Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Thoughts on the Sunday Readings

This Sunday hear the story of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. For Catholics who pray the rosary, the story is familiar. However, it's meaning is often misconstrued or misinterpreted. For instance, some think the story is about Jesus' circumcision. That's inaccurate.

In the readings this Sunday the lectionary highlight the way the story points forward to the passion of Christ. Specifically, the episode is linked with Old Testament hopes for the renewal of the priesthood and the sacrificial worship of the cult.

By the way, I have written quite a bit on this. If you're interested in a fuller and more scholarly examination, I'd recommend by article, "The New Temple, the New Priesthood, and the New Cult in Luke-Acts", which appeared in the latest volume of the Letter & Spirit academic journal. You can read it for free here.

Without any further ado, here we go.

Thus says the Lord God:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.
As usual, the reading is far too rich for a short blog post to do justice to it. Here let us just highlight three ideas:

1. The Lord is coming to purify the temple. The Lord specifically announces that he is coming to the temple. His arrival is described in terms of a "refiner's fire". 

2. The Lord is coming to purify the priesthood. Specifically, the purpose of the Lord's advent is to purify the "sons of the Levi", the priestly tribe in ancient Israel. 

3. The Lord's coming will enable proper sacrifice. The coming of the Lord will bring about "due sacrifice to the LORD". The language suggests that such is not capable of being offered in the present condition. The reason for this seems to be that the priesthood needs to be purified. In other words, the Lord is coming to purify the priesthood so that it may offer the sacrifices God wills to be presented. 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10
R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Following on the imagery of the first reading, it is appropriate that the Responsorial Psalm envisions the Lord coming to the temple. 

Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life.
Surely he did not help angels
but rather the descendants of Abraham;
therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters
in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.
The second reading highlights Christ's priesthood. Again, I'd like to draw out three ideas. 

1. Christ is a merciful high priest. Christ is, as we find elsewhere in Scripture, the one priestly mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5)

2. Christ's death serves as a sacrificial offering that saves us from sin and death. This is seen in two ways. First, by his death Christ has conquered the devil to "free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery".  Second, Christ died to "expiate the sins of the people". Both terms seem related to the concept of "atonement". 

a. Liberty from slavery as atonement language
In Judaism sin was understood in terms of a debt. This conceptual matrix is clearly behind the language of the Lord's Prayer in the Gospel of Matthew; the petition "forgive us our debts" (Matt 6:12) is clearly about God forgiving us of our sins. Moreover, debt led to slavery. In the ancient world, if one could not pay off his or her debts one ended up being sold into servitude. This is specified by the Torah (cf. Lev. 25:39–55). See also 1 Kings 4:
Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves. (2 Kings 4:1) 
Interestingly, then, the Jubilee Year, which involved the forgiveness of death and the freeing of indebted slaves, was announced on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 25:9-10; cf. Lev. 23:27). For ancient Jews, the forgiveness of sins and the forgiveness of debts were inseparably linked.  
Much more could be said here. Significantly, Israel's exile was understood in terms of God selling Israel into slavery because of its debt of sin (e.g., Isa. 50:1: "Behold, for your iniquities you were sold. . ."). 
In sum, Christ's death has delivered his people from the bondage to due their sin. His death has paid the "ransom" price--i.e., he has "redeemed" us by his blood. The language is inseparably linked to atonement. 
Indeed, the in the Dead Sea Scrolls, "atonement" is specifically understood in terms of deliverance from the debt of sin and the Jubilee: 
". . . And liberty will be proclaimed for them, to free them from [the debt of] all their iniquities. And this [wil]l [happen] 7 in the first week of the jubilee which follows the ni[ne] jubilees. And the d[ay of aton]ement is the e[nd of] the tenth [ju]bilee 8 in which atonement shall be made for all the sons of [light and] for the men [of] the lot of Mel[chi]zedek. . . " (11QMelchizedek 2:6-8
It is perhaps worth mentioning that the Epistle to the Hebrews goes on to not only identify Christ's death as an atoning sacrifice but it also specifically identifies him as "a priest in the order of Melchizedek" (cf. Ps 110:4).
b. "Expiation" as a sacrifice of "atonement"
Christ's death is understood in terms of "expiation", in Greek, hilasmos, the word used to translate the Hebrew, kippūr, "atonement". The term is closely related to Israel's sacrificial cult and, in that context, refers to "atonement" sacrifices. See, for example, Num. 5:8, Ezek. 44:27; 2 Macc 3:33.   
Together with the language above about setting humanity free from slavery, the terminology reinforces the notion that Christ's death has served as a priestly sacrifice.  
3. As Christ was "tested", so too will believers be. Christ has paved the way ahead of believers. He has suffered but we shall as well. However, he is not unmerciful or compassionate towards them in their suffering for he endured suffering himself.

GOSPEL:  Luke 22:40
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
I cannot possibly comment on every aspect of this passage. Let us just hit the following highlights.

1. Why did the Holy Family go to Jerusalem? According to the Old Testament, after a woman gave birth she was ritually unclean (cf. Lev. 12:1-5). In order to be purified a sacrifice was required (Lev. 12:6-8).

To be clear: ritual impurity did not necessarily involve "sin", though sin was a kind of impurity (cf. Klawans, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism, 158). A woman was not a "sinner" because she had given birth. Without giving a long explanation, we can simply say here that the purity laws were essentially "symbolic".

Exactly how they were symbolic is debated. Three basic approaches might be mentioned here:

  • Jacob Milgrom has shown that things associated with "death" were linked with "impurity" (e.g., touching a corpse)(cf. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, 1002–3). The purity system thus underscores that God is the Lord of life. 
  • Another approach is that of Mary Douglas, who has tied purity to the idea of God's "order" and purpose in creation (e.g., creatures that depart from the norm, i.e., fish that do not have fins and scales, are unclean). 
  • The Church fathers made the case that the purity laws were given to Israel to teach them to reject the ways of the nations and to, in a sense, quarantine Israel from their neighbors. The more recent analysis offered by Jan Assmann would seem to support aspects of this theory (Moses the Egyptian).   

Without offering a long explanation, it seems to me that the laws had a multi-faceted purpose.

2. Luke seems hesitant to speak of Mary as "unclean". One fascinating aspect of the narrative is that even though Luke would have known that "impurity" was metaphorical in the case of childbirth and not related to sinfulness, he still seems uncomfortable identifying Mary with uncleanness. Rather than explain that the couple went up to Jerusalem to deal with her state of impurity after childbirth, Luke says that the time came for "their purification." Perhaps this hesitancy is due to Luke's previous narrative, which seems to identify Mary with the ark of the covenant. Go here for more on that:

3. Mary and Joseph are obedient to the law. Mary and Joseph do not seek a "way out". They do not look for loopholes (i.e., "I am the mother of the Messiah"). Here we see their great willingness to obey the Law of the Lord--giving us an example to follow!

4. Holy Family offers turtle doves, the offering of the poor (Lev. 12:8). The Holy Family is identified with the poor.

5. The meaning of "presentation". The precise language of Mary and Joseph "presenting" the child Jesus in the temple is significant. One level it recalls figures such as Samuel, who in the Old Testament were dedicated to God from their youth by their parents. However, there seems to be more than just a "dedication" going on here. The word translation “to present" is paristēmi. As Pope Benedict observed in volume 3 of his work, Jesus of Nazareth, the term is specifically used for "presenting" a "sacrifice". See Romans 12:1: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present [paristēmi] your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

Jesus is in the temple as the sacrifice. Here Jesus' sacrificial death is anticipated. (For more on that Jesus' sacrificial death in Luke-Acts, see my Letter & Spirit article, for which there is a link above). 

5. The Piercing of the Messiah and His Mother. Mary is told that her soul will be pierced so that "the thoughts out of many hearts will be revealed" (Luke 2:35). Much could be said here. Suffice it to say, Mary is so closely united to her son that she will participate in his redemptive suffering.

Indeed, in this Mary is a model of all believers. St. Paul explains, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. . ." (Col. 1:24)

6. Christ and the renewal of the priesthood. The story of the presentation reveals the fulfillment of what Malachi longed for: the arrival of God at his temple and the purification of the priesthood. Christ comes to the temple as the true priest, offering the true sacrifice, himself. He therefore brings about a renewal of the priesthood.

In fact, all believers have a share in that priesthood. By uniting ourselves with Christ and following Mary's example we offer our selves as a sacrifice to God, as Paul explains.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Join John Bergsma and me for a FREE Bible conference in California next month

On February 15th, John Bergsma and I will be speaking at the 6th Annual Biblical Studies Conference at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in beautiful Santa Maria, CA.

The event is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Here are the 8 things you need to know about it.

1. How much? The event is FREE. There will be a free-will offering to help defray the costs.

2. What's the topic? The theme is, Christ, Our Passover: The Eucharist and the Cross

3. What's the schedule? In broad strokes, the conference begins at 9am and ends at 2:30pm. There is a lunch break from 12:00pm-12:45pm.

4. What about lunch? There is an optional $6 lunch (sandwich, drink, chips), for which you must RSVP. (It's really worth it. The sandwiches are fantastic!)

5. Where is Santa Maria? Santa Maria is north of Santa Barbara. Many people from northern, central and southern California come each year.

6. The drive there is spectacular. . . Really. A perfect Valentine's Day trip!  I highly recommend you come--if nothing else than for the drive there. The scenic route along the beach is truly breathtaking.

True story: Immediately after going there for this conference the first time I attended, I took my wife on a weekend get away shortly afterwards. It was so stunningly beautiful, I had to make the drive with her. We stayed at a nearby beach. 

I recommend making a Valentine's Day date out of it. Young parents, maybe think about about getting a babysitter. You won't regret it! And if you don't like the conference, you can have your money back. 

Oh wait, it's free. 

7. Location

St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church Parish Hall
5075 Harp Road
Santa Maria, CA 93455

8. Who should I contact?

For more information, contact Trent Benedetti at (805) 922-4881.

The flyer is above. Yes, the first time I did this I didn't have a beard and I guess they just recycled this old picture of me!


9. Will John Bergsma be doing any of his famous drawings during his talk? Not sure, but I think it's a safe bet that he will probably draw something. Expect no drawings from me, however.

THREE previously unreleased commentaries by Aquinas coming from Logos Software

As readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of Logos Bible Software.

From time to time, I get emails or comments from people who make the case that such a software program is unnecessary because the materials available on Logos are available online.

Not only do such people fail to understand what Logos is capable of doing (e.g., word studies, cross referencing across resources, etc.), they are also just plain wrong--you simply cannot find the same resources on the web for free.

For example, Logos is now about to make history by releasing the the first English translation of three commentaries by Aquinas.


They are:

  • Thomas' commentary on Isaiah (2 vols.)
  • Thomas' commentary on Jeremiah (2 vols.)
  • Thomas' commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences (8 vols.)

I can't believe these works have never been available in English. Stunning!

But soon you'll be able to get them--and only from Logos.

Pre-order now and get the incredible discount!

Learn more here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Joy of Dropping Everything: The 3rd Sunday of OT

The Readings for this Sunday focus in part on the theme of joy, the joy that comes from recognizing Jesus Christ as the light of the world, the ray of sunshine from God who shows us a different way to live, a way that will lead to an eternal friendship with a God who loves us as our Father.  Jesus is the joy and light that first was promised to the people of Israel long ago, but is now available to the whole world, from Sweden to Swaziland.

1.  Our First Reading is Isaiah 8:23-9:3:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Baptism of the Servant: The Readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday readings continue to examine the significance of Jesus' baptism. Specifically, the readings lead us to consider how Jesus' baptism fulfills the calling of the people of God and how it serves as a kind of revelation for what happens to Christians in their baptism.

Of course, the readers of the Gospels would have also been baptized.  Baptism was clearly recognized as the sacrament of initiation in the early Church (cf., e.g., Rom 6:1; 1 Cor 1:13-17; 1 Cor 12:13; etc.). Jesus' baptism then becomes a kind of portrait of what happens to believers when they receive the sacrament.

But now I'm getting ahead of myself. On to the readings...

FIRST READING: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
The prophet is clearly addressing Israel in the exile. Because of their sin, the twelve tribes were scattered.

Specifically, God addresses the servant as "Israel: "You are my servant, Israel . . . through whom I will show my glory". This ultimately reflects God's commitment to fulfill the promise he made to Abraham. After showing his willingness to offer his only beloved son Isaac, God promised the Patriarch:
“I swear by my very self—oracle of the Lord—that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your son, your only one, 17 I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants will take possession of the gates of their enemies, 18 and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing, because you obeyed my command.” (Genesis 22:16-18; NABRE).
Isaiah's promise then that the servant will be "a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth" makes sense in light of this.

Yet there does seem to be some tension in the identification of the servant. On one level, the servant is "Israel". On another, the servant has been called for the purpose of saving Israel. He explains that he has been "formed. . . from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him".

In fact, the Servant will not only "raise up the tribes of Jacob" he also has an international mission: "I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth"!

How exactly the Servant is Israel and also sent to Israel is unclear. Paul and the Gospel reading, however, offers an explanation. More on that below.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Saving Orphans in Korea: Early Christianity Redivivus

I recently encountered this heartbreaking yet inspiring video on Facebook. It documents the work of a single pastor in South Korea who is saving infants abandoned on the streets.

The video reminded me of sociologist Rodney Stark's now classic book, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal, Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

Stark offers a historical explanation for the incredible explosion of the Christian faith in Greco-Roman culture.

The numbers are truly staggering. According to the data in chapter seven of his book, Christians made up .0017% of the population of the Roman Empire in A.D. 40. That number skyrocketed to 56.6% by A.D. 350.

Part of what caused Christianity to spread so rapidly was its commitment to life--particularly, as Stark shows, the lives of little girls. Let me explain.

Why Was Jesus Baptized? The Feast of the Baptism

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which will close the liturgical season of Christmas.

But why do we celebrate this event at all?  The primary meaning of baptism appears to be the washing away of sin.  Since Jesus had no sin, why be baptized?  That’s one of the more obvious questions raised by the theme of this feast and by the readings.  At the same time, the readings for this Sunday point us in the direction of an answer. 

1.  The First Reading is Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7:

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Historical Jesus and the Problem of Hermeneutics

My doktorvater, Colin Brown, makes a great statement in The Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus (4 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2010), 2:1435:
The question of the historical Jesus is not just a question of material evidence. It is a hermeneutical question. It may even be said that Jesus was executed over a question of hermeneutics. The hermeneutical question was one that divided Jesus’ contemporaries, and divides people today. 

Gupta ranks our book "Four Views on the Role of Works" one of the best of 2013

Special thanks to New Testament scholar Nijay Gupta, who offers his list of the best books of 2013. Among them is the book I co-wrote with James D.G. Dunn, Thomas Schreiner, and Robert Wilkin, "Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment", edited by Alan Stanley (Zondervan, 2013).

Gupta writes:
Best Multi-View Work 
There have been several multi-view books out this year (e.g., inerrancy, historical Adam), but pride of place must go to Four Views on the Role of Works at Final Judgment. I found the conversations between Barber, Dunn, and Schreiner especially rewarding. This would make a very nice companion textbook to any New Testament theology course. 
Last year, Gupta wrote a series of thoughtful posts on the book.

I was especially gratified by this comment (from Part 5):
This is a very insightful book – it was especially helpful for me to see how Catholic theology approaches this issue.
I really hope to write a series of blog posts on the responses to my chapter. (I'm still stunned that James D.G. Dunn has written a response to something I have written!) I've been unable to focus on that task since the book was published but hopefully I'll get to it in the new year.

By the way, I should return the favor by mentioning that Gupta has a very important book that deserves serious attention, entitled, Worship that Makes Sense to Paul: A New Approach to the Theology and Ethics of Paul's Cultic Metaphors (Walter de Gruyter, 2010).

My new article in JBL - "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder and Peter's Priestly Role in Matthew 16:16-19"

I am pleased to announce that Journal of Biblical Literature has published an article I wrote in their most recent volume. The article is entitled, "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder and Peter's Priestly Role in Matthew 16:16-19". 

The article synthesizes part of my doctoral dissertation, which is currently being revised for publication. 

You can download it here

Here is the abstract: 
It is widely accepted that Matthew presents Jesus as fulfilling Jewish eschatological expectations, particularly, Davidic hopes. However, although Jesus frequently speaks positively about his disciples' participation in the cult in Matthew's narrative (e.g., 5:23-24), little attention has been paid to Matthew's interest in Christ's fulfillment of the cultic dimensions of future hopes. In fact, ancient Jewish sources repeatedly express not only the belief in an eschatological temple but also expectations of a reformed and/or new priesthood. In this article, I argue that such hopes inform Matt 16:17-19. I begin by arguing that Jesus' building of the church is best understood in light of Matthew's Davidic Christology, an aspect of the evangelist's portrait of Jesus that many scholars have noted. Specifically, building on the work of others, I contend that Jesus' response to Peter's confession involves allusions to Davidic traditions of temple building (cf. 2 Sam 7:12-13; 1 Chr 17:7-10) (e.g., Ådna, Meyer, Wright). Going on, I demonstrate that Jesus' description of Peter's role in the following verses seems to portray him as one holding a priestly role. In particular, as many scholars have noted, Jesus' words to Peter appear to echo the description of Eliakim in Isaiah 22 (e.g., Davies and Allison, Hagner, Willis). What is frequently overlooked is that this passage describes Eliakim as wearing garments usually associated with the high priest (cf. Isa 22:21 with Exod 28:4), an aspect of the passage not lost on Jewish readers (e.g., Tg. on Isaiah; b. Ta'an. 29a). "Binding" and "loosing" also seem linked to responsibilities typically associated with the priesthood (teaching, judging, mediating divine forgiveness). In light of this I argue that this passage provides Jesus with the perfect quarry: if the church is a temple, its leadership is naturally described in terms related to priestly responsibilities.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

"Your Light Has Come": A Look at the Readings for Epiphany Sunday

This Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany. The term is derived from two Greek words: epi, “on, upon” and phaino, “to appear, to shine.” Literally, the word means, "to shine upon" or "to make manifest".

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that, "The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world" (CCC 528).

In fact, one little known fact about the feast is that the Epiphany isn't simply linked in Church tradition to the story of the coming of the magi to visit the Christ child.

The Catechism explains that Epiphany also celebrates two other major events in which Jesus' messianic identity is revealed: his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana (cf. CCC 528).

Here, however, we will focus on the readings, which climax with the visit of the magi.

FIRST READING: Isaiah 60:1-6
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth,and thick clouds cover the peoples;but upon you the LORD shines,and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light,and kings by your shining radiance. 
Raise your eyes and look about;they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar,and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you,dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;all from Sheba shall comebearing gold and frankincense,and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Here we have a passage describing the final restoration of Jerusalem. Three ideas stand out.