Monday, January 4, 2010

January 5

OT: Gen. 11:1-13:4

For the sake of an accurate record, today's reading records the Tower of Babel, the call of Abram, and the tale of Abram lying like a dog and pretending that his wife is his sister. He kept the ruse up even when Pharoah took her as his wife. Wow.

But I want to hone in on a much smaller part of the reading that has had huge implications for my own faith in the last few years. You may notice in the genealogy portion of the text that people are living to 400 and 500 years old. Now, recall in Gen. 6:3 that God cut back man's life to 120 years.

Okay, stop there and let me tell you a story. The first time I read through the whole Bible (in 2006), I was determined to read it with fresh eyes. I didn't wan to read it necessarily from the point of view of someone who was raised to be a Christian, but from the eyes of someone who had never read it before. And it was this type of thing that stood out to me. These seeming contradictions, either in the text itself or in God's own nature. Hold your judgment for a second, and let me keep going. About that time, I found a blog by a man named David Plotz. He was a Reformed Jewish agnostic, and he was kind of doing the same thing as I was: reading the Bible (in his case, the Old Testament) all the way through, with fresh eyes. His blog is where I got the inspiration for my blog. It was even called Blogging the Bible. Because Plotz did not have faith, he found the Old Testament to be hilariously contradictory. He found God's character to be totally inconsistent. That was his take on it. Sadly, in an interview with Christianity Today, he said that reading through the Old Testament pushed him closer toward atheism!

And when I read the Bible through the first time, I struggled with things like the year discrepancy. I know, I know, it's not a discrepancy. Maybe it was a pre-flood/after-flood thing. Maybe this explanation. Maybe that one. Maybe. Maybe.


But the bottom line is that to believe that the Bible is not contradictory is an act of faith. You can use whatever logical gymnastics you want to "prove" the Bible's veracity and make it make sense to you. But ultimately, it takes faith and the work of the Holy Spirit. I think that David Plotz's agnostic reaction to the Old Testament is not atypical. Reading the Bible in and of itself does not draw you to God. God draws you to God. That much is very clear in Scripture. Another thing that is very clear is that a relationship with God will. take. faith. It will never be "proven."

Now, to be clear, I'm not against asking questions. Far from it. I ask God questions all the time. And often, He uses my questions to allow me to get to know Him better. In meditating on the difficult parts of His Word, I have been drawn so much closer to Him. But I've also learned that even if my little brain can't noodle out an answer that is satisfactory to me, I still have faith. And that in itself has helped to teach me humility.

Without my fully knowing it, my brain has been chewing on these concepts over the years since my first reading. And now, as I read the Bible, I read it fully as a person of faith. Because that is what I am. And the words of the Bible are beautiful to me. And they are not contradictory. Because I have faith that it was written by the inspiration of a Being far wiser than I, and I know that just because my feeble mind can't grasp a concept, it doesn't mean that it isn't true or accurate.

NT: Matt. 5:1-26

As a child, I thought the Beatitudes were bizarre. Well, mainly the first three. Blessed are the poor in spirit? Those who mourn? The meek? I didn't want to be any of those things! As I've grown in my faith, however, I have repeatedly heard the explanation that the Beatitudes describe the progression of a relationship with God. The inner pain, sorrow, and humility listed in the first three Beatitudes reflect a heart that is finding true repentance. Those emotions accompany repentance. Once a soul recognizes and turns from its sin, it hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Having been shown mercy, it is merciful. It's heart is pure. It seeks to make peace, since Christianity is a ministry of reconciliation. And inevitably, it will face persecution from the world, since it operates at such radical odds with the world.

I like that interpretation. It makes sense to me. Moving on.

I have always loved the salt of the earth and light of the world passages.

And I am always a little confused by Jesus' remarks on the law. I get that His perfect sacrifice on the cross fulfilled the law, rather than abolished it. But I don't get why He still says to obey the law in light of his ultimate fulfillment (5:19). Maybe it was because He hadn't died yet?

I have a lot of thoughts in light of 5:20 ("...unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven"), but I will wait until he says, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," to address them.

Wow. There is so much more here about anger and reconciliation, but this blog is already ridiculously long (will they all be this long???), so I'll move on.

Psalm 5:1-12

I love the faith reflected in verse 3 ("In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in anticipation.") And I love the image of God's protection in verse 12 ("For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with you favor as with a shield.")

Prov. 1:24-28

Yikes. The consequences of ignoring wisdom are harsh. And based on what I've seen in my life, I'd say these verses are totally accurate!


  1. I am really enjoying your thoughts Kim! I have a comment about the Matthew reading and the fulfillment of the law. In verse 18 he says "until everything is accomplished" about how long the old law is meant to last. I don't know if that means until he dies on the cross, or until He returns. So I'm thinking if "everything" means the cross, then the new covenant begins after He dies. But at the beginning of 18 he says "until heaven and earth disappear" so maybe that means after He returns? We do still follow the Commandments, and He teaches them all the time. You got me thinking about this verse!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Beth! Yeah, one thing that really got me thinking is that a woman at my church seriously maintains that we should still follow the Law. She says that in Scripture, there is capital L "Law" and little l "law." Little law consists of all the manmade laws that the Pharisees tacked on. The Law that Jesus is talking about is the Law given to Moses from God that we read about in the Torah. So in Romans 7, when Paul says that we are not under the law, he uses little "l" law. Capital L Law is still in effect. Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice, so we don't do the animal sacrifice thing, and God freed us of the dietary regulations in Peter's vision in Acts, but I guess all the rest is still in effect.

    I just cannot buy that. I can't. But it has gotten me to thinking about what Jesus meant...

  3. Wonderful thoughts by all. Thanks for sharing. The O.T. is filled with such strangness and yet such beauty. It makes me so thankful for the New Covenant! Thank you Jesus for fulfilling the Law by your death and giving us hope and confidence! By loving God first and then our neighbor as ourselves second, we do hold fast to all the old laws, because the commandments were first about our relationship with God and then about our relationships with each other. So we actually are held to even a higher standard...don't just not kill, but don't even think like that! Wow! We are expected to be above the law. Jesus has made our impossible abilities a reality by giving us constant forgiveness and I am soooooooo thankful for that. And b/c of that wonderful gift, we try harder, love Him it's a heart thing. That's why we have to be better than the Pharisees b/c they were a show/obligation thing/a chore thing. We strive out of a broken spirit/deep love for what we have been given. That's how it is for me anyway. And I think that was what Jesus was saying in Matthew. (Psalm) Knowing what Jesus said in Matthew helps me love verses like Ps 5:7 "But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down..." because Jesus makes that verse possible. There's a song that says I fall down and lay my crowns at the feet of Jesus and cry holy holy holy, holy holy holy, to the Lord. There's that broken spirit again...a heart thing.

  4. This may come out all jumbled, but I want to take a stab at this...

    Once the sacrifice was made (Jesus dying), that satisfied God's wrath against sinners (well, those who accept His mercy). However, whether or not we "have" to follow the law, I think that what God really "wants" (to satisfy justice, etc.) is even stricter than the written Law of Moses. He doesn't just want us to follow the Ten Commandments, he wants us to go further and give everything (as Jesus told the "rich young ruler"). He doesn't just want us to abstain from adultery, he doesn't want us to have lustful thoughts at all. He wants us to be PERFECT.

    The truth is, though, we CAN'T be perfect. HE has to MAKE us perfect. I think the point is that He wants us to fully rely on him for EVERYTHING, so His standards are really high. If we are really to please Him, we have to get close to Him, make ourselves vulnerable, and jump in to a really dependant relationship. I think Jesus was trying to make the point that it really is impossible (on our own) to be perfect, almost to the point of it being ridiculous to try. Under this new, relational system, we don't check off a list of rules to try to gain righteousness for ourselves, but there are things we do or don't do because of LOVE, which is the whole root of the law anyway. Even in the Old Testament it was about love, but people couldn't see that for all the rules. (What we do have now that they didn't have then (at least not like now) is the Holy Spirit. If we let it (Him?), it will guide us to do right. But, that's still part of the whole relationship thing.)

    Anyway, do we still have to follow the law? Even if all of the "stroke[s] of a pen," etc. are still there, I don't think it matters. If something costs $100, but someone pays all of the $100 for me, it doesn't matter if it was $1000 or $10 originally. The point is that I don't have to pay it. No one removed the price tag, but it is no longer MY responsibility to pay. However, the bigger the original price tag, the more love I feel towards the person who did pay, and the more likely I am to do things that make that person happy.

    Does that make sense?

  5. I am getting my remarks in late so let me just comment on the Matthew section, especially related to the law. I remember doing a study on this in high school and reading hoe this section was a special note to the Jews who were questioning how Jesus' teaches related to the law that had upheld for hundreds of years. In that context he was assuring them that the law they upheld all that time was bit being done away with but rather perfected. Where the Law falls short I will fill in. He seems to really drive home how it is important to keep that Law (all is not lost my jewish friends) but I have come to fulfill the prophets and inso doing the law changes.

    I have considered alot about how the Jews if the time (and perhaps today?) must have felt when this guy came and seemed to undo everything they held sacred. It is a tough perspective change I would think.

  6. Thanks, girls, for your comments. It's funny--you all kind of addressed the big question that I ask in today's (Jan. 6) blog. Becky, especially, specifically answered the question that has been in my mind that I hadn't asked yet. SO...thanks for reading my mind:).

    And thanks for all the insight. I really do feel like I understand the passage better after hearing all of your thoughts. And that in itself kind of fulfills the purpose of this blog!

  7. I have thought about the whole contradiction/God thing of the OT ...I am mentally comparing to things I tell my kids. To them, it sounds like I contradict myself all the time ...I may give Ty a rule that I dont impose on Canon, or visa versa. I do that because I know my children, I know what they need at any given moment (okay, that is not totally true..but for the sake of the illlustration :). In one moment Ty may need this much information to formulate the proper heart to complete a task, whereas next time for his heart to be trained properly he simply needs to obey. no explanation needed or given.

    I see God treating the Israelites as children, instructing them in very simple lessons, many of which they never seem to get. He certainly seems to take the whole "need to know basis" approach with alot of things.

    Reading and studying Esther is opening my heart to how much more study can add to those things. Not that we will ever fully understannd some of that stuff ..its beyond us, really.

  8. 2012 thoughts:

    First of all, reading my 2010 thoughts, I realize that I am a lot less now than I was then about the discrepancies in the Bible. I guess my view of inerrancy has changed. Yes, I believe wholeheartedly that the Bible was inspired by God, but I also believe that He uses humans who make mistakes, who have very limited knowledge, and who are sinful. That doesn't mean that the book is not inspired; it just means that God made it the way He always does things: through sinful, imperfect humans.

    What struck me this year were Psalms and Proverbs. They both take a hard line in response to wicked people. Verse 5 and 6 of our Psalm tell God that, "you hate all those who do wrong," and "You destroy those who tell lies." Verses 9-10 provide a catalog of all the ways the bad people are bad. Meanwhile, Wisdom in Proverbs laughs at those who do reap what they sow. She maintains that she will show them no mercy for their foolishness.

    These verses contrast with the image of God we get in the NT, as a Shepherd who leaves His 99 sheep to find the one. Or as the father of the prodigal son, who runs to his son when his son comes home to him. That father is not like wisdom, who laughs at the troubles of the wayward and refuses to help them!

    I think that the worldview in both of these passages contrasts with the worldview that Jesus brought in the NT. They are both "right," in that one is just, and one is merciful. And really, mercy even factors into the OT. David's anti-bad-guy rant contrasts with the situation David himself, who "by [God's] great mercy, will come into [God's] house." The NT takes the mercy extended to the obedient among God's chosen people and offers it to everyone. Even Jesus' strict, Law-loving brother allows that "mercy triumphs over judgment." Indeed it has!

    I think it's important as we read the Bible to keep in mind that we are NEW Testament Christians. Sometimes it is so easy to rail against the wicked, and to mock them when calamity comes. While we should most definitely seek and promote righteous living, we have to remember that our job is to be ambassadors of our merciful Christ, who, instead of judging us for our wickedness or repaying us for our evil, instead suffered for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God.

  9. Lots of typos in the comment above. Sorry!