Abraham and the ancestors (Lk 1:55-1:55)

“God had made

Promises

To our ancestors,

To Abraham,

And to his descendants,

Forever.”

 

καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

 

This canticle of Mary concluded by remembering the promises that God had made to their ancestors, especially to Abraham in Genesis, chapters 12:3, 15:5, 17:7, 18:18, and 22:17. and his eternal descendants.  Notice that there is no mention of Jacob, Moses, or David, but the wider Abraham covenant.  Luke indicated that Mary said that God had spoken (καθὼς ἐλάλησεν) to their ancestors (πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν), to Abraham (τῷ Ἀβραὰμ), and to his descendants (καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ) for all time or forever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα).

Swear by the altar or the gift (Mt 23:18-23:18)

“You say.

‘Whoever swears

By the altar,

Is bound by nothing.

But whoever swears

By the gift

That is on the altar,

Is bound

By the oath.’”

 

καί Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ, οὐδέν ἐστιν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ δώρῳ τῷ ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, ὀφείλει.

 

This unique diatribe against the Scribes and Pharisees continued in Matthew alone with the same idea and phrases that were expressed in verse 16.  These Pharisees and Scribes say that whoever swears by the altar (καί Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ) was not bound by anything, because it was considered as nothing (οὐδέν ἐστιν).  However, anyone who swears by the gift that is on the altar (ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ δώρῳ τῷ ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ) was bound by his oath (ὀφείλει).  In other words, the only thing that they were bound to fulfill was the gift on the altar that they were contributing, not other vows or promises.  This goes back to the question of whether you should swear to do anything or not, as posed earlier in this work in chapter 5:33-37.

Blind guides (Mt 23:16-23:16)

“Woe to you!

Blind guides!

You say.

‘Whoever swears

By the temple,

Is bound by nothing.

But whoever swears

By the gold

Of the Temple,

Is bound

By the oath.’”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὁδηγοὶ τυφλοὶ οἱ λέγοντες Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ ναῷ, οὐδέν ἐστιν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ χρυσῷ τοῦ ναοῦ, ὀφείλει.

 

This unique diatribe against the Scribes and Pharisees continued in Matthew alone.  But here they are called blind guides, as Matthew had earlier mentioned in chapter 15:14.  Jesus cursed (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν) these blind guides (ὁδηγοὶ τυφλοὶ) because they were saying (οἱ λέγοντες) that whoever swore by the Temple (Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ ναῷ) were not bound by it since it was considered nothing (οὐδέν ἐστιν).  However, anyone who swore by the gold of the Temple (ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ χρυσῷ τοῦ ναοῦ) were bound (ὀφείλει) by that oath.  In other words, the only thing that they were bound to fulfill was the money that they said they were going to contribute, not other vows or promises.  This goes back to the question of whether you should swear to do anything or not, as posed earlier in this work in chapter 5:33-37.

The destruction of the royal palace (Jer 22:6-22:7)

“Thus says Yahweh

Concerning

The house

Of the king of Judah.

‘You are

Like Gilead to me.

You are

Like the summit of Lebanon.

But I swear

That I will make you a desert,

An uninhabited city.

I will prepare destroyers

Against you.

All will have weapons.

They shall cut down

Your choicest cedars.

They will cast them

Into the fire.”

Just like in the preceding chapter, Yahweh promises to burn down the royal palace. The royal palace had become like Gilead to Yahweh, a pleasant mountainous area was on the eastern side of the Jordan River that originally belonged to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, present day Jordan. The summits of Lebanon refer to the high mountains with their wonderful trees in present day Lebanon. However, Yahweh was going to make the beautiful royal palace become a desert or an uninhabited city. The destroyers or invaders were going to come and cut down their choicest wood cedar building. They would all be set on fire as this beauty would be destroyed.

Shame (Sir 20:21-20:23)

“One may be prevented

From sinning

By poverty.

When he rests,

He feels no remorse.

One may lose his life

Through shame.

One may lose his life

Because of his foolish look.

Another out of shame

Make promises to a friend.

Thus he makes an enemy

For nothing.”

If you are in poverty, there is less chance of you sinning. Thus when the poor person rests, he does not feel any remorse. However, you can lose your life through shame or some foolish look.   Another person may make promises to a friend that he is not able to keep. He will do this out of shame. Thus he ends up making an enemy for no good reason.

Lessons from divine judgment (Wis 12:19-12:22)

“Through such works,

You have taught your people.

The righteous man must be kind.

You filled your children with good hope.

Because you give repentance for sins.

If you punish with such great care,

If you punish with such great indulgence,

The enemies of your servants,

As well as those deserving of death,

You grant them time to give up their wickedness.

You grant them the opportunity to give up their wickedness.

With what strictness

You have judged your children.

Our ancestors gave oaths.

They gave covenants full of good promises!

While chastening us,

You scourge our enemies

Ten thousand times more.

Thus when we judge,

We may meditate upon your goodness.

When we are judged,

We may expect mercy.”

We have to learn something from the actions of God. We learn that the righteous person (τὸν δίκαιον) must be kind (φιλάνθρωπον), just like God. We need to have hope for repentance (μετάνοιαν) just like our sons or children (τοὺς υἱούς σου), when we punish them with care and indulgence. Our enemies deserve death, but we should grant them an opportunity in a time and place (χρόνους καὶ τόπον) to give up their wickedness, just like our children. Our ancestors gave oaths, promises, and covenants. Thus God punishes us, but he punishes our enemies 10,000 times more. When we judge others, we should remember the goodness of God. When we are judged, we expect mercy (ἔλεος).

The steadfast love of Yahweh (Ps 138:7-138:8)

“Even though I walk

In the midst of trouble,

You preserve me

Against the wrath of my enemies.

You stretch out your hand.

Your right hand delivers me.

Yahweh will fulfill his purpose for me.

Yahweh!

Your steadfast love endures forever!

Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

This short psalm ends with a beautiful expression of faith. David believed that even though he walked in the middle of trouble, Yahweh would protect him from his enemies. Yahweh would stretch out his right hand to deliver and save him. Yahweh would fulfill his promises with David because his steadfast love endures forever. David believed that Yahweh would not forsake the work of his hands.