During Pentecost Season 2022, the Revised Common Lectionary offers two “tracks” of readings from the Hebrew Bible. Congregations may choose either track.
The first track of readings follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. The second track of readings thematically pairs the reading from the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel reading.
The readings from the Epistles are the same in both tracks.
4 The word of the LORD came to me saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, LORD God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”
9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
After the righteous and reforming King Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo (from which we get the Greek word Armageddon) in 609 BCE, the fortunes of Judea took a sharp downward turn. Babylon threatened Judea’s existence, and Judea had a series of hapless kings from 609 until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Babylonians deported many Judean leaders to Babylon in 597 and a larger number in 586 (the Babylonian Exile). Jeremiah’s prophesy (i.e., speaking for YHWH) began around 627 and continued until 586 BCE when he fled to Egypt and died there.
Jeremiah was descended from the priestly line of Eli (v.1) and his prophesying for 40 years was seen as a parallel to the 40 years Moses led the Israelites in the desert. He was a constant opponent of King Jehoiakim (608-598) who was an Egyptian sympathizer and of King Zedekiah, (597-586) a Babylonian appointee who nevertheless went to war with Babylon in 597 BCE.
Most Bible scholars agree that the Book of Jeremiah underwent substantial revisions between the time of Jeremiah (627 to 587 BCE) and the First Century. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there were different versions of the Book of Jeremiah. The Greek Septuagint Translation (the LXX – dating from 300 to 200 BCE) has some chapters that are not in the Hebrew versions.
Sections in the book that are in “poetry style” are generally attributed to the prophet, and parts in “prose style” are thought to have been added later by writers whose theological outlook was closely aligned with the Deuteronomists. (In fact, Chapter 52 in Jeremiah is virtually word-for-word with 2 Kings 24:18 to 25:30 written by the Deuteronomists after the Exile.)
Today’s reading is in “poetry style” and describes Jeremiah’s call in terms that are reminiscent of the calls of Moses in Exodus 3, of Gideon in Judges 6, and of Isaiah in Isaiah 6. In this sense, Jeremiah was presented as a “prophet like Moses” who would be raised up as anticipated in Deut. 18:15.
Just as with Moses, Gideon and Isaiah, Jeremiah claimed (v.6) he was not fit to speak for YHWH (translated as “LORD” in all capital letters), but YHWH touched Jeremiah’s mouth (v.9) and put words in it so that he could speak for YHWH, just as a seraph touched Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal (Is.6:6-7).
The phrase in verses 4 and 7 (“the word of the LORD came to me”) appears multiple times in the Book of Jeremiah and gave a clear statement that Jeremiah was not speaking for himself but was speaking for YHWH. Serving as a “prophet to the nations” (v.5) meant that he was not only a prophet to Judea but also to non-Jews, although most of Jeremiah’s prophesy to “nations” was oracles against them.
The phrase “to destroy and overthrow and to build up and plant” (v.10) expressed a key theme expressed in Jeremiah, particularly in the prose passages attributable to the Deuteronomists – Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians but would be rebuilt after the Exile ended.
9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Ancient Israel’s history. The writings were compiled from about 700 BCE to about 300 BCE. The name “Isaiah” means “YHWH has saved” or “May YHWH save.”
Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and are the words of a prophet (one who speaks for YHWH – translated as “LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) who called for Jerusalem to repent in the 30 years before Jerusalem came under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55. In these chapters, a prophet brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 in which a prophet gave encouragement to the Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem (which was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile had ended.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible observes that two themes dominate the book of Isaiah as it now exists: (1) that YHWH is behind all historical events and (2) the centrality of Jerusalem for Israel, both for kingship and for worship.
Just before today’s reading from Third Isaiah, the prophet was told by YHWH to reveal to the people (“the house of Jacob”) who returned to Jerusalem that their way of living was immoral, and that prayer and sacrifices without serious moral reformation did not please YHWH (vv. 1-5).
Instead of fasting and sacrifices, the LORD wanted justice, freedom for the oppressed, sharing of food, bringing the homeless into one’s home, and sharing one’s goods and clothing (vv. 6-8).
In today’s reading, the author spoke for YHWH who told the Judeans to “remove the yoke” from the downtrodden and stop having contempt for one another (“pointing the finger”) (v.9b).
YHWH offered conditional encouragement to the Judeans that YHWH would guide the people, make them prosperous, the ruins of Jerusalem would be rebuilt, and their fortunes would be restored if they cared for the hungry (v.10) and properly observed the Sabbath (v.13).
18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20 (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion 23 and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken — that is, created things — so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
The Letter to the Hebrews was an anonymous sermon to both Jewish and Gentile Jesus Followers, urging them to maintain their Faith and Hope in the face of hardship. The letter developed a number of important images such as Jesus the Christ as the High Priest.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is sometimes attributed to Paul, most scholars agree that it was written some time after Paul’s death in 63 CE, but before 100 CE. The letter introduced a number of important theological themes. The first four chapters explored the word of God spoken through the Son.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament described Hebrews as the only document in the Christian Scriptures that contained a sustained argument on the nature of Christ. It is also often perceived as the New Testament’s most anti-Jewish text because of its supersessionism.
Today’s reading reflects the growing separation – after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. – between the Jesus Follower Movement (which morphed into Christianity in the last part of the First Century) and Pharisaical Judaism (which morphed into Rabbinic Judaism).
The author contrasted Mount Sinai as a place of terror with Mount Zion where the spirits of the righteous are made perfect by Jesus. He said the blood of Abel cried for vengeance (Gen. 4:10) but the blood of Jesus “speaks a better word” (v. 24).
He paraphrased the prophet Haggai 2:6 for the expression “Yet once more” as a basis for the removal of created things in favor of “that which cannot be shaken” (v. 27). The actual context in Haggai is that the LORD would cause the return of riches from foreigners so the Temple could be rebuilt in splendor after the Exile ended in 539 BCE.
10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading about Jesus’ healing a woman on the sabbath tells a story found in the other gospels and in other places in Luke (for example 14:1-6). In the 30+ years after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the early Jesus Follower Movement regarded “putting the sabbath in its place” an important distinguishing factor from its rival movement, Pharisaic Judaism.
As the belief in Satan as a force of evil continued to expand in the First Century, the gospel writer had Jesus state that the woman’s crippling was the result of Satan’s having bound her for 18 years (vv.11 and 16). This idea was also reflected (for example) in Luke 11:14 when Jesus cast the demon out of person who was mute. The gospel writer presented Jesus as setting persons free from their bondages (v.12 and 16).
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that the word “the entire crowd was rejoicing” (v.17) showed that “they correctly find no violation of halakhah [Jewish Law].”