Musings on the Lectionary Readings


Musings on the Lectionary Readings

for Proper 16 - Ordinary 21 Sunday

Aug. 24, 2003

by Philip W. Gilman


1Kings 8: 1--6, 10--11, 22--30, 41--43


I hope you will read, or at least skim through, chapters 4 - 7 for the rich details they contain.  King Solomon has now constructed the Temple-- and it deserves a capital T.  It included not only the Temple building, but all the courts and the articles for decoration and implements for worship that stood outside.  And what a building!  Hewn stones paneled with cedar planks overlaid with gold, inside and out!  What a magnificent, glorious edifice for the House of the LORD (10)[1].


Also read verses 3 and 4.  When all the elders of Israel had come, the priests lifted the Ark and carried up the Ark of the LORD.  Then the priests and the Levites brought the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the Tent.  This is not David's tent which housed the Ark at Jerusalem (2Sam. 6: 17), but Moses' tabernacle (Exo. 27: 21), brought over from Gibeon.  Last week, we discussed how the worship of YHWH had become divided between law (the tabernacle) and grace (the Ark)[2].  Here, we find King Solomon reuniting them within the Temple.  Let us consider some of the symbology of these events.


First of all, grapple with the fact that the Ark, the mercy seat (Exo. 25), the symbol of God's grace, contained the stone tablets with the Decalogue, the basis of the law.  Ponder the imagery: what is contained by what.  Parallel with this, that Moses' tabernacle, the symbol of God's law, did not possess (since Samuel's time) its fundamental icon, the stone tablets (unless the Tabernacle was placed inside the Temple).


Second, look at the order of entrance into and position within the Temple building.  The Ark-- representing God's grace-- went in first, and into the Holy of Holies (6).  Moses' Tent of Meeting followed, and it is quite likely that it was taken inside the sanctuary, the Holy Place where the sacred vessels were set up and the priests daily ministered.  But note that the poles of the Ark protruded out through the curtain into the tabernacle. (8)  What might this detail signify?


What does all this rich symbolism teach us about "where" and how God is to be worshipped?  And why is it that, although King Solomon had brought the emblems of law and grace together again, that the "worship" of YHWH remains divided, even today?


The wise king provides a clue.  A word of advice, of encouragement, of warning that God had spoken to him, he passed on to the people of Israel.  "O LORD God of Israel, ...there is no god like You, who keep Your gracious covenant with Your servants when they walk before You in wholehearted devotion." (23)  See also the "if only" clause in v.25.  And Solomon passed it on to the Church-- to you and me-- by including the "foreigner who is not of Your people Israel" (41).


Indeed, we all like, desire, hope to be included, especially in God's household, and we are grateful for it.  But we need to keep in mind that it is on a conditional, "if only" basis.



Psalm 84 [2-13, TNK]


·        How lovely is Your dwelling-place,

          O LORD of hosts.

      I long, I yearn for the courts of the LORD [2-3].

I think that I am safe in assuming that you agree with this sentiment.  But may I ask why?  Is it because the walls, ceiling and floor are covered with glistening gold?  Or do you have some other reason?


·        For the LORD God is sun and shield;

          the LORD bestows grace and glory;

          [YHWH] does not withhold [God's] bounty from those who live without blame. [12]

There is that condition again.  But how can any person-- since all, Jews and Greeks alike, are under the power of sin (Rom. 3: 9)-- live without blame?


·        LORD of hosts,

          happy is the [one] who trusts in You. [13]

That is the answer: trust in God.  But, if I may, I would add: in all of God; law and grace, judgement and forgiveness, punishment and mercy.


Ephesians 6: 10--20


Do you believe in the devil (11), cosmic powers and superhuman forces of evil (12)?  Paul did, as did Jesus[3] and the author of the Revelation, among many others in the Bible.  But then they did not have the advantages that we enjoy from scientifically proven knowledge.  Therefore they had to believe in such myths in order to explain that which they could not otherwise understand.  But we know better now.  Or do we?


Where is your wise [person] now, your [person] of learning, your subtle debater of this present age?  God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish! (1Cor. 1: 20)  Make no mistake about this: if there is anyone among you who fancies himself wise-- wise, I mean, by the standards of this age-- he must become a fool if he is to be truly wise.  For the wisdom of this world is folly in God's sight. (1Cor. 3: 18-19)

·        But where can wisdom be found;

      Where is the source of understanding? (Job 28: 12)

·        "See!  Fear of the Lord is wisdom;

      To shun evil is understanding." (Job 28: 28)


Study the three occasions where Paul appends a purpose to his exhortation.  Put on the full armour provided by God, so that you may be able to stand firm.... (11)  [T]ake up the armour of God; then you will be able to withstand.... (13)  In these two cases, be attentive to the repeated concepts, which lead to the imperative of v.14.


Then, in the middle of all this militant language, we find an anomaly: let the shoes on your feet be the gospel of peace, to give you a firm footing (15).  The contrast-- peace in the midst of warfare-- is startling, glaring; and for good reason.  For if you do not have a firm footing, how can you hope to stand firm?  And what is it that acts as the cleats on those shoes?


Finally, find your strength in the Lord, in [God's] mighty power. (10)  The Apostle introduces his pre-battle pep-talk with the concept that begins and ends everything.  "See!  Fear of the Lord is wisdom;" trust in God.


John 6: [54-]-69 [suggested]


Note the parallelism in verses 54 and 56: 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood....'  Then consider the statement they contain: 'My flesh is real food; my blood is real drink.' (55)  What does "real" mean?  What is "real" to Jesus?  To John?  To you?


Why, in a chapter devoted almost entirely to the subject of bread[4], is blood mentioned in verses 53-56 and then dropped?  What are the implications for the sacrament of communion?  Is Jesus-- or John-- teaching that the bread-- nurture-- is more important for the believer than the blood-- forgiveness?  In my experience, the Church seems to focus more on the blood-- forgiveness-- over and over and still yet again, while tending to slight the believer's need for "daily bread".  Daily, notice; not weekly or monthly.


Over the past several months, as I have considered the lections, the idea has come to me that, from God's standpoint, forgiveness is a "done deal"[5].  Yes, it does need to be celebrated and constantly relied upon, but is not now the believer's nourishment a more pressing need?  For if we lack bread[6] and thereby become weak, how can we take up the armour of God, let alone wield it in warfare?


Or are we too wise to believe that there is a war going on, that the devil and cosmic powers and superhuman forces of evil are as real as flesh and blood?  Are we "worshipping" a human god, or the spiritual God?


[1]  Compare this endeavor with the magnificent, glorious edifices which the Egyptian kings

    (for example) built for themselves: their tombs.

[2]  Also see bAdv2, available by e-mail from <>.

[3]  See Mat. 13: 39, 25: 41;  Mk. 7: 29;  Jn. 6: 70, 8: 44, 49.

[4]  Fish occur in =vv. 9 and 11 only; the left-overs were all bread (13).  Any significance there?

[5]  See bEas3 and bAscen, available as above.

[6]  Recall the message of 1Ki. 19 in bp14o19g, available as above.