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Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the King James Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Acts 21:15-16

15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry was about Paul’s and Luke’s time in Caesarea, where they stayed with Philip the Evangelist and his four prophesying daughters. Agabus travelled from Judea to prophesy that, once in Jerusalem — their final destination — Paul would have his hands and feet bound. Paul resolved to continue his journey.

I used the KJV this week because the verses are more descriptive and evocative of this final leg of the journey to Jerusalem.

Luke, the author of Acts, was still with Paul, as the writing is in the first person.

After their stay in Caesarea came to an end, they gathered their belongings — ‘carriages’ — and continued onward to Jerusalem (verse 15). John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

carriages doesn’t mean horse-drawn carriages; it’s luggage, baggage – “we took up our baggage and went to Jerusalem.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary has more:

They took up their carriages, their bag and baggage, and as it should seem, like poor travellers or soldiers, were their own porters; so little had they of change of raiment. Omnia mea mecum porto–My property is all about me. Some think they had with them the money that was collected in the churches of Macedonia and Achaia for the poor saints at Jerusalem

Luke says that some of the Christians in Caesarea accompanied them to Jerusalem (verse 16), a customary sign of friendship and fellowship in that era. In addition, both MacArthur and Henry say that Paul’s boldness brought out their own boldness. They were also protective of Paul and thought they could be of help to him when he encountered problems in Jerusalem.

MacArthur points out that it was not a short journey, highlighting the friendly intent of the Caesareans accompanying Paul and Luke:

And so they took off on a 64 or so mile journey and went to Jerusalem.

I think it’s interesting that verse 16 says, “There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea.” And here again, you have the same custom that when those people traveled, Christian friends went along with them all the time, halfway or a part of the way, or maybe all the way, just to accompany them to show good faith and fellowship and love to them; a beautiful custom.

MacArthur also mentions Paul’s infectious boldness:

I just love this, “There went with us certain of the disciples of Caesarea.” Isn’t that fantastic? Here were all these, “Don’t go; don’t go. Oh, you’re going to get persecuted.” And you know what happened? Paul left, and they all went with him.

You see, courage is contagious. Instead of all their moaning and weeping affecting him, his courageous affected them. He was a marked man. He was hated. He was going to be in prison, and they were going to be identified with him, but they became willing to pay the price because he was. That’s leadership by example.

Henry has an excellent description of their accompanying Paul, which has precedents in Scripture:

1. … If they could have persuaded Paul to go some other way, they would gladly have gone along with him; but if, notwithstanding their dissuasive, he will go to Jerusalem, they do no say, “Let him go by himself then;” but as Thomas, in a like case, when Christ would go into danger at Jerusalem, Let us go and die with him, John 11:16. Their resolution to cleave to Paul was like that of Ittai to cleave to David (2 Samuel 15:21): In what place my Lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, there also will thy servant be. Thus Paul’s boldness emboldened them. 2. Certain of the disciples of Cæsarea went along with them. Whether they designed to go however, and took this opportunity of going with so much good company, or whether they went on purpose to see if they could do Paul any service and if possible prevent his trouble, or at least minister to him in it, does not appear. The less while that Paul is likely to enjoy his liberty the more industrious they are to improve every opportunity of conversation with him. Elisha kept close to Elijah when he knew the time was at hand that he should be taken up.

Luke mentions the name of the man in Jerusalem with whom they lodged: Mnason (verse 16). When we read the verse, it sounds as if Mnason accompanied them part of the way to the city, but MacArthur doubts this was the case:

… it was worked out that the man named Mnason, you see a phrase “brought with them.” It really should say “brought to the home of Mnason.” Probably Mnason did not accompany them from Caesarea, but merely living in Jerusalem, they brought Paul and his friends to him.

The word ‘old’ is used to describe Mnason. Does ‘old’ refer to the man’s age or to his discipleship, as in an ‘old friend’ — a longtime friend?

MacArthur thinks it refers to his discipleship only. Mnason, he says, could well have advised Luke on writing Acts, since Luke was from Troas in Asia Minor and would not have known about all that had happened in Jerusalem at and immediately after the first Pentecost:

He may go back as far as Jesus, we don’t know; but certainly to the beginnings of the church. And he may have been a source for Luke. The fact that Luke writes here and notes Mnason as an early disciple may have been indicative of the fact that the Holy Spirit used Mnason to reveal some information to Luke in helping him write the book of Acts. Anyway, off they go to Jerusalem to stay at the home of this particular man.

Henry’s commentary says that Mnason was not only likely to have been an early disciple — possibly even one of the 70 at the first Pentecost — but also an aged one:

This Mnason is called an old disciple–a disciple from the beginning; some think, one of the seventy disciples of Christ, or one of the first converts after the pouring out of the Spirit, or one of the first that was converted by the preaching of the gospel in Cyprus, Acts 13:4. However it was, it seems he had been long a Christian, and was now in years. Note, It is an honourable thing to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ, to have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a course of duty, stedfast in the faith, and growing more and more prudent and experienced to a good old age. And with these old disciples one would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years will teach wisdom.

MacArthur explains more about Mnason and the significance of Luke’s noting he was from Cyprus. A Hellenist Jew, such as Mnason, would have been brought up in Gentile culture, the way Paul was. Furthermore, it would have been prudent for Paul and the Caesareans not to put a converted Jew from Jerusalem into any additional trouble by giving him lodgings. There was also the issues of how Jewish Christian rites were observed and their feelings about Gentiles, to whom Paul had preached:

Mnason is a Greek name, a very common name; not uncommon at all, very common – and he was from Cyprus … Well, here’s a man who was from Cyprus 2000 years ago, and he was a Hellenist Jew. The word “Hellenist” simply means Greek or Gentile. He was a Gentile, not in the sense of his race, but in the sense of his culture. He was Hellenized.

… He was raised in a Greek country; he had a Greek name. And it is probably the reason, or at least a part of the reason, that they had arranged for Paul and his friends to stay there. I’m sure they didn’t really understand how receptive the Jewish Christians would be to a whole pile of Gentiles staying in their house, especially the Jewish Jews who lived in Jerusalem, since they were very much oriented toward the Mosaic ceremony. And so they found a more liberal Hellenistic Jew who was willing.

Henry says that Mnason likely knew that trouble lay ahead:

Mnason took Paul and his company to be his lodgers; though he had heard what trouble Paul was likely to come into, which might bring those that entertained him into trouble too, yet he shall be welcome to him, whatever comes of it.

The next section of Acts 21 requires context and explanation, as the church in Jerusalem had evolved and those who ministered to it had changed, so I will take it a few verses at a time.

Next time — Acts 21:17-18

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What follows are the readings for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, October 14, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings and Psalms. I have given the second selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

Readings from Job continue. Here Job discusses his perceived isolation from God.

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

23:1 Then Job answered:

23:2 “Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

23:3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!

23:4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

23:5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.

23:6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me.

23:7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.

23:8 “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him;

23:9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

23:16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me;

23:17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the same theme of isolation but also the hope that God will hear David’s plea for deliverance. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that David’s verses below can also be applied to Christ’s suffering.

Psalm 22:1-15

22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

22:4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

22:5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

22:6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.

22:7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

22:8 “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver– let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

22:9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

22:10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

22:11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

22:12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

22:13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

22:15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

First reading

Amos appeals to the people of Israel to foresake idolatry and return to the Lord God.

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

5:6 Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.

5:7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!

5:10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.

5:11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.

5:12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.

5:13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.

5:14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.

5:15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Psalm

The Psalm similarly urges faith that the Lord hears our prayers for deliverance. Moses wrote this Psalm, the heading of which is ‘A prayer of Moses the man of God’, which he intended for the Israelites to recite during their time in the wilderness.

Psalm 90:12-17

90:12 So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

90:13 Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants!

90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

90:15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.

90:16 Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.

90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands– O prosper the work of our hands!

Epistle

Readings continue from Hebrews. This passage concludes a chapter in which the author explains why the ancient Hebrews did not always benefit from God’s blessings, then outlines the blessings which those who believe in Christ will receive. This conclusion exhorts the converts to continue with their faith in Christ.

Hebrews 4:12-16

4:12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

4:13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

4:14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.

4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

4:16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Today’s verses are about the rich man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. At least three verses will be familiar, even to those who are not well acquainted with Scripture — Mark 10:25, 27, 31.

Mark 10:17-31

10:17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

10:19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'”

10:20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”

10:21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

10:22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

10:23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

10:24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

10:26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”

10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

10:28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”

10:29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news,

10:30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life.

10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

When we have it easy — good salaries and material comforts — we often forget about matters spiritual. How many of the wealthiest men and women truly believe in God? Not many. They believe in themselves and their notional self-sufficiency. Hence, Jesus’s words in Mark 10:25. True then, true now.

How many people know about the Battle of Lepanto?

In the 1970s, when Western education was still decent, I took a year of World History in high school. If we covered it, it must have been a footnote.

I read about it in depth only six years ago, when someone from the West Indies had a WordPress blog, since deleted. The writer was Catholic and explained the religious, historical and cultural significance of October 7, 1571, the date of the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

The victory was important to Mediterranean Europe. Inland, the Battle of Vienna took place just over a century later, on September 12, 1683, led by the indomitable King Jan (John) III Sobieski of Poland. Lepanto was to the Mediterranean what Vienna was to the rest of Europe.

On to the Battle of Lepanto and October 7, which Catholics venerate as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 2017, Polish Catholics assembled nationwide to pray the Rosary on that day. The Daily Mail has more (emphases mine):

Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports …

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said

In 2018, on October 7, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, appeared on a talk show saying that the influx of immigrants arriving by boat are not true refugees. He estimates that only 10 per cent are. He recommends taking in only women and young children. He objects to turning Italy’s public housing over to immigrants arriving by boat and says that local and regional governments should continue to reserve these flats and houses for Italians. Currently, Angela Merkel is trying to transfer immigrants who had arrived in Germany via Italy back to Italy:

RMC (French talk radio) had a lengthy segment on immigration from Africa on the morning of Monday, October 8. Opinion was strongly divided as to whether and how many more immigrants France — especially Paris — should accommodate. It was a lively discussion with no conclusion. One point that did stand out was that French people were being pushed down the queue for social housing for recently-arrived immigrants. So, the French housing situation is like Italy’s, which is like Germany’s and Sweden’s.

Besides the religious and 21st century significance of the Battle of Lepanto, there is a historic one. It took place at a time when the invasion of hordes of groups of people — not just those from the Ottoman Empire — were invading not only Europe but also Asia.

I had always wondered how these groups had been stopped. A considered essay, ‘The Significance of Lepanto’, explains what happened from that point through to the 18th century.

First, we need to consider the main group of players in Europe’s Holy League. These nation-states also controlled various parts of the Mediterranean, including islands such as Corsica, Cyprus and Crete. Trade and strategic ports were important to the Spanish, the Venetians and to the Vatican, which also controlled territory in this part of the world:

The Battle of Lepanto has a major place in the symbolism of the Western-Islamic relationship, and Niccolò Capponi’s recently published Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto treats the battle as a major encounter between the Islamic Ottoman empire and the forces of Western Christendom.

Lepanto was the last great battle that could be described as a simple clash between Christendom and Islam. Fought on October 7, 1571, it saw the fleet of the Ottoman empire pitted against an alliance of Spain, Venice and various other minor players to form a Holy League under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the illegitimate half-brother of Philip II of Spain.

The battle was the response of the Christian powers to the invasion of the Venetian possession of Cyprus. At stake was control of the Mediterranean. If the Ottomans had won then there was a real possibility that an invasion of Italy could have followed so that the Ottoman sultan, already claiming to be emperor of the Romans, would have been in possession of both New and Old Rome. The Pope could have become as much a tool of the Ottoman sultan as his Orthodox counterpart the Patriarch of Constantinople already was.

Yet, as Capponi points out, the Holy League was hardly a model of Christian solidarity. The Spanish and the Venetians had different strategic objectives—the Spanish were concerned primarily with Italy, North Africa and the Western Mediterranean, while Venice was anxious to recover Cyprus and protect its interests in the eastern Mediterranean. The Spanish were not keen for a battle that might lose them precious resources, particularly as Philip II, with interests as well in northern Europe, was usually on the verge of bankruptcy. The Spanish were also concerned that the Venetians were in the process of cutting a deal with the Ottomans. Just a few days before the battle there was a conflict between the Spanish and Venetians that almost tore the fleet apart. Nevertheless the alliance held and the League fleet scored a stunning success.

Lepanto reshaped the religious bent of the Mediterranean:

The cultural shape of the lands around the Mediterranean was confirmed with a largely Islamic East and South staring across the waters at a Christian North and West.

The Ottoman Empire gradually lost territory and influence from that point until it collapsed with the Great War (1914-1918). That said, we are still dealing with the aftermath a century later:

The Ottoman empire, like the ancient Roman empire and the Byzantine empire before it, was left with the task of defending its ever diminishing borders over the next three centuries. When it did finally “fall” after the First World War the ramifications were enormous, and we are still attempting to cope with them from Bosnia to Iraq.

The Europeans defeated the Ottomans because of advanced naval battle tactics and weaponry. They also had more advanced trade and inventions, such as the printing press, which the Ottomans were slow to adopt:

The League won because it used innovative tactics. The usual form that galley warfare took was to ram the enemy ships and then take them by storm. The Venetian ships attempted a new and different tactic. Using a larger and modified form of galley known as galleasses, they filled these ships with cannons and attempted to blow as many of the Ottoman galleys as possible out of the water. League ships carried many more cannon and its troops made much greater use of firearms. Many of the Ottoman troops preferred to use bows, although these were not necessarily inferior to the clumsy arquebus of that time …

In the longer term, however, the future belonged to the new commercial instruments of the West rather than to the bureaucratic machinery of the Ottomans. In her study of seventeenth-century Crete, A Shared World, Molly Green demonstrates that the commercial techniques and practices used by the Venetians were much more sophisticated and developed than those of the Ottoman regime that replaced them in mid-century. It was also the case that the Ottomans were slow to take to make use of printing, with the “printing revolution” that swept the West in the sixteenth century not really taking off in the Islamic world until the nineteenth century.

Europe and Asia had been beset by invaders for centuries, especially during the perilous Dark Ages.

In Europe, during the latter days of the Roman Empire:

Rome, and the Roman empire, had to face an almost continuous set of threats, beginning with the Celts, then moving through to the Germans, Huns, Avars, Arabs and Turks. The Ottoman Turks simply delivered the coup de grâce to what had become little more than a living corpse.

In Asia:

China built its “great wall” to protect itself from nomadic predators, while the damage inflicted by the Mongols on the settled Islamic world, including the sack of Baghdad, was staggering.

These invasions happened because invading tribes of people envied the civilisation of settled societies:

A settled civilisation, by creating a measure of comfort and a settled way of life, makes itself a target for those living outside their boundaries who are drawn by what it has to offer.

Large-scale invasions ended in the 18th century, probably thanks to the Chinese:

the Qing Chinese empire in the eighteenth century successfully conquered and subdued the last of the great nomadic empires of Eurasia. For the first time in millennia no barbarian horsemen, no Huns, no Avars, no Mongols, surged across the great plains of Eurasia to sack and pillage Europe, China and the great civilisations of the Islamic world and India.

When a new barbarian empire emerged powerful enough to threaten the Ottomans, and by this I mean the Russian empire, it was successfully checked by the jealousy of the other European powers. It was also into this world … of empires that were not revitalised by new sets of barbarians, in the Middle East, in India and in China, that the European empires were able to make such inroads from the eighteenth century onwards.

Lepanto, as with so many other advances of that era, helped to usher in modernity to Europe with an emphasis on trade rather than war:

Lepanto can be seen as symbolic of that transition, described by the nineteenth-century French liberal philosopher Benjamin Constant, from the age of war to the age of commerce. Or as others might say, it can be considered as the birth of modernity. Even the overwhelming use of firepower can be found in the pages of Constant as a feature of the utilitarian approach to warfare favoured by commercial nations. The irony was that the somewhat ramshackle empires of sixteenth-century Europe, with their disorganised finances and administrative apparatuses much inferior to those of the Ottomans, would within 300 years come to dominate the world not because of their superior asabiya or virtue but because of their capacity to create modern efficient institutions far superior to the slave bureaucracy of the Ottomans, and because of their ability to deliver superior firepower.

This new European and commercial form of empire supplanted an older, more traditional imperial form. What this meant was that the old rules of empire, of an imperial expansion dictated by the need to conquer to attain booty and slaves and a decline governed by the need to protect its settled possessions from new predators, would give way to a new set of rules. These are the rules of the export and import of capital, as described by Niall Ferguson in his recent studies of the English and American empires.

Looking at present day developments in Europe, there does seem to be an envy of others to have what we Europeans have without contributing to our respective nations. When well-intended private and state generosity is met with Marxist-driven violence and disregard for the host citizenry, it is no wonder that many think of Lepanto.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Acts 21:7-14

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers[a] and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews[b] at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

—————————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry featured Luke’s description of his and Paul’s voyage from the Dodecanese Islands and Asia Minor to Tyre. In Tyre, those in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt prophesied that Paul should not go to Jerusalem, as it was too dangerous for him.

Paul persisted, as he believed the Holy Spirit was telling him to press on towards Jerusalem. Luke, the author of Acts, continued as his companion. They arrived at Ptolemais, which was not far from Tyre. They met with the congregation there for a day (verse 7).

The next day, they continued southward on their journey and stopped in Caesarea, where they stayed with Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven original deacons described in the first six verses of Acts 6. The first martyr, Stephen, was among their number. They were Hellenic Jews.

Philip appears in Acts 8, preaching to the Samaritans. There he performed healing miracles. A sorcerer by the name of Simon Magus followed him, but then wanted to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so Peter, accompanied by John, went from Jerusalem to confront him. At the end of Acts 8, Luke recounts the story of Philip baptising the Ethiopian eunuch.

Now Philip was living with his family in Caesarea, the place where Peter preached, by request, to Cornelius, the Roman centurion and first Italian saint. The Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius, he was duly baptised and Peter stayed with him and his household for some time. One wonders if Cornelius was still there when Paul arrived. The Coptics believe that Peter made Cornelius Bishop of Caesarea after the centurion left the Roman army.

In any event, Paul and Luke stayed with Philip (verse 8). Philip fled to Samaria after Stephen had been martyred. Paul was overseeing the persecutions in Jerusalem at that time as Saul, a Pharisee. Now, years later, here Paul stands before Philip, Stephen’s friend and fellow deacon: a converted, pious, Christian — on fire for the sake of Christ Jesus and founding churches. What a transformation. Philip must have rejoiced and given heartfelt thanks for such a providential development.

Philip had four daughters, upon whom the Holy Spirit had descended, as they, too, were gifted with prophesy (verse 9). Matthew Henry says that Luke intimates they, too, might have warned Paul against going to Jerusalem (emphases mine):

This Philip had four maiden daughters, who did prophesy, Acts 21:9. It intimates that they prophesied of Paul’s troubles at Jerusalem, as others had done, and dissuaded him from going; or perhaps they prophesied for his comfort and encouragement, in reference to the difficulties that were before him.

The two men stayed with Philip and his family for some time. Henry tells us:

Paul and his company tarried many days at Cæsarea, perhaps Cornelius was yet living there, and (though Philip lodged them) yet might be many ways kind to them, and induce them to stay there. What cause Paul saw to tarry so long there, and to make so little haste at the latter end of his journey to Jerusalem, when he seemed so much in haste at the beginning of it, we cannot tell; but we are sure he did not stay either there or any where else to be idle; he measured his time by days, and numbered them.

A prophet, Agabus, went from Judea to Caesarea during this time (verse 10). Agabus made a previous appearance in Acts, specifically in Acts 11, when he travelled from Jerusalem to the new church in Antioch (Syria):

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers[d] living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Agabus was correct.

So, now in front of Paul, he took the Apostle’s belt — some translations say ‘girdle’ — and tied it around his feet and hands, saying that the Holy Spirit said that Paul would be delivered by the Jews to the Gentiles so that he could be taken into captivity (verse 11). The reference to Gentiles here means the Romans.

Luke then says that he and the others present advised Paul against going to Jerusalem (verse 12). Apart from Luke, the people of Caesarea did not know Paul well, yet, as Henry explains, his reputation as a holy man proceeded him. They felt a great affection for him and wanted to protect him:

The great importunity which his friends used with him to dissuade him from going forward to Jerusalem, Acts 21:12. “Not only those of that place, but we that were of Paul’s company, and among the rest Luke himself, who had heard this often before, and seen Paul’s resolution notwithstanding, besought him with tears that he would not go up to Jerusalem, but steer his course some other way.” Now, 1. Here appeared a commendable affection to Paul, and a value for him, upon account of his great usefulness in the church. Good men that are very active sometimes need to be dissuaded from overworking themselves, and good men that are very bold need to be dissuaded from exposing themselves too far. The Lord is for the body, and so we must be. 2. Yet there was a mixture of infirmity, especially in those of Paul’s company, who knew he undertook this journey by divine direction, and had seen with what resolution he had before broken through the like opposition.

Paul would not be dissuaded, however. Interestingly, he asked them why they were breaking his heart by telling him not to continue to Jerusalem (verse 13). He said that he would suffer what his Lord Jesus did.

Here we have the Spirit urging Paul to continue and, at the same time via others, setting his expectations for the fate that would befall him. This combination of Sprit-led messages made Paul all the more determined to continue. John MacArthur says:

what happens here is Paul says, “I am ready” – and, you know, you could preach a whole evening on just that; that man was ready for everything. You know, there’s something about the Christian life, as Paul lived it, that I like. It’s kind of an instant readiness. I like the kind of Christian who doesn’t have to have a running start to get involved in anything. He’s ready any instant for anything. This man was ready to do whatever needed to be done, when it needed to be done

In Romans 1:15, he says he’s ready to preach in Rome. In 2 Timothy 4, he said he was ready to die. He’s ready for whatever. Readiness. Well, he says, “I’m ready to be bound” – and that, of course, would be painful and cruel – “and ready to die” – that would be an execution, probably by torture. There was no other execution in Rome than just the most torturous kinds: crucifixion or the merciful kind that Paul got, which was chopping off your head with a sword. But let’s face it, that would be an excruciation torture, just in its anticipation for most people. So, Paul said, “I’m ready to die.”

That said, Paul correctly envisaged that Jerusalem would not be the endpoint of his ministry, which, as we know, it wasn’t. He did go on to Rome, where he had always wanted to go, to be with the church there and organise it.

Henry points out that the Caesareans ended up receiving more of Paul’s time and preaching then they imagined at this juncture. It was all part of God’s plan:

These Christians at Cæsarea, if they could have foreseen the particulars of that event, the general notice of which they received with so much heaviness, would have been better reconciled to it for their own sakes; for, when Paul was made a prisoner at Jerusalem, he was presently sent to Cæsarea, the very place where he now was (Acts 23:33), and there he continued at least two years (Acts 24:27), and he was a prisoner at large, as appears (Acts 24:23), orders being given that he should have liberty to go among his friends, and his friends to come to him; so that the church at Cæsarea had much more of Paul’s company and help when he was imprisoned than they could have had if he had been at liberty. That which we oppose, as thinking it to operate much against us, may be overruled by the providence of God to work for us, which is a reason why we should follow providence, and not fear it.

Luke ends this account by saying that, as Paul was steadfast about going to Jerusalem, he and the Caesareans stopped trying to dissuade him (verse 14). Paul had a powerful personality, and, as he had prayed unceasingly with the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, everyone backed off — no doubt, reluctantly.

John MacArthur says that Acts 21 shows us Paul’s determination to do the Lord’s work according to His will:

as we come to 21 of Acts, we’re not so much exposed to a sermon on commitment as we are to a life that is committed. And I have said this in my own mind over and over again, that I see more of what Paul is from what he does than from what he says. But what makes it so powerful is that he winds up being what he talks about

Now, he says, “I have a ministry. The Lord gave me that ministry. I’m going to fulfill that ministry; I don’t care what the price is.” Now, that’s that I call commitment. Of all the words that are used, I prefer that word. But you might call it the courage of conviction, or consecration, or devotion, or dedication, or surrender, or yieldedness, or whatever other terms it comes under, it is basically the same thing.

He says, “I have an objective. God has committed to me a ministry. I’m going to see that thing to its fulfillment. And the price that I have to pay is inconsequential to the fulfillment of the objective.”

A word of caution: Paul’s ministry is an extraordinary one over which he prayed constantly. This is not to be construed as acting in a foolhardy way, thinking that God is talking to us about doing something rash. There was only one Paul, although within the communion of saints, others have also done great things and taken great risks in the Lord’s name over the past two millennia.

In that same sermon, MacArthur posits that Philip’s daughters had a big part to play in Luke’s divinely inspired composition of Acts. MacArthur also suggests that they did not prophesy on this occasion, which Henry would have countered:

So, it seems, as though, beloved, these four daughters of Philip could not be preachers – women preachers – but that what they did have was a gift of God to receive revelation from the Holy Spirit that was strategic to the life of the church.

Now you say, “Well, what kind of revelation are you talking about?”

I thought you’d ask that. It is interesting to surmise, and there is good evidence, that Luke himself – mark this – received much of the revelation of the book of Acts from these four women, and that that’s why they were placed here. That their role was not to preach in the church, but to be a vehicle of revelation, and in one case, for Luke. For Luke.

You say, “That may be why Luke put that little verse in there, because they don’t do anything.”

I mean they don’t prophesy in this passage. He just says that, and we leave them, and never hear about them before or after. Maybe Luke is putting this in as just a little hint [as to] their involvement with him.

You say, “Well, whatever makes you think they were involved with Luke?”

This: we know Luke didn’t know what he knew because he was always there, because he wasn’t always there in the book of Acts, was he? He didn’t have firsthand experience of everything. So, the Holy Spirit had to get it to him. How did the Holy Spirit get it to him? Well, the Holy Spirit used revelation. But the Holy Spirit could have used a human vehicle to give him that revelation.

Some people feel, for example, that Peter was Luke’s source for the Gospel of Luke. That God actually gave the revelation through Peter to Luke. We don’t know that. But in this case, it may have been that some of this information came to them – came to Luke through these girls.

Now, he had some time there; he had this period of time that he was there with them to get some of the information. Plus Paul, once he gets to Jerusalem, in the next couple of chapters, he becomes a prisoner, and he gets shipped back to Caesarea, and he stayed there two years. Did you know that? And the two years that he was in Caesarea, Luke would have had a great deal of time to spend with these girls.

You say, “Well, that’s all conjecture.”

Well, except for this: there was an early Church father right up against the early Church by the name of Papias. And Papias said that Philip’s daughters were commonly known as the informants on the early history of the Church. That’s a very interesting statement. In fact, the historian Eusebius, who is again a very early Church historian, quotes Papias, and gives some credence to the fact that these four daughters were used to transmit the revelation of the Holy Spirit; in some cases, that they even got the Gospel’s information, as well as the information of the book of Acts.

So, that’s a possibility. And historically, in the Church, has been agreed upon by those in the first century after the early Church.

Another interesting note that I want to draw to your attention here is the fact that these four virgins who did prophesy didn’t prophesy on this occasion. Another one came; a man came named Agabus in verse 10. And he gives the predictive prophesy of the future, which may, in a sense support the idea that these gals weren’t around to do the predicting of the future or do the preaching, but they had a very specific ministry of the Lord, and that was to be used as vehicles of revelation on the history of the Church past; we don’t know. And again I say, that’s just guessing, but at least it seems to fit together, and we must submit all of this to what we know in other Scriptures.

Food for thought — and, to me, at least, new information.

Next time — Acts 21:15-16

What follows are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, October 7, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings and Psalms. I have given the second selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

Outside of the first reading and Psalm with the green subheads, today’s themes are largely about God’s creation, women and marriage.

First reading

Here is the introduction to Job and God’s wager with Satan. In the end, God turned Satan’s purposes to His own good purposes.

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

1:1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

2:1 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.

2:2 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

2:3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.”

2:4 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives.

2:5 But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”

2:6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

2:7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

2:8 Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

2:9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.”

2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Psalm

The words of the Psalm no doubt are no doubt similar to what Job said and believed at the end of his trials.

Psalm 26

26:1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

26:2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind.

26:3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.

26:4 I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites;

26:5 I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.

26:6 I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD,

26:7 singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.

26:8 O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

26:9 Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty,

26:10 those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.

26:11 But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.

26:12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.

First reading

This is a beautiful description of God’s creation of woman and His plan for both sexes: a lifelong and faithful union between one man and one woman.

Genesis 2:18-24

2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

2:19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

2:20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.

2:21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

2:22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

2:23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”

2:24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Psalm

The Psalm discusses the wonder of God’s creation and how He meticulously cares for it — especially humans.

Psalm 8

8:1 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

8:2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

8:5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

8:6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

8:7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8:8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

8:9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Epistle

The Epistle comes from Hebrews, a letter that explains to the Jews that Christ is the Messiah. Here we find an explanation of Jesus’s role in coming to Earth as well as a reference to Psalm 8:4-5 above.

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,

1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

1:3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

1:4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

2:5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.

2:6 But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?

2:7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor,

2:8 subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,

2:9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

2:10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

2:11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,

2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Jesus delivers a discourse on marriage and divorce to the Pharisees. He points out that some people are too hard-hearted to sustain marriage and, so, must divorce. Remarriage, He says, constitutes adultery. This view of a lifelong, faithful union ties in nicely with the reading from Genesis, as He cites Genesis 2:24. Jesus then turns to bless the innocent, guileless children present.

Mark 10:2-16

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

10:3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

10:4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.”

10:5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.

10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

10:7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

10:8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10:10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

10:11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;

10:12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

10:13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.

10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

10:15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

10:16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

There was a time, not so many decades ago, when even secular families frowned upon divorce. These days, no one thinks twice about it. The message of the readings from Genesis and Mark is to be careful about whom we marry.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Adam had it easy. Eve came out of his rib.

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 21:1-6

Paul Goes to Jerusalem

21 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.[a] And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry described Paul’s farewell to the elders of Ephesus, which took place in nearby Miletus. Their reunion ended in kneeling and praying, which also appears in today’s reading (verse 5).

Luke, the author of Acts, was with Paul at this time, hence the first person in verse 1. They sailed from Miletus (look for Caria on the right hand side of this map, and it’s due south). The two proceeded to the Dodecanese Islands (see map on the left hand side of the page). Cos (Kos, Coos) and Rhodes, two of today’s top holiday islands, are among them. When they reached Asia Minor again at the port of Patara (see map), they left the boat.

Both our commentators purport that Luke and Paul’s journey was smooth sailing, based on Luke’s wording: ‘straight course’. John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

The interesting note of these is it apparently was a nice wind. They went on a straight course; they didn’t have to tack back and forth. But also, it’s interesting to note that those are stops 45 miles to Coos, 70 miles to Rhodes, 70 miles to Patara. Again, they probably only sailed during the daytime. The winds would blow in the daytime and calm at night. And so, they would sail at the day and stop at night.

Also interesting that they sailed along the coast. They just – they never got very far from one little island on the coast to the next little island on the coast to Patara, which is not an island but a city on the coast on the Xanthos River in Asia Minor.

So, they sailed on the coast. That indicates they had a little boat, just a little ship that hugged the coastline. And so, they went to those various places, stopping along the way.

MacArthur describes Patara as being an important port in Lycia, now part of Turkey:

Patara was a large port. Since the Xanthos River emptied there into the sea, the Mediterranean Sea, certain ships would unload cargo, and it would be taken up the river to various inland spots.

Luke and Paul found a ship sailing to Phoenicia and boarded it (verse 2). They left Asia Minor for the area where modern-day Syria, Lebanon and Israel are.

When they saw Cyprus (see dark green island on the map), they bypassed it (verse 3). Matthew Henry’s commentary explains that Barnabas was in charge of the church in his homeland:

In this voyage they discovered Cyprus, the island that Barnabas was of, and which he took care of, and therefore Paul did not visit it

Paul and Luke continued to Syria and disembarked at Tyre, which is still a significant port city today in that part of the world.

MacArthur describes their journey to Tyre:

Now, the indication is that this is a large ship, and the reason we feel that is because it went straight to Phoenicia, and that meant it would have had to sail right out into the midst of the Mediterranean. But another reason we think it’s large is in verse 3. It says at the end of verse 3, that it unloaded its cargo in Tyre. And verse 4 says they stayed there seven days. Now, any ship that needed seven days to unload must have been a large ship. And so, very likely, it was a large ship that they were on at this time, and it would go straight across. Chrysostom, one of the early Church fathers, says from Patara to Phoenicia or Tyre was about a five-day sailing trip if you had good winds and a straight course.

Tyre was famous for the production of the purest form of purple dye, made from the murex shellfish. This dye was reserved for nobility and royalty, it was that precious.

This was the region where Jesus healed a Gentile woman’s daughter of her demon. Jesus commended her for her faith (Matthew 15:21-28):

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.[a]

This miracle is also in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 7:24-29).

While they were waiting for the ship to unload its cargo in Tyre, Paul and Luke spent time with the Christians in that great city. Some among them prophesied ‘through the Spirit’ that Paul should not go to Jerusalem (verse 4).

The church in Tyre began after the fatal persecution of Stephen, the first martyr, in Jerusalem. Paul had been involved in his death, as this was before his conversion. Converts fled Jerusalem, fearful for their lives but keen to spread the Gospel story. The second half of Acts 11 explains how the Church grew in Syria, beginning with this description of what happened in Antioch, an early destination for Barnabas:

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists[c] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

Barnabas sent for Paul to help him. Paul was, at the time, still known as Saul, but he had converted and had been in his home region of Tarsus in Asia Minor.

As we know from this reading (verse 6), Paul and Luke continued onward to Jerusalem. This raises the question of who was right about continuing onwards: Paul or the prophesiers in Tyre.

We know that Paul listened to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 16, the Spirit would not allow him to travel eastward into Asia Minor towards Bithynia. Instead, Paul went westward to Troas, where he met Luke, and sailed to Macedonia and travelled further south to found the church in Philippi. Now in Tyre, he believed that the Holy Spirit wanted him to make the journey to Jerusalem to commemorate Pentecost.

However, the prophesiers in Tyre had also been given a spiritual gift. They believed, through the Spirit, that Paul was meant to travel elsewhere to spread the Good News.

Henry gives this verdict:

it was their mistake, for his trial would be for the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel, and he knew it; and the importunity that was used with him, to dissuade him from it, renders his pious and truly heroic resolution the more illustrious.

MacArthur has more:

… somebody prophesied that he shouldn’t go to Jerusalem. It’s inconclusive as to whether or not that’s legitimate or not from that verse. But it does create the problem that if Paul did get this word from the Spirit, and go to Jerusalem, he disobeyed. Some think he did. Some think Paul disobeyed. And that’s fine. They say he disobeyed, but let’s face it; it was a mistake out of love. I mean if you’ve got to make a mistake, make that kind, right? It was selfless. I mean it was going to – it could cost him his life, and he made it out of love. Absolute, overpowering love for the Jewish church caused him to do what he did.

… It was a mistake to go, but – and I like that – I like this viewpoint. Actually, I prefer it for this reason: because it’s an encouragement to meet, to know that Paul made a colossal mistake. I like that, because that makes him human. I lean toward liking this view better. Peter blundered; Paul and Barnabas quarreled. And I like that, too. It’s encouraging to me. In fact, if you read in the Bible, you’ll find that everybody that God ever used, his choicest people fouled up

You say, “Well, what do you mean? You think he was – he was not disobeying the Spirit?”

No, I don’t think he was disobeying the Spirit at all. Why? I’ll give you some reasons. First of all, his life was lived in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. I cannot see the apostle Paul all of a sudden becoming carnal, without any indication from God that he did. He lived his life in sensitivity to the Spirit …

First of all, then, I think that Paul obeyed here, because he lived sensitively to the Holy Spirit. Secondly, his reasons for going to Jerusalem were right kind of reasons. His motives were so pure that I don’t think you can get an impure act out of an absolutely pure motive if you’re really plugged into the Spirit.

When the seven days were up, Paul and Luke returned to the cargo ship to continue their journey southward towards Jerusalem. However, prior to departure, the Christian men of Tyre brought their wives and children to accompany them outside the city (verse 5). Such an act would have showed how much they revered Paul and appreciated his brief ministry there.

Once on the beach, they all knelt to pray together.

Luke felt it important to mention within a short space of writing — the end of Acts 20 and the beginning of Acts 21 — that two groups of Christians knelt to pray together.

Henry has a considered description of this scene on the beach outside of Tyre — along with a closing word of advice for us today:

They prayed upon the shore, that their last farewell might be sanctified and sweetened with prayer. Those that are going to sea should, when they quit the shore, commit themselves to God by prayer, and put themselves under his protection, as those that hope, even when they leave the terra firma, to find firm footing for their faith in the providence and promise of God. They kneeled down on the shore, though we may suppose it either stony or dirty, and there prayed. Paul would that men should pray every where, and so he did himself; and, where he lifted up his prayer, he bowed his knees. Mr. George Herbert says, Kneeling never spoiled silk stockings.

Then it was time for Paul and Luke to board the ship. The Christians from Tyre duly returned home.

Next time — Acts 21:7-14

What follows are the readings for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 30, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings and Psalms. I have given the second selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

The Lectionary readings move from the wisdom of Solomon — Proverbs — to the Book of Esther, which chronicles divine deliverance to Queen Esther’s people through a set of occasionally humorous circumstances. These are events which the Jewish people celebrate on the feast of Purim. In this passage, Esther petitions for the liberation of her subjects.

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

7:1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.

7:2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

7:3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me — that is my petition — and the lives of my people — that is my request.

7:4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.”

7:5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?”

7:6 Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

7:9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.”

7:10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

9:20 Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far,

9:21 enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year,

9:22 as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the gratitude for deliverance, thanks to divine providence.

Psalm 124

124:1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side — let Israel now say —

124:2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us,

124:3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

124:4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

124:5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.

124:6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.

124:7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

124:8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

First reading

This reading from the Book of Numbers describes the prophesying that two of the 70 elders did in the desert when the Israelites were complaining. When Joshua complains to Moses about the two elders, Eldad and Medad, Moses responds that he wished more would prophesy.

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

11:4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat!

11:5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;

11:6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

11:10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased.

11:11 So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me?

11:12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors?

11:13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’

11:14 I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me.

11:15 If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery.”

11:16 So the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

11:24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent.

11:25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

11:26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.

11:27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

11:28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”

11:29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”

Psalm

The Psalm writer petitions the Lord to keep him close and to direct him away from faults and insolence, for the ways and laws of the Lord are perfect. Verse 14 will be familiar to many. The clergy at my former Episcopal church recited it before giving their Sunday sermons.

Psalm 19:7-14

19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;

19:8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;

19:9 the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

19:11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

19:12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

19:13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Epistle

Readings continue from James. His converts are being persecuted continuously. James urges them to maintain their faith, via prayer and praise. Note that he does not say to protest the powers that be, but to focus on living a godly life.

James 5:13-20

5:13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.

5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.

5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

5:17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

5:18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

5:19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another,

5:20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Here Jesus cautions against sin. He also speaks of salt; verse 50 is particularly noteworthy. Also note other familiar verses: 40 and 42.

Mark 9:38-50

9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.

9:40 Whoever is not against us is for us.

9:41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

9:42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

9:45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.

9:47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,

9:48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

9:49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.

9:50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

We are not meant to amputate ourselves, however, the message here is to turn away from sin. Our bodies are mortal and will one day perish. Jesus’s point is that the soul lives on in the life to come. Therefore, we are meant to pursue Christlike living in order to gain eternal life with Him.

My faithful reader, underground pewster of Not Another Episcopal Church Blog, called to my attention what the Revised Common Lectionary left out of last week’s readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.

He posted about the omitted verses from James’s Epistle on his own site and commented here on that particular Sunday (emphases mine):

If “Wisdom is the overarching theme of this week’s readings…” then why does the lectionary cut out James’ words of wisdom in James 4 verses 4-6? I posted this today,

Missing are three important verses of warning,

4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, ‘God* (He) yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? 6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’

Typically, the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) cuts out language that warns us of God’s potential to regard us in a negative light. The impression the RCL editors create is that we can do no wrong, that God is never angry with us, and that we do not have to fear the Lord.

But,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – Proverbs 9:10.

Imagine the lack of wisdom in a generation that is not taught the fear of the Lord.

Imagine the doom facing a generation that embraces friendship with the world over fear of the Lord.

‘Adulterers’ can be read in two ways: a) marital adultery and b) adultery as a synonym for sin of any kind, as ‘adultery’ in this context appears elsewhere in Scripture. Verse 5 provides support for option b):

5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, ‘God* (He) yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?

Here is Jesus (Matthew 16:4):

4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

However, the greater lesson here is, as underground pewster says, that, by their omissions, the Lectionary editors are leading people to believe that God is okay with whatever we do. That is false. God hates sin, full stop.

One cannot help but ask if the Lectionary compilers are wolves, because they are committing sins of omission. The missing verses can lead souls to perdition.

Try to make a point of looking up the missing verses whenever you see ellipses ‘…’ in the Sunday readings listed in your church leaflets. Those, too, are essential verses.

bible-wornThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 20:36-38

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry discussed the preceding verses, which contained Paul’s instructions to the elders of Ephesus about their ministry. Wisely, he gave them that guidance after he recounted his own ministry in Ephesus.

Now it was time for Paul to leave Miletus, which is near Ephesus, and sail from Asia Minor to eventually reach his final destination, Jerusalem, to commemorate Pentecost.

The elders and Paul knelt for a final prayer together (verse 36). Matthew Henry’s commentary has an excellent analysis about prayer, not only in this situation but also for us as churchgoers (emphases mine):

no doubt, it was a prayer every way suited to the present mournful occasion. He committed them to God in this prayer, prayed that he would not leave them, but continue his presence with them. 1. It was a joint prayer. He not only prayed for them, but prayed with them, prayed with them all; that they might put up the same petitions for themselves and one another that he put up to God for them all, and that they might learn what to ask of God for themselves when he was gone. Public prayers are so far from being intended to supersede our own secret prayers, and make them needless, that they are designed to quicken and encourage them, and to direct us in them. When we are alone we should pray over the prayers that our ministers have put up with us.

Henry tells us about the humility of kneeling in prayer:

2. It was a humble reverent prayer. This was expressed by the posture they used: He kneeled down, and prayed with them, which is the most proper gesture in prayer, and significant both of adoration and of petition, especially petition for the forgiveness of sin. Paul used it much: I bow my knees, Ephesians 3:14.

This was likely to have been a prayer about Paul’s discourse on ministering to the church in Ephesus:

3. It was a prayer after sermon; and, we may suppose, he prayed over what he had preached. He had committed the care of the church at Ephesus to those elders, and now he prays that God would enable them faithfully to discharge this great trust reposed in them, and would give them those measures of wisdom and grace which it required; he prayed for the flock, and all that belonged to it, that the great Shepherd of the sheep would take care of them all, and keep them from being a prey to the grievous wolves. Thus he taught these ministers to pray for those they preached to, that they might not labour in vain.

It was also a parting prayer, one of farewell. Paul copied our Lord’s example:

4. It was a parting prayer, which might be likely to leave lasting impressions, as the farewell sermon did. It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer, that by praying together just at parting they may be enabled to pray the more feelingly one for another when they are separated, which is one part of our Christian duty, and an improvement of the communion of saints. The Lord watch between us, and watch over us both, when we are absent one from the other, is a good parting prayer (Genesis 31:49), as also that our next meeting may be either nearer heaven or in heaven. Paul here followed the example of Christ, who, when he took leave of his disciples, after he had preached to them, prayed with them all, John 17:1.

They all wept — including Paul. The elders embraced their spiritual leader and kissed him (verse 37). Henry lays out the scene:

He that was so often in tears while he was with them (Acts 20:19,31), no doubt shed many at parting, so watering what he had sown among them. But the notice is taken of their tears: They all wept sorely; there was not a dry eye among them, and it is probable the affectionate expressions Paul used in prayer set them a-weepingNote, Those that are most loving are commonly best beloved. Paul, who was a most affectionate friend himself, had friends that were very affectionate to him. These tears at parting with Paul were a grateful return for all the tears he had shed in preaching to them and praying with them.

St Luke, the author of Acts, points out that they were saddest because Paul told them he would not see them again (verse 38). Henry lists their other reasons for weeping. They feared the responsibility they now had in leading the church in Ephesus:

There were other things for which they sorrowed–that they should lose the benefit of his public performances, and see him no longer presiding in their assemblies, should have none of his personal counsels and comforts; and, we hope, they sorrowed for their own sin, in not profiting more by his labours while they had him among them, and which had provoked God to order his remove.

They then accompanied him to the ship (verse 38):

partly to show their respect for him (they would bring him on his way as far as they could), and partly that they might have a little more of his company and conversation; if it must be the last interview, they will have as much of him as they can, and see the last of him. And we have reason to think that when they came to the water-side, and he was about to go on board, their tears and embraces were repeated; for loth to part bids oft farewell. But this was a comfort to both sides, and soon turned this tide of passion, that the presence of Christ both went with him and staid with them.

John MacArthur’s closing prayer in his sermon is striking. He reminds us of what happened to the church in Ephesus:

Father, thank You for our time. We rejoice in the truth that we’ve learned. And our hearts are somewhat saddened, at least mine, as I think about the fact that by the time the letter of the Lord Jesus to Ephesus was written in Revelation, You had to say that they had left their first love. And that if didn’t something happen, You’d remove them as a church. And Father, we know historically that You did that, and there is no church at Ephesus.

We can’t understand it. We can’t understand how under the leadership of Paul and Timothy, so fast it could happen. But we know Satan works. Father help us to teach, to lead, to feed, to watch, to warn, to pray, to study. Protect the flock, that this may be a pure people till the day that Jesus comes, in whose name we pray, amen.

There are many churches today that are falling by the wayside because of the lack of doctrine and the influx of false teaching, i.e. social justice and sexual identity.

Social justice, politics and sexual variants are not in the New Testament as doctrine. In fact, quite the opposite. Yet, our seminaries and churches are full of clergy who continually preach about these things instead of the Gospel story.

It is no wonder that our houses of worship are so empty on Sundays. All the more reason for us to pray unceasingly in our own time and to study the Word of God privately.

Next time — Acts 21:1-6

What follows are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 23, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are three sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second and third selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

Two out of the three first readings continue with the wisdom of Solomon — Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom (Catholic Bible).

First reading

This reading from Proverbs will be very familiar. Solomon lays out the qualities of a godly wife. Even then, it was permissible for a married woman to work for a living. Verse 19 probably also gave rise to the once-used term for a wife: the ‘distaff half’.

Proverbs 31:10-31

31:10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

31:11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

31:12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

31:13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

31:14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away.

31:15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant girls.

31:16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

31:17 She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.

31:18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

31:19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.

31:20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.

31:21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson.

31:22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.

31:23 Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.

31:24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes.

31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

31:28 Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her:

31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31:31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Psalm

The Psalm reinforces the characteristics of the reading from Proverbs. Those who delight in the Lord will never perish.

Psalm 1

1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

First reading

Solomon warns evildoers against summoning death in opposition to God’s faithful people.

Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22

1:16 But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company.

2:1 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades.

2:12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

2:13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.

2:14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

2:15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.

2:16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.

2:17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;

2:18 for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

2:19 Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.

2:20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

2:21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them,

2:22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls.

First reading — third choice

Here Jeremiah speaks of his ignorance of evil schemes against him until God revealed the truth. Another well known expression is in verse 19: ‘a lamb led to the slaughter’.

Jeremiah 11:18-20

11:18 It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds.

11:19 But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!”

11:20 But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the theme of the preceding readings: God is our help and our strength in times of trouble. ‘Selah’ means to pay attention to the message given.

Psalm 54

54:1 Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.

54:2 Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

54:3 For the insolent have risen against me, the ruthless seek my life; they do not set God before them. Selah

54:4 But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

54:5 He will repay my enemies for their evil. In your faithfulness, put an end to them.

54:6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.

54:7 For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Epistle

Readings from the letter of James continue. He exhorts his flock to approach life in a holy way and rebukes them for their sins. Here again we see another commonly used expression: ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’ in James 4:2.

James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a

3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

3:14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.

3:15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.

3:16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

3:18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

4:1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

4:2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.

4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Gospel

Readings from Mark’s Gospel continue. Jesus told His disciples He would die and rise again on the third day. The disciples did not understand His words. They were afraid to ask Him what He meant. Then they proceeded to argue about who among them was the greatest. Jesus used the little child in their midst as an example, because, in that era, children were largely ignored by adults until they reached the age of reason.

Mark 9:30-37

9:30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;

9:31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

9:32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

9:33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”

9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

9:35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

9:36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,

9:37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Wisdom is the overarching theme of this week’s readings. May we heed the wisdom of the triune God instead of the world’s falsehoods.

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First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

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