Hear this, oh priests!
Give heed, oh House of Israel!
Hearken, oh House of the King!
for the judgment pertains to you
For you have been a snare at Mizpah
and a net spread upon Tabor
and they have made deep the pit of Shittim;
but I will chastise all of them.
I know Ephraim,
and Israel is not hid from me;
for now, oh Epraim, you have played the harlot;
Israel is defiled.
Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God;
for the spirit of harlotry is within them
and they know not the Lord.
The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt;
Judah also shall stumble with them.
With their flocks and their herds they shall go
to seek the Lord,
but they will not find Him;
He has withdrawn from them.
The have dealt faithlessly with the Lord;
for they have borne alien children.
Now the new moon shall devour
them with their fields.
Blow the horn in Gibeah,
the trumpet in Ramah.
Sound the alarm at Betel;
tremble, oh Benjamin!
Ephraim shall become a desolation
in the day of punishment/
Among the tribes of Israel
I declare what is sure.
The princes of Judah have become
like those who remove the landmark;
upon them I will pour out my wrath like water.
Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgement,
because he was determined to go after vanity.
Therefore I am lik a moth to Ephraim
and like dry rot to the house of Judah.
When Ephraim saw his sickness
and Judah his wound,
then Epharim went to Assyria
and sent to the Great King.
But he is not able to cure you
or heal your wound.
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
and like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will rend and go away;
I will carry off, and none shall rescue.
I will return again to my place,
until they acknowledge their guilt
and seek my face,
and in their distress seek Me,
saying, “Come, let us return to the Lord!”
Peter said, “Lord, do you intend this parable specially for us, or is it for everyone?”
The Lord said, “Well, who is the trusty and sensible man whom the Master will appoint as his steward, to manage his servants and issue their rations at the proper time?
“Happy that man who is found at his task when his Master comes! I tell you, then, he will be put in charge of all his Master’s property.
“But if that servant says to himself, ‘The Master is a long time coming,’ and begins to bully the menservants and maids, and eat and drink and get drunk; then the Master will arrive on a day that servant does not expect, at a time he does not know, and will cut him in pieces. Thus he will find his place among the faithless.
“The servant who knew his Master’s wishes, yet made no effort to carry them out, will be flogged severely. But one who did not know them, though he earned a beating, will be flogged less severely. Where a man has been given much, much will be expected of him; and the more a man has had entrusted to him, the more he will be required to repay.”
As a child, I was reading Matthew’s versions of these sayings (Luke 12.35-40 and the like…) and the natural reading was~ ‘Something really scary is going to drop out of the 20th (now 21st) Century sky, catch you just sitting there fooling around, and if you aren’t doing right, at that moment, are you ever going to be sorry!’ No telling when– or what to expect. I’d say people have been reading such passages in that sense from at least the time of Constantine, probably earlier. Certainly we’ve got Paul (& also the writer of Revelation) predicting that Jesus would come back, wake the dead, judge the Powers of the world (at least) and vindicate his followers “soon”. So that must have been an expectation of many early Christians, as well.
NT Wright makes better sense of the 1st Century context. Jesus comes to Jerusalem, to the Temple, as an embodiment of prophecies (explicit in Malachi 3.1->) that “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His Temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. (etc.)
The “Little Apocalypse” in Mark, when the disciples are asking “When will these things be?”– and Jesus is near the Temple talking about Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, about “not one stone left on another”– That isn’t about “the end of the world” (though it will look like it to many Jews of the time); it’s a slightly later prediction, based on what he finds there, of the destruction of the Temple. Which happened,
The return of ‘the Master’? Wright says [about a similar parable]:
“The king who leaves his subjects tasks to perform, and who then returns to see how they have got on, has of course regularly been read as a code for Jesus going away and, in due course, returning. The servants are then Jesus’ followers, who will be judged on their performance, in his absence…. [but]
“First, in most parables about a king and subjects, or a master and servants, the king or master stands for Israel’s God and the subjects or servants for Israel and/or her leaders or prophets. This is so both in Jesus’ teaching and in some Jewish parables…
“Second, the idea of a king who returns after a long absence fits exactly into the context of the return of YHWH to Zion…. I suggest… that the best way to read the master/servant parables is in terms of their immediate context in all three synoptics, that is, of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.
“…although the idea of Jesus’ return (the so-called ‘second coming’ has a place in Luke’s writings, it is neither central nor major, and in any case occurs [there].. only in Acts. It looks more like a post-Easter innovation than a feature of Jesus’ own teaching.”
“It all depends on where, within the story, the hearer is supposed to be located. It has usually been assumed, quite gratuitously, that the story is told from the perspective of the beginning of the process, when the master is going away. But is far more likely, in view of the emphasis of the parable, that the ‘ideal hearer’ [of Jesus’ time] is located near the end of the story, when the master is about to return.
“the right way to take this whole kaleidoscopic sequence of parables is as further stories about the imminent return of YHWH to Zion, and the awesome consequences which will ensue if Israel is not ready.” [as in: judgment on the rulers of Jesus’ day, destruction of the land, the city, the Temple for example…]
The quote in Jesus’ trial, about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven”?– The reference in Daniel is clearly to a symbolic event: the end of those human-man world-kingdoms symbolized there by the four beasts, the beginning of rule by a humane being. An outcome still in the future, alas!
Are we, then, to expect a Second Coming, of the sort I imagined?
Fireworks. Wailing, gnashing of teeth. A sudden realization of “Ooops, I really shouldn’t have been doing that a moment ago! Dammit, I’m on my way now– When do I get my accordion?”
It’s good to keep in mind that God has not gone away, that we should maintain an alert expectation that whatever we do may be On The Exam.
Or that, as Stephen Gaskin put it, “the operation of the Law of Karma is like a man taking a full swing at a golf ball in a small tiled bathroom.” God is not vindictive, is not sneaking up to catch us out– but any little character flaw will certainly need to be fixed, or it will make us sorry!
But if we begin alertly expecting the presence of God… not just omnipresence (which is always, logically speaking, with us) but the ongoing, recognized activity of God at work in and around us– Who knows what further miracles this world will see in the coming future?
Hear the word of the Lord, oh people of Israel;
for the Lord has a controversy
with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or kindness,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, killing,
stealing and committing adultery;
they break all bounds
and murder follows murder.
Therefore the land mourns
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the air;
even the fish of the sea
are taken away.
Yet no one contend
and let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, oh priest!
You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;
and I will destroy your mother.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten
the law of your God
I also will forget your children.
The more they increased, the more they sinned against me;
I will change their glory into shame.
They feed on the sins of my people;
they are greedy for their iniquity;
and it shall be: Like people, like priest.
I will punish them for their ways
and requite them for their deeds.
They shall eat, but not be satisfied;
they shall play the harlot, but not multiply
because they have forsaken the Lord
to cherish harlotry.
Wine and new wine
take away the understanding.
My people inquire of a thing of wood,
and their staff gives them oracles,
for a spirit of harlotry has led them astray
and they have left their God to play the harlot.
They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains
and make offerings upon the hills,
under oak, poplar, and terebinth,
because their shade is good.
Therefore your daughters play the harlot
and your brides commit adultery.
I will not punish your daughters
when they play the harlot,
nor your brides
when they commit adultery
for the men themselves go aside with harlots
and sacrifice with cult prostitutes;
and a people without understanding
shall come to ruin.
Though you play the harlot, oh Israel,
let not Judah become guilty.
Enter not into Gilgal,
nor go up to Bethel,
and swear not, “As the Lord lives.”
Like a stubborn heifer,
Israel is stubborn;
can the Lord now feed them
like a lamb in a broad pasture?
Ephraim is joined to idols;
let him alone.
A band of drunkards, they give themselves to harlotry;
they love shame more than their glory.
A wind has wrapped them in its wings;
and they shall be ashamed because of their altars.
“Be ready for action, with belts fastened and lamps alight. Be like men who wait for their master’s return from a wedding party, ready to let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.
“Happy are those servants whom the Master finds on the alert when he comes. I tell you this: He will buckle on His belt, seat them at table, come and wait on them! Even if it is the middle of the night, or before dawn when He comes, happy if He finds them alert!
“And remember, if the householder had known what time the burglar was coming he would not have let his house be broken into. Hold yourself ready, then, because the Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect him.”
And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is beloved by her friend and is an adulteress; even as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”
So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a 1/2 homer of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim.
Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; and they shall come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the end of days.
“Sell your possessions and give alms.
“Provide for yourselves purses that do not wear out, and never-failing wealth in Heaven, where no thief can get near it, no moth destroy it.
“For where your wealth is, there will your heart be also.”
Therefore, behold! I will allure her
and bring her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor [“troubling”]
a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
And in that day, says the Lord,
you will call Me “my husband”,
and no longer will you call Me “my Baal[lord, master]”
For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
and they shall be mentioned by name no more.
And I will make for you, on that day
a covenant with the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and
the creeping things of the ground;
and I will abolish the bow, the sword,
and war from the land; I will make
you lie down in safety.
And I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you to me in righteousness
and in justice, in steadfast love
and in mercy. I will betroth you to me
and you shall know the Lord.
And in that day, says the Lord,
I will answer the Heavens
and they shall answer the Earth.
And the Earth shall answer
the grain, the wine, the oil
and they shall answer Jezreel–
[Jezreel == “Whom God Soweth” in my version of this from The Jewish Publication Society, 1955]
and I will sow him for myself in the land.
And I will have pity on “Not Pitied” [== “those I have not pitied”]
and I will say to my people: “You are
my people,” and they
shall recognize their God.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
Say to your brother, “My people,” and to your sister, “She has obtained pity.”
Plead with your mother, plead– for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband–
that she put away her harlotry from her face
and her adultery from between her breasts,
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and set her like a parched land,
and slay her with thirst.
Upon her children also I will have no pity
because they are children of harlotry,
for their mother has played the harlot;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, “I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”
Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them;
and she shall seek them,
but shall not find them.
Then she will say, “I will go
and return to my first husband,
for it was better with me then than now.”
And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
who lavished on her silver
and gold, which they used for Baal.
Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time
and my wine in its season;
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts
and I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said, “These are my hire
which my lovers have given me.”
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned incense to them
and decked herself with her ring and jewelry;
and went after her lovers,
and forgot me,
says the Lord.