Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27

OT: Ex. 4:1-5:21

I am still finding Moses extremely intriguing today. What makes that guy tick? How did the Action Hero become the Whiny, Do-Nothing? What happened there? Allow me to float a theory...

Being a man of action was something that Moses got "honest." Even his birth involved some derring-do. Like young Moses himself, his mom was not one to sit back and do nothing. She took risks, bucked the law, and took matters into her own hands regarding her son. Having some knowledge of that, and seeing how unique and privileged his life was, Moses probably assumed he was something special. He probably assumed that God had some big plans for him. After all, his placement in this world was nothing short of a miracle. Surely God had a hand in that!

And yet, when Moses tried to do something, it all blew up in his face. Nothing happened the way he thought it would, he was forced to flee, and he spent the next however-many years as a nobody in the desert. Basically, life as he knew it was permanently over (or so it seemed). Physically speaking, he was completely marginalized from all that was going on in Egypt. He was cut off, voiceless. Moses probably spent those years feeling very stupid that he had ever considered himself something special. He probably became hardened and cynical during those years, so much so that even the voice of God was met with his skepticism.

That's just a theory, of course. I love trying to figure out why people do what they do. Next to God, people are the most interesting things on this planet to me:). I will say that I, too, have been disappointed when I thought that God was going to do something really awesome, only to see His plan go in a disappointingly different direction. Whether it was to heal my brother, start a revival of the church, draw someone to Him, change someone's life, whatever...I have had all these visions of grandeur, only to be crushed when my hopes did not materialize. It takes faith to believe that God's plan is better than our own lofty daydreams. It takes faith to see how forty years (or whatever) of being a shepherd in the desert is better than intervening and fighting for your people.

I have also thought a lot about a very bizarre scene in this morning's reading. Why on earth did God appear to Moses on the way to Egypt, all ready to kill him? What was that about? I still don't really understand, but here is my best take. It says in verse 20 that Moses has "sons," plural. And yet, Zipporah only circumcises one son. It strikes me that Zipporah knows what circumcision is, she knows how to do it, and she knows that it is something that would appease God in this moment. Based on all that, I theorize that it was only the youngest son who was not circumcised. I think that by that point in his life (the point of his last son's birth), Moses was so hardened and cynical toward God that he had stopped circumcising. He was no longer participating in the covenant between God and the people of Abraham. And even after God appeared to him and talked to him, even after he started back to Egypt, he still had not circumcised his son. That makes it seem like he is not taking this whole thing incredibly seriously. Even after talking directly to God, he does not see the need to consecrate his family before God or to obey His command. And...I guess God got tired of that.

Again, that's just a random theory. Regardless, the grossness of spontaneous circumcision aside, I like stories about quick-thinking women who save their families:).

NT: Matt. 18: 1-22

I love the concept of having to become a like a little child to enter the Kingdom of heaven. I've always heard and assumed that it meant to have a child-like faith. I continually seek that.

I also find it interesting that I am so determined to take Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount strictly literally, and yet I still have my hands and eyes. Apparently, I don't take literally his admonition to blind myself to keep from sinning, just like I don't take literally his talk about moving mountains and hating my family. My picking and choosing seems a bit contradictory to me. I guess the reason I take the radical love stuff more literally is that Jesus' love was not a metaphor. It had a metaphorical dimension, sure, but the cross was real. And he really washed His disciples' feet. But still, I do see somewhat of a contradiction in my thinking there.

And I am also very happy that verses 15-17 and 21-22 are in the same passage because they highlight something that I find kind of confusing. In the first section, Jesus says to confront the one who has sinned against you, and if he does not repent, then you are to treat him as an outsider. The second passage, on the other hand, says to forgive someone up to 490 times. Hmmm....

This sounds wrong, but here is a thought I have on all that. We are to forgive people because God forgave us. Our forgiveness is to be a reflection of God's grace. And yet, God does not forgive us if we don't repent. So, if someone sins against me, I confront them, and they don't I to withhold forgiveness from them? Again, it sounds wrong, but in a way, to forgive someone who is unrepentant and determined to keep sinning doesn't sound very reflective of Christ. the same time, God is their judge, not me. And when we don't forgive people, it eats us up inside. I know people who have been abused by other people who will never repent. Some of the abusers are even dead by now. But if the abused people don't forgive them, anger and resentment will make their lives bitter. So it seems like forgiveness is good...but I do notice that Jesus never specifically says that we have to forgive someone who is not repentant. Or does He? Someone help me here!:)

Verse 18 has another reference to binding and loosing stuff. What I would give to understand exactly what that means!

Psalm 22: 19-31

More of David's pleas for God's rescue. I am always ambivalent when people promise praise to God if He saves them, as David seems to do here. It sounds kind of like you are bargaining with God: Do this for me, and I'll do this for you. Maybe not, though. Maybe I am just being cynical.

Prov. 5: 15-21

As a wife, I really love this admonition for husbands to be satisfied with their wives:). Preach on, Solomon!


  1. One thing that has been interesting to me is how the narrative changed ..I can see a sense of personal recall, rather than the "handed down" version of the stories of Abraham and Isaac..I can feel the difference in the writing as Moses moves from telling someone elses' story to his own.

    He is so blunt and honest about how he was feeling - often afraid, unsure, insecure. He is frank about how God's anger "burned against" him. Writing your own story it would be tempting to make yourself shine a little more. Not so much with Moses - I think it must have alot to do with his perspective looking back.Once he wrote the story he was past that point to a large degree. Interesting.

    Also, I find it interesting that God told Moses on the front side that his signs would be rejected and culminate in death of Pharoah's firstborn. This part always confuses me..and I never really have come to terms with it totally. The "hardening of the heart" thing is rough for my "God is love" psyche.

    I think that at one point I was able to accept the fact that his heart was already hard, he had already decided and the stage for rejection was already set. God for some reason pushed that to the next level. But, how is that okay in light of the free will thing? I dont know. Perhaps its simply a matter of his ways vs. my way. Hmm.

    One thing I considered was that this was a fresh experience for the Israelites to have to get to know God again. It seems they had forgotten him to a point, being surprised when Aaron and Moses told them God was watching. I wonder if they needed a fresh experience.

    But ..I am getting ahead of myself!

    Okay ..gotta leave it there for now own little rebellious Israelites are needing attention :)

  2. about matthew...

    i think about the adultress- she didn't ask for forgiveness, did she? jesus did tell her to go and sin no more, but she didn't ask or deserve, and yet she got it.

    i also think forgiveness is about us, not the other person...

    but when we harden our hearts against forgiveness, then no wonder we aren't forgiven- we're dealing with pride, anger, resentment, judgemental attitude...yuck.

    is it easy to forgive? no. most of the time it's a process, when it probably shouldn't be. thankfully God sees us covered in jesus' blood. that's how i've gotta try to see others. i didn't deserve forgiveness, but thankfully i got it.

    and repent versus forgive- hhhmmm, is there a difference? i mean, to repent means to acknowledge your wrong doing. if someone will not acknowledge their wrong, then is jesus saying we should not become companions with that person? i'm not sure he's saying to not forgive them...just not to associate with them? maybe? although jesus was always associating with people who didn't always acknowledge their wrongs...i mean, hey, sometimes i don't even acknowledge my wrongs!!

    forgive. always. how's that? :o)

  3. Ann, I hadn't thought of the woman caught in adultery. And now, for that manner, it occurs to me that Jesus forgives the sins of several of the sick and lame brought to him, none of whom asked him for forgiveness.

    Good! That settles it:). Like I said, that all sounded wrong, but I didn't really understand Jesus' admonition about treating people like a pagan or a tax collector. Though I must say, Jesus treats pagans and tax collectors pretty well, so...:)

  4. Allow me to speculate spontaneously on binding and loosing. Maybe by writing it out, I'll come up with something that makes sense...

    My version of Matthew 18:18 says, "I tell you this: Whatever you prohibit on earth is prohibited in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth is allowed in heaven." When I first read this, I thought it might have to do with the verse that says, "whatever is not done in faith is sin," the converse of which would be something like, "whatever is done in faith is not sin." Now, common sense says that there could be plenty of things done "in faith" that could be sin, so I don't think that's quite right. But, if we are judged in the manner that we judge, there does seem to be some kind of a connection between how strict or lax our personal standards are on earth and how they are in heaven (for each of us personally). Still, obviously, we can't all just do whatever we want and assume that "heaven" will be okay with it. (Right?)

    Looking at verse 18 in context (looking at verses 15 through 17), it seems that "the church" (the "keys" to which were given to Peter) is the final authority on the rightness or wrongness of people in personal disputes (at least). If the church says that someone is in the wrong, then God respects that decision and treats the person accordingly. Or, if the church decides that the person is off the hook, God respects that too. Again, "[w]hatever you [people in the church?] prohibit on earth is prohibited in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth is allowed in heaven."

    In the same way (to paraphrase verses 19 and 20), if any group of us in the church decides on something we want from God, God will do it because He is right there with us anyway. (I know this is supposed to be encouraging, but it makes me think, "Hey! I thought God was always with me even when I am by myself. Is He not, then?")

    This line of thinking (the decisions of people in the church being tied to what goes on in heaven) makes sense in light of the verse on how things will be done according to our faith. God will do ANYTHING for us as long as we truly believe. (I have a hard time with this, though, because I'm sure that some people ask for things that are "bad." What happens then?)

    So, taking this a step further, if the church (whether in the form of individual congregations or the worldwide, "Catholic" church) comes up with a set of rules, are all of us who claim to be members of the church bound by those rules (because what the church binds is bound in heaven)? That would seem to make sense from these verses, but that doesn't completely seem to jive with Jesus' and Paul's sentiments on legalism. The law is written on our hearts now, right? We are not to be like the Pharisees who completely missed the point of the law. I mean, the Pharisees (who were the Jewish equivalent of our church leaders now) were scolded for imposing their laws on others. Still, I wonder if Jesus knew that we humans need rules in order to function sanely, so he entrusted the church with forming its own rules that God would enforce.

    I don't know. In any case, it does seem that God gives us leeway to decide moral issues for ourselves. We just have to be consistent. (I'm sure there's more to it than this, but I do feel like I'm starting to understand. Thinking "out loud" like this helps...)

  5. Becky,

    Whew. I have chewed on your thoughts for awhile today. The concepts are so...out there, I guess, and yet they make sense in the context of the verse. The main thought I have is that Jesus' words make the MOST sense in light of one, unified church. Like, um, the Catholic church. But we revolted from that church (for good reason, I think) and broke off into so, so, SO many other churches. And all these churches bind and loose different things, and even individuals WITHIN the churches bind and loose different things.

    So...that all sounds like heaven's rules are weird and relative:). I am open to the idea of some degree of relativity in morality (Romans 14 is the most post-modern thing I've ever read, and I've read Waiting for Godot:).) But my mind still hasn't quite wrapped itself around the idea.

    I definitely think that you are on to something, though, and you have given me a lot to think about. So thanks!

  6. 2012 Thoughts:

    I will first respond to my 2010 observations on my penchant for picking and choosing which words to take literally. It does seem that his admonitions toward hatred and self-mutilation are clearly intended to be hyperbolic, mainly because they outright contradict basic tenets of Scripture. For one, we are supposed to love people, not hate them. And also, Jesus and Paul both clearly teach us that we sin b/c of what's in our hearts, not because of outward things like specific body parts. On the contrary, there is no indication that the Sermon on the Mount is intended as overstatement. (In fact, that's what makes it so confusing...because parts like, "Be perfect," SEEM like overstatement, and yet, Jesus delivers the whole thing straight.)