Monday, February 15, 2010

February 15

OT: Ex. 39:1-40:38

The bored part of me is wondering if it would have been so bad had Moses not exactly repeated all of God's instructions as the people carried them out. Why not just sum up what the people did? At the same time, I agree with him that these actions were some for the record books. Here is written proof that the Israelites were capable of obeying the Law to a T. Since their history will go on to cover all of their misadventures in grim detail, why not linger over the one time they got it right? Even in this era, they have been messing up right and left. This story, however, is one that they would want their children to hear! My favorite line is in verse 39:42, which says, "The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses."! Like I said, I am just so impressed with and happy for them. Moses blessed them as a result; if it were me, I would have had to break out into song or something!

I was trying to get a picture of how long all this took, so I looked up "month" on Exodus 19:1 says that the Israelites arrived at the desert of Sinai three months after they left Egypt. In today's reading, it says that they set up the tabernacle on the first day of the first month of the second year (Ex. 40:17). So that means that in nine months' time, they had received the Law and built the tabernacle. Honestly, I would have thought it would have taken longer for them to build all that. I guess when so many people worked together with God's help, they were able to make good time!

At the same time, as I was reading about all their activity in the desert, I was thinking how an atheist or an irreligious person would think that they were crazy! Here they are spending many months using so many of their precious resources to make a portable tent for their Deity. Someone who had no knowledge or belief in that Deity would probably think that their time would be infinitely better spent if they kept moving and looked for a home. And for that matter, they should probably be saving all their wealth to...I don't make a treaty or something with some king so that they could live in his land. Something useful. Something that doesn't involve a portable tent. Thinking all of that reminded me how bizarre the Christian life must look to a nonbeliever. As a Christian, my entire life, my reason for living, revolves totally around a Deity whom others do not believe even exists! Though modern day society actually seems to value some of the ideas that Christians hold dear, like love and peace, the ideas of Truth, of selflessness, and of righteousness are apparently becoming increasingly ridiculous to them. And as such, like the laboring Israelites, Christians are probably starting to look weirder and weirder to outsiders.

Granted, the Israelites were all alone and not influenced by outsiders (which is probably why they shine so brightly here), but I am inspired by their focused devotion to God in the desert. The workers are pouring all that they have into doing something for their Maker. When they were in societies, they had a hard time faring so well. Even though I am currently in a society that I find very distracting, I want to have that same kind of focused commitment that the Israelites had in the desert.

NT: Mark 1: 1-28

Well, I knew this was coming, but I've got to admit, I found it a bit jarring to start all over with Mark. Honestly, I didn't even realize that Matthew ended yesterday, though I know that the Great Commission comes at the end! I just wasn't thinking...

One thing that immediately hits me about Mark's gospel is that he seems more like a "big picture" kind of guy. Mark is telling a BIG story, and he doesn't have time for little things like details and character development the way that Matthew did. There is no genealogy, no birth narrative, no details on the temptation, no buildup of Jesus' relationship with the disciples. Mark comes out of the gate sprinting and immediately hits the high points: John came and prepared the way for Jesus; Jesus was baptized; Jesus was tempted; Jesus called his disciples; Jesus taught amazing things in the synagogue; Jesus healed people. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! I have to say, reading the first chapter excited me. It seemed like something epic was coming, and I am excited to come along for the ride. This ride moves pretty fast, though, so I've got to try to keep up:).

Psalm 35: 1-16

Thankfully, I've never really had enemies, much less enemies on the level that David describes in this psalm, so I can't really relate. As such, the only thing that really leaps out at me is verse 8: "may ruin overtake them by surprise--may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin." The net and pit in this verse refer to the net and pit David's enemies dug for him. Proverbs has echoes of this concept in Proverbs 1:11-19, which talks about how people who lie in wait to way-lay others end up only way-laying themselves. What strikes me about David's use of this concept is that he is clearly looking for justice, not vengeance. He wants his enemies to suffer only what they are trying to get him to suffer, and no more. It kind of reminds me of the idea of "an eye for an eye." I read a book on just war that held that the concept of "an eye for an eye" is the beginning of justice and mercy. Vengeance tends to take things to the next level. "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth" (or "net for a net and pit for pit," in this case) sets limits on retribution.

And that, people, is your random thought for today.

Proverbs 9:11-12

It's funny to me how a long life is touted as one of the benefits of wisdom. I would say that, in light of NT teaching, that is kind of an outdated benefit. Though our survival instincts cause us to desire a long life, the NT makes clear that our physical death is gain. It also repeatedly emphasizes that physical death is not to be feared since we have already died in the most important ways.

Yet, I guess that even in the light of eternity, it is a blessing to get to influence and shine for our families. I count every day with my husband and children (and with my church family) as a blessing from God, in which eternal benefits can be reaped. So in that sense, I guess long life is good...


  1. I am glad you are writing about this part ..I am getting a little bogged down by the cubits and repetition ..good points :)

    I did always find it impressive the amount of STUFF that went into the Temple ..and today I am thinking about how the cloud descended on the Tabernacle. How did the priests do their thing in there with all that?

    ALso, before Moses would go to the Tent of Meeting and meet with God. Because he wasnt a priest, does he miss out on that from here on out? Do they meet in different ways ..I gotta stay tuned I guess? I just wonder if the whole experiencing the "cloud" of God is passed for Moses. Also, what a site for the Israelites to see the cloud with fire in it every night. Wow.

    What a great reminder for them that God goes with them every step of the way. I assume that that continued for the 40 years they will wonder around in the desert as well ..that is awesome. They get daily doses of Godness ..with manna, quail AND a cloud in their presence everyday. God is so OBVIOUS with them He is, of course, with us.

    Mark - He IS fast and furious isnt he? He is like ..Matthew covered it, here is a refresher now lets get to the stuff he didnt mention :) I love Mark for all the evidences and task-orientedness. Looking forward to more Mark.

    Psalms/Prov ..wouldnt it be great if all the big boys of the Bible would write a book of poetry to go with their stories? I mean, if we knew what Moses was thinking on a sensitive level, how cool would that be? I am just saying :)

  2. Keep an eye out for how often Mark uses the phrase "immediately," or a synonym. Not only is Mark the shortest gospel in terms of chapters, the chapters themselves are short. (Luke is more like me, with 50+ verses per chapter... I read somewhere that Luke uses as many words in Luke and Acts as Paul does in all the epistles put together.) The one drawback to the One Year Bible reading plan is that it takes until summer to get to the epistles (but that's still not as hard as doing the chronological read-through and not even hitting NT until October).

  3. Court--I would like those poetry books, personally:). I love getting insight into people's heads, especially when they are historical figures!

    Coach Sal--Your comment about Mark using the word "immediately" reminded me about how many times he uses "and," which makes his narrative move really fast.

    Thinking about both those things inspired me to get out my "Writings of the New Testament" book and give us all a little intro to Mark:). I should have done this with Matthew, but I was too immersed in the narrative itself.

    Anyway, here are a few of the things I highlighted about Mark, according to Luke Timothy Johnson:

    --Historically speaking, "Mark's Gospel was little read and less studied...No commentary on Mark appeared until the sixth century and another until the ninth...What small attention patristic writers paid to Mark was due largely to his supposed role as Peter's translator and his thus having had a direct connection to the apostolic witness."

    --"By the high standards of Greek rhetoric, Mark's prose is unimpressive. Indeed, both Matthew and Luke find his Greek in constant need of correction and improvement. Mark can be prolix and clumsy (see, e.g., 1:35, 9:3). His sentence structure is paratactic (that is, he joins clauses with "and" rather than by using relative pronouns and subordinate conjuntions), and this, together with his frequent use of the adverb "immediately" (euthus), gives his narrative an immediate, but also sometimes frenetic quality. He is fond of slipping into the historical present in the middle of a story."

    [Me: This is part of the reason why Mark seems to go so "fast" in his storytelling.]

    "Mark's compositional skills do not, at first glance, inspire much respect...But he is far from a careless editor. He is, in fact, an author of considerable skill."

    Johnson goes on to highlight Mark's predilection for sets of three; the sudden beginning and open ending of his Gospel; his use of the apocalyptic writing form and of irony; and his theme of mysterious revelation. Depending on how motivated I am, I might share further tidbits from Johnson as they apply to our reading.

  4. (Gen.) Wow! All that never ending detail. I really do not understand all its purpose. Although I do LOVE that they mix purple, blue, and scarlet fabrics together, very cool. My next quilt? I do love that God makes it very clear that it is He that furnishes us with our talent. And, the reason, I believe, that they were able to remain loyal to God during this time is because they were kept so busy and had a purpose. When our church family is united in work and purpose, we are able to bring a lot of glory to God, give more money and time, help one another with a deeper love, etc. When we are not WORKING for Him, we start stumbling around and complaining over nothing!

  5. Mom, I definitely had that same thought about them staying busy. I just didn't connect it to the church that well. I connected it more to my own life, and how easy it is for me to stay focused and faithful if I am DOING something for God. But yeah, you are totally right. As a church, there is not enough time to argue AND constantly work for God. Good point!