer can direct their prayer to a specific god. ... Religious neighborhoods are going up in Tennessee, but that apparently doesn’t mean chapels are for church. ... There’s a call for the University of Pennsylvania to ban homosexual professors after a gay prof’s arrest. ... Here’s a thought-provoking call to put the “C” back in the “Y”, although there’s apparently enough “C” there for this to happen. ... And, while the Horns fell to #8, I’m thankful that the rowdy fans stayed home and set fire to their town and not Austin.

Thanks to all who made our congregation’s picnic yesterday a success. God bless all y’all’s day today!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:12 AM

September 10, 2006

Pr 17-19 / Folo / Tidbits

(As you reread Psalm 94 today, you may want to refer to this post on it.)

Today Proverbs 17-19 brings us more proverbs from Solomon’s main collection. The contrast of the righteous and the wicked that was so prevalent in the earlier chapters seems less frequent in these, although some of the same themes are addressed. I especially noticed those regarding the two themes of the tongue and of friendship in chapter 17. Several in chapter 18 repeat at least the thought of earlier ones we have read, such as 18:12 and 18:22 (on which see also 19:13 and 19:14). In chapter 19 I stopped and reflected on 19:27, thinking of how we all want to reach an end in our formal instruction (for example, some sort of graduation), but that in matters of the faith our instruction (catechesis) should really be from womb to tomb. Dr. Luther himself said the Small Catechism contained enough to study for a lifetime, and the mysteries of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins are always welcome to those in whom statements of law, such as most of the proverbs that we have been reading, have done their work.

Today’s Biblog folo comes in response to yesterday’s post. I’ve been trying very hard to help us remember that the proverbs apply equally to men and to women, young and old, but, when I highlighted 14:1 and asked if “only men with wives have homes”, a reader emailed asking if “only women ‘with a man in the house’ have a house”. By no means!

I have a handful of tidbits today. A reader sent in this link to a part of the Katrina anniversary coverage that didn’t necessarily make most of our radar screens. ... A media watchdog group says pornography is moving mainstream. ... Officials for a western New York school district are refusing to grant parent requests to transfer their students out of a transsexual teacher’s classroom. ... A liberal conservative bishop in the Anglican church body calls for diversity in their unity (there are two oxymorons, if I have ever seen them). ... And, I’d been meaning to link this piece of LCMS Board of Directors news.

Ohio State played a good game, I was thankful no one on either team got hurt, and the fans who were sitting behind us were only a little obnoxious.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by rightly using His Word and Sacraments.

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 09, 2006

Pr 14-16 / Folo / Tidbits

(There’s barely a comment here to go with today’s rereading of Psalm 93.)

Proverbs 14-16 continues the main collection of Solomon’s proverbs today. Again we will notice that most proverbs apply alike to men and women, young and old. For example, 14:1, do only men with wives have houses? There is also continued emphasis on sins of the tongue. There are more proverbs with both halves being negative and others where both halves are more or less completely positive. Proverbs 14:12 (see also 16:25) is a significant statement regarding our natural inclination to both the law and righteousness by works and against the message of the Gospel. The proverb in 15:1 is another well-known proverb and one borne out by several Biblical examples (Gideon in Judges 8:1-3, but compare Nabal in 1 Samuel 25:10-13). We are reminded by 16:1 and 16:9 that we can plan things but they can only come about if God wills. Somewhat related is 16:33, where the reference may be to making decisions by casting lots, perhaps seeking the Lord’s will, as with the Urim and Thummim (for a significant New Testament example see Acts 1:23-26). Another well-known proverb is 16:19, which we can think of in temporal and eternal terms (that is, we should live every day in repentance). We should also hear 16:6 as Gospel that reminds us our sins are forgiven as we believe in Jesus Christ.

There are two Biblog folos today. First, in connection with Proverbs 7, which we read several days ago, a reader sent in this link to a very worthwhile article by another faithful pastor in Texas. Second, in connection with discussion of the death penalty that began here and continued here, a reader sent in a link to this article regarding borderline death penalty cases, highlighting that of Michael McCann (mentioned deep into the article), to which I respond that I am the first to admit imperfect human justice is a poor reflection of perfect divine justice but also that if we followed God’s command and executed every murderer for whose crime there were two or three reliable witnesses I’d bet the death penalty would be more of a deterrent than it is.

Tidbits today begin with anti-Semitism said to be on the rise in Britain. ... Some Illinois pharmacists win a legal victory in their battle against that state’s governor’s order that they sell the so-called “morning after” abortion pill. ... The State House of Indiana’s ban on prayers went before a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. ... A different U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is letting stand Nebraska’s anti-gay marriage amendment to the state’s constitution, leaving gay activists with few options. ... And, nothing like living in sin to make an abomination legal. Hooray for Hollywood?

You may be aware of a little football showdown in Austin tonight; I hope all the residents of the state will at least root for the home team. (In other words, Hook em!)

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

September 08, 2006

Ps 92 / Pr 11-13 / Tidbits

As I reread Psalm 92 and this post on it, I was reflecting on just how much of a “king” God’s people would have had after they returned from exile. One of my first-grab reference books had the following paragraph I thought might be helpful to you, too.

The Old Testament period ended under the imperial auspices of Persia. In the New Testament, Rome is in command. In the interim, a series of Hellenistic rulers vied for ascendancy. Alexander the Great wrested control from the declining Persian Empire. But he died a little more than a decade later, and one of his generals, Ptolemy Lagus, assumed the throne of Egypt and Palestine. After a century of rivalry, the Ptolemies gave way to the Seleucids, descendants of another of Alexander’s generals. The policy of radical Hellenization imposed on Israel by Antiochus Epiphanes eventually led to the Maccabean revolt, in which a family of native Israelites took the throne. Their dynasty, the Hasmonean, was brought to an end by the Roman general Pompey, who took the Near East, and Israel with it, for the Roman Senate. (Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel’s History, revised and enlarged by David O’Brien [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986], 351.)

The final chapter of that book, from which the preceding quote comes, goes on to describe Israel as a vassal state, under the Maccabees, and under the Hasmoneans. That the psalm before us would have been written by or referring to a Persian king seems unimaginable. A vassal king would have been relatively powerless but still may have been the author or object of a psalm such as this. This psalm cannot come from too much later, since the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint is dated around 283-245 B.C., and the Hebrew version of the Psalms thus would be fixed before that, though perhaps not much earlier. (The Maccabean rebellion, for comparison, is dated 166-160 B.C.)

We continue the main collection of Solomon’s proverbs as we read Proverbs 11-13 today. Again, most of these short proverbs are fairly straightforward. I will comment on a few, but you are welcome to ask about any. Not all are perfectly clear even to scholars, for example 12:27 has a word the meaning of which is uncertain. Most contrast the righteous and the wicked, but 13:7 seems to criticize the foolish in both halves. Most are equally applicable to men and women, but women are notably singled out in 11:16, 11:22, and 12:4 today. Note especially how instruction and rebuke are held up as worthwhile in 13:1 and 13:18. In that same vein, we often hear “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, but you will note that 13:24 says something else. Some attribute the “spare-spoil” proverb to the Bible, but it seems to actually come from somewhere else. First we note that author John Skelton fairly represented the Bible when he wrote in his 1516 play Magnyfycence (line 1954) the following:

There is nothynge that more dyspleaseth God,
Than from theyr children to spare the rod.

But, more than a century later in 1649, English pastor Ralph Venning, in his Mysteries and Revelations (second edition, p.5) appears to have changed the proverb to that oft quoted form.

They spare the rod and spoyl the child.

(Admittedly without more context it is hard to tell; he could have just been referring to parents who do not discipline but instead spoil their children.) Just a few years later in 1662, Hudibras (part 2, canto 1, line 843), by British poet Samuel Butler, used what is apparently Venning’s expression in an opposite way and to refer to something altogether different.

Love is a boy, by poets styled,
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.

In the Bible’s proverb about sparing the rod and hating the child, we need not necessarily think of corporal punishment. Parents who love their children will through discipline of various forms drive out foolishness and impart wisdom to their children, as God our loving Heavenly Father does with us, in order to bring us to and keep us in faith in His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Tidbits today begin with a new study that says there may be brain activity in patients otherwise thought to have none. ... The Democratic candidate for governor in Texas invokes what he calls Jesus’ social agenda. (Jesus wasn't that kind of social activist; I’ll stay away from political matters if he stays from theological ones.) ... California’s Republican governor has family activists waiting and watching after he vetoed one of three bills from the gay agenda. ... Conservative Judaism may open the door to openly gay rabbis by adopting two contradictory policies and letting congregations decide which to follow. ... The worldwide Anglican communion continues to head toward a split over homosexual-related matters. ... I guess in case the Oscars didn’t have gay movies to promote they at least needed a gay hostess. ... And, it's not all bad news from TV-land, at least one CBS affiliate is going to stay away from a profanity-laden 9/11 documentary (would that it were ours).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 07, 2006

Ps 91 / Pr 8-10 / Folos / Tidbits

What a blessing to read Psalm 91 again! These previous comments are helpful, but I want to also comment on the different “voices” of the psalm. A priest or levite probably wrote the psalm to assure the worshippers of God’s favor and protection. The opening verse is a declaration of sorts, and the second verse can be understood as the psalmist’s own confession of the faith. Verses 3-13 more or less expound on verse 1, principally in terms of four threats and four beasts. In the final verses, 14-16, the psalm speaks God’s words of assurance to the believer that he or she will be rescued—not because the psalmist has done something, like believing, to merit rescue but purely on account of God’s grace and mercy for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Our reading of Proverbs 8-10 today first finishes the book’s major section on the superiority of the way of wisdom (1:8-9:18), with two appeals addressed to youth: wisdom’s appeal (chapter 8) and the invitations of wisdom and folly (chapter 9). Then, our reading today begins the next major section, the collection of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1-22:16, although today we only read through chapter 10). Wisdom’s appeal in chapter 8 promises blessings that surpass material goods, and I could not help but think of God’s questions to Job and how Wisdom would be able to answer many—if not all—of them. You almost even hear echoes of the Nicene Creed in the chapter’s latter verses, and several verses in this chapter were the sources of much heated debate about Christ in earlier years of the Church. With the introductions of the narrator, chapter 9 positions the invitations of wisdom and folly next to each other for the sharpest of contrast (note in vv.4 and 16 their use of some of the same words). Wisdom’s words in 9:5-6 are especially gracious, I think, reminding me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, and verse 10 is the classic statement of what “wisdom” is all about. Verses 1-6 are said to be necessarily understood in connection with the Sacrament of the Altar, which is also sharply contrasted with the “feast of fools”, hell itself (see 9:18). With chapter 10 we get to the part of the book of Proverbs that I think most people think of when they hear the word “proverb”. Solomon’s collection has some 375 such proverbs. Remember to note the contrast between the wise, who are made righteous by faith, and the foolish, who remain in their sins (you also might recall teachings about the two “ways” such as in Psalm 1 and Matthew 7:13-14). What I am about to recommend may take you longer, but I think you will get more out of each “proverb” if you can stop and think about it for a minute or read it a second time. (I think if you try to read them just one after the other you will see why I think we almost need one a day instead of chapters full of them all at one time.) I will only make a few comments, but you are welcome to ask about anything that you like. The proverb in 10:12 is quoted by both James 5:20 and 1 Peter 4:8, and the sense is that of love promoting forgiveness. You might notice a number of proverbs in chapter 10 pertaining to the lips and tongue, which are in view elsewhere, of course, especially in James. Whether against the eighth or the other commandments, as these proverbs remind us of our sins, we are also comforted knowing that Jesus died for those sins and that we have God’s forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

There are quite a number of Biblog folos today. Regarding my trouble finding Isaac Watts’ hymn that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a reader emailed that the hymn is “O God, our Help in ages past” in the old American Lutheran Church hymnal the reader had. (I have one of those, too, and I also checked the old Service Book and Hymnal where it is also reproduced following Wesley’s change.)

Regarding yesterday’s post about Solomon’s warnings against adultery possibly coming from David and Bathsheba, I also received an email. The reader wondered how much Bathsheba might have been to blame for David’s lusting after her, possibly by not using a canopy over her bath. The reader also wondered if maybe a jealous half-brother didn’t fill Solomon in on his parents’ sordid past. Of course, in the post I did not say that David and Bathsheba did talk to David about it, I just commented that I was reflecting on it, more or less on the possibility that it might have happened that way. Solomon's emphasis on the danger of adultery could be taken to reflect his family's own experience, especially with the mention of his father instructing him in 4:3 and the mention of a mother’s instruction in 6:20.

Regarding my comment yesterday on a little exaggeration in Proverbs 6:10-11, a reader emailed the following.

The farmer who regularly slept late, when he needed to be in the barn or in the field, did not prosper, as any of his neighbors would have been happy to tell you (and him, probably!). Of course, now that tractors have lights, etc., and cows are gathered into factories that milk 24/7, things may be different?

I think the key is “regularly”, and knowing when the time for rest is helps, too. As for the modern “conveniences” that just seem to increase one’s work, I guess at least the farmers don’t have to take literally the old adage, “Make hay while the sun shines.”

Regarding the offensive bumper sticker I described in yesterday’s post, a reader perhaps rightly said there’s “no use getting excited about bumper stickers in this town! Some of them are pretty far out.” The same reader pointed out that some people are opposed to the death penalty due to convictions that are later overturned due to DNA evidence or for other reasons but also that “life without parole” can leave the convict with little incentive for good behavior and burden other people with his or her care. As for the overturned convictions, the “two or three witnesses” that the Bible requires in death penalty cases is supposed to prevent wrongful convictions, but we know witnesses can lie and that people can still be convicted, as Jesus was, even when their lying testimony doesn’t agree.

Regarding the tidbit in yesterday’s post about women wanting to know all the risks before having an abortion, a reader emailed the following comment.

Abortionists are in the business to make money. They are not your family doctor! If you want to know the risks, you had better ask someone else.

I have a hard time imagining a salesman at an electronics store telling me I don’t need a wide-screen plasma TV, but then I’d like to think someone who has taken an oath to do no harm would be a little more caregiver than salesman, but perhaps they’ve already given up that oath when they decide to make money off of murdering the most defenseless of all creatures.

Regarding the tidbit in yesterday’s post about broadcast television coverage of the immigration issue, I received a number of emails. One commented on hearing “undocumented” instead of “illegal” also in radio coverage in Texas (“undocumented” evokes “I left my driver’s license at home, officer” as opposed to “I have no right to be in this country”). Another email sent this link regarding the Republicans’ failure to move forward on immigration legislation, suggesting they should see how “security” and “immigration reform” might be related. This link also came by email, saying someone is finally mentioning that illegal immigrants’ cost to society outweighs what is paid in tax dollars, although I can remember stories on NPR months ago with people arguing both sides of that issue.

I have tidbits from around the world and this country today. In Turkey those who lynched a man who killed an imam reportedly weren’t even detained by police. ... One of Oregon’s U.S. senators is trying to stop Congress from putting an end to assisted suicide in his state. (Since when is murder “the practice of medicine”?) ... Despite what Focus on the Family says, Nebraska voters apparently will not get a chance to decide whether to put an end of life amendment on the state’s constitution. ... There’s reportedly a new tactic beingg used to take on evolution in Ohio’s schools. ... You, too, will be able to hear what the pope said about evolution at a recent seminar. ... A university in Scotland is banning Bibles from its dorms, but the story isn’t quite as bad as the headline suggests. ... And, decommissioning this church in Berlin is no simple matter (don’t read “Lutheran” as “Lutheran” but as “generic Protestant”).

There is a new Q&A here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 06, 2006

Ps 90 / Pr 4-7 / Pro-life and pro-death penalty / Tidbits

Psalm 90 is appointed to read again today, and the earlier post with comments on it is here. A funny thing happened after I read the psalm this time: I had a hymn based on it running through my head, only my head didn’t have the first line right, so I was having some trouble finding it to link for you. At first our church secretary couldn’t find it either, but, of course, she was working from the bad first line I gave her: “O God, our Help in ages past”. She did shortly figure it out and helped me out (here's the link). The hymn, originally titled “Man Frail and God Eternal” is by Isaac Watts and is said by some to be the greatest hymn in the English language (I don't know that I'd say that). Watts wrote it in England in 1714, in the period before Queen Anne died, when the nation was said to be worried about her successor. A notable singing of the hymn was in 1965 at the funeral of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who reportedly was the only non-royal to have a British state funeral. The tune “St. Anne” that we associate with Watts' hymn actually preceded the hymn and accompanied a different text but now seems inseparably connected to this hymn. By the way, my mistaken first line was what John Wesley altered the first line to in 1737, and some hymnals follow his change to this day (none that I know I have been exposed to, however, so I can't really use that as an excuse to our church secretary).

With Proverbs 4-7 we continue the book’s major section about the superiority of the way of wisdom (1:8-9:18). According to the outline we are following, in that major section we first finish the subsection commending wisdom by hearing its challenge to hold on to wisdom (chapter 4). Then we read all of the subsection warning against folly by hearing the warning against adultery (chapter 5), the warning against perverse ways (6:1-19), the cost of committing adultery (6:20-35), and the warning against the enticements of an adulteress (chapter 7). Chapter 4 includes some autobiographical statements by Solomon, and it reads to me as more of an exhortation to wisdom or a statement about the benefits of wisdom than a “challenge” to hold on to wisdom. Chapter 5 in more or less figurative language describes the dangers of adultery, including possibly making one’s wife promiscuous (5:16-17). In chapter 6’s warning against perverse ways we must take some of the statements as a bit exaggerated, such as the suggestion in verses 10-11 that even a little sleep will bring on poverty. As I read chapter 6’s cost of committing adultery I reflected on Solomon’s parents, David and Bathsheba, possibly passing on to him such wisdom as they had gained first-hand (though she did not actively pursue David) and now Solomon passing on that wisdom to his sons. Chapter 7’s description of the adulteress’ enticements is very vivid, and we can no doubt imagine scenes from so-called red-light districts we have driven through or seen on TV or in movies. The majority of today’s reading seemed to have to do with adultery, and we are well-reminded of the offensiveness of sexual sin, which the Bible often closely connects with idolatry. Of course, any sin is a sin against God, but sexual sin is especially grievous in that it is the most intimate of betrayals, one difficult to forgive as we should, and its consequences can be very hard to deal with. Fortunately, with faith in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we find forgiveness for all our sin, including our own shortcomings in forgiving others as we should. Such is the Gospel, in this case the torah, the special revelation, that we are to keep and guard like the most-precious pupils of our eyes (7:2).

After seeing this bumper sticker on a car in front of me Tuesday, I am proud to say I am pro-life and pro-death penalty, and I resent what the driver of the car indirectly called me. There's no inconsistency between being pro-life and supporting the death penalty. The bumper sticker, the other merchandise with the same message, and those who came up with them miss the fact that government executing criminals is fulfilling its God-given responsibility to punish those who do evil, just as it can wage war to protect its citizens (see Romans 13). I’m not trying to be partisan, but it seems someone needs to get into the Bible a bit more, especially for a party that’s trying to appeal more to Christians, such as by way of a new website recycling other false theological ideas I’ve addressed before (here’s an article about the site).

Tidbits today begin with Chinese officials reportedly cracking down on the underground Christian congregations in that country. ... Iranian officials release on bail a man said to have been arrested for converting from Islam. ... The government in Jordan will get to decide who preaches in that country’s mosques. ... Arizona voters will join those in seven other states in considering a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. ... A new study suggests women want to know all the risks before having an abortion, presumably more information than many are getting now. ... A “Lutheran” hospital in Wisconsin tells an artist to take down paintings that portray Jesus as a rabbi. ... And, you may know I am loathe to admit it, but the broadcast news probably does, as accused, at least indirectly promote illegal immigration.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:42 AM

September 05, 2006

Pr 1-3 / “Job and the Snake” / Tidbits

(The post including comments on Psalm 89 is here.)

Proverbs 1-3 today begins our ten days with the next Old Testament book in canonical sequence (skipping over Psalms), and so you may want to read the comments about Proverbs found in the background information for this month’s reading (either online here or as a PDF here). Our English word “proverb” suggests the short, pithy and practical saying, but the Hebrew word is broader and can include longer sayings, such as “parables”, and we will see longer sections in the book. In the book overall, but especially in the short, pithy and practical sayings, we will see a good bit of contrast between the “wise” who try to keep God’s commandments and the “fools” who despise God’s Word. (I’ve often thought it difficult to appreciate the short “proverbs” when reading so many of them at once and have wanted to cull out the duplicates and to lay them out over the course of a year, assuming there are enough.) Of the book of Proverbs, Dr. Martin Luther in 1534 wrote, “Anyone who intends to become righteous might well take this as a handbook or prayerbook for his daily use, read it often, and ponder his own life in it” (AE 35:258). Such a use is mostly law, telling us what to do, so we will want to make a special effort to find Gospel in Wisdom Incarnate, Jesus Christ Who died to save us from our sins (see Paul’s comments regarding Jesus as Wisdom in Colossians 2:3 and 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, 30). There is also Gospel in the repeated invitations to wisdom, reminding us of the Holy Spirit calling us to faith. And, of course, as believers in Jesus the Holy Spirit leads us to try to keep the commands of the law (the so-called “3rd use” or “function” of the law), and our feeble attempts to do so please God on account of our faith. Somewhat characteristic of wisdom literature, the book often addresses “my son”, but its wisdom is for male and female, young and old. Using, among other things, those “addresses” as cues, we follow an outline of the book that divides it into nine major sections (including its prologue and epilogue).

Proverbs 1-3, then, takes us through the book’s prologue (1:1-7) and into the major section about the superiority of the way of wisdom (1:8-9:18). From that section today we hear appeals and warnings confronting youth (1:8-33) and the beginning of a commendation of wisdom, including benefits of accepting wisdom’s instruction (chapter 2) and wisdom’s instructions and benefits (3:1-20 and 3:21-35). As you read chapter 1 remember that Solomon is not thought to have been the author of the entire book (more likely chapters 1-9) but that thinking such does nothing to God nevertheless having inspired the whole book. Also do not be bothered by the feminine reference to wisdom and our seeing wisdom personified as pointing Jesus (the grammatical gender of the Hebrew noun chokmah is feminine). Folly is somewhat similarly depicted as a woman, an adulteress and temptress who attempts to seduce the young man to her wicked ways, some of which we see in chapter 2. In chapter 3 verses 5-6 may be familiar to you as a better known passage from this book. Verses 11-12 may also be familiar, as they are quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6, which we read back in May. (They also go to the point about our afflictions I was making in yesterday’s post.) Remember also that the rewards of wisdom the author describes may or may not be experienced in this world.

Somehow in our reading of Job I forgot to mention the musical “Job and the Snake” that I saw while I was living in Canada. The producer and writer of the show was a Lutheran pastor, and the principal composers of its music were his two sons. This is the official site for the latest version of the show and their current New York production company, and this is a review from when it was running back in Toronto closer to the time I saw it. “Job and the Snake” was their first major Biblical show, but they also did a version of the story of Ruth titled “Come Away” and a version of the story of Esther titled “Purim Day”.

A "complete" number of tidbits today despite what was a labor-free day for most. An elderly British Columbia man killed his elderly wife in a hospital and then took his own life—what some Canadian media voices are reportedly. calling an “act of compassion” but was anything but. ... You heard it here first, and this reiterates it: not all pharmacists want to sell the Plan-B abortion pill, but in states like Washington they are being told they have to. ... From cartoons to a conference, Iran plans a meeting over what are being called the exaggerated claims about the Holocaust. ... A reader sent in this link about the EPA possibly allowing toxic use of mercury in the name of freedom of religion. ... California parents are being encouraged to home-school their children to escape the gay agenda making headway in schools there. ... Home-schooling parents upset about eBay’s ban on the sale of teacher’s guides are said to be creating an eBay of their own. ... And, anonymous confession and absolution in cyberspace? I don’t think incarnational ministry works that way.

The latest Q&A is here, and thanks to all who email questions, comments, and links--all are welcome to do so. God bless all y'all's day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 04, 2006

Job 40-42 / There’s a witness! / Tidbits

(Remember to reread Psalm 88 today; here’s the previous post on it.)

By reading Job 40-42 today we finish the book! First we read the end of God’s first speech (40:1-2) and Job’s response (40:3-5). Then we read God’s second speech (40:6-41:34) and Job’s repentance (42:1-6). Those things finish the subsection on the Divine discourses and thus also the section of the monologues. All that’s left after that is the epilogue, telling of God’s so-called verdict (42:7-9) and Job’s restoration (42:10-17). God’s first speech successfully puts Job in his place, so that Job recognizes he cannot answer the Lord. Still, God goes ahead with the second speech full of rhetorical questions. In this speech God does speak to the questions of Divine justice and Job’s self-justification. God challenges Job to dress and act like a god in order for Him to admit that Job cannot save himself (40:14). God speaks two poems (40:15-24 and 41:1-34), both speaking of powerful animals God created that essentially only He can overpower. While the descriptive language is poetic and intentionally exaggerated, the animals are nevertheless parts of God’s creation not strictly mythical beings, although they are likely intended to bring the devil or Satan to mind. The point is not only that God is powerful but also that, if human beings cannot overpower these animals, then human beings cannot contend with God (41:10-11). No wonder the more-powerful people become the more they think they are gods! Not Job, though: his statement in 42:3 is especially to be noted, for we likewise lack full understanding of heavenly matters, things too wonderful for us to know. For our judging God and accusing Him, we should, like Job, “repent in dust and ashes”. (Ash Wednesday gives some a chance to repent literally with ashes.) Job even intervenes for his friends, perhaps serving in some priestly capacity. Note that not everyone will come out of afflictions in this life and be restored and blessed as Job was in this life; for many of us, the restoration and greatest blessings after afflictions will come only in the next life, when and where we live with God for eternity. And finally, we must be careful of thinking that Job in 42:5 refers to seeing God in a way that we cannot see Him, for we in fact can see God in a way that Job did not. We not only hear God’s Word and take hold of His Son, Who died for us, by faith, but God also touches us in water, speaks to us with the living voice of His Son, and feeds with His Son’s own body and blood. We are among those of whom Jesus regarded as blessed (John 20:29), not for seeing with our physical eyes but for seeing with the eyes of faith.

So, why did Job suffer? Why do we? We know Job suffered at least partly because of Satan’s challenging God and God’s sure and certain knowledge that Job would not fall. But, we only know about Job’s case because we are given a glimpse into the heavenly throne-room/courtroom (much like in Peter’s case as reported by Luke 22:31-32). We are not given a similar glimpse into the workings of God regarding our own cases, or, are we? Perhaps we do have at least a glimpse. I’ll warn you upfront, however: even with some knowledge of our own cases, we may seem to get no more of an answer than what Job got. God controls the cosmos, and believers infer, apply, and believe that the same wisdom, justice, and righteousness God exercises in that realm carries over to the ethical and psychological realms. The worldview of faith is not that the world is irrational but that things are beyond our reason, at least our fallen reason. In a sense, nineteenth-century British poet Robert Browning was right in Pippa’s song: “God’s in His heaven—All’s right with the world!” However, that’s only because God can make even the wrong things, which sin has brought into the world, right for His believers. Why do we suffer? We know from Scripture that to be undisciplined is to be unloved, since God disciplines His children, those He loves, in order to draw them closer to His Son. If there was ever a case of the innocent suffering, His is it! Something really bad happened to that good person! For us, the question is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, but, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” We poor, miserable sinners deserve temporal and eternal punishment, but—thanks be to God!—for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ we do not get what we deserve, instead we receive grace and mercy.

There’s a witness! The daughter of a man murdered in East Austin Sunday boldly declared she forgives the person who killed her father, said the murderer would get what’s coming to him, and asked God to have mercy on his soul. How different that was from what we usually hear: a refusal to forgive those who have sinned against someone or simple silence on the matter.

The handful of tidbits today begins with a strange case in Canadian family court. Strangely enough the unnatural-nature of homosexual relationships eludes those in them. ... U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan weighs in on Iran’s exhibition of Holocaust cartoons. ... The Trinity Broadcasting Network denies it cancelled a show to make it more acceptable to Muslims (not that we necessarily agree with anything aired on TBN). ... The LCMS joins other American church bodies in reporting a decline in members. ... And, a reader sent this link about a special call for Baptisms at several Texas congregations (I wonder how many they would have gotten if they knew that Baptism effected something and was not just a symbol of something).

God bless your (Labor) day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:09 AM

September 03, 2006

Job 37-39 / Folos / Tidbits

(Psalm 87 is appointed for reading again today, and the previous post on it is here.)

Job 37-39 continues the book’s major section of monologues by finishing Elihu’s fourth speech (chapter 37), and thus the subsection of his speeches, and by beginning God’s first speech (chapter 38-39), and thus the subsection of the Divine discourses. I mentioned in yesterday’s post how Elihu’s speech begins to anticipate God’s speech, and that anticipation continues in chapter 37, and the description seems to reflect an actual storm moving in while the men were speaking. In 37:14-20 Elihu uses a series of rhetorical questions to challenge Job and help him realize God’s power in the case of the elements and thus Job’s place in regards to God. (I was reminded of John 3:8-12 and Jesus’ use of an “elemental” question in His discourse with Nicodemus.) Beginning in chapter 38 and continuing in chapter 39, the Lord addresses Job from the storm, answering the call Job made in such places as 31:35. Job had questioned God, and now God questions Job to show Job that he does not have a full-enough understanding to question God. (You can just hear the tone of voice in 38:3!) You may notice that God does not speak to Job’s suffering or his concerns about justice, neither condemning Job nor clearing him of charges, but Job is nevertheless eventually vindicated, indirectly at first and then later directly. Job is vindicated not because he was perfectly righteous but because he believed in God, that He had a Redeemer. Though we might suffer like Job, we who believe in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins likewise will eventually be vindicated.

I have two Biblog folos today. First, a reader’s email asking whether football team coaches thought the Lord’s Prayer was a “good luck charm” prompted a folo in yesterday’s post, in which I said the coaches “may well” think that way, but that comment prompted the same reader to email again.

Not, I hope, among us! Associating “luck” and “charm” with the Lord’s Prayer was meant to be “Super Sarcastic”, given the roots of each.

The reader’s email went on to detail “Luck” as a mythological Norse god and “charm” as an item, action, or expression thought to have magical power. My answer yesterday perhaps could have been more clear. In part because I know the background of the expression, I certainly don’t regard the Lord’s Prayer as a “good luck charm”, but I think to some extent coaches “may well” regard it as such. I guess the “best construction” on the use of the prayer might be they are seeking the Lord’s protection on players (“deliver us from evil”?), although I think prayers before games are more widely perceived as asking God to grant a victory, perhaps even because of the prayer. Of course, I’ve never been on a competitive team that prayed together before a game, so maybe someone can relate his or her own experience about what the thinking is behind using the prayer.

A tidbit yesterday about a possible relationship between being religious and being obese prompted a reader to email a memory of a sermon the reader heard years ago in a church other than Grace. The reader said the community knew drinking to excess was wrong but was shocked when a sermon suggested “eating too much is as bad as drinking too much”. (They’d never heard the expression “everything in moderation”?) The reader said the sermon’s impact went all over the county among people who had come out of a period when putting enough food on the table was the challenge. The reader also identified potential weaknesses in the study, such as the sedentary lifestyle of watching any sort of TV, religious or otherwise, being bad for one’s health, saying, “Joel Osteen and Oprah will probably have the same effect on weight.” And, the reader noted various other factors on weight such as heredity, viruses, and even other religious associations that can impact weight, such as diet and income.

Tidbitstoday begin with the cartoon controversy possibly being behind a recent plot to blow up trains in Germany. ... State employees in Ohio are going to be able to direct their union dues to the charity of their choice. ... A California judge says a homeowners’ association can’t stop a Bible Study in its community center. ... Scientologist Tom Cruise has reportedly apologized to actress Brooke Shields (I'm sure his recent under-performing movie and failed studio deal has not to do with it), but he hasn’t changed his mind about his criticism of anti-depressants for post-partum depression. ... And, oh no!, not more about Da Vinci (although it seems I saw this on TV some time ago).

I heard from a reader who admitted getting discouraged from falling behind in the reading and nearly giving up but now is caught back up and who expressed greater interest in the recent readings. Our efforts at perseverance and patience are truly blessed by the Holy Spirit. God also bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

September 02, 2006

Job 34-36 / Folo / Tidbits

(Be sure to read Psalm 86 again today. The previous comments on it are here.)

We continue to hear from Elihu as we read Job 34-36. Chapter 34 is his second speech, chapter 35 his third, and chapter 36 the first part of his fourth speech. Chapter 34’s speech is addressed to wise men such as the three friends (34:2-15), to Job (34:16-33), and to himself (34:34-37, though intending others to hear). Elihu in some cases quotes Job and in other cases paraphrases him, although not all of what Job said was about himself. Elihu defends God from the charge that God is responsible for evil, which is a hard line for us to hold when we believe God created all things good and is ultimately in control of all things. (You can read more about the cause of sin in article XIX of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, two of the Confessional writings of the Lutheran Church.) As in the first speech, Elihu again calls Job to repent and essentially says Job does not know what he’s talking about, which is something the Lord will also say to Job and that Job himself will later admit. Chapter 35’s speech is addressed to Job, despite Elihu’s referring to Job in the third person, and in it Elihu points out the contradiction between Job’s expectation of vindication and his claim that God does not care whether or not people do what is right. Elihu says human beings cannot affect God’s nature, and he says people who pray for relief should trust God’s justice and goodness. Chapter 37 begins Elihu’s fourth and final speech, at least the first part of which is spoken to Job. In this speech Elihu expresses well God’s ultimate justice in rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked; we, of course, are not righteous on account of what we have done but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the truly Righteous One. Elihu also speaks of God’s afflictions as serving His purpose of leading us to repent of our sin, and especially in 36:22-33 he anticipates what the Lord Himself will say to Job in His “speeches” that we will begin reading tomorrow.

The Biblog folo today is in response to a link yesterday about players allegedly getting kicked off a football team because they were Muslims. A reader emailed the following questions. “Why do coaches want to be religious leaders? Or, do they think the Lord’s Prayer is a good luck charm?” I’ll say that the coaches might be used to leading in many things and so might think they should lead in everything and that the Lord’s Prayer may well be regarded as a good luck charm.

Tidbits today number a perfect ten. President Bush is reportedly backing away from his “Islamic fascist” rhetoric; maybe he was listening to this conservative columnist. ... Wal-Mart puts more support behind the gay agenda and homosexual marriage. ... The Canadian government used tax dollars to help fund a gay film festival there. ... Roman Catholic officials in Milwaukee settle with victims of clergy sexual abuse in California. ... A Pentecostal denomination gives up a rare conservative position on divorce and remarriage (another church body doing theology by majority rule). ... The American Bar Association keeps an abortion supporter at the head of its bio-ethics committee. ... To get around an internet ban, an Australia lawmaker gave a speech including specific instructions as to how disabled or elderly people could kill themselves. ... There’s a controversy over a giant cross in Southern Illiinois, but this time it’s on the administrative board overseeing the cross. ... A reader sent this link to the latest ranking of mega-churches, commenting that being a best-selling author doesn’t mean the congregation continues to grow and that just because a congregation has lots of visitors doesn’t mean it has a lot of members. ... And, as our congregation’s picnic nears, a new study suggests a relationship between being religious and obesity. (Studies can be made to show just about anything, and I'm glad Lutherans aren't mentioned by name, but I'll repent of being a bad example.)

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

September 01, 2006

1 Ch 29:10-13 / Job 31-33 / Tidbits

The seasonal canticle for September is 1 Chronicles 29:10-13. There is a very brief comment on this passage in the background information for this month’s reading (online here and available as a PDF here). I set the context for the passage in the Biblog post from when we read it as part of 1 Chronicles. Although I didn’t say it then and the cross-references in my study Bible don’t make the connection, the passage reminded me then as now of the doxology (“glory-speaking”) that is a part of the Lord’s Prayer in some manuscripts of St. Matthew’s account (Matthew 6:13; compare Luke 11:4). We do well to remember that the kingdom belongs to the Lord, that the Lord alone is powerful, and that all glory belongs to Him—remembering those things keeps us appropriately humble, gives us good reason to praise Him, and also comforts us knowing that all things are in His good and gracious hands.

Job 31-33 continues the book’s fourth major section—that of monologues from Job, Job’s “fourth friend” Elihu, and God Himself—both by finishing Job’s call for vindication with his insistence of innocence and final oath (chapter 31) and by introducing Elihu’s speeches (32:1-5) and giving us his first speech (32:6-33:33). As Job insists that he’s innocent in chapter 31, he uses a series of statements of his innocence followed by oaths describing how such a sin might be punished by retaliation against him. Job begins with what are sometimes called the sins of the heart and moves on to sins of social justice (note the emphasis as in the Pentateuch on poor, widows, and orphans). Then he speaks of greed and idolatry, gloating, and hypocrisy. The Divinely-inspired author of the book introduces Elihu’s speeches (32:1-5) by telling us that Elihu was the youngest of Job’s four friends and had deferred to their wisdom but, when given the opportunity by their silence, could hold his tongue no longer. Elihu’s first speech (32:6-33:33) claims the Spirit of God to answer Job where the others have not. He addresses himself, as it were, in 32:15-22, or perhaps explains to the others his thinking before he spoke. In chapter 33, Elihu addresses Job and again more or less claims Divine inspiration for his words. Unlike Job’s other friends who falsely accuse Job of some sin, Elihu confronts Job with his own words, which Elihu has heard for himself. Elihu speaks of God leading people to repent by afflictions and of forgiveness and redemption available through the Mediator, Whom we know is Jesus Christ our Lord. We also know that at least early on (1:22) Job did not sin in what he said, but Job most likely went too far in at least his final claim of innocence. Elihu seems to rightly rebuke Job, for when God will speak Elihu will not be condemned.

Tidbits today begin with a panel of U.S. Circuit Court judges last week striking down a Waco measure it said targeted anti-abortion demonstrators. ... An international treaty regarding the disabled is now going before the full United Nations General Assembly, but pro-life groups say their concerns have been met. ... Columbia’s first abortion last weekend has sparked controversy over whether those involved can be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church there or whether officials ever even considered the idea. ... The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans suffered $225 million in damages from Hurricane Katrina, less than half covered by insurance. ... New rules for Roman Catholic clergy reach their next milestone as that church body continues to deal with homosexual scandals. ... A Tulsa Presbyterian congregation becomes the largest so far to leave its church body over the potential of homosexual clergy. ... And, New Mexico State University officials deny they kicked three players off the football team because they were Muslim.

Congratulations! The end of August marked our three-quarters point through our Church year of Bible reading. To mark the occasion there's a new prayer here. God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM