Tag: Romans

Daniel and the Wisdom Prophet—Part II

How did the people of God respond?

With violence:

The Maccabee family led the violent opposition to Syrian oppression.  They were joined by some of the hasidim (holy ones).  Around 165 BCE a group of these hasidim warriors sought refuge in a cave to observe the Sabbath, their covenant with God.  The Syrian forces discovered them and killed them.  The Maccabean-led group cited this massacre as the basis for their decision to fight on the Sabbath to drive out the Seleucids.  They continued the fight, eventually gaining control over the land of Israel in 161 BCE.  Part of their success was due to a treaty with the Romans who were interested in gaining a foothold in the eastern Mediteranian.  The Maccabean family established the Hasmonian dynasty that ruled an area nearly as large as Israel under King David.  After a hundred-plus year of independence, they came under the control of the Roman Empire.  The apocryphal books of the Maccabees contain an account of this battle for independence, emphasizing how God helped them defeat the Seleucid/Syrian forces and establish their kingdom.

With wisdom and faithfulness:

A prophet of the day did not support their violence, instead he emphasized faithfulness, wisdom, prayer, and trusting God.   He recalled how Daniel and his friends in Babylon were blessed for their faithfulness (Dan 1-6).  The same writer recalled or experienced the visions (Daniel 7-12) that communicated a powerful awareness that God still controlled the fate of crazy kings and evil kingdoms.  I call this writer/editor of Daniel, the wisdom prophet because of his emphasis on living and teaching wisdom.

He was a prophet in the deuteronomic sense:  declaring that evil deeds lead to curses and good deeds lead to blessings (Dt. 18). He recalled the stories of Daniel and his friends to provide a model of faithfulness to God and to encourage the teaching and practice of wisdom.  He challenged the revolutionaries to see that God’s people have remained faithful to God under oppression.  The remained faithful without state violence or revolutionary violence to defend and protect the faith.

The wisdom prophet spoke also to the Hellenizing Jews of Judea calling them to faithfulness by recalling how the Jews in Babylon remained true to the faith.   Further, he showed that this faithfulness brought gentiles and their rulers to recognize the true God.  The role of the state was an important issue between the Maccabees and others of their era.  The Hellenizers and the traditionalists clash over the appointment to the office of high priest led to the murder of one of the candidates, Onias II (the “anointed one” of Dan 9.26). Once in control the Maccabeans/Hasmoneans combined the office of king and high priest.

The Babylonian stories also showed how mad and crazy rulers were toppled by God’s hand. Through the visions of smashed statues, rams, bears, leopards and the ancient of days he assured the Jews that they could serve God with confidence in the final outcomes.  God would punish the evildoers without the need for human participation.

Those insisting that through violence the Jews should defend the faith saw Phineas (Numbers 25:7) as a hero and were willing to kill fellow Jews who opposed them.  The wisdom prophet chose Daniel and friends as heroes.  The wisdom prophet used Daniel as a eponym/pseudonym because of the Maccabeans willingness to kill Jews who opposed them.

We can read the “children’s story” of Daniel in the lion’s den in the context of the ethical issues of the day.  Placing it near the center of the book of Daniel, the wisdom prophet shows Daniel willing trust God to care for him, just to pray three times a day.  The Maccabees were not willing to take that risk even to preserve the covenant sign of the Sabbath rest.  In another “children’s story”, the fiery furnace rescue, the wisdom prophet derides the view that king and high priest, state and religion should be combined.  The statue on the Plain of Dura and the humorous worship scene there illustrates the wisdom prophet’s view of what happens when religion and state are combined.  The testimony of Daniel’s friends and the furnace scene contrasts with the Maccabees unwillingness to let God fight for them.

With humor

The wisdom prophet pokes fun at the Babylon view that the food offered to idols could make one wise (chapter 1).  All of the first six chapters contain an element of humor, especially chapter six with the idea that one could have a “god for a month”.  (See my blog https://uplandweb.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/laughing-at-leadersrespecting-leaders-two-biblical-perspectives/ )

With trust in God

The conclusion of the stories in the first half of Daniel complements the visions of the second half.  God’s people can be faithful without the support of the state or revolutionary violence because God is in control.  The visions portray the wisdom prophet’s certainty that God controls history.  (Looking at the numbers in the visions as symbols emphasizing certainty obviates the need for the complicated calculations favored by the “calendarizers”.)  Humans do not need to deviate from their primary responsibility.  The wise live faithfully, teach wisdom and give their lives for others (chapters 11 & 12).

The reflection of the Isaiah servant songs in 12:1-4 presages the joining of the suffering servant motif with the divine warrior motif (seen with the Ancient of Days in ch. 10) in the person of Jesus.  The faithful wise are willing to give their lives, perhaps for the salvation of others.

Prayer

The wisdom prophet shows us Daniel who prayed before the challenges of interpreting a dream when he first had to tell the crazy king the dream details before giving the interpretation (ch. 2).  The wisdom prophet risked death in the den of lions to pray three times a day (ch. 6).  His prayer of confession led to the angelic assurance that “God would fight for [them]”. (Ch 10).  He fasted and prayed before the vision of the last times(Ch 11).

Jesus and the wisdom prophet

Scholars disagree about the Essenes’ (a first century religious group) influence on Jesus.  One scholar suggests that the writer/editor of Daniel was the founder of the Essenes who withdrew to the desert to preserve their way of holiness and peace.  By whatever avenue first century Judaism influenced him; Jesus words and deeds raised questions about the violence of the Maccabees.  Did Jesus choose the Son of Man title to align himself with the nonviolent resistance of the wisdom prophet?  Was Jesus claim to be the  “light of the world” against the backdrop of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in John 10 a provocation for the plot to kill Jesus?  Can we view Jesus claim to be the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep as a commentary on the claims of the Maccabees/Hasmonians to be “shepherds?” The debate following the healing on the Sabbath (in Mark 3) contains an echo of the dispute between the Wise and the Maccabeans.  Jesus asks whether it is appropriate to kill on the Sabbath.  Finally, when the Maccabeans recaptured Jerusalem, Judas Maccabeus rode a white horse into Jerusalem.  In his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus chose to ride a donkey.

Next:  Part III, Daniel for today

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Waiting on God

 

An exploration of the peace witness of the first (old) testament

 The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? For me, passages with this word have suggested prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text? What is the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 16-22

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

See below for a list of similar passages*

Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action of God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”.

Is this part of Paul’s source for “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

For further thought:  The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs additional exploration. There is much violence found in the First Testament.   The New Testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

June Notes

Peace prayer for June/July

Pray for the peaceful reunification of North & South Korea. Pray that the food aid the Mennonite Central Committee provides North Korea may show the love of Jesus for all people. — Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2

Showing compassion is one way to promote reunification.  The Mennonite Central Committee has sent food to North Korea for nearly 20 years.  MCC has provided medical supplies and supported orphanages, also.

The above was taken from the Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2.  For more information, check out:

washington.mcc.org  or read the blog at washingtonmemo.org

 

Waiting for God

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text?

For the subjects of the Psalm, what would be the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

Psalm 33:  16-22

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

(See below for a list of similar passages*)

In Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action by God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way (v. 34) refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In Isaiah 40, the setting is a bit different. While in these Psalms there is the implication that God will overpower the enemy or the evil Hebrews, that is not as clear in Isa.40:28-31. Is the vindication of the “suffering servant” what one is to wait for?  (See my blog on Isa. 40, “Exodus to Exile”)

Waiting and then what?

Are these “wait” passages behind Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:19 and following? “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? The normal response to violence is vengeance.  Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. While there is much violence found in the first testament, the new testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

 

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

 

 

April Notes

Creation Sunday

Creation Sunday or Creation Care Sunday is celebrated today. It is generally observed the Sunday nearest Earth Day (April 22).

The Psalmist tell us: “The heavens declare the glory of God

The skies (firmament) show His handiwork”

Other passages tell us of the glory of mountains, trees and streams. We probably want to add Valleys to that list.

If we destroy mountain tops (and in the process eliminate peoples’ homes and fields), turn clear streams into rusty, stinking waterways polluted with runoff from mines . . . .

If we fill the skies with haze so that Harrisonburg can no longer be seen from Skyline Drive (Oldtimers assured me that you could 30 or more years ago) . . . .

Are we limiting creation’s praise of God? Have we treated creation in such a way the God is not praised by it as He intended?

Do we believe God created the non-human world of plants, water, rocks, soil and air as well as the human world to praise Him?

How can we work with the rest of God’s Creation to praise God?

Pray with me for better understanding of these questions and better care of God’s world.

Peace Prayer

Peace lamp prayer suggestion (April 23, 2017):

Father help us to be at peace with your creation.  Forgive us for obscuring creation’s praise of you by our pollution of your water, air and land.  Teach us to live so the creation may better praise you as “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

 

  

Waiting On God

An exploration of the peace witness of the first (old) testament

 

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text? What is the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 16-22

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

See below for a list of similar passages*

Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action of God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”.

Is this part of Paul’s source for “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. There is much violence found in the First Testament.   The New Testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

*Similar passages are:

Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).