What is going on? (Lk 15:26-15:26)

“The older son called

One of the servants.

He asked.

‘What is going on?’”

 

καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα τῶν παίδων ἐπυνθάνετο τί ἂν εἴη ταῦτα.

 

This long parable story about the 2 sons can only be found in Luke, not in any of the other gospel stories.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that the older son called one of his male servants (καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα τῶν παίδων) and asked or inquired of him (ἐπυνθάνετο) what was going on (τί ἂν εἴη ταῦτα)?  This older hard-working son wanted to know what all the music, dancing, and celebrating was all about.  How come nobody told him what was going on?  Have you ever been confused about a celebration?”

The oldest son (Lk 15:25-15:25)

“Now his elder son

Was in the field.

When he came,

He approached

The house.

He heard music

And dancing.”

 

ἦν δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐν ἀγρῷ· καὶ ὡς ἐρχόμενος ἤγγισεν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, ἤκουσεν συμφωνίας καὶ χορῶν,

 

This long parable story about the 2 sons can only be found in Luke, not in any of the other gospel stories.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that the older or elder son (ἦν δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ πρεσβύτερος) was in the field (ἐν ἀγρῷ) when his brother came back.  As he approached the house (καὶ ὡς ἐρχόμενος ἤγγισεν τῇ οἰκίᾳ), he heard music (ἤκουσεν συμφωνίας) and dancing (καὶ χορῶν).  Interesting enough, Luke once again was the only biblical writer to use these two words in his writings, συμφωνίας that means harmony of instruments or music, and χορῶν that means a dance, or dancing.  The older or elder son had worked hard on the farm, while his brother went and spent his fortune on wine, women, and song.  He knew nothing about the reconciliation of his brother and father.  Are you sometimes out of the loop?

The joy is gone (Lam 5:15-5:16)

“The joy

Of our hearts

Has ceased.

Our dancing

Has been turned

To mourning.

The crown

Has fallen

From our head.

Cursed be us!

We have sinned!”

Happiness has left the people of Jerusalem. The joy of their hearts is now gone. They have stopped dancing. They now turn to mourning. The crown of Jerusalem has fallen. They are now cursed because they were sinners.

Israel shall come back rejoicing (Jer 31:12-31:14)

“They shall come.

They shall sing aloud

On the height of Zion.

They shall be radiant

Over the goodness of Yahweh,

Over the grain,

Over the wine,

Over the oil,

Over the young of the flock.

Over their herd.

Their life shall become

Like a watered garden.

They shall never languish again.

Then shall the young women

Rejoice in the dance.

The young men

With the old men

Shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning

Into joy.

I will comfort them.

I will give them gladness

For sorrow.

I will give the priests

Their fill of fatness.

My people shall be satisfied

With my goodness.’

Says Yahweh.”

The Israelites will come to the heights of Zion to sing aloud. They will be happy over the goodness of Yahweh with their grain, their wine, their oil, their flocks, and their herds. Their life will become like a watered garden. They will never again languish away. The young women will rejoice in dancing, while the young and old men will be merry. Yahweh was going to comfort them by giving them gladness for all the sorrows that they suffered. Their mourning shall turn into joy. The priests would have fat sacrifices. They will be satisfied with all the goodness of Yahweh.

The restoration in Samaria (Jer 31:4-31:6)

“Again I will build you!

You shall be built!

O virgin Israel!

Again you shall take

Your tambourines!

You shall go forth

In the dance

Of the merrymakers!

Again you shall plant vineyards

On the mountains of Samaria.

The planters shall plant.

They shall enjoy the fruit.

There shall be a day

When sentinels will call

In the hill country

Of Ephraim.

‘Come!

Let us go up to Zion!

Let us go to Yahweh

Our God.’”

Yahweh was going to build up his virgin Israel again. Once again, they would have tambourines, merrymaking, and dancing. They would be able to plant vineyards on the Samarian mountains. Clearly, this was an outreach to the old northern Israelites who had been captured in 721 BCE. Their vineyard planters would enjoy the fruit of their crops. There would even come a day when the hill country of Ephraim, just north of Benjamin, would cry out that that they were going to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh, their God. In other words, the local places of worship in the north would be abandoned. They would all worship their one God, Yahweh. This was the wish of Yahweh, via Jeremiah.

The impending death of old age (Eccl 12:3-12:7)

“In the day

When the guards of the house tremble,

The strong men are bent.

The women who grind cease working

Because they are few.

Those who look through the windows see dimly.

The doors on the street are shut.

The sound of the grinding is low.

One rises up at the sound of a bird.

All the daughters of song are brought low.

When one is afraid of heights,

The terrors are in the road.

The almond tree blossoms.

The grasshopper drags itself along.

Desire fails.

Because all must go to their eternal home.

The mourners will go about the streets.

The silver cord is snapped.

The golden bowl is broken.

The pitcher is broken at the fountain.

The wheel is broken at the cistern.

The dust returns to the earth as it was.

The spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This is an ode to old age. The dying old man, with his many servants and guards, comes to an end. The guards tremble. The strong men bend over. The women grinders stop their dancing. They can only see dimly out the window. Everyone has shut their doors. The grinders have ceased. Morning comes early with the first sound of a bird. There are no more singing young girls. The old man is afraid of heights. He dreads going out on the road because of the fear of attack. The old people tend to walk awkwardly like a grasshopper. Their desires fail maybe due to incompetence. The trees still blossom, but the mourners are out on the streets. The signs of death, the snapped silver cord, the broken gold bowl, and the broken pitcher at the fountain all take place. The wheel was broken at the cistern. They return to dust, but their spirit or breath returns to God. This is a depressing description of old age, just before death, along with the symbolic actions that go with death.

The right time (Eccl 3:1-3:8)

“For everything there is a season.

There is a time

For every matter under heaven.

A time to be born.

A time to die.

A time to plant.

A time to pluck up what is planted.

A time to kill.

A time to heal.

A time to break down.

A time to build up.

A time to weep.

A time to laugh.

A time to mourn.

A time to dance.

A time to throw away stones.

A time to gather stones together.

A time to embrace.

A time to refrain from embracing.

A time to seek.

A time to lose.

A time to keep.

A time to throw away.

A time to tear.

A time to sew.

A time to keep silence.

A time to speak.

A time to love.

A time to hate.

A time for war.

A time for peace.”

This is the famous poem about a correct time for everything. Sometimes it is read at funerals. There also was the 1950s and 1960s Pete Seeger popular song Turn, Turn, Turn that took its lyrics from this poem. God decides the time. We do not. There is a time and place for all the dichotomies of life, birth and death, planting and harvesting, killing and healing, breaking down and building up, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, throwing away and gathering stones, embracing and not embracing, seeking and losing, keeping and throwing away, tearing and sowing, keeping silent and speaking, loving and hating, making war and making peace. Everything under heaven has its place and season.

Doxology of praise to Yahweh (Ps 150:3-150:6)

“Praise him

With trumpet sound!

Praise him

With lute!

Praise him

With harp!

Praise him

With tambourine!

Praise him

With dance!

Praise him

With strings!

Praise him

With pipe!

Praise him

With clanging cymbals;

Praise him

With loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that breathes

Praise Yahweh!

Praise Yahweh!”

This psalm and the whole book of psalms end with the double phrase “praise Yahweh,” another way of saying alleluia, the Hebrew “Hallelujah.” This doxological praise of God explains how this is done here on earth. The various instruments were to be used in praising Yahweh, the trumpet, the lute, the harp, and the tambourine. There was to be dancing with stringed instruments, playing pipes, and clanging cymbals. Everything that breathes should praise Yahweh. This is a fitting end to a great book of praise to God.

Sadness has turned to joy (Ps 30:11-30:12)

“You have turned my mourning into dancing!

You have taken off my sackcloth!

You clothed me with joy!

Thus my soul may praise you!

My soul will not be silent!

Yahweh!

My God!

I will give thanks to you forever!”

This psalm ends with the sadness of David turning into joy. His mourning has become dancing. He has put away his mourning sackcloth. He has put on joyful clothes. His soul can now praise God and not be silent. He was going to give thanks to Yahweh, his God, forever. It was a time for great rejoicing.

Carrying of the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath-jearim (1 Chr 13:5-13:8)

“King David assembled all Israel from the Shihor of Egypt to the entrance of Lebo-Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. King David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah. They went there to bring up the ark of God, Yahweh who is enthroned on the cherubim, which is called by his name. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab. Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. King David and all Israel were dancing before God with all their might. They had songs, lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.”

In 2 Samuel, chapter 6, King David got about 30,000 chosen Israelites, while here it is the proverbial “all” Israel, which is a euphemism for a lot of people. Shihor was the southern boundary of Israel, while Lebo-Hamath was the northern border in Syria. King David wanted to transport the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Throughout this story, the ark is not called the Ark of the Covenant but the ark of Yahweh, because it was special to Yahweh. This Ark of the Covenant was in Kiriath-jearim, as in 1 Samuel, chapter 6, where it had been captured by the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been in the house of Abinadab, who is not the slain son of Saul, but a Levite who was entrusted with the ark for over 20 years. His sons Uzzah and Ahio would accompany the Ark of the Covenant on its trip. Here they are the drivers of the ark. Obviously, they put the Ark of the Covenant in a new cart. King David and everyone else were dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments.