Public prayer (Mt 6:5-6:5)

“When you pray,

Do not be

Like the hypocrites!

They love to stand.

They pray

In the synagogues,

And at the street corners.

Thus,

They may be seen

By other men.

Truly,

I say to you,

They have received

Their reward.”

 

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί· ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the theme of the hypocrites.  However, this time it is about prayer.  When the followers of Jesus went to pray (Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε), they should not be like the hypocrites (οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί) who love to stand praying in the synagogues and the street corners (ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι).  Just as they had done with their almsgiving, these hypocrites wanted to be seen by other men (ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις).  Certainly, there was the common times for prayer of the faithful Jews.  The Greek word for hypocrites “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  Just as about almsgiving, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human appeal have already received their reward (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).  Is this a repudiation of public prayer?

Piety (Mt 6:1-6:1)

“Beware!

Of practicing

Your piety

Before other men,

In order to be seen

By them.

Then you will have

No reward

From your Father

In heaven.”

 

Προσέχετε δὲ τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς· εἰ δὲ μήγε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ Πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

 

This is a unique saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that begins with a warning (Προσέχετε).  The followers of Jesus were not to practice religious piety or righteousness (δὲ τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν) before other people (ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων), in order to be seen by them (πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς).  If you did this pompous action, you were not going to have a reward (εἰ δὲ μήγε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε) from your heavenly father (παρὰ τῷ Πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς).  Although righteousness and religious piety were good things, Jesus’ disciples were not to parade it before others, because their Father in heaven would not reward them.  The theme of the heavenly Father appears over and over again.

The Magi follow the star (Mt 2:9-2:10)

“When they had heard out

The king,

They set out

On their way.

There ahead of them

Went the star

That they had seen

Rising in the east.

It stopped

Over the place

Where the child was.

When they saw

That the star

Had stopped,

They were overwhelmed

With joy.”

 

οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλέως ἐπορεύθησαν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ, ὃν εἶδον ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ, προῆγεν αὐτούς ἕως ἐλθὼν ἐστάθη ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν τὸ παιδίον.

ἰδόντες δὲ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα.

 

When the magi had finished their conversation with King Herod (οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλέως), they set out on their way (ἐπορεύθησαν) to Bethlehem.  Then they saw that the star in the eastern skies (δοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ, ὃν εἶδον ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ).  This star led them until it stopped (προῆγεν αὐτούς ἕως ἐλθὼν ἐστάθη) over the place where the child was (ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν τὸ παιδίον).  They were really happy with exceeding great joy (ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα) about seeing this star (ἰδόντες δὲ τὸν ἀστέρα) that had guided them.  Obviously, this was a religious miracle star, not some ordinary star.  The magi had completed their task.

A lesson from the other countries (Zeph 3:6-3:7)

“I have cut off nations.

Their battlements

Are in ruins.

I have laid waste

Their streets,

So that no one walks

In them.

Their cities have been made

Desolate,

Without people,

Without inhabitants.

I said.

‘Surely

This city

Will fear me.

She will accept correction.

She will not lose sight

Of all that I have brought

Upon her.

But they were more eager

To make all their deeds

Corrupt.’”

Yahweh, via Zephaniah, warned Jerusalem about what Yahweh had done to other countries.  He had ruined their fortresses and battlement stations.  He had destroyed their streets, so that people could not walk on them.  He had reduced their cities to rubble, so that nobody lived there anymore.  Why didn’t Jerusalem fear him?  Yahweh thought that Jerusalem would take corrections, since she had seen all the things that he had done for them.  However, they were more eager to continue with their corrupt activities, rather than follow Yahweh.

The interpretation of the vision (Dan 8:15-8:15)

“When I,

Daniel,

Had seen the vision,

I tried

To understand it.

Then someone

Appeared,

Standing before me.

He had the appearance

Of a man.”

Daniel, clearly in the first-person singular, had now seen the vision. He was hoping to understand this vision. Then, there appeared, right in front of him, someone that looked like a man.

The bronze man (Ezek 40:3-40:4)

“When he brought me there,

A man was there.

His appearance shone

Like bronze.

He had a linen cord

With a measuring reed

In his hand.

He was standing

In the gateway.

The man said to me.

‘Son of man!

Look closely!

Listen attentively!

Set your mind

Upon all

That I shall show you.

You were brought here

In order

That I might show it

To you.

Declare all

That you see

To the house of Israel!’”

Who was this bronze man? He was not a comic book superhero, but a man that appeared to be bronze. Was he a deeply tanned man? Was he an angel of God? Was he God himself? Many have interpreted him as an angel or messenger as in other later Second Temple literature. Genesis, chapter 18, has similar appearances of men who were either angels of God or God himself. Anyway, this bronze man greeted Ezekiel at the gateway. He had in his hand a linen cord to measure short distances and a measuring reed to measure long distances. Then this man also called Ezekiel the son of man, just like Yahweh had. This bronze man told him to look closely and listen attentively. He was to keep his mind focused on what this guy was going to show him. After Ezekiel had seen this, he was then to tell the house of Israel about it. For the next few chapters, this bronze man will be the guide who measured the Temple for Ezekiel.

For the sake of his name (Ezek 20:13-20:14)

“Then I thought

I would pour out

My wrath

Upon them

In the wilderness,

To make an end

Of them.

But I acted

For the sake

Of my name.

Thus it should not be

Profaned

In the sight

Of the nations.

In whose sight

I had brought them out.”

Once again, Yahweh was angry, like he had been in Egypt. This time he thought about putting an end to these Israelites in the wilderness. However, once again, he thought about his name. He did not want to profane the name of Yahweh in the sight of other countries. These other countries had seen him take the people of the house of Israel out of Egypt. Thus for the sake of his name, he spared them.

Jerusalem played the whore (Ezek 16:15-16:17)

“But you trusted

In your beauty.

You played

The whore.

Because of your fame.

You lavished

Your gifts

On any passer-by.

You took some

Of your garments.

You made for yourself

Colorful shrines.

You played

The whore

On them.

Nothing like this

Has ever been,

Or ever shall be.”

This young girl Jerusalem trusted in her beauty. She played a whore or became a prostitute. Due to her beautiful fame, she lavished her gifts on any passer-by. In fact, she made colorful shrines for herself, as she played the whore or prostitute at these shrines. Nothing like this had ever been seen. Nothing like it will ever be seen again.

The warnings against these abominations (Ezek 8:17-8:18)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Have you seen this?

O son of man!

Is it not bad enough

That the house of Judah

Commits the abominations

Done here?

Must they fill the land

With violence?

Must they provoke

My anger further?

See!

They put the branch

To their nose.

Therefore I will act

In wrath!

My eye will not spare!

I will not have pity!

Although they cry

In my hearing

With a loud voice,

I will not listen to them.’”

Then Yahweh warned Ezekiel again. Had he seen enough? The house of Judah committed all these abominations. On top of that, they filled the land with violence. They had provoked the anger of Yahweh. They even put branches in their noses as some kind of worship activity. Yahweh was going to act against them in his anger. He was not going to spare them or show any pity. Even if they cried very loudly, Yahweh was not going to listen to them. Their actions spoke louder than their words.

 

The warning from Yahweh (Ezek 8:12-8:13)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Son of man!

Have you seen

What the elders

Of the house

Of Israel

Are doing

In the dark?

Each was in

His room of pictures.

They say.

‘Yahweh does not see us.

Yahweh has forsaken

The land.’

He said also to me.

‘You will see

Still greater abominations

That they are committing.’”

Yahweh warned Ezekiel, the son of man. Yahweh wanted to remind him of what he had just seen. The elders of Israel were worshipping false idols in the dark. Each of them had their own personal gods with their own little hidden rooms. These elders thought that Yahweh did not see what was going on, since Yahweh had left the land of Israel in the first captivity. Yahweh warned Ezekiel that he would see even greater abominations that the people of Israel were involved with.