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.