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.
18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
19 Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”)
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?
9:1 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!
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.)
Today’s reading is in “poetry style” and was structured as an extended lament by the City of Jerusalem over its fate. In verses 19a and 20, the writer quoted the people of Judea (which included Jerusalem) who bemoaned their situation – either in anticipation of the conquest by the Babylonians or after it. In verse 21, “Lady Jerusalem” mourned for all the people of Judea.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out that YHWH’s parenthetical interjection in verse 19b about the worship of foreign idols was intended to show the disingenuousness of the people’s complaints.
“Balm in Gilead” (v. 22) refers to the medicinal resin of the storax tree found in Gilead, an area east of the Jordan River in what is now modern Jordan.
The “slain of my poor people” (v.9:1) most likely represents a post-destruction perspective.
4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely, I will never forget any of their deeds.
After Solomon died in 930 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel split into two parts, the North (called Israel with 10 tribes) and the South (called Judea with two tribes). Each of the Kingdoms had its own king.
The reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 BCE) was very prosperous but was a time of great inequality between rich and poor in which large landowners gained control of the lands of small farmers. (A three-liter bottle of wine is called a “Jeroboam.”)
Amos was a cattle herder and cared for fig trees in Judea, but he was called by YHWH to go north to prophesy (speak for the LORD) against the evils in Israel from about 760 to 750 BCE.
Amos is one of the 12 “minor” prophets whose works are shorter than the three “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was the first (chronologically) of the prophets whose words left an indelible stamp on later thought in Israel about God. He used vivid language and called for justice and righteousness, social equality, and concern for the disadvantaged.
His writings included announcements that the “Day of the LORD” was imminent and urged that the special covenant with the LORD entailed special ethical responsibilities. Some of his presentations are indictments, some are exhortations, and others are visions.
Today’s reading is the continuing portion of Amos’ vision of a basket of fruit (v.1). In this portion of Amos’ prophesy, he criticized the unfair and fraudulent business practices of the wealthy and their impatience for the Holy Days to pass (v.5) so they could resume bilking the poor, enslaving them (v.6), and taking their lands.
An ephah (v.5) was about 35 pounds and making an “ephah small” would be to cheat the customer. “False balances” (v.5) are scales that were weighted in favor of the seller. “Sweepings of the wheat” (v.8) referred to selling the chaff instead of wheat.
According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, “buying the poor … and needy” likely refers to outright slavery as opposed to “selling the righteous” (2:6) into debt slavery.
Amos said that YHWH would remember these misdeeds and punish the evildoers (v.7). In 722 BCE, only 40 years later, Assyria conquered Israel and scattered its wealthy class.
1 Timothy 2:1-7
1 First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all — this was attested at the right time. 7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
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. By then, 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 have a broader audience. By the time they were written, Paul was regarded as an authoritative figure of the past.
Today’s reading urged accommodation by the Jesus Followers to the worldly authorities for the sake of the peace of the church. In urging this, the writer did not address the fact that the Roman Emperor claimed to be divine and required to be worshiped. The writer affirmed that there is “one God” (v.5), a reformulation of the Jewish statement (the “Shema”) found in Deut. 6:4-9.
The idea of Christ Jesus as a “ransom” (v. 6) traces back to Mark 10:45 (“For the Son of Man came … to give his life as a ransom for many”). This idea, in turn, was primarily derived from the Fourth Servant Poem of Isaiah (Is. 52:13 to 53:12) which portrayed Judea as a suffering servant during the Babylonian Exile (587-539 BCE).
1 Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3 Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?’ He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
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 has two parts, the first of which is about the dishonest manager. The second part (vv.10-13) is an admonition about the need to be faithful in small matters and to be faithful and honest with what belongs to another. The verses conclude with the maxim that one cannot serve two masters – God and wealth (“mamōna” in the Greek). The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that the Greek word mamōna is the same as an Aramaic word that means “riches” and can have the meaning of “that in which one fully trusts.”
The NOAB describes the first part of the reading as “enigmatic” because the “master” praised the dishonest servant for his shrewdness (v.8) even though it worked to the master’s disadvantage. In the Christian Scriptures “shrewdness” is not typically presented as desirable virtue, particularly (as here) where it involves cheating one’s master.
The meaning of verse 9 is difficult – was Jesus in fact urging people to “make friends by means of dishonest wealth”? This advice would be entirely inconsistent with the values in the second part of the reading (vv.10-13).
Another way to read verse 9 is to understand it as ironic on multiple levels. Analyzing it phrase by phrase, when the dishonest wealth is gone, into what kind of “eternal homes” will these “friends” be able to invite those persons who become their friends “by means of dishonest wealth”? Do these kinds of “friends” even have “eternal homes” into which they could invite these dishonest persons? Could Jesus actually be saying ironically: “Sure, try that dishonesty strategy and see where it gets you in the long run. It won’t really get you anywhere.”