Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14

OT: Ex. 37:1-38:31

Bezalel and Oholiab continue to do their thing today. As always, I am amazed by their skill. Actually, I am amazed by the whole undertaking. I know that God's Spirit is with them, but I can't help but think that the Israelites are a capable people! Here they are in the middle of the desert, tackling this huge undertaking. They need to know how to build, how to weave, how to make things out of gold. I am seriously impressed by items like the lampstand (37: 17-24). It is so elaborate, with all these branches and buds and blossoms...and all out of one piece of gold. Good grief! How long did all of this take??

I did not go back and forth from the reading to the footnotes to see how big everything was--I just used my imagination:). I did note, though, that the Israelites donated over a ton of gold to the project, 3 3/4 tons of silver, and 2 1/2 tons of bronze. Good lands! That is a lot of precious metal!

NT: Matt. 28: 1-20

Reading the first verse of this passage, it strikes me how adrift all of Jesus' followers had to be after his death. I'm sure they were all simply shell-shocked, especially the women who had witnessed his crucifixion. I mean, can you even imagine witnessing that? I don't want to see a movie about it, even after understanding the "big picture." These women did not have the big picture, and they weren't watching a movie. This was someone they knew and loved. How do you even begin to handle that? Mary Magdalene and the other Mary handled it by going to sit and stare at Jesus' tomb. Yeah, that sounds about right. Of course, other versions, like Mark's, say that they came with spices and stuff to anoint His body. I can go with that, too. If they are like me, they like to have something to do to help them process. Or maybe even to take their mind off processing. Who knows? Regardless if they went there to keep busy or just to look at it, I'm sure that they are simply overwhelmed with grief.

The accounts all seem to differ a bit, so let me record the details of this account. The two Mary's get to the tomb, where the guards are standing watch. Suddenly an angel appears, rolls the stone away, and sits on it. The guards become like dead men, and the angel speaks to the women, tells them not to be afraid, tells them that Jesus has risen, and tells them to tell the disciples. As they are hurrying back, Jesus suddenly meets them, greets them, and sets up a rendez vous in Galilee with the rest of His disciples. The Mary's presumably pass the news along, b/c all eleven of the disciples go up to the mountain in Galilee, see Jesus and worship Him. Some doubted. Then Jesus gives the Great Commission.

Let's remember all that, and then compare and contrast with the other versions.

As for the Great Commission, the phrase that jumped out at me today was, "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (20a). I think that as a church, we are pretty good about going, and pretty good about baptizing. It is a lot harder to actually make someone a disciple and to teach them to obey all the crazy things that Jesus said. Even here in a Christianized society, there are challenges. Jesus' commands defy so many of our cultural notions, and it is so hard to obey them ourselves, much less teach others to do the same!

Psalm 34:11-22

Wow, this psalm is a keeper:). I loved the first half that we read yesterday, and this one has some real gems, as well. In verse 11, David sounds a lot like his son's Wisdom figure in Proverbs. I especially love the instruction in verse 14: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it" (14). I hear repeatedly, and I believe myself, that in a fallen world, we will never have peace. And yet, according to this verse, we are to always be seeking peace. I don't think that peace is just an inward frame of mind here. The verse and its context are all about outward actions, about doing good instead of evil. I think "peace" here means peace between people, not just peace in one's heart. That's just my interpretation, though. Make what you will of the verse yourself:).

I also love verse 18: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit."

Then, however, we get to verses 19-20, which highlight the problem with Psalms. I love 19, and have heard it often: "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all." Excellent. I love how it does not deny that bad things happen to good people, and yet how it assures us that God will deliver us from them all. Great. But then the rest of that sentence proceeds as follows: "he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." O-kay. So...I know righteous people who have had broken bones before. Thus, this is clearly figurative, right? Well, then who's to say that verse 19 is not figurative? Blasted Psalms!!! You always have to keep in mind that they are an art form. They reveal truths about God, yes, but you can't always take them literally. They are lyrical poems.

Which, to me, really calls into question our use of them to "prove" fundamental issues. For example, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139: 13). Believe me, I would love nothing more than to take this verse literally. I do take it literally in my heart. But...are we really going to use a lyrical poem to "prove" the beginning of life? According to the psalms, keep in mind, no righteous man should ever suffer a broken bone...

Does anyone have a different take on the Psalms? I am a vehement pro-lifer, but based on my understanding of Psalms, I just can't use a psalm as my go-to passage...

Proverbs 9:9-10

Verse 10 kind of serves as the thesis statement of Proverbs. Solomon declares that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." I cannot tell you how comforting this verse is to me. I love wisdom, I yearn for it, and yet I continually feel so ignorant about most things. This verse reminds me that real wisdom comes from God. Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. In other words, it is the only thing that you really need to know in this life. All the other knowledge that you need springs from a knowledge and pursuit of God. At least, that's how I read it today.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you in principle on trying to make specific theology out of figuarative language. I still remember (and roll my eyes at) a detailed Sunday-school class on EXACTLY how the parable of the rich man and Lazarus explains what happens after we die... complete with flip charts! That said, Psalms are a bit different in that they often serve "double-duty." The psalmist may be talking about the king in his own day, or the coming messiah. He may be talking about Israel, or the church, or both. The "not a bone of his will be broken" verse winds up referring explicitly to Jesus on the cross. The more fun side of that question is whether David even knew that when he wrote it. I get this mental image of David in heaven, seeing his prophecies coming true 1000 years later and thinking, "cool!"

    Along those same lines, Proverbs are truisms, or truths, but not ALWAYS true. After all, how many of us can point to parents who did everything they could to raise up a child in the way he should go, but the kid still wound up making choices that "departed" from that way? That's yet another reason why I say I am a small-f fundamentalist, but with wiggle room.