Re the Daily Office Readings 5/7/2020

The Readings: Exodus 34:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20; Matthew 5:21-26

Moses’ intercession succeeds. The LORD proclaims the Name and announces the renewal of the treaty (covenant)—along with its conditions.

The proclamation of the Name (vv.6-7) is, judging by the number of times it is cited elsewhere (e.g., Numbers 14:17-19; Nehemiah 9:16-19; Psalm 103:8; Jonah 4:1-3), the most important divine description in the Old Testament. Jewish tradition hears in it the thirteen attributes of divine mercy, and the text plays an important role in the liturgy. Without it, Jesus’ life and teaching make no sense.

The treaty and its conditions: here’s something from Brueggemann (New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary) to chew on:

“The covenant requires that Israel undertake complete loyalty to God in a social context where attractive alternatives exist. In that ancient world, the attractive alternative was the established religion of the inhabitants of the land, with all its altars, pillars, and sacred poles—its technology to ensure productivity. In our own Western context, mutatis mutandis, the attractive alternatives to covenanted faith are likely to be the techniques of consumerism, which provide ‘the good life’ without rigorous demand or cost and without the covenantal requirement of the neighbor. Then, as now, the jealous God calls for a decision against that easy alternative.”

The other readings…

…leave me with more questions than answers. Jesus’ “if you are angry” is probably not about an emotion but—given the rest of the paragraph—an action. Paul’s “the Jews… [who] displease God and oppose everyone”: an example of this anger? Would it have been better to end v.16 with “overtaken us at last”? (And whatever Paul was doing, to what degree is he responsible for the afterlife of his words?) Abraham Smith (also The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary) makes the helpful observation that Paul’s words leave the Roman Empire offstage, although “the Jews” (however understood) pale in comparison to the fear and anxiety the Empire generates.

None of this is academic. We have enemies, who, unless we’re close to the top of the food chain, do us real harm. Anger is often (particularly for men) our go-to emotion, and strains to transition from emotion to action. What do I do with that? When do I use “them,” when “us”? LORD have mercy.

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