Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 18

OT: Gen. 35:1-36:43

First things first: today is Martin Luther King Day (fun fact: my son's initials are MLK, and that's not an accident). I love so much about Dr. King, and so I was excited when it was brought to my attention that one of the verses we read today is connected to him. Apparently, there was/is a plaque at the motel where he was shot that quotes Gen. 37: 19-20: "Here comes that dreamer! Come now, let's kill him...Then we'll see what becomes of his dreams." I think that linking that verse to King came through divine insight. The parallels are amazing when I think about them. Both Joseph and King had dreams that others found very offensive and threatening. And yet, both dreams (I believe) were from God. And both dreams prevailed despite the odds and despite all the harm and hate that the world could throw at them.

Okay, now let's delve into the story at hand.

The historian in me wants further insight into Joseph's brothers. I need more interviews! I'm gathering in my head all the scraps of info I have on them (the Leah/Rachel feud, Jacob's favoritism, Simeon and Levi's overblown vengeance on Dinah's rapist...and that's all) and trying to picture everything that went down that day. Reuben and Judah particularly intrigue me. Reuben, the oldest, wanted to spare Joseph, but for some reason could not stand up to his brothers. And yet, after it was too late to do anything, he did come out to his brothers and admit his attachment. And Judah--what was his motivation? Was he being kind-hearted or strictly mercenary? So many questions...

...But not as many questions as I have with the Judah and Tamar story! The Bible is messing with me again! I have prayed for clarity, but there are some things, apparently, that I am not ready to understand. See, Genesis is a history. It's a historical narrative. And historical narratives tell stories for a reason. They have to answer the "so what" question. A biographer, for example, picks and chooses the stories that they tell about a person because they are trying to highlight or explain something important. They might not detail what so-and-so liked to have for breakfast each morning, because who cares? On the other hand, they will share an anecdote if it tells you something--like, for example, if the anecdote reveals the ambition that goes on to drive that man to the Presidency. That would be a story to include. I just don't see what this story is supposed to tell us. Why include it? I mean, what are we even supposed to think? Are we supposed to be proud of Tamar? What are we supposed to see about Judah? It's just bizarre. Plus, I can't even talk about it in detail because I would be too embarrassed!:) The Bible is rated R, people. If this story came on tv, I would switch the channel!

NT: Matt. 12: 22-45

Aw, man, I'm so confused by the Old Testament, and then I get to the New, and even Jesus is being esoteric. I kind of, sort of understand the individual sentences, but what does it all mean put together? Let's see, first he heals a demon-possessed man, and the crowds wonder if he's the Messiah (the "Son of David"). This causes his enemies to try to link him to Satan [Sidenote: Isn't that human nature? I get so tired of hearing about politics, because neither side can ever acknowledge anything good about the other. One side will do something so good that I can't imagine the other griping about it, but they always manage to find a way. They try and turn it around to make the other side look worse than ever. The Pharisees were no exception.] Jesus easily explains the idiocy of their accusations in verses 25-29. He starts to lose me with the "strong man" analogy, but I think I get it. Satan is the strong man, right? And Jesus ties him up and robs him? Hmm, that doesn't sound right:). Maybe not.

Verse 3o ("He who is not with me is against me...") seems to jar with the earlier verses. Maybe he is still trying to delineate the difference between him and Satan? And then verses 31-32 (regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) seems even less connected to His theme. Clearly, I'm missing something.

I'm back on board with verse 33-37...and I catch up just in time to be smacked in the face. "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word that they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Beautifully and powerfully spoken, and yet absolutely terrifying.

Psalm 16: 1-11

Love it, love it, love it. I've decided that I love hearing godly people share their thoughts on God. I love all of your comments, for example. And so I especially love getting to hear the musings of this man after God's own heart. I love every single verse in this psalm, with the exception of 3-4, which just confuse me (and I'm tired of being confused today!:)). Some favorites: "I said to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing'" (2). "I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me" (7). And the first prize winner goes to, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (11).

Prov. 3: 27-32

"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act" (27). That is a convicting verse. I know so many people who deserve good, and it is very often in my power to act. Not always, mind you, but often. I have been realizing lately that I need to be more on the lookout for people who are needing encouragement, especially people who work so hard for the body of Christ and might need to hear some positive words.


  1. It's neat that the Genesis verse associated with Dr. King appears on the same day that we also get the "house divided" verse from Matthew associated with Lincoln.

    The verse in the NT today that tickles my fancy is Matthew 12:30, where Jesus says "whoever is not with me is against me." This seems at first to contradict what Jesus tells the apostles in Luke 9:50 (whoever is not against you is with you). But to me, this seems explainable by the difference in pronouns--the admonition to the apostles may be a warning against denominational rivalry among those who are all "with me (Jesus)."

  2. OT - I am often thoughtful about HOW sinful the people of that time were. Even those who were of the promise (families of Abram/Isaac/Jacob) - violence, scheming, killing family, lying to your father about a dead favorite son (how heartless do you have to be?!), selling a brother into slavery, sleeping with your father or fatherinlaw (these woman had SERIOUS need to reproduce!), stoning your DIL for being pregnant, sleeping with prostitutes (she KNEW he would go for the bait ..weird?) ..they are all so SINFUL!

    I think it is SOO interesting to read all this related to the NT ..the switch is so obvious and abrupt.

    Matt: It seems the Pharisees and Jesus have a serious love/ relationship. He has some harsh words for them, and not for the first or last time.

    I have to admit also that I am a bit stumped by much of todays reading ...some of it doesnt seem to go together at all to me. Like you said, Kim, I see the different sections but put them all together and ...huh? Where does the Spirit blasphemy thing fit in?

    Then, I wonder if Jesus said all this at once or if it was recorded that way later?

    Anyways ...taken part separate from other confusing part, and having just come off of the "these people were BAD!" mindset of the OT, I can relate to the "..and the evil man brings evil things out of evil stored up in him." vs. 35

    The careless word thing ..yikes.

    When he brings it all back around talking about demons again ...clearly people are still their evil and wicked selves at their heart. The evilness seems to have moved from killing each other and sleeping around with whomever to a self-righteousness issue ..but evil and wickedness the same. He makes a good case for the need for heart work :)

    Psalms/Prov ..ah, then their is David and Solomon ..who seem to get the goodness of God and then adds a little light to the darkness of the readings today :)

  3. Courtney,

    A popular belief among scholars is that the authors of the gospels did arrange Jesus' teachings, grouping them into parables, for example, or "Blessings and woes," or things like that. They note how certain authors have predilection for certain numbers, such as groupings of three, and how they shape their narrative and Jesus' teachings using their favorite literary styles.

    That idea doesn't bother me much, but I can see how it might bother someone who maintains that the authors of the Gospels wrote everything down JUST like it happened.

    Regarding the OT: some of my brain scraps pieced themselves together while I was stirring oatmeal and humming "Jacob Had 12 Mighty Sons" this morning. What my brain spit out was: Simeon and Levi were jerks. Of the four oldest sons, they were the only two who didn't back down from the "kill Joseph" scheme. In fact, given their age and the strong possibility that Reuben and Judah were not all for it, they were probably the ones clamoring the most loudly for his demise. These are also the boys who, out of "family loyalty" slaughtered a city of people to avenge Dinah. Family loyalty, my eye. I think they are just vengeful and unmerciful people. To their defense, Dinah was Leah's daughter, and they were Leah's sons, but still, they seem to have some serious bloodlust issues.

    It's interesting how the tribe of Levi went on to become priests. I can't decide if that is completely ironic (unmerciful Levi?) or oddly appropriate (priests got to spill a lot of blood....)

  4. Oh yeah, and I've decided that Satan IS the strong man, and Jesus has to overpower him (tie him up) in order to cast out demons (rob him). Thus, they are most definitely NOT working together. Duh, Pharisees.

  5. Well, I posted a novel and as I was trying to send it, lost it. Now I am out of time, but loved all the thoughts from you guys. Will try again later! Love you, Kim.

  6. My guess is that the Judah/Tamar story is in there simply because Christ is descended from them. (I mean, if that information were just in a list, showing that Tamar was actually Judah's daughter-in-law, we would want to know how THAT happened.) Also, it's a good lesson about how we shouldn't be quick to judge people, as we have probably done the same things as them, or even worse. It might be a shocking story, but if you consider the secret, dark thoughts people have lurking in the corners (or even the forefronts) of their minds, we are not any better than them.

    About how the "blaspheming the Spirit" thing falls in with the surrounding verses, I was stumped on that one too at first. It would be helpful to know exactly what the word "blaspheme" means (I have the feeling we use it wrong all the time, I'm just not sure what the right way is). But, my thought now is that, since Jesus was talking about kicking demons out of people, blaspheming the Spirit would mean kicking the Spirit out of yourself in the same way one would exorcise a demon (sort of). That would go with the whole "house divided" thing since someone who was on Jesus' "side" wouldn't want to go against the Spirit, just like Satan wouldn't go against a demon.

    As for what that looks like practically, I'm not sure. However, I have heard someone else wonder if it has to do with denying the little Spirit-led impulses we get during the day. If we continue to ignore the Spirit's leading, it will perhaps eventually stop trying to lead. That makes sense to me, though it doesn't sound quite as bad as "blaspheming."