I.Theme – .
"Christ Healing the Paralytic" – Van Dyck (1619)
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
Old Testament Reading – Hosea 5:15-6:6
The book of Hosea is the first of the twelve Minor Prophets. Hosea began service as a prophet about 750 B.C. and concluded his work about 722 B.C., shortly before the Assyrian conquest of Israel (the ten tribes that constituted the Northern Kingdom). He thus began his work shortly after Amos concluded his shorter prophetic ministry (about 760-755 B.C.).
Unlike Amos, who was a native of Judah (the southern kingdom), Hosea was a native of Israel (the northern kingdom). Both addressed their prophecies to Israel (the northern kingdom). Like Amos, Hosea proclaims a message of judgment on Israel for her unfaithfulness to Yahweh. However, Hosea also proclaims God’s continuing love and pleads for Israel’s repentance. He holds out the hope of forgiveness and restoration (1:10-11; and chapters 3, 11, and 14).
While this lectionary reading begins with verse 5:15, the unit really begins with 5:1. Yahweh is speaking, and describes the judgment that is about to befall Israel and Judah. Ephraim (Israel—the northern kingdom) will stumble, and Judah (the southern kingdom) will stumble with them (5:5). They will seek Yahweh, but will not find him (5:6).
The background is the Syro-Ephramitic war of 735-733 B.C. Assyria is the reigning superpower. While Assyria is located far to the east in the Tigris-Euphrates region (modern Iraq), Tiglath-pileser III has expanded Assyria’s boundaries westward. Israel (the northern kingdom) formed an alliance with Syria to resist Assyria, resulting in conflict with Judah (the southern kingdom), which allied itself to Assyria. This resulted in Assyria conquering most of Israel and exiling most of its people. The remaining Israelites became vassals of Assyria (see 2 Kings 15-17).
By the time we reach chapter 5 of Hosea, the year is about 735 B.C. Though Israel still exists as a nation with it’s own king, it is all but owned by the nation of Assyria, the superpower of the day. But Israel is getting tired of paying Assyria’s king Tiglath-Pileasar III’s heavy tribute. So Israel teams up with the nation of Aram to try and defeat mighty Assyria. They also asked Judah for help. But when Judah won’t help, Israel and the Arameans attack Jerusalem.
Psalm – Psalm 50:7-15 Problem of Superficial worship
Psalm 50:7-15 has something to say about this form of light worship, and it is this: God’s judgment is coming for it. In these verses, God pronounces His judgment, and it begins with those who are actively obeying God. You see, God takes issue with those who are already obeying Him. In verses 7 and 8, God is not angry with the Israelites because they have forgotten to offer sacrifices at the temple. They are diligently doing this. They are faithful at bringing the sacrifices. But God has to rebuke them because of the way in which they are expressing worship.
He rebukes them because they have the wrong mindset. The Israelites have failed to be truly grateful to God because they think they are doing God a service. They have imagined that God needs them, and that without their help, their worship and their praise, somehow God would be lost. The Israelites treat God as if He existed along a human spectrum.
We see this specifically in verse 12 when they act as if God really needs to eat; thus, they think that their offerings of food are truly feeding Him. Help, praise, and worship is never real, it is never sincere, when you see yourself in a position of superiority, or when you think of your “offering” as something that has infinite value.
God is not dependent on our worship. This is what prompts God to talk about material objects in verses 12 and 13. Does God need to eat food to survive? Of course not. The living God needs nothing from His subjects.
To reiterate the fact that God does not need the Israelites, God brings up a comparison. Look at verse 9. God tells the Israelities, “What makes you think I need your animals?” In other words, God says, “What good are the thousands of animals you have in comparison with the millions of animals that belong to Me? Every animal in the forest is Mine. Every animal in the hills and mountains are Mine. Every animal in the field and the sky belong to Me.” For God, He doesn’t need the Israelites’ sacrifices because everything belongs to Him.
Now do you see the Israelites error? They think God needs them. Although these Israelites are faithfully obeying the covenant, even though they are fulfilling their responsibilities, they are committing idolatry because they have a wrong view of God. In their minds, God has become small and that is idolatry. They have envisioned God to be something that He is not, and that’s exactly the kind of thanks that God does not want.
Epistle – Romans 4:13-25
In Chapters 2 and 3, Paul has argued that through the gospel, it is faith that brings humans into harmony with God. Now he considers Abraham as an example. At the time, rabbis argued that God’s blessings came to Abraham because he kept Mosaic Law (which, they said, he knew in advance – before Moses received the tablets on Mount Sinai).
In v. 13, Paul argues against this rabbinic lore: Abraham was blessed because he believed, had faith, that he would be father of a nation and a source of blessing for “all … families” (Genesis 12:3). If only those who keep Mosaic Law are God’s people, faith is meaningless (“null”, v. 14) and God’s “promise” of universal godliness is nonsense – because the Law is a contract; in a contract, each party has responsibilities, each knows what he will receive (e.g. “wages”, v. 4), but a promise is a gift, and is therefore an object of faith: faith that what is promised will be received. Paul now notes: because we all deviate from God’s ways at times, sinning does happen. For those under the Law, a penalty (God’s “wrath”, v. 15) ensues, but for us, not living under the Law (“no law”), there is no contract to violate. Paul now returns to his main argument: so rather than the human relationship with God being legally based, “it depends on faith” (v. 16), on God’s freely given gift of love (“grace”). Were it legally based, continually breaking the pact would make a nonsense of it, but being faith-based, the relationship is “guaranteed” to all peoples in every age – not just to Jews but also to others. Per Genesis 17:5, Abraham is spiritual father of us all (v. 17). Sarah’s bearing of Isaac when beyond child-bearing age (“gives life to the dead”) was due to his faith; it had been promised to him by God. Isaac was called into existence. So Abraham is a model for the Christian. Contrary to expectation, in hope (“Hoping against hope”, v. 18) he believed. He had every reason to doubt that he would become a father, but believe he did – because of the hope given by God’s promise – in God’s creative power. Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he thanked God for his gift (“gave glory to God”, v. 20). He attained a right relationship with God (“was reckoned to him as righteousness”, v. 22). Our faith in God’s promises will also be considered worthy by God (“our justification”, v. 25) when Christ comes again.
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
This week’s scripture is an illustration powerful reminder of Jesus’ compassion and healing power.
In the first section, Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. This was a controversial move, as tax collectors were often seen as corrupt and greedy. However, Jesus saw Matthew’s potential and called him to be one of his disciples.
In the second section, Jesus heals a young girl who has died. The girl’s father comes to Jesus and begs him to save her life. Jesus goes to the girl’s house and lays his hands on her. She immediately wakes up and is healed. There are some overtones with the story of Lazarus
These two stories show that Jesus is not only a teacher, but also a healer and a miracle worker. He is willing to reach out to those who are considered outcasts by society, and he is able to bring healing and hope to those who are in need.
The passage also teaches us about the importance of mercy. Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” This means that Jesus’ mission is to reach out to those who are broken and in need of forgiveness. He is not here to condemn, but to offer hope and healing.
The teaching on mercy is a reminder that God’s love is unconditional. He does not love us because we are good, but because he is good. He offers us forgiveness and grace, even when we do not deserve it.
III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher: