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.
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse – 12 a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.
22 “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.”
23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled.
26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
27 For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
28 Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.
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 609 and continued until 586 BCE when he died in Egypt.
Most Bible scholars agree that the Book of Jeremiah underwent substantial revisions between the time of Jeremiah (627 to 586 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” were 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.)
In today’s reading, the first two verses are in “prose style” and serve as an introduction to the warnings to Jerusalem given in the years just before the Babylonian conquest in 597 BCE and the Babylonian Exile in 587 BCE.
In the verses preceding today’s reading, YHWH said “I am bringing evil from the north” (v.8), a reference to the Babylonians. In verse 9, Jeremiah held the Judean leadership (particularly the prophets) responsible for Judea’s fate. In verse 10, the NRSV reads that Jeremiah said that YHWH had deceived the people. In The Jewish Study Bible, the translator’s note observes that the LXX says that “they [the people] shall say” that YHWH deceived the people.
The balance of the reading (except for verse 27) is in “poetry style.” In it, the prophet saw the results of God’s judgment, and portrayed the upcoming destruction as a reversal of creation as described in Gen. 1:1-2:4a.
YHWH condemned evil (v.22) and saw the cities in ruins because of YHWH’s fierce anger (v.26). Verse 27 is a later insertion (after the Exile ended in 539 BCE) that YHWH would not make the destruction a “full end” and that there would be a restoration.
7 The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, `These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” 9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, `It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, `I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” 14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah/Pentateuch and covers the period from the slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh (around 1250 BCE, if the account is historical), the Exodus itself, and the early months in the Wilderness.
Today’s reading is set at Mount Sinai (“Horeb” in other parts of Exodus and in Deuteronomy) during the time in the Wilderness.
At Mount Sinai, Moses received the Law from YHWH for 40 days and nights. (“forty” is a euphemism in the Bible for “a long time.”) While Moses was away, the people under Aaron (Moses’ brother) became impatient and cast a calf made from gold earrings that Egyptian women (somewhat curiously) gave them when they left Egypt (32:4). Aaron also built an altar and proclaimed a festival to YHWH (v.5).
YHWH was presented in today’s passage as having very human qualities. At first, the angry God disowned the Israelites and the role YHWH played int their liberation (v.7), said Moses brought them out of Egypt, and determined to “consume them” (v.10).
Moses responded that “they are your people” (v.11) and suggested that the Egyptians would question YHWH’s power and motives if the Israelites had been rescued by YHWH and then were killed (v.12). He reminded YHWH of the promises by YHWH to the Patriarchs, and YHWH’s mind was changed about bringing disaster on the people (v.14). The reversal did not, however, fully respond to Moses’ requests in verse 13. The Jewish Study Bible points out that Moses would later have to implore both YHWH and the Israelites to reconcile further in order for YHWH to lead them to the Promised Land.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Letters to Timothy and Titus are called “Pastoral Letters” because they concerned the internal life, governance and behavior of the early Christian churches and their members. Most scholars agree they were written in the early Second Century in Paul’s name by some of his followers (Paul died in 63 CE). Writing a document in someone else’s name was a common practice in the First and Second Centuries. Scholars note that the tone and vocabulary in the Pastoral Letters are different from Paul’s authentic letters.
By the time these letters were written, the Jesus Follower Community had become more institutionalized and concerns about “heresy” had arisen. The Pastoral letters were written to Paul’s “co-workers” but had a broader audience. By the time they were written, Paul was regarded as an authoritative figure of the past.
In Acts of the Apostles 16:1, Timothy was described as having a Jewish mother and a Greek father. He was one of Paul’s co-missionaries and is described as Paul’s “loyal child” (v.2).
Today’s reading, as a prelude to opposing false teachings, presented a portrait of Paul. “Paul” asserted his authority by saying that his conversion occurred “because [Jesus] judged me faithful and appointed me to his service (v.12). He acknowledged that he had been a “blasphemer, persecutor and a man of violence” (v13) – a description consistent with descriptions of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:9 and Acts 8:1 and 9:1-2.
The authors stated that “the saying is sure” (a common phrase in the Pastoral Letters) that Jesus the Christ came to save sinners (v.15) and made Paul “an example to those who would come to believe in [Jesus] for eternal life” (v. 16).
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that the phrase “King of the ages” (v.17) is likely a Greek rendering of the Hebrew words “melek ha-olam” (King of the Universe) which is a part of every Jewish blessing. This verse is structured as a doxology – a statement of praise.
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
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 comes just before the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that owning 100 sheep mean that the person was one of considerable wealth. Portraying God as a shepherd was common in the Hebrew Bible and is found in Psalms 23, 78, 80 and 100. Moses was also a shepherd when he had his Burning Bush Experience in Exodus 3.
Since the shepherd who looks for the lost sheep is understood as God, the woman searching for the lost coin should be seen as a feminine depiction of God. The JANT points out that “friends and neighbors” (v.9) are feminine nouns in Greek, indicating that they were female associates of the woman who found the lost coin.
Some commentators note that a sensible and practical shepherd would never put 99 sheep at risk just to find one lost sheep. This fact in the parable underscores the enormity of God’s mercy, forgiveness and having all persons in the “fold.”