16 March 2018 Bible Reading
Today’s reading in Luke 2 refers to “the days of Caesar Augustus”. Caesar Augustus reigned as emperor of the Roman empire from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D., 41 years in all. He was the grandnephew of Julius Caesar. His real name was Gaius Octavius and he lived from 63 B.C. to 14 A.D. Because Julius Caesar had legally adopted Octavius as his son, Octavius took the name “Caesar” from Julius, which in later years became a name almost equivalent to “emperor.” “Augustus” is a Latin term that means “worthy of reverence.”
Caesar Augustus’s reign was marked by peace and security – the famous Pax Romana – as well as by lavish building projects throughout the empire. Augustus had such an intense interest in religion within his realm that, if not for his other great achievements, he might have gone down in history as a religious reformer. In his day, belief in the traditional Greco-Roman pantheon had decreased dramatically as philosophical skepticism grew and a growing number joined the foreign mystery religions. Augustus was convinced that belief in the old gods had made Rome great so he set out to encourage his subjects to return to the worship of these gods. He restored eighty-two temples in Rome alone! He became the pontificus maximus (highest priest) in the state cult.
24 When Balaam saw that it pleased Yahweh to bless Israel, he didn’t go, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came on him. 3 He took up his parable, and said,
“Balaam the son of Beor says,
the man whose eyes are open says;
4 he says, who hears the words of God,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down, and having his eyes open:
5 How goodly are your tents, Jacob,
and your tents, Israel!
6 As valleys they are spread out,
as gardens by the riverside,
as aloes which Yahweh has planted,
as cedar trees beside the waters.
7 Water shall flow from his buckets.
His seed shall be in many waters.
His king shall be higher than Agag.
His kingdom shall be exalted.
8 God brings him out of Egypt.
He has as it were the strength of the wild ox.
He shall eat up the nations his adversaries,
shall break their bones in pieces,
and pierce them with his arrows.
9 He couched, he lay down as a lion,
as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?
Everyone who blesses you is blessed.
Everyone who curses you is cursed.”
10 Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and, behold, you have altogether blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now flee you to your place! I thought to promote you to great honor; but, behold, Yahweh has kept you back from honor.”
12 Balaam said to Balak, “Didn’t I also tell your messengers who you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can’t go beyond Yahweh’s word, to do either good or bad of my own mind. I will say what Yahweh says’? 14 Now, behold, I go to my people. Come, I will inform you what this people shall do to your people in the latter days.”
15 He took up his parable, and said,
“Balaam the son of Beor says,
the man whose eyes are open says;
16 he says, who hears the words of God,
knows the knowledge of the Most High,
and who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Falling down, and having his eyes open:
17 I see him, but not now.
I see him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob.
A scepter will rise out of Israel,
and shall strike through the corners of Moab,
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
18 Edom shall be a possession.
Seir, his enemies, also shall be a possession,
while Israel does valiantly.
19 Out of Jacob shall one have dominion,
and shall destroy the remnant from the city.”
20 He looked at Amalek, and took up his parable, and said,
“Amalek was the first of the nations,
But his latter end shall come to destruction.”
21 He looked at the Kenite, and took up his parable, and said,
“Your dwelling place is strong.
Your nest is set in the rock.
22 Nevertheless Kain shall be wasted,
until Asshur carries you away captive.”
23 He took up his parable, and said,
“Alas, who shall live when God does this?
24 But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim.
They shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber.
He also shall come to destruction.”
25 Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place; and Balak also went his way.
25 Israel stayed in Shittim; and the people began to play the prostitute with the daughters of Moab; 2 for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Israel joined himself to Baal Peor. Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel. 4 Yahweh said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up to Yahweh before the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahweh may turn away from Israel.”
5 Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Everyone kill his men who have joined themselves to Baal Peor.”
6 Behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought to his brothers a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the door of the Tent of Meeting. 7 When Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the middle of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand. 8 He went after the man of Israel into the pavilion, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9 Those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.
10 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I didn’t consume the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace. 13 It shall be to him, and to his offspring after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’”
14 Now the name of the man of Israel that was slain, who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a fathers’ house among the Simeonites. 15 The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur. He was head of the people of a fathers’ house in Midian.
16 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites, and strike them, 18 for they harassed you with their wiles, with which they have deceived you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the prince of Midian, their sister, who was slain on the day of the plague in the matter of Peor.”
2 Now in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to David’s city, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; 5 to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being pregnant.
6 While they were there, the day had come for her to give birth. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. 9 Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. 11 For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
on earth peace, good will toward men.”
15 When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the feeding trough. 17 When they saw it, they publicized widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18 All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, just as it was told them.
21 When eight days were fulfilled for the circumcision of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
25 Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the custom of the law, 28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 “Now you are releasing your servant, Master,
according to your word, in peace;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared before the face of all peoples;
32 a light for revelation to the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 Joseph and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him, 34 and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. 35 Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
For the Chief Musician. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” A poem by David, when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.
59 Deliver me from my enemies, my God.
Set me on high from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity.
Save me from the bloodthirsty men.
3 For, behold, they lie in wait for my soul.
The mighty gather themselves together against me,
not for my disobedience, nor for my sin, Yahweh.
4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Rise up, behold, and help me!
5 You, Yahweh God of Armies, the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish the nations.
Show no mercy to the wicked traitors.
6 They return at evening, howling like dogs,
and prowl around the city.
7 Behold, they spew with their mouth.
Swords are in their lips,
“For”, they say, “who hears us?”
8 But you, Yahweh, laugh at them.
You scoff at all the nations.
9 Oh, my Strength, I watch for you,
for God is my high tower.
10 My God will go before me with his loving kindness.
God will let me look at my enemies in triumph.
11 Don’t kill them, or my people may forget.
Scatter them by your power, and bring them down, Lord our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouth, and the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride,
for the curses and lies which they utter.
13 Consume them in wrath.
Consume them, and they will be no more.
Let them know that God rules in Jacob,
to the ends of the earth.
14 At evening let them return.
Let them howl like a dog, and go around the city.
15 They shall wander up and down for food,
and wait all night if they aren’t satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength.
Yes, I will sing aloud of your loving kindness in the morning.
For you have been my high tower,
a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 To you, my strength, I will sing praises.
For God is my high tower, the God of my mercy.
14 Where there is no wise guidance, the nation falls,
but in the multitude of counselors there is victory.