Make proper collections (Lk 3:13-3:13)

“John said to them.

‘Collect no more

Than the amount

Prescribed for you!’”

 

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς Μηδὲν πλέον παρὰ τὸ διατεταγμένον ὑμῖν πράσσετε.

 

Luke had John respond to these tax collectors with another unique saying.  Only Luke said that John told the tax collectors (ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς) that they were to collect no more than the amount prescribed for them (Μηδὲν πλέον παρὰ τὸ διατεταγμένον ὑμῖν πράσσετε).  John simply wanted them to do their job.  Apparently, many of these tax collectors would overcharge people and keep the difference.  Everyone was aware of this somewhat common corrupt practice.  John seemed to call for honesty and justice among these Jewish Roman tax collectors.

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To preach or not to preach (Mic 2:6-2:7)

“‘Do not preach!’

This is what they preach.

‘One should not preach

Of such things.

Disgrace will not

Overtake us.’

Should this be said?

O house of Jacob!

Is Yahweh’s patience

Exhausted?

Are these his doings?

Do not my words

Do good

To him

Who walks uprightly?’”

Micah indicated the difference between false preaching and true preaching.  Was Micah to preach or not?  Did he only have to say good things in order to preach?  Should he be careful about what he said?  Is it disgraceful to speak about bad things?  Has Yahweh exhausted all his patience?  However, Micah believed that his harsh words from Yahweh would help those who were upright.  The evil ones would not like to hear about their evil ways.

The new fertile land (Ezek 36:34-36:36)

“The land

That was desolate

Shall be tilled.

Instead of being

The desolation

That it was

In the sight of all

Who passed by.

Now they will say.

‘This land

That was desolate

Has become

Like the garden of Eden.

The wasted towns,

The desolate towns,

The ruined towns,

Are now inhabited.

They are fortified.’

‘Then the nations

That are left

All around you

Shall know

That I,

Yahweh,

Have rebuilt

The ruined places.

I have replanted

That which was desolate.

I,

Yahweh,

Have spoken.

I will do it.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that the desolate land would be tilled. Everyone passing by would notice the difference. The former desolation would be gone. Now they will say that this land is like the Garden of Eden, as in Genesis, chapter 3. All those wasted, desolate, and ruined Israelite towns would be inhabited and fortified. All the nations and countries around Israel would know that Yahweh had rebuilt and replanted these various ruined and desolate places. What Yahweh had spoken about, he would actually do.

Yahweh is the true God (Jer 10:10-10:10)

“But Yahweh is the true God.

He is the living God.

He is the everlasting king.

At his wrath,

The earth quakes.

At his wrath,

The nations cannot endure

His indignation.”

Jeremiah quickly points out the difference between Yahweh, his God, and all these other false wooden idol gods. Yahweh is the only true living God, an everlasting all powerful king. When he gets angry, the earth quakes. All the various countries could not endure this indignation. Yahweh is clearly not a useless piece of wood like the other idol gods.

Discernment (Sir 36:23-36:25)

“The stomach

Will take any food.

Yet one food is

Better than another.

As the palate

Tastes the kinds of game,

So an intelligent mind

Detects false words.

A perverse mind

Will cause grief.

But a person

With experience

Will pay him back.”

Sirach points out that just as your taste buds can tell the difference between various kinds of food, so too the mind should be able to discern the difference between true and false words. Both the stomach and the mind can absorb all kinds of foods and words. However, just as one food is better for you than another, so too the perverse mind can cause grief. The experienced person will be able to verbally payback the false words and the perverse minds.

The wise Qoheleth (Eccl 1:15-1:18)

“‘What is crooked cannot be made straight.

What is lacking cannot be counted.’

I said to myself.

‘I have acquired great wisdom.            

My wisdom surpasses all

Who were over Jerusalem before me.

My mind has had great experience of wisdom.

My mind has had great experience of knowledge.

I applied my mind to know wisdom.

I applied my mind to know madness.

I applied my mind to know folly.

I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

In much wisdom

Is much vexation.

Those who increases knowledge

Increase sorrow.’”

This book once again has the first person singular of Qoheleth speaking. He points out, quite correctly, that the crooked cannot be made straight. However, you can come close. On the other hand, there is no doubt that you cannot count something that is not there. Then Qoheleth gets quite personal. He explains that he has great wisdom and knowledge, greater than anyone whoever was in Jerusalem before him. He knows the difference between wisdom, madness, and folly. In a kind of reversal of the Proverbs, he seems to imply that that with all this wisdom, he is still like chasing after the wind. More problems and vexation come with wisdom. There is an increase in sorrow that comes with more knowledge. Wisdom is not the be all and end all like in Proverbs.

Elihu explained the advantage of being a sinner (Job 35:1-35:4)

“Elihu continued and said.

‘Do you think this to be just?

You say.

‘I am in the right before God.’

If you ask?

‘What advantage do I have?

How am I better off than if I had sinned?’

I will answer you

And your friends with you.”

Elihu was going to explain why it was better for Job to admit that he was a sinner. He wanted to show the difference between proclaiming that he was just and that of admitting that he had sinned. He was going to explain it to Job and his 3 friends that it was better to admit to sinning rather than proclaiming his righteous.