Saturday, January 17, 2009

liturgical hope

It was quite lovely reading through Malachi in my Jewish Study Bible this morning. The footnotes are always intriguing and generally give fun insight or some sort of historical/critical commentary.

The last chapter of Malachi [two chs in most translations] tells of YHWH's people being His treasured possession [3.17], "the sun of righteousness" rising with healing in its wings [3.20 or 4.2], and "Elijah" preparing the way [3.23 or 4.5]. These texts are richly Messianic. We can see this in Mt 11.7-15, Lk 1.76-78, and elsewhere. Despite these texts being promised-filled, the book ends on a somber note of destruction [3.24 or 4.6].

However, when this passage is read in traditional Jewish liturgy, 3.23 is repeated after 3.24. This is done so that the public reading of the text would end with hope as the horizon rather than despair as the last stanza.

Moreover, this is precisely how the last verses of Lamentations [5.21-22] and Isaiah [66.23-24] are read too. In doing this, the Jewish people know that they have not TRULY returned from exile [Neh 9.36]. They know that this Second Temple cannot fully be what YHWH promised in the Davidic covenant. They are hardwired with hope, but do not believe that this hope has come in Jesus.

But the Messiah is supposed to reign and rule. The Messiah will be the spiritual and political Jewish Superhero. Messiahs don't die naked on a Roman crucifixion stick. 

Or do they?

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