Authority, Command, and Love

Daily Scripture readings for January, set #23:

– Esther, chapters 5-6
– Proverbs 16:17-33
– Luke 20:1-8
– Titus 3:1-8

Haman’s self-centeredness and pride is staggeringly apparent in today’s Esther reading. What really stuck out to me just now is his total lack of gratitude for the good that has happened to him, as he recounts all his blessing and then says, “Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting iat the king’s gate” (5:13). Being grateful is so important.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov 16:31). The dice, a universal symbol for apparent randomness, is obedient to the command of the Lord.

Jesus tells Pilot exactly where authority comes from, both his own and Pilot’s (John 18-19). But in this particular instance with the Pharisees, Jesus decides to play the “I’m-infintely-smarter-than-you-and-your-attempt-to-trick-me-won’t-work” card. “He answered them, ‘I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?'” (Luke 20:3-4).

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:7). Does this verse have bearing on the political engagement of the Church in our day?

Daily Scripture readings for January, set #24:

Esther, chapters 7-8
Proverbs 17:1-14
Luke 20:9-18
Philemon, verses 1-11

This story of Esther is just DRIPPING with irony! Sheesh. “And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai” (Est 7:10).

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts” (Prov 17:3). So, the crucible and furnace are what produce fine things like gold and silver, and this a parallel to the statement that the testing of the heart comes from the Lord. The lesson here: testing is good, for it comes from God and produces good results (another Proverbs versions of Hebrews 12).

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Luke 20:15-16). Is Jesus saying that God will abandon his promise to the Jews and give salvation to a different people instead? For clarification on this question and the implication of Jesus’ statement here, see Romans 11.

Authority and command, even rightful authority and command, are not necessarily congruent with love. “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you” (Phlm 8-9).

Daily Scripture readings for January, set #25:

Esther, chapters 9-10
Proverbs 17:15-28
Luke 20:19-26
Philemon 12-15, verses 12-25

Aha! A clue as to what the heck is going on in Esther 3:7. “For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and  had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them” (Est 9:24). Apparently “casting Pur” has something to do with wishing for your enemy’s destruction?

More wisdom from the Proverbs on how to appropriately and successfully engage the world of 21st-century social networking: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (17:27-28)

One of the proper responses to the awe and wonder that is Jesus is simply silence. “And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent” (Luke 20:26).

“So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self” (Phlm 17-19). These verses are funny to me, coming shortly after Paul’s statement that he doesn’t want Philemon to act “by compulsion” (vs 15). Um, Paul is being pretty compelling here.

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