Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 10

OT: Gen. 23:1-24:51

I love when the reading gives us insight into the cultures and customs of earlier times. Today, I enjoyed reading about the nuances of ancient business deals. Apparently, the appearance of generosity was very important back then, so Ephron the Hittite "haggled" with Abraham by offering his property for free, then quoting the value while still offering it, and finally accepting the full value. The text fully acknowledges that this was a transaction and not just an act of mutual largesse when it says, "Abraham agreed to Ephron's terms" (Gen 23: 16). It is interesting how refined business negotiations were in light of how unrefined other aspects of culture (such as sexual politics) were. Different times, different times:).

I find the story of the search for Isaac's wife fascinating. I love the whole camel-watering scenario, I love how God answered the servant's prayer, and I love how doing a good deed helped Rebekah hit the marriage jackpot. I admire Rebekah's willingness to go the extra mile and her compassion for even the animals. I'm thinking it took a lot of well water (and thus, a lot of effort) to water those camels until the stopped drinking. I mean, they are camels! And they are probably very thirsty. I'm thinking that this was a good test for someone looking for a future wife. This woman was a hard worker and had a great heart. Of course, as a modern Western woman, I found the male-dominated, business-oriented arrangement of marriage back then to be a little unsettling. I am definitely thankful that women are viewed differently today. (Though I did peek ahead to confirm to myself that at some point, they do ask Rebekah what she wants to do. Of course, they limit her choice to, "Would you like to leave now, or would you like to leave ten days from now?" But the fact that she answered that she would leave right then shows me that she was at least somewhat on board with this plan. But I'm getting ahead of our reading:).)

NT: Matt. 8: 1-17

I have always loved the story of the faith of the centurion, especially since I heard that it was only one of two times that Scripture records Jesus being "amazed." (Quick, can you name the other one?) It is cool to me that this outsider, this agent of the hated Roman Empire, would be the one to amaze Jesus with his faith. I love that complexity. We tend to view things and people in black and white, as good or bad. We label our national adversaries, our political adversaries, and our personal adversaries in a way that identifies us as the "good guys" and them as the "bad guys." But the Bible does not buy into that binary way of looking at things. It maintains that people are complex. In Matt. 8:11, Jesus makes clear that many of the so-called "good guys" were not entering the Kingdom, while those among the hated "bad guys" were.

Plus, I myself was very impressed with the centurion's faith. Frankly, I was impressed with the leprous guy who came before him, who said, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." I wonder how my own faith would stack up to that kind of faith. I wonder if I could have bowed before a homeless traveling preacher and had full faith that he would heal me. I wonder.

Psalm 9: 13-20

Not much really strikes me here, except for the last verses: "Arise, O Lord, let no man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O Lord, let the nations know they are but men." I am reminded never to have faith in my nation or in any earthly power. We are all but men (or women, as the case may be). Only God can protect us.

Proverbs 3: 1-6

I LOVED verse 3: "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." Love is always a goal for me, but I am particularly working on faithfulness with this whole blogging thing. There is a line in my head from a worship song that I've been singing since the new year: "Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for/ Faithfulness is what I need./ Faithfulness, faithfulness is what you want from me." I want to be faithful to what I said I would do. I want the act of meditating on my thoughts through this blog to be a fragrant offering to God. As a member of His Kingdom, I don't want to just have "talk," but to have the "power" to follow through (I Cor. 4:20). So all of that made verse 3 even more powerful to me. I love the imagery of binding love and faithfulness around my neck and writing them on my heart.

I was still so enamored with verse 3 as I kept reading that my favorite verses in the whole Bible jumped out of nowhere. Proverbs 3:5-6 are just so beautiful. They truly sum up the goal of my life.


  1. Jesus being amazed: Hmmm, was he amazed at the lack of faith of the Pharisees? (I could very well be wrong here.)

    I thought the business transaction stuff was interesting too, as well as the oath of Abraham's servant. (In the footnote--and, I think, in the NIV--it says that Abraham told his servant to put his hand under his thigh to do the oath.) Weird, but... okay...

    The story about Rebekah is one of my favorites. (Not just because that's my name too, though spelled differently. Of course, I don't care for her pushing Jacob into lying later in the book.) Also, hello!, NOSE RING?!? Here's another cultural difference. It just goes to show that external stuff like that is only that--external. It's what's inside that counts, and Rebekah had already proven that her heart was good. (I mean, my goodness, what a punk for wearing a nose ring! What a terrible person she must have been. J/K)

    I love how the idea of faith kept popping up in several of the passages. More and more as I read the Bible over, I see where the miracles God does are in direct relation to the amount of faith the people have. As I was thinking about this concept a month or so ago, I prayed for something for someone, but I only prayed that they wouldn't be disappointed, not that they would get what they REALLY wanted. Well, sure enough, they only got just enough not to be disappointed and someone else got what they wanted. So, God answered my prayer, but I kept kicking myself for not having had enough faith to pray for the really big (seemingly unattainable) thing. (As a side note, the more I get into praying, the more I see results, but then I also see, er, LACK of results when I DON'T pray. So, uh, prayer is great, but I almost feel trapped in this prayer system, like I can't stop or my friends and family will be bereft of blessings. Of course, I know it is GOD, not me, who gives blessings, but still... Anyone else ever feel that way?)

    Anyway, I was also thinking in our anti-gambling, anti-testing-God church culture (and, of course, we AREN'T supposed to test God, etc.), we tend to frown upon people making "deals" with God (like Abraham's servant at the well). But, it seems to me that the way he did it (and, you know, Gideon with the fleece, etc.) is perfectly legitimate for finding out if something is really from God. It's just that once you get the message, you had better follow through with it!

    Okay, I guess I'm just rambling now. :) Well, Kim, I hope that you do continue to be faithful with reading and posting. It has already been a real encouragement for me, and it does wonders for accountability. I will pray for your faithfulness, and I will pester you if you don't post. :) (Of course, if you fall off the wagon and I DON'T push you back on, you should pray for ME that I get back to praying for you.) :) Something like that...

  2. To Bekster: I loved all your thoughts (and Kim's too) on these verses. One thing made me stop and wonder...your comments regarding testing God. In Malachi 3:10 God actually says "Test me in this" when he is telling his people to be generous givers! It's one of my favorite passages on giving and II Cor. 9:6-11 sort of confirms it in the N.T. Anyways, I believe that we are often called to "test" God in our faith and have many other examples of God's beloved ones testing him. (Gen) These are some of my favorite Bible stories! After this refresher course, I immediately prayed for Luke and Anna (my precious grandchildren) that God will provide for them "perfect" spouses and that they will be "perfect" spouses as well...can't start too soon. (Matthew) Thanks, Kim, for clearing up vs. 11, our highlighted verse of all things, for me. I really didn't get it...but loved your explanation for it!!!! (Psalm & Proverbs) Always a lift.

  3. Close, Becky. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith of the people in Nazareth (Mark 6:6). And I also thought the nose ring was an interesting touch:). Thanks for the encouraging words.

    I think the ambiguity about testing God comes in because Jesus says, "It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Matt. 4:7). And when I looked that up on, I saw that Psalm 78 also has a lot of negative references about "wilfully" putting God to the test. Again, apparently it's a heart thing?

  4. I think the difference in testing God for good or ill is your motivation. If you jump off a cliff saying "watch, God will save me," that's not so much a statement of faith as wanting to feel cool because God does what we want. We may acknowledge that God is doing the saving, but we still get a sense that we are in control, which is wrong. However, if we say, "Lord, I feel really nervous about taking this job, but if it is Your will for me, let my interviewer be a Christian" (or whatever), that is being submissive to God. We wish for HIS will, we just want Him to tell us what it is. Other times we "test" God in a good way, it is still to give Him glory by giving Him a chance to show what He can do. That's my opinion, anyway.