The mighty and the lowly (Lk 1:52-1:52)

“God has brought down

The powerful

From their thrones.

He has lifted up

The lowly.”

 

καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς

 

This canticle of Mary was modeled on that of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2:4, that praised Yahweh for her son, the prophet Samuel.  Just like here, Hannah said that the mighty and the rich would stumble, but the lowly and the poor would succeed.  Luke indicated that Mary said that God had brought down the powerful (καθεῖλεν δυνάστας) from their thrones (ἀπὸ θρόνων), while he has lifted up the lowly (καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς).  There is almost an exact equivalency between Hannah and Mary.  Mary had mentioned nothing about lowly people until now.  Luke emphasized this theme of the poor or lowly as important throughout his gospel.

The preaching of John the Baptist (Mk 1:7-1:7)

“John proclaimed.

‘The one who is

More powerful

Than I,

Is coming after me.

I am not worthy

To stoop down

And untie

The tong

Of his sandals.’”

 

καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων Ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ.

 

Mark and Matthew, chapter 3:11, are similar in their exposition of the preaching of John the Baptist.  However, there was no mention of a baptism of repentance here as in Matthew.  Also, Matthew had John unfit to carry the sandal rather than untie the sandal.  Luke, chapter 3:16-17, had John the Baptist not preaching, but responding to questions about whether he was the Messiah.  Luke, as well as John, chapter 1:27, also had John speak about being unfit to untie the tong or strap of his sandals.  John the Baptist was anticipating a messianic figure greater than himself.  He was the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, so that sometimes he was also identified with the prophet Elijah.  Mark said that John proclaimed (καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων) with a messianic tone that one more powerful than him was coming after him (Ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου).  He was not worthy or fit to stoop down (οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας) and untie the tong or the strap of his sandals (λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ).  John saw himself as subservient to the Messiah to come.

The powerful one to come (Mt 3:11-3:11)

“I baptize you

With water

For repentance.

But one,

Who is more powerful

Than I,

Is coming after me.

I am not worthy

To carry his sandals.

He will baptize you

With the Holy Spirit,

And with fire.”

 

ἐγὼ μὲν ὑμᾶς βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν· ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι· αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί·

 

The wording here is the same as in Mark, chapter 1:7-8 and Luke, chapter 3:16-17, indicating a common source. However, in Luke, John the Baptist was responding to questions about whether he was the Messiah. Instead, John said that he was anticipating a messianic figure greater than himself. He was the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, so that sometimes he was also identified with the prophet Elijah. John the Baptist was clear in this utterance (ἐγὼ μὲν). He baptized in water for repentance (βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν). However, after him (ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου), there would be a messianic one more powerful than him (ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν,). He felt that he was not fit or worthy to carry his sandals (οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι). This one to come was going to baptize them (αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει) in the Holy Spirit (ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ) and fire (καὶ πυρί). Mark, chapter 1:8, also said that the one to come would baptize with the Holy Spirit, did not mention any fire. This is the second mention of the Holy Spirit in Matthew since he was also the originator of Jesus in the womb of Mary. Now he was going to use purifying fire in the baptismal washing.

The appearance of Yahweh (Mic 1:2-1:4)

“Hear!

You people!

All of you!

Listen!

O earth!

All that is in it!

Let Yahweh God

Be a witness

Against you!

Yahweh comes

From his holy temple!

Behold!

Yahweh is coming

Out of his place!

He will come down!

He will tread

Upon the high places

Of the earth.

Then the mountains

Will melt under him.

The valleys

Will burst open

Like wax near the fire,

Like waters poured down

A steep place.”

This text is a very colorful opening to the Book of Micah.  Yahweh would make a grand appearance.  As usual for prophets, Micah asked the people to listen.  However, the earth itself was also asked to listen to the prophet Micah.  Yahweh was going to be a witness against the people and the land itself.  Yahweh was going to come out of his holy Temple.  He was going to come down to the high places on earth.  The mountains would melt under him, while the valleys would open up wider.  Then in very descriptive terms, the presence of Yahweh would be like wax near a fire or water pouring down a steep incline.  The powerful heavenly Yahweh was about to make an appearance on earth.

The locusts are everywhere (Joel 2:6-2:9)

“Before them,

People are in anguish.

All faces grow pale.

Like warriors,

They charge.

Like soldiers,

They scale the wall.

Each keeps

To his own course.

They do not swerve

From their paths.

They do not jostle

One another.

Each keeps

To his own track.

They burst

Through the weapons

They are not halted.

They leap upon the city.

They run upon the walls.

They climb up

Into the houses.

They enter

Through the windows,

Like a thief.”

Joel continued his description of the swarm of locusts as they attacked the city and the people in it. The people there were in aguish, as their faces turned pale. These grasshoppers charged like warriors. They scaled the walls like soldiers. These locusts stayed in formation, not wandering around. They did not try to push each other around. They were able to go straight through any barriers or weapons. They leapt into the city on its walls and in its houses. These locusts came through the windows, like a thief in the night. This plague of grasshoppers was really strong and powerful in their destruction.

The attack of the locusts (Joel 1:5-1:7)

“Wake up!

You drunkards!

Weep!

Wail!

All you wine-drinkers!

The sweet wine

Is cut off

From your mouth.

A nation has invaded

My land.

It is powerful.

It is innumerable.

Its teeth are

Lions’ teeth.

It has the fangs

Of a lioness.

It has laid waste

My vines.

It has splintered

My fig trees.

It has stripped off

Their bark.

It has thrown it down.

Their branches

Have turned white.”

Joel noted that the attack of the locust grasshoppers was very severe, like the invasion of another country. He wanted the drunkards to wake up and weep. All those wine-drinkers should wail. They were going to have their sweet wine cut off from them. The powerful, innumerable invasion of the grasshoppers in his land was like the fangs of a lion’s teeth. This attack had laid waste the vines and the fig trees. This plague of locusts had splintered and stripped off the bark of the trees. They had thrown the trees to the ground, as the branches of the trees turned white.

The impossible task (Dan 2:10-2:11)

The Chaldeans answered

The king.

‘There is not a man

On earth

Who can reveal

What the king demanded.

In fact,

No king,

However great

Or powerful,

Has ever asked

Such a thing

Of any magician,

Or enchanter

Or Chaldean.

The thing

That the king is asking

is difficult.

No one can reveal it

To the king,

Except the gods,

Whose dwelling

Is not with mortals.’”

The Chaldeans responded that this was an impossible task. No one could reveal what the king dreamt. In fact, no king anywhere, no matter how great and powerful, ever asked for such a request from his royal court. Only the many gods in their extra-terrestrial setting might know the answer. Certainly, no mortals would be able to respond to this impossible request.