Judgment, Mercy, and Deliverance
The Sunday Closest to July 27
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
JULY 24, 2016
The Assigned Readings:
Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85
Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 12, Year A:
Proper 12, Year B:
Prayer of Praise and Adoration:
Prayer of Dedication:
For though the LORD is high,
he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he perceives from far away.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
–Psalm 138:6-7, New Revised Standard Version
Except when it does not.
Focusing mainly on examples from this Sunday’s readings, I write about the following.
- In Genesis 18 Abram talked God down to a minimum number of righteous inhabitants of Sodom to stave off divine destruction of that city. Yet, a few chapters later, the patriarch did not argue for the life of his own son. He argued for the lives of strangers but not that of his own son. Sodom, of course, faced destruction; there were too few righteous people in a city with many equal-opportunity rapists. And God did spare Isaac in Genesis 22.
- What did Hosea’s children do to deserve such names? Jezreel means “God sows.” Lo-ruhamah translates as “Not pitied.” And Lo-ammi means “Not my people.” Their names were, of course, symbolic of divine rejection of a people who had turned their backs on God. Destruction of the unfaithful and the wicked is a biblical theme. But I wonder what psychological harm the children of Hosea and Gomer suffered.
- There are, of course, numerous instances of martyrdoms and genocides from ancient times to current events. Many of those who perished were righteous. Often they died because of their fidelity to God. And what about Jesus, sinless yet crucified?
- The Book of Job refutes (correctly) the simplistic formula whereby suffering results from one’s own sin and God spares all the righteous from harm. The example of Jesus confirms this.
Speaking of Jesus, we read in Colossians that he overrides our assumptions regarding a number of issues. Some of them do not apply one with a Western scientific worldview in the twenty-first century. I do not, for example, share the Hellenistic assumption (referenced in Colossians) that elemental spirits govern the world. No, I am a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. But other worldviews persist and I carry my own assumptions in my head. Christ, we read in Colossians, overrides much–from schools of philosophy to erroneous cosmology. It is Christ who, as we read in Luke 11, spoke of prayer and God’s attentiveness.
There is also judgment, of course. That abounds in both Testaments. So one ought not to focus so much on mercy and judgment as to minimize or ignore its opposite. Besides, mercy for one party does mean judgment for another much of the time. So, if one perceives that God has not delivered one, one might be in the wrong camp. Or one might be impatient. Or one might have a legitimate complaint against God.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA
THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR
THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972