Today's Readings: 2 KINGS 15 | Ezekiel 5 | Luke 1
Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Kings 15:32-38
"In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother's name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the LORD. As for the other events of Jotham's reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? (In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah.) Jotham rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David, the city of his father. And Ahaz his son succeeded him as king" (2Ki 15:32-38).
"The career of Jotham was relatively short but enormously successful. He came to the throne as a coregent with his father Uzziah who was forced out of public life through the leprosy contracted in the temple as a result of his presumption. It appears that Jotham's sole reign lasted only about six years but throughout his short reign he followed the example of his father's early years and sought Yahweh who in turn blessed him.
"The history of Jotham's reign is very short but sufficient is recorded to clearly indicate that Jotham was one of Judah's finest rulers. Like his father he was successful at home and abroad; his military campaigns and internal projects to fortify Judah were all divinely blessed until he 'became mighty'. The only deficiency of his reign was that his dedication to Yahweh was not shared by the majority of the people of Judah. After the divine estimation of Jotham the record concludes ominously: 'And the people did yet corruptly.' Jotham's personal integrity was beyond question but he appears to have been unaware of the desperate need for a reformation in the ecclesia. This had to wait till the reign of Hezekiah his grandson.
"The most important feature of Jotham's life was that his success was directly related to his godliness. The account is explicit: 'So Jotham became mighty, BECAUSE he prepared (established or fixed) his ways before Yahweh his God.' The grounds upon which present and ultimate success are predicated have not changed: 'To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word' (Isa 66:2)" (RA Cowie, "The Kings of Israel and Judah").
Reading 2 - Ezekiel 5
In contrast to the opening chapters of the glorious visions of cherubim, the prophecy of Ezekiel is now plunged into the dismal picture of divine judgment (Eze 5), as severe as any man might experience. As if receiving the message were not enough, the prophet Ezekiel had to demonstrate Yahweh's grief at the apostasy of His people in his very person and actions. Being made dumb, it remained for him to demonstrate the judgment in a pictorial form. He had to remove hair and beard, and present a symbol of mourning (Lev 21:5).
In so doing it depicted the broken vow of the Nazarite, for if he had defiled his consecration, he was required to shave his head, and commence anew his vow of separation (Num 6:9).
The hair was placed on balances, divided into three, and let fly in the wind. But a few strands remained in his "skirts" (v 3), indicative of the remnant that would be permitted to remain in the Land under Gedaliah. Yet even that remnant would be consumed, as they argued among themselves, and defied Yahweh by going into Egypt (Jer 44:28).
So the prophecy of Ezekiel developed into a very absolute judgment (vv 5-11). Israel was worse than the nations, because they had a greater responsibility; they had received divine grace, and therefore their punishment was to fit the crime.
Reading 3 - Luke 1:38
" 'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me as you have said' " (Luk 1:38).
Mary knew the passages in the Psalms in which the Messiah is called the son of God's maidservant (Psa 86:16; 116:16.) Immediately she makes the connection, and gives her consent to become the mother of His Son, a consent which is essential to His purpose. A veil is now modestly drawn over the scene. Of the actual conception Luke tells us nothing, and we must conclude that such knowledge is too sacred for mortals. How was this miracle accomplished? In the jargon of modern science, what was the "genetic code" begotten of such a union? Prudence counsels us to explore no further along these lines than Scripture expressly warrants. But perhaps Psa 139:13-17 gives us an insight into this greatest of all mysteries -- God manifest in the flesh.
Mary gives her consent; that was essential too. Doing what God did without the consent of the young woman would have been equivalent to rape! (I say this in all seriousness, although it may seem offensive even to put the thought into words... but believe me, I am saying it with the greatest reverence I can produce, and with the highest regard for the monumental awe with which we should view this act of creation, or procreation. Could it have been any other way? Could God have forced Himself upon an unwilling woman, or one who didn't understand what was happening?)
There may have been, shall we say, a dozen qualified couples at approximately the right time and place as Mary and Joseph. God chose the only woman who would, and could, agree... that meant a woman who had prepared herself in faith even before the divine approach. And Mary's own song (in Luk 1:46-55) shows what an extraordinary young woman she was, and how well she knew the Scriptures.
So... Mary was in the right place at the right time -- that was God's providence. And she said, "Yes" -- that was her faith. God's providence and a woman's faith... from this came the Savior of the World.