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Today's Readings: 2 KINGS 6 | Lamentation 2 | 1 Corinthians 15

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - 2Kings 6:1-7

"The company of the prophets said to Elisha, 'Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.' And he said, 'Go.' Then one of them said, 'Won't you please come with your servants?' 'I will,' Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. 'Oh, my lord,' he cried out, 'it was borrowed!' The man of God asked, 'Where did it fall?' When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 'Lift it out,' he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it" (2Ki 6:1-7).

The floating ax-head is perhaps related to Canaanite mythology: El, father of the gods, yields rulership of the gods to Yamm (the god of the sea) -- who is sometimes interchanged with Nahar (the god of the river). Baal is jealous and goes about to kill Yamm/Nahar, after which he succeeds and becomes the ruler. Baal kills Yamm/Nahar by means of two axes -- which fly from the hands of Baal.

Because of this the ax became a cultic symbol to Baal worshippers. Idols have been found of Baal brandishing an ax, and Baal worshipers (rulers/priests/soldiers) would often walk into the river (nahar) holding the ax of Baal to illustrate the supremacy of Baal over Nahar. As the Baal versus Yamm myth was supposed to be a cycle, often these people would stand in the river to associate themselves with the regeneration of Yamm/Nahar (ie, his coming back to life to start the cycle all over again: cp Naaman and the Syrian rivers in 2Ki 5:12).

Here, the ax-head flies into the river... just like Yamm/Nahar (Sea/River god) was killed by Baal's ax. But, even with 'Baal's weapon' in the river god's body, the servant of Yahweh has power over both of them. That is, Yahweh is greater than Yam/Nahar, and greater than Baal. Elisha exercised power over the river by having a stick thrown in the water, causing the ax to float.

Compare, incidentally, the related features of Exo 15: where the iron of Pharaoh's chariots could not part the sea, but the wooden rod of Moses does; and where it is the tree -- of wood -- that makes the bitter waters sweet.

Reading 2 - Lamentation 2

In Lam 1, the central theme was the helplessness of Israel -- "None to comfort her". But in v 18 of that chapter, there was recognition of God's hand in her desolation -- which continues as the main theme of this chapter. In the first chapter, the thought "None to comfort her" occurs seven times; in the second, the "Lord" ("Yahweh") is mentioned by name seven times as the One who "hath done this" (vv 1,2,5,7,8,17,20). Once, in v 16, Jerusalem's enemies boast proudly, "We have swallowed her up." But they, as all others outside the understanding of God, have misinterpreted the forces and the reasons behind the history of the Jews. God has thought only to punish the nation temporarily, as a necessary part of His overall plan. Then He must cleanse them and establish them, for they are His peculiar people, and He cannot utterly cast them away, because of His promises to their fathers. The promises to the fathers were made immutable by oath, as Paul reminds us. Nevertheless, their punishments (and their recognition of it as coming from God) are essential.

In this chapter, Jeremiah speaks too as the voice of the righteous remnant -- who lament the fate of Zion (vv 13,14), but who never cease to arise and call upon God to remember His people (vv 18-20).

Reading 3 - 1Corinthians 15:42-50

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (1Co 15:42-50).

"We drop a seed into the ground,

A tiny, shapeless thing, shrivelled and dry,

And, in the fulness of its time, is seen

A form of peerless beauty, robed and crowned

Beyond the pride of any earthly queen,

Inset with loveliness, and sweet and rare,

The perfect emblem of its Maker's care.

This from a shrivelled seed? --

Then may man hope indeed!

For man is but the seed of what he shall be,

When, in the fulness of his perfecting,

He drops the husk and cleaves his upward way,

Through earth's retardings and clinging clay,

Into the sunshine of God's perfect day.

No fetters then! No bonds of time or space!

But powers as ample as the boundless grace

That suffered man, and death, and yet in tenderness,

Set wide the door, and passed himself before --

As he had promised -- to prepare a place.

We know not what we shall be -- only this --

That we shall be made like him -- as he is" (J Oxenham).


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