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.
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous–
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
Habakkuk is one the “Minor Prophets” – the 12 prophets whose works are much shorter than those of the “Major Prophets” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) and are found in a single scroll.
Because of the reference to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) in v.1:6, Habakkuk is considered a contemporary of Jeremiah. His prophesy – speaking for YHWH – is dated after 612 BCE when the Babylonians gained domination of the Middle East. His messages are similar to Jeremiah’s.
After the righteous and reforming king, Josiah, was killed at Megiddo in 609 BCE, Judea had a series of hapless kings until the first deportation of exiles to Babylon in 597 BCE. The book of Habakkuk reflected the difficulties that faced Judea during this 12-year period. Habakkuk lamented the destruction and violence in Judea and the lack of justice.
Today’s reading is structured as a dialogue between Habakkuk and YHWH (“LORD” in all capital letters) in which the prophet asserted that YHWH was not listening (v.1). The prophet also noted that the reforms of Josiah were not being followed by King Jehoiakim who reigned from 608 to 598 BCE (“the law (Torah) becomes slack” v.1.4) and stated – just as Jeremiah did – that injustice was prevailing.
In the omitted verses between the two parts of today’s reading, Habakkuk asserted on behalf of the LORD that the Babylonians (Chaldeans) would serve as YHWH’s instrument of divine justice.
In the second part of today’s reading, Habakkuk was directed (v.2) by the LORD to make a record of the visons presented by the LORD. YHWH responded that there was “still a vision for the appointed time” (v.3), a phrase interpreted in Judaism as referring to a future Messianic time. Christians have also interpreted it as a prophesy of the Messiah.
In verse 4, YHWH was understood to say that the “righteous” (the Judahites) would survive in spite of the “proud” (the Chaldeans/Babylonians). The Jewish Study Bible notes that the last part of verse 4 (“the righteous shall live by their faith”) had an important influence in Christianity and in the doctrine of justification through faith as expressed in Romans and Galatians.
The JSB also noted that the Dead Sea Scrolls contain a commentary on Habakkuk written in the First Century BCE in which the Chaldeans/Babylonians were understood to be the then-contemporaneous Romans – demonstrating that prophetic works were seen as having information about the life of the current community and not merely “an arcane report of past historical periods.”
10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation — I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
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 Jewish Study Bible points out that one of major religious issues faced by First Isaiah was the extent to which Judea should attempt to confront its enemies by using military and diplomatic means or, alternatively, the extent it should rely on YHWH to protect them. Isaiah (unlike most of his contemporaries) preferred the latter option.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible observes that two themes dominate the book of Isaiah as it now exists: (1) that YHWH controls all historical events and (2) the centrality of Jerusalem for Israel, both for kingship and for worship.
Today’s reading is from First Isaiah. A later editor inserted verse 1:1 to set the time period for Isaiah as from 740 BCE (the ending years of the reign of Uzziah – also known as Azariah) to the 14th year of the reign of Hezekiah (701 BCE – when the Assyrians conquered most of Judea and besieged Jerusalem). This was a time of the ascendancy of the Assyrian Empire which conquered Northern Israel in 722 BCE and threatened Judea during all this time.
Today’s reading is a strong prophetic statement condemning worship divorced from social justice (vv. 10-17), a theme also found in Amos, Micah, and Jeremiah. Sodom and Gomorrah (v.10) – and their destruction — were commonly used symbols for divine judgement on immorality. In Genesis, the evil done by those cities was not showing hospitality (a high value) by threatening to commit sexual violence upon visitors to Lot’s home (Gen.19:5).
The call for purification (v.16) was not presented as a substitute for moral purification, but a sign of the purification that would occur when the people learned to do good and seek justice (v.17).
The verses then shifted from condemnation to a legal argument (v.18) in which YHWH offered forgiveness if Judea repented but said Judea would be “devoured by the sword” (v.20) if it did not repent. Except for a period of Deuteronomic reform under King Josiah (640 to 609 BCE), Jerusalem did not repent and it was conquered by the Babylonians – the successors to the Assyrians – in 597 BCE. The First Exile began in 587 BCE.
The Jewish Publication Society translation takes a different approach to v.18a. Instead of “let us argue it out” as in the NRSV, the JPS translates the phrase as “Come, let us reach an understanding.” Annotations in both the NOAB and the JSB acknowledge that the meaning of the Hebrew is unclear.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers, and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.
11 To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thessalonica, a port city in northern Greece, was capital of the Roman province of Macedonia in the First Century. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians is the oldest part of the Christian Scriptures and was written by Paul before 50 CE, about 20 years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written. A principal theme of both 1 and 2 Thessalonians was the return of the Lord Jesus in the end time.
In 2 Thessalonians, however, there was an emphasis on living in the present and warnings about forgeries of Paul’s writings. For these reasons, most scholars conclude that 2 Thessalonians was written by one of Paul’s disciples late in the First Century.
In today’s reading, the salutation was identical to 1 Thessalonians, followed by a thanksgiving for the faith of the community. “Love for one another” (v.3) is a statement of their solidarity and separated them from outsiders.
The author referred to “persecutions and afflictions” (v.4), an indication that the letter was written in the late First Century because there is little evidence of major persecutions in the mid-century when Paul was still alive.
The omitted verses (5 -10) assert that God would afflict the persecutors and work vengeance on those who did not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
Today’s reading concluded with an intercessory prayer that God will make the people worthy of God’s call so that the name of the Lord Jesus will be glorified in the believers’ lives.
Both The New Oxford Annotated Bible and The Jewish Annotated New Testament see Isaiah 66:5 as the basis of the idea “the glory of the name” (v. 12) — except that in Isaiah, it is YHWH’s name that is glorified.
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
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.
The story of Zacchaeus is found only in Luke. The setting, Jericho, was an important customs center because of its location. As the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus (whose name – ironically — is derived from the Hebrew word for “righteous” or “upright”) would have contracted with the Roman overlords to collect these taxes or fees and would have been despised by his neighbors for his active role in the Roman domination system.
Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus was presented by Luke as a sharp contrast to story of the “certain ruler” in Luke 18:18 who had asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life but went away sad (v.23) when he was told to sell all he owned and distribute the money to the poor (v.22).
Zacchaeus said he would give “half his possessions to the poor” and pay back anyone he had defrauded four times the amount by which he defrauded them. This was consistent with Exodus 22:1 which mandated that someone who stole a sheep had to repay it four times over.
The last two verses of the reading need interpretation. In a footnote, The NOAB described “salvation” as “the kingdom of God that has come to this house in Jesus’ presence and message and evinces itself in Zacchaeus’s transformation.” (Italics in original) This interpretation in The NAOB seems to raise more questions than it answers.
If this were the correct understanding, why does the text go on to say that salvation has come “because he too is a son of Abraham.” (v.9b)? Regarding this phrase, when Jesus cured the woman who was crippled (13:13), he referred to her as a “daughter of Abraham” (13:16) meaning that she was Jewish. Is Jesus saying that salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house simply because he was Jewish? Or have Zacchaeus’ actions transformed him into a devout Jew who is following the Torah? Or is the ”house” to which salvation has come the house of Israel?
Saying that the Son of Man (a term derived from Daniel and Ezekiel) came to save the “lost” (v.10) is a theme that occurs numerous times in Luke – in the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and in other stories in this gospel.