Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Ezr 10:1
"While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing
himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites -- men, women
and children -- gathered around him. They too wept bitterly" (Ezra
"Human life is a river which flows evenly along from day to
day; but it is a river like the Zambesi or the Congo, not without its rapids and
its falls. Usually it flows silently, but sometimes it dashes along with
impetuosity and uproar. So is it with our Christian life, with our religious
course. There are things exceptional as well as things ordinary and regular, for
which room must be made by ourselves and allowance by other people. There may
be, as here at this juncture in the life of Ezra and the returned Jews, a time
of exceptional exhibition of feeling. Ezra 'wept', ie, made lamentation, audible
and visible, in presence of all the people, and instead of standing or kneeling
he cast himself down, and lay prostrate in the temple court, in order to impress
on the multitude the strength of his feeling, and the critical character of the
present emergency. And his example proved contagious, for all the people 'wept
very sore', and there was a great and general outpouring of emotion. Ordinarily
our feelings are wisely kept under control. In this country we are, indeed, apt
to press this a few points too far, and let self-control pass into a chill or
cold reserve. But self-control gives force and dignity to character, and almost
anything is better than habitually giving way to tempestuous feeling. Men that
are constantly violent in their expression of feeling are disregarded if not
despised; they lose all influence over others; they expend themselves in
trifles, and have nothing in reserve for large occasions. But there are times
when feeling may be freely poured forth; when, as in Ezra's case, there is
urgent reason for exciting others to feel as we do; or when, as in the case of
the people, there is general fervour in which it would be unsympathising or
unpatriotic not to share. It is a very noble sight when a whole people mourns
with an honourable repentance, or arises in holy indignation, or braces itself
up to a generous struggle, or rejoices with a pure and holy joy. Then let
feeling swell to its highest tide; let it pour itself forth as 'the mighty waves
of the sea' " (Pulpit Commentary).
Reading 2 - Hos 11:1
The flight of Joseph's family into Egypt, and their return
after the death of the king, are shown by Matthew to be a fulfillment of Hosea's
prophecy: "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Mat 2:15; quoting from Hos 11:1).
God's Son in the Old Testament was a national, plural "son"
(Exo 4:22,23), but in the New Testament the prophecy is given a definitely
singular emphasis. The reason is not difficult to grasp. "Not all who are
descended from Israel are Israel" (Rom 2:28; 9:6), and only those with the faith
of Abraham are fit to be called his "children" (Rom 4:11-13; Gal 3:8,9; Mat
3:8,9; John 8:33,39). According to the apostle Paul, Jesus was the singular seed
of Abraham (Gal 3:16); he proved his claim to that family inheritance by
perfectly obeying the will of God. In doing so he became the "hope of Israel",
the singular and only-begotten Son, through whom others might become "sons",
associated with the promises to the fathers of Israel. Like Moses before him,
but in a fuller and richer sense, Jesus will bring "Israel" out of "Egypt"
(symbolic of sin and death, Rev 11:8) by the blood, not of a passover lamb, but
of himself, the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the true passover (1Co 5:7; Heb
The exodus from Egypt is a parable, then, of our redemption in
Christ, and a foreshadowing of Christ's role as the true passover for the true
Israel. How appropriate then that in the life of him who is the "Israel" -- the
"prince with God" (cp Isa 49:3) -- there should be a physical coming out of
Egypt as a preview of the greater salvation which is the keynote of our Lord's
The allegory is even more firmly grounded in Scripture. The
first acts of Christ after reaching maturity, as a prelude to entering upon his
life's work, also follow the "Egypt-pass-over" pattern. His baptism echoes the
"baptism" of God's national son in the Red Sea (1Co 10:1,2). His 40-day
wilderness temptation likewise finishes the 40-year wilderness trial of the
children of Israel. Where the nation in the wilderness grumbled and failed, the
Son in the wilderness brings Scripture to bear upon his temptations, resists
them in faith, and succeeds!
The theme of Hosea
"Out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 11:1; quoted in Mat 2:15).
Matthew does not quote Hosea as an isolated phrase that
"sounds good". It should never be supposed that Bible quotations are mere verbal
"echoes" without substance. There are definite themes throughout the book of
Hosea which find confirmation and fulfillment in the life of Christ, of which
Hos 11:1 is but one example.
Two consistent threads run through the whole of Hosea's
God's continuing love for His people;
Israel's continuing rejection of
In God's eyes Israel is an unfaithful wife as well as a
wayward, rebellious child. Israel the unfaithful wife never quite puts away her
adulteries, yet Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, is patient and full of mercy.
Israel the wayward child never quite "grows up", yet Yahweh gently takes him by
the hand and with "ties of love" leads him out of danger (Hos 11:3,4). Though
Israel backslides and falls away again and again, still the Father will not
forget His "son": "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over,
Israel?" (v 8).
In counterpoint to God's abiding love there is Israel's
stubborn rebellion and rejection. Israel rejects God, rejects God's Son, and
finally is rejected by God, whose longsuffering can be stretched no further.
This reciprocal rejection is the constant theme of the last sections of Hosea's
prophecy, and is especially evident in the verses preceding Hos 11:1:
Hos 9:7: "The days of punishment [literally, visitation] are coming" -- The
"King", Jesus, visits his city and is rejected. "They will not leave one stone
on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you" (Luke
Hos 9:9: "The days of Gibeah" -- an echo of "Gabbatha" (John 19:13),
the judgment seat where the King was at last and conclusively rejected.
9:10: "The early fruit on the fig tree" -- "nothing on it except leaves" (Mat
21:19), and the "fig tree" nation of Israel is cursed by Jesus.
"Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one" -- an evident
similarity to Jer 31:15, the slaughter of the Bethlehem children.
"Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry" -- Because Israel
rejected God in crucifying His Son, they would themselves be rejected: "Jesus
turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for
yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say,
"Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that
never nursed!" ' " (Luke 23:28,29).
Hos 9:15: "All their wickedness (is) in
Gilgal" -- a possible reference to "Golgotha". "I will drive them out of my
house" -- the cleansing of the temple, not once, but twice (John 2:13-17; Mat
21:12, 13). "Look, your house is left to you desolate" (Mat 23:38).
9:17: "They will be wanderers among the nations."
Hos 10:3: "Then they will
say, 'We have no king' " -- that is, no king but Caesar (John 19:15).
10:5: "Its splendor, because it is taken from them into exile" -- "For I tell
you, you will not see me again..." (Mat 23: 39).
Hos 10:8: "Thorns and
thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the
mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall on us!' " -- This is cited
explicitly in Luke 23:30.
Hos 10:15: "When that day dawns, the king of
Israel will be completely destroyed."
Hosea sees the cutting off of Israel's king as the nation's
final break with its God. Israel will now suffer at God's hands and be rejected
-- for a long age at least -- while God's love is transferred to a new Son,
Jesus the spiritual "Israel". Through him a new nation, a new "Israel", will be
"Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning?
He will understand them" (Hos 14 9).
Matthew and the rejection of the king
Against this backdrop of Hosea, then, Matthew, and his
reference to Hos 11:1, may be seen in perspective. Matthew's is the Gospel that
particularly portrays Jesus as the king of Israel: he is born to be a king,
announced by a heavenly sign, worshiped by Gentile "kings" who lay their
treasures at his feet. He preaches the coming of the Kingdom in his own person,
and its final establishment in his return in royal power and authority, as
portrayed in many parables: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto..."
As with Hosea, however, there is a darker side to the picture
of God's love shown toward and through His Son. There is the familiar two-fold
rejection: Israel's rejection of God's King, and God's consequent rejection of
Israel. Even in the beginning, Christ is hunted by the murderous Herod, "King of
the Jews", who will allow no one to rule over him, and thus the family must flee
to Egypt (Mat 2:13-15; Hos 11:1). As Matthew's Gospel unfolds, the kingly
parables give way to more forbidding ones -- like those of the vineyard, and the
sheep and the goats -- which speak of rejection and judgment. Israel's destiny
is sealed when, in a fateful morning, they utterly cut off their king. "We will
not have this man to reign over us," they say, but at the end they will find
themselves rejected with "weeping and gnashing of teeth".
In view of the foregoing, Hos 11:1 may be seen not as an
isolated verbal link, but as part of a continuous theme found both in the
prophet and the Gospel.
Reading 3 - Col 2:19
"...The Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held
together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow" (Col
"The ecclesia is the body of Christ, who is its Head. All the
members look to him for guidance, all actively accept his call for service to
him and to all the rest of his body. Harmony between the members in their work
and life in the Faith is obtained only secondarily by considering working
arrangements with one another. Primarily it is secured by looking to and
listening to the Head, obedience to whose counsels brings peace to all ecclesias
of saints. Jesus and the spirit of Jesus were all that mattered to the first
century brethren. The rest followed naturally. The apostles did not preach
themselves or their arrangements; they preached Christ Jesus the Lord. Their
knowledge was only of Jesus Christ and of him crucified, their glorying not in
the ecclesial organization they were building up, but in the cross of the Lord
Jesus Christ. All things but him were loss. The Truth was not primarily a set of
doctrines; the Truth was Jesus. The Life was not essentially a series of
injunctions and prohibitions, the Life was Jesus. They were all brethren of
Jesus, believers in Jesus, called out (ecclesia) and set apart (saints) by and
for Jesus" (JB Norris, "First Century Ecclesia" 164,165).