Monday, January 25, 2010

January 25

OT: Gen. 50:1-Ex. 2:10

Well, we've crossed over into Exodus.

What struck me today was just the immense suffering of the Israelites. First of all, it must have been so scary, disorienting, and overwhelming to have your freedom just stripped from you like that. The Israelites had no recourse, no way out. They went from living freely to being pressed into hard labor as slaves. The text says that the Egyptians "worked them ruthlessly" and "made their lives bitter." That really struck me. Their whole lives were made bitter. Their whole lives were defined by suffering and hardship. And with Pharoah's edict regarding the babies, the value of their lives were degraded, and the family unit, part of the fabric of their very existence, was destroyed. They weren't like David, who had his ups and downs. They didn't walk through the valley of the shadow of death; they lived there.

It kind of blows my mind that such lifelong suffering can be part of God's plan. I wonder what His feelings are on the matter. Clearly, He feels that He can use suffering to accomplish His purposes. But is He heartbroken over it? I sometimes think so. Tonight, I heard a testimony from a man who spent many years of his life suffering from sin, both his sin and the sin of others. It was very hard to keep from bawling all the way through. And in the middle of choking back my tears, I thought, "Surely this reaction is of God. Surely this is some reflection of how He feels about suffering." But I also see how in His wisdom, God could see the end result of suffering, could see what it all means in ways that we can't. Maybe that mitigates His sorrow.

There I go, trying to figure out God again. One day I'll know. I look forward to that Day.

NT: Matt. 16:13-17:9

Jesus says something very enigmatic about the Kingdom in verse 19, and I really wish I knew exactly what He is talking about. Something tells me that an exact knowledge of the meaning of this verse would be very revelatory. I think it would put a lot of pieces together for me. So if anyone has any ideas, by all means, fire away.

Poor Peter. This guy's mouth is on a roller coaster ride this reading. First, he confesses that Jesus is the Christ, which is an amazing moment. And then shortly thereafter, he pulls Jesus aside and rebukes Him for all that "dying" talk. I like Jesus' response where He says, "you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Jesus then goes on to elaborate on some "things of God": "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses it for me will save it" (24-5). It's crazy how the "things of God" are so opposite the "things of men." They are the opposite of our survival instinct, our innate selfishness. In my life, I yearn for the things of God. And yet, because they are so foreign to my instincts, it is hard for me to 1) believe them and 2) practice them. Dying to self is hard. I sometimes feel like I get glimpses of the radical Truth of Jesus' call, only to have those glimpses obscured by my instinct for self-preservation and my "common sense."

And lastly, a quick thought: I wonder how Peter and co. knew that those guys with Jesus were Moses and Elijah. I think it had to be one of those things where they "just knew."

Psalm 21: 1-13

You know, reading through the Psalms, David sometimes seems like a basket case. Like I alluded to earlier, he's up, he's down, he's up, he's down. This man is definitely not a stoic! But I think the reason for the wild ride is that David is completely authentic before God. I don't think I give my emotions such free reign as he does before God. I try to be more...well, more stoic, I guess. And I am honestly realizing that a lot of that comes from pride. I remember one time when I was really, really hurt by something that only God could have prevented. And for weeks, I did not reflect my sorrow to God. My prayers were more along the lines of, "I know that You give and You take away. You have already blessed me so much. I know You don't owe me anything. So, just to let you know, I'm cool with this." I later realized that I was really just being stubborn and angry. I was hurt by God, and hurt that He let something like that happen, knowing that it would hurt me. And I felt stupid crying out to the one Person who could have prevented it. I saw through that that it sometimes takes humility to be truly sorrowful before God.

Not that David is sorrowful before God here. Quite the opposite. But the whole time I was reading all these really great things that God has done for him, I was thinking back to those other times that he was just broken and defeated. Apparently, I'm in kind of a somber mood tonight:). I think it was the testimony.

Proverbs 5: 1-6

I think it is so true how sin (described here, specifically, as an adulteress) entices with such wonderful promises, with words that "drip honey" and are "smoother than oil." And yet, "in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword." It is amazing how directly applicable that metaphor is to all manner of sins, from illicit sex, to alcohol and drug abuse, to gluttony, etc. Seeing the effects of sin is always so heartbreaking. I remember at Workcamp once, we were building sheds, and a teen remarked that "construction was an unforgiving profession." He meant that, if you make one little mistake in measuring or leveling, the consequences for your building were often disproportionately large compared to the mistake. I think sin is like that. So often, a small slip-up yields disastrous consequences.


  1. Well, I'll take a stab at Peter's keys. Of course, this is the money verse for the notion of traditions of the church, as handed down through Apostolic Succession, being co-equal with scripture--the "three-legged stool" of scripture, tradition, and reason. And I'll grant that if you read it that way, a great deal of stuff logically follows. But that seems to fly in the face of last chapter's admonition quoted from Isaiah (15:9) about tradition. I tend to see the keys as part of the commission given to the church as a whole, to be God's instrument in this world. But I admit that's a stretch.

  2. I'm trying to formulate my response regarding the Catholic interpretation of this verse without sounding either too anti- or too pro-Catholic. For one thing, I see the way that their interpretation has played out over the centuries to be a s-t-r-e-t-c-h. The whole, "Peter was the first Pope" thing...I just don't see it AT ALL.

    At the same time, one of the things that I find intriguing about the verse is that it seems like the church has some real POWER. I guess the Catholics interpret it more as authority, but I see those two concepts as closely related. I read a very interesting book called Mere Discipleship (by Lee Camp) that sought to return Christians to the radical roots of Jesus' teachings and the early church. Camp gave a little litmus test to demonstrate how we view the power of the church, as opposed to the power of other earthly institutions. He worded it better than I'm about to, but basically, he asked, "When you are talking with your friends about what 'we' are going to do about terrorism or what 'we' should do about poverty, who is the 'we'? Is it the church or the secular government?" He goes on to make the point that the God-powered church is the most powerful institution on earth and that too often, we act like it has no real power or ability to address the pressing issues of our day. I thought that was an interesting idea.

    I am also intrigued by this verse because it seems to connect the kingdom on earth to the kingdom in heaven in a real, tangible way. I don't really understand the connection (binding? loosing? huh?), but it seems important to me.

    Regardless, I agree with the basics of your interpretation. I'm trying to figure out why it's a stretch:). I definitely don't think he was talking about just Peter. If he was, the other apostles weren't on board with that interpretation b/c Peter was challenged and opposed in Acts (mainly by Paul). It wasn't just him who had the power and authority...

  3. I think that were I able to look at these statements of Jesus with fresh eyes, able somehow to disconnect myself from all my preconceived notions about Church and authority, I would completely see this as a blunt statement that the church indeed would be in charge of what would be considered righteous and sinful. That presents a whole other list of questions though - was it a statement meant only for Peter? (I am curious about whether the "you" is plural or singular - stupid English, and stupid me for not paying better attention in Greek class) for just the Apostles? or as Peter will say later in Acts 2 - for them, their children, and all those who are far off? I think no matter how its interpreted, it is quite a remarkable realization that God has included us as the Church in the definitions of right and wrong. In response to Larry's comment on the quotation from the previous chapter, perhaps the difference is that these men will one day be given the gift of the Holy Spirit - meaning that they would not actually be the rules of mere men, but rules guided by the Spirit.

  4. 2012 Thoughts:

    It struck me this reading what an amazing and desperate act of protest it was to leave Moses the way Jochebed did. She didn't sail Moses down the river. She deliberately placed him before the ruling class, hoping, I'm sure, that a female member of the ruling class would have mercy on him, even if the male dictator would not. Essentially, it seemed like she was saying, "Here he is--YOU kill him." In leaving the baby where Pharoah's daughter would see, she forces the privileged woman to confront the injustice of the situation. And it worked. Pharoah's daughter realized it was a Hebrew baby and "felt sorry" for him. It's easier to accept unjust laws when we don't see them carried out, but when Pharoah's daughter saw the practical consequences of the law up close, she was moved to compassion.

    I have so many thoughts about this, but they are still working themselves out...