Responding in Kind

Scripture Focus: Psalm 76.5-12
5 The valiant lie plundered, 
they sleep their last sleep; 
not one of the warriors 
can lift his hands. 
6 At your rebuke, God of Jacob, 
both horse and chariot lie still. 
7 It is you alone who are to be feared. 
Who can stand before you when you are angry? 
8 From heaven you pronounced judgment, 
and the land feared and was quiet— 
9 when you, God, rose up to judge, 
to save all the afflicted of the land. 
10 Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise, 
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained. 
11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; 
let all the neighboring lands 
bring gifts to the One to be feared. 
12 He breaks the spirit of rulers; 
he is feared by the kings of the earth. 

2 Kings 19.16
…listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.”

Isaiah 37.22
22 this is the word the Lord has spoken against him:
“Virgin Daughter Zion
    despises and mocks you.
Daughter Jerusalem
    tosses her head as you flee.

Reflection: Responding in Kind
By John Tillman

Our recent reading from 2 Kings 19 included the story of Sennachrib’s threats against Jerusalem and his defeat without Judah even lifting a sword. The story repeats in Isaiah 37, and many Psalms, such as Psalm 76, 46, and 59, reflect on it.

Sennacherib claimed other gods had not saved their lands from him, and Judah’s God would fare no differently. Hezekiah physically brought the letter to the Temple, laid it out before the Lord, and read out Sennacherib’s words. “…listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.” (2 Kings 19.16)

Isaiah brought Hezekiah a response to Sennacherib. Isaiah’s poem (Isaiah 37.22-35) is a scoffing prophecy. It returns Sennacherib’s scorn, spite for spite. Isaiah tells the man who thinks himself a god-killer that God will lead him by a hook through his nose.

Like Isaiah, Hezekiah, and the psalmists, we live in a world that is in love with scorn. Simply by living and believing the words of Jesus, we are targets of derision, mockery, and outrage. For trusting in the Bible, we experience attacks, accusations, and even violence.

There are powerful cultural and political forces in this world that treat our God as Sennacherib did. Powerless. Irrelevant. Laughable. Often, we want to strike back with our own scornful takedowns, bluster, and insults.

There’s an old saying that we don’t have to attend every fight we are invited to. While scoffers and scorners sharpen their arrows, let us turn to God and keep our vows to him. God doesn’t need our defense but he does desire our devotion.

Do we have insecurities or bitterness triggered by insults, harm, or attacks? Are there counter-attacks forming in our minds? Insults bubbling in our hearts?

Instead of responding in kind, let us turn their words over to God as Hezekiah did. Lay out their words and actions before the Lord. Read him the tweet. Forward him the email. Show him what was done or said.

There is a time to speak facts and engage in healthy debate. There is a time for sarcasm and biting wit. There is a time to stand as God does, holding out our arms all day long to obstinate people. (Isaiah 65.1-3) There is also a time to close our mouths, let people be wrong, and pray that in his mercy, God will break through where we fail.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
No good things will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity. — Psalm 84.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 22 (Listen 3:45
Psalms 75-76 (Listen 2:33)

Read more about Wisdom & Persuasion
Sennacherib and the Assyrians taunted the Israelites…stoking the people’s fear…fear was a potent tactic.

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God Who Speaks

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 1.1-2
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Reflection: God Who Speaks
By John Tillman

The text of Hebrews makes no claim of authorship but the identity of its writer or writers has been a hotly debated topic amongst Bible scholars through the centuries. (My favorite theory is that it is a collaboration of multiple teachers such as Paul, Priscilla, Apollos, and perhaps others.) As Origen said, “Who wrote the letter, God only knows with certainty.” 

Though we may not know with certainty who the letter was from, we know who it was written to—Jewish believers who were early converts to Christianity. (Most scholars date its writing to approximately 68-70 AD.)

The Jews this text was written to were people accustomed to the idea of a God who spoke. Most religions were not. Most gods don’t speak. But our God does. He speaks to us as he spoke to so many in the scriptures.

He speaks our name, as he spoke to Mary outside the tomb. He knows our past and redeems our identity from damages, both self-inflicted and those from the sufferings of this world. We are intimately known, intimately cared for, and intimately called.

He speaks good news, as he did from his first sermon. He speaks of God’s Kingdom, near and accessible. A Kingdom of goodness, not just for some but for all. He speaks of lifting the head of the poor and humbling the heads of the powerful. 

He speaks rebuke, to the world but also to us. Christ rebukes sin in us. Christ didn’t come to ignore sin; he came to destroy sin. We like Jesus to say, “Woe to you,” and point at others. But when he turns to us and says, “Get behind me, Satan,” it is difficult not to be offended. And when we have taken sin into our hearts and let its tendrils penetrate us, destroying sin will be painful to us.

He speaks comfort, as he spoke to the disciples. By his words we know we will have suffering in this world, but also by his words we know that the Holy Spirit is our comforter, co-sufferer, and source of sustaining life.

He speaks through us. When Christ speaks our name, he speaks a benediction, a “sending blessing” that we are to carry to the world. Christ makes his appeal to the world through us, so let us be appealing in the way we serve and in the way we speak.


Divine Hours Prayer: Request for Presence
Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield.
Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you,— Psalm 33:20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 19 (Listen -6:11)
Hebrews 1  (Listen -2:15)

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Read more about Good News to the Poor
Once we are filled with good things, we can now play our part in the Incarnation, passing on what we have been filled with.

Read more about The Spirit of the Lord
We, The Church, are charged as Mary was, to deliver Christ, to manifest him, to the world.