The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, October 1, 2023

Next to learning “No!” the toughest lesson of childhood is learning to share: to let others have, use, and control what we consider to be ours.

No wonder the Israelites were complaining.  The Lord their GOD wasn’t abiding by the lessons they’d learned in childhood:  the Lord wasn’t “sharing.”  The Israelites wanted to “own” their own lives—to be able to say “Mine!” and possess themselves and their future.  They complained; their GOD was unfair:  he wouldn’t share.  He claimed their lives entirely.

The Lord GOD doesn’t give in to their accusation; no, he states clearly, “…all souls are mine…” (vs. 4) The Lord confronts his people with the impossibility of them taking charge of their own future before him: “Repent, turn, and live!  Cast away transgressions, get a new heart, a new spirit, and not die!” (vs. 31).  With these admonitions the Lord delivers the truth they already know but which terrifies them:  their death rate remains at a constant one hundred percent.   

From our use of Psalm 51 we know that the Lord our God is in charge of hearts, for we pray with David: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” (vs. 10).  This clean heart is the heart of Jesus Christ; this right spirit is our God’s Holy Spirit.  In our hearing God’s Good News, the Holy Spirit works faith—the presence of Jesus Christ in us, complete with his clean heart full of faith.  Only by such faith do we have the maturity to trust our God’s word “Mine!” in both our death and our life.

Table Talk:  Relate an episode of sharing and a time of God’s selfishness.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, hold my life and claim it forever.  Amen

Ezekiel 18:1- 4, 25-32

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? 3 As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die…

…25 Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not just. Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, The way of the Lord is not just. O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 24, 2023

Who comprehends the Lord’s pardon? Struck by its incomprehensibility, we are left with Nicodemus’ question, “How can these things be?” (Jn. 3:9). “Seek me,” says the Lord… “Call on me,” says the Lord… “Forsake your ways… return to me,” says the Lord… the unflaggingly faithful Lord calls his people to him, not to receive judgment and punishment, but to receive compassion and pardon. Indeed, who can understand it?

The Lord himself reassures us in our inability to comprehend his faithfulness. He announces, “My ways are not your ways…” “My thoughts are not your thoughts…” (vs. 9). Nothing in this sin-broken creation prepares us for the Lord’s mercy. No relationship on earth exudes love and faithfulness like our Lord’s claim upon his people. That divine mercy and compassion are too good to be true.

Our skepticism convinces us that the Lord’s faithfulness simply exceeds our capacity to trust it. “Surely,” we think, “there must be a catch… The Lord cannot simply up and forgive sins, can he?” So, in our skepticism, we fall into one or the other of the two traps that Satan sets around the Lord’s faithfulness. The first trap convinces us that our skepticism is true. God does not simply up and forgive sins. No, he does not. We must add some work of our own: sorrow, repentance, amendment of life… whatever the trap contains. The second trap convinces us that it is certainly true: God does indeed up and forgive sins. In fact, since that forgiveness stands over our entire lives, there is no need even to admit to our sinfulness. We say to ourselves, “I like to sin; God likes to forgive; it’s a match made in heaven.”

Not so fast, God does indeed simply up and forgive. His pardon is so exceedingly abundant, it’s incomprehensible. This pardon… this compassion… this love from God is (as Paul preaches) only available in Jesus Christ. Not in that “something” you must add… not in your assumption of pardon… only… only in Jesus Christ!

Table Talk: Discuss the two traps and how you have succumbed to them.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep your Word Jesus Christ plentifully available to me that in him I would not only be pardoned but be kept from the traps Satan has laid for me. Amen

Isaiah 55:6-9

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 17, 2023

Children bringing gifts—presenting their precious gatherings:  crayon scribblings, wilted dandelions, and other “found” treasure—often confound their parents and other recipients.  Struggling to find an appropriate response, the recipients console themselves thinking: “It’s not the gift but the thought that counts.”  Just so, we learn to discern intentions.

But we are not so good at discerning our own intentions.  We claim good intentions when the truth is quite different.  Our “good” intentions really intend for us to look good—they are selfish… not “good” at all.

Martin Luther spoke of this in the Heidelberg Disputation saying: “Arrogance cannot be avoided, or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.”  In saying this Luther acknowledged the truth of Jesus’ response to being called “good teacher,” saying, “No one is good except God alone” (Lk 18:19b).  We don’t possess the depth to see the deepest intentions of our hearts.  Neither do we have sufficient duration to see the concluding consequences of any work.  Therefore, none of our works can be discerned unambiguously as good or righteous.  If they could, we’d either become arrogant in our pride over them or we’d despair of ever doing them and have no hope.

This confrontation between Joseph and his brothers anticipates the confrontation between Jesus and all his brothers and sisters on earth.  Though humanity sought to silence Jesus by killing him “for the good of the nation,” God intended Jesus’ death for good:  salvation for all.  God’s plans work for good even through sinful people.  We can confess all our works as they are under condemnation, confident of God’s forgiveness.

Table Talk:  Confess a time you did good for selfish reasons.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, forgive us our deeds both good and bad so that we might look only to you for our righteousness.  Amen

Genesis 50:15-21

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him. 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, Your father gave this command before he died, 17 Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you. And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father. Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, Behold, we are your servants. 19 But Joseph said to them, Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones. Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 10, 2023

Sentinels, watchmen, sentries—all serve important functions during times of war and conflict.  They keep watch for the coming of the enemy.  They sound the alarm and warn the people when the enemy is sighted.  The forewarned people have opportunity to prepare their defenses or to escape the oncoming adversary.

The Lord appoints Ezekiel to the work of sentinel.  He is to announce the coming of the enemy upon the house of Israel.  The coming enemy is none other than the Lord who is visiting wrath and judgment upon his people.  Ezekiel is to listen to the Word the Lord is giving him.  When the Lord says “wrath,” Ezekiel must say so to the people.  When the Lord says “mercy,” Ezekiel must say so to the people.  Ezekiel’s word is the Word of the Lord.

The Lord continues to appoint people to the work of sentinel—people to serve as watchmen and sentries.  The person called to be pastor is one so appointed.  The pastor listens to the Word that the Lord gives.  Then the pastor delivers that Word—either wrath or mercy—to the people.  The Lord’s Word kills and makes alive.  It puts the wicked to death, ending their miserable existence.  It raises those dead sinners to the newness of life in Christ.  In this way your pastor delivers the Word of the Lord as the preaching of Law and Gospel.  People hear it as command and promise:  Die, sinner!  Rise up, oh saints of God!  In the face of God’s wrath revealed through the commandments, God delivers mercy in the person of Jesus Christ who is the Gospel promise.

Table Talk:  Discuss the importance of sentinels.  How do the commands and promises of the Lord work upon you?

Prayer:  Father, reveal our sin so we may confess and be forgiven them in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

Ezekiel 33:7-9

7 So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 3, 2023

Imagined or real, the fear of being caught in the grip—the clutches—of something or someone unpleasant and dangerous has come to us all.  Whether it’s the childhood anxiety of fleeing the grasp of monsters unseen by any grown-up or the adult reality of being “gripped” by circumstances—a relationship, a job, an addiction—holding us powerless, to be “grasped” is to be under the control of another.

The prophet Jeremiah has been under the control of those to whom he’s been prophesying.   The Word of the Lord which he delivers is unwelcome and unwanted.  Those hearers of the Word of God have insulted, persecuted, and imprisoned the Lord’s messenger.  Jeremiah’s only contentment has come from the promise and assurance coming through the Word of the Lord.  So, the prophet calls out to the Lord for help; he cries for deliverance.  In answer, the Lord gives Jeremiah, and all who hear this word, a promise: “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked… from the grasp of the ruthless!”  God will not leave this prophet… his very messenger… to remain under the control of another.  By the Father’s hand… by the Lord’s hand… Jeremiah is delivered and redeemed.

The promise received by Jeremiah all those many centuries ago… that promise has come to you today.  It has come in the person of Jesus Christ, your deliverer and redeemer.  These “wicked” and “ruthless” ones are the “NO ONES” to whom Jesus refers when he says:   “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and NO ONE is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand”  (John 10:29). God, our Father, is greater than even the wicked and ruthless; held in the Father’s hand, you are secure… secure in the grasp of the one Lord and not any other.

Table Talk:  Discuss the fear of being caught and how it’s overcome by confidence and faith in someone stronger.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, hold us securely in the faith of Jesus your son so that we may not be afraid.  Amen

Jeremiah 15:15-21

15 O Lord, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance take me not away;

know that for your sake I bear reproach.

16 Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart,

for I am called by your name,

O Lord, God of hosts.

17 I did not sit in the company of revelers,

nor did I rejoice;

I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,

for you had filled me with indignation.

18 Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail?

19 Therefore thus says the Lord:

If you return, I will restore you,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall be as my mouth.

They shall turn to you,

but you shall not turn to them.

20 And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you,

declares the Lord.

21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, August 27, 2023

One of the skills I learned as a child was how to drive a nail.  At times I bent the nail instead of driving it straight.  My father showed me how to straighten nails by hammering flat their bent places.  Once straightened the nail would be useful again.

     There can be no argument about the burdens of life:  they weigh us down, bend us over, and eventually we’re so “curved in” on ourselves that all we can see is ourselves and our troubles.  In Latin, this is “in curvatus in se.”  This describes what sin is—being curved in upon oneself—our eyes are full of ourselves and our needs.

     In that position we need to be “straightened out”—to be “justified.”  This is exactly what the Lord does by his Word:  he justifies us; he straightens us out with a simple command: “Lift up your eyes…!”  And the giving of a promise: “My salvation will be forever…!”  Like hammer blows God’s Word falls upon our bent places, hammering us straight until we’re useful—righteous—once again.  Again, and again our heavenly Father drives home the reality that the things of this life—its troubles, its burdens, its sin—are all temporary.  The Lord, when he comes to rule openly, drives the earth and the sky away from him; the old has no place anymore (cf. Rev. 20:11).  Only the Word of the Lord and the salvation it delivers are permanent; they will last forever!  The Lord and his new creation… a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem abide forever in the undismayed righteousness of the one whose salvation has gone out before him.

Table Talk:  Discuss the difference between temporary and permanent; between being bent and being straightened.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, straighten us and make us useful again

Isaiah 51:1-6

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,

you who seek the Lord:

look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

2 Look to Abraham your father

and to Sarah who bore you;

for he was but one when I called him,

that I might bless him and multiply him.

3 For the Lord comforts Zion;

he comforts all her waste places

and makes her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the garden of the Lord;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

thanksgiving and the voice of song.

4 Give attention to me, my people,

and give ear to me, my nation;

for a law will go out from me,

and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.

5 My righteousness draws near,

my salvation has gone out,

and my arms will judge the peoples;

the coastlands hope for me,

and for my arm they wait.

6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,

and look at the earth beneath;

for the heavens vanish like smoke,

the earth will wear out like a garment,

and they who dwell in it will die in like manner;

but my salvation will be forever,

and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost A, August 20, 2023

The prophet here anticipates Jesus, for Jesus himself echoes this passage from Isaiah.  Isaiah, it is said, addresses the Israelites of three distinct time periods—before their exile in Babylon, during their exile in Babylon, and after their exile in Babylon.  Here, in the book’s third section (chapters 56-66), Isaiah begins to encourage and hearten the returned exiles in their task of rebuilding Jerusalem and its Temple.

The Lord refers to “my house, a house of prayer, for all people” (vs. 7).  This reference is to the Temple, on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, on the holy hill.  No longer will it be restricted to Jews and their priests alone, but foreigners—joined to the Lord, ministering to the Lord, loving the Lord’s name, keeping the Sabbath, and holding fast to the covenant—will have their worship accepted there.  Jesus, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, goes to the Temple and finds it full of people (perhaps foreigners) with none of those qualities.  Jesus drives them out, announcing, “It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers” (Mt. 21:13, Lk. 19:46; Mk. 11:17).

A second passage echoed by Jesus comes when the Lord announces, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”  Jesus, too, announces similar words, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).  A possible third allusion is found as the foreigners of vs. 6 are drawn to the Lord’s holy mountain; Jesus possibly echoes this with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, “…the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23).

You, too, are encouraged and heartened.  You do not worship in vain in the Lord’s house but establish it as a place where Jesus’ voice can be heard and the other sheep will be gathered—one flock, one shepherd.  You will all hear and pray together.

Table Talk:  Discuss connections such as these between the prophets and Jesus. 

Pray:  Heavenly Father, grant that I and the other sheep, hear Jesus’ voice and come together as one flock.  Amen

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord:

Keep justice, and do righteousness,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my deliverance be revealed.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
8 The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost A, August 13, 2023

The Lord himself enters the conversation. Job has been insisting that the Lord answer him, Job’s friends have been counseling him, and now the Lord comes to address Job directly… and the Lord’s voice is not comforting nor reassuring. Satan may have been the prosecutor of the heavenly court (Job 1:6ff), but the Lord himself brings quite an accusatory tone to his cross-examination of Job. It begins with the Lord demanding just who Job thinks that he is (Job 38:2). The Lord’s demanding questions keep coming and coming… chapter 38… chapter 39… chapter 40… chapter 41… Job can hardly get a word in edgewise.

Throughout Job’s conversation and counsel with his friends, Job has insisted that he will be vindicated… that his suffering is unearned… innocent… Job is confident as he insists that the Lord justify himself. But, when the Lord does enter the conversation, it is not the Lord who needs justifying but Job instead. The Lord demands of him, “Tell me, if you know it all!” (Job 38:18). The Lord puts Job in his place. By the Lord’s persistent and accusatory questions, he reveals to Job the limited scope of his human knowledge. When compared to the Lord’s omniscience… the Lord’s all-knowing… the extent of Job’s knowledge is as nothing… It is as if Job had no knowledge at all.

So, too, you. You who seek to justify your sin before the Lord… providing excuses rather than confessions… delivering up rationales for your very own wrongdoing… Only a direct confrontation with the Word of God exposes you in your sin, catches you out in our miserable self-justifications, and convicts you of your sinfulness. Only after the Lord brings you to abject humility, do you find yourself repented… turned from unbelief to belief… relieved of thinking well of yourself to thinking little of yourself but very much of the Lord who delivers you through Jesus Christ (cf. Jn. 3:30).

Table Talk: Discuss how limited is human knowledge compared with divine omniscience.

Pray: Heavenly Father, reveal my limitations to me that I might be repented into faith. Amen

Job 38:4-18

4 “Where were you

when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you possess understanding.

5 Who set its measurements—if you know—

or who stretched a measuring line across it?

6 On what were its bases set,

or who laid its cornerstone—

7 when the morning stars sang in chorus,

and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea with doors

when it burst forth, coming out of the womb,

9 when I made the storm clouds its garment

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

10 when I prescribed its limits

and set in place its bolts and doors,

11 when I said, ‘To here you may come

and no farther,

here your proud waves will be confined’?

12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,

or made the dawn know its place,

13 that it might seize the corners of the earth

and shake the wicked out of it?

14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;

its features are dyed like a garment.

15 Then from the wicked the light is withheld,

and the arm raised in violence is broken.

16 Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea

or walked about in the recesses of the deep?

17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?

Have you seen the gates of deepest darkness?

18 Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth?

Tell me, if you know it all.

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost A, August 6, 2023

Advertising tries to convince you to spend the money you have earned with your hard work on the product advertised.  The advertisement places within you a “need”—an anticipation—of having and using the product.  Most often, the reality is that the product falls short of filling the need or living up to the anticipation.

The prophet Isaiah is delivering an invitation from God that is the opposite of all human advertising.  The Lord is NOT trying to convince you to spend your money; there is no price on what the Lord gives you.  The Lord is NOT trying to create a need for something within you; what the Lord is giving will satisfy every need you’ll ever have.  The Lord IS telling you ANTICIPATE!  You should anticipate satisfaction from the Lord.

The thirsty can anticipate waters to quench their thirst beyond all their imagining.  The hungry can anticipate a meal to satisfy their hunger exceeding all other meals.  The poor can anticipate such delight that no amount of riches can acquire.  The Lord says:  “Incline your ear…” (Vs. 3)  Listen to the Word of the Lord so you can hear the promise and by hearing it, live in it.

Living in the promise is what living by faith means.  Living by faith means anticipating the good things the Lord will deliver when Jesus comes in his glory.  To live with anticipation means having hope in this certainty because we will not be disappointed. “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Ro. 5:5).

Table Talk:  Converse about the power of advertising and compare it with the power of God’s Word.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, hold us in the promise.  Amen

Isaiah 55:1-5

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost A, July 30, 2023

“Holy.”  What a word!  By one digital count of its use in our bible, the word appears 1,286 times.  We come from a culture that has long used the word “holy” to describe men and women, places and buildings, tools, utensils, and food itself.  Usually, the meaning of “holy” understood in such use is a claim on some special sanctity or relationship with God, the Father of our lord Jesus Christ— or whatever god.  This long common usage fits well with the work of consecration—the setting apart of something for use by God.  This usage consecrates men and women, places and buildings, tools, utensils, and food itself to make them “holy” and set apart for use by God.

According to the text from Deuteronomy, this long-standing common practice of “consecrating to make holy” is wrong… or at least our text calls it into question.  We on the human side of this consecrating to make holy are not the ones able to consecrate anything… making holy is a divine act, not a human one.  The Lord your God spells it out quite clearly.  After announcing the reality of the situation in vs. 6—“You are a people holy to the Lord your God,” the Lord continues by naming how it is that this people has become holy… holy to him.  The people have been chosen by God.  Not only does the Lord’s choosing of them make them holy but it also makes the people into their God’s most prized treasure.  No other tribe or people on earth are so prized.  This people, chosen by the Lord, holy and prized, possessed no inherent qualities which caused the Lord to set his love upon them (vs. 7).  They were few… they were slaves… they were in bondage to another (vs. 8).  Only their Lord choosing them in the midst of their unworthiness demonstrates the steadfast love and faithfulness of their Lord.

Table Talk:  Discuss how “worthiness” on the part of the recipient of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness stifles his choosing of them and his making them holy.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, choose me again and again that I may be holy and precious to you.  Amen

Deuteronomy 7:6-9

6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,


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