Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 17

OT: Lev. 4:1-5:19

See, this is what I'm talking about with yesterday's "continual slaughterhouse" comment. Every time anyone sins unintentionally, like if they unintentionally touch something unclean, they have to offer an animal sacrifice for atonement. Seriously, how are they going to have any animals left?? Thankfully, God puts in a provision about what to do if you can't afford the animal sacrifice (bring two doves or young pigeons, or if that's still too steep, about two quarts of fine flour). Because the Law isn't specific on what it means not to be able to afford something, I bet a lot of people were bringing flour. I mean, who can afford to bring an animal from their flock every time they thoughtlessly take an oath or accidentally touch something unclean?

Plus, are these the only unintentional sins? Probably not! Furthermore, where do these Laws even come from? I know it says, "The Lord said to Moses," but when did He say this? It doesn't seem to be on the mountain. We read all of those Laws in Exodus. Can God just add Laws at will? (I guess He can--He's God.) Is this, like, the ever-expanding covenant? That hardly seems fair. The people signed on for the Sinai version, not for all these amendments!

I know this probably all sounds mildly blasphemous, but I am just having a hard time understanding what is going on here. I think a good commentary on Leviticus would help clear up some things. I am reading the story like it is a continuous narrative, when it's not. The books are not in chronological order, and they are not homogeneous in form. We just crossed abruptly from a historical narrative to...something else. To a record of the Law. And in the transition, I feel like I've totally lost track of God. I'm having a hard time seeing His face here.

NT: Mark 2:13-3:6

It's kind of amazing to read this stringent Law in the OT, and then to look at the NT and see the result of that Law. In general, man does not do well with this many rules. Our hearts just aren't good enough (which is maybe part of what the Law intended to show us). Thus, when God actually comes down to redeem us, the Pharisees just can't get past His attitude toward the Law and toward righteousness. Why is He eating with "sinners"? Why don't He and His disciples fast? Why does He eat grain on the Sabbath? Why does he heal on the Sabbath? In short, why is He such a slacker when it comes to the Law??? They are probably thinking, "Wow, if Jesus had goats, birds, or flour, he would have run out by now, with all these 'sins.'" Or maybe that's just me:).

The responses they get are pretty amazing. First of all, the text responds, I believe, with the quotes around the "sinners." (Did they have quotes back then? If not, then this is the response of translators and not the original authors.) The quotes around "sinners" seem to highlight the irony of the idea that these people were worse sinners than the Pharisees, or anyone else. The New Testament presents an expanded concept of sin, which is pretty crazy when you consider how much the Law itself expanded the concept of sin. In the NT, however, the thoughts of your heart are explicitly brought to the table and presented as sins. Though the prophets allude to this in the OT, and though the Law commanded the people to love God with all their heart, I don't think the idea of heart was ever expanded as much as Jesus expands it.

Secondly, not only did the idea of "heart" expand the definition of sin, it also limited it. I know: Weird. Jesus and His disciples aren't guilty for eating with sinners because they are seeking to bring them spiritual healing (17). (And actually, is there even a Law that says you couldn't eat with 'sinners'? Maybe we haven't gotten to it yet, but I don't remember that.) Jesus' disciples weren't guilty for not fasting b/c they were in the presence of God, and it was a time to be happy. Jesus and His disciples weren't guilty for eating grain on the Sabbath, not only because picking heads off of grain was not work (for goodness sake!), but because they understood that Sabbath was made for the benefit of man, not to starve him! And healing someone out of love on the Sabbath was not wrong (again, duh), because it was an act done out of love to bring freedom.

All that said, I can honestly understand a little bit while the Pharisees were being a bunch of jerks with their rules. God's tone in the OT is hard, just like their tone. The Law doesn't exactly make explicit that God made the Sabbath especially for the benefit of the people whom He loves so much. It's more like, "Work on the Sabbath, and die!" Or be cut off. Whatever. There is not a lot of warm and fuzzy explanation that comes along with the command. And I know the Pharisees added a bunch of rules to form a "hedge around Torah," but given God's strict tone, can you blame them? After all, like I said earlier, who has that many animals to sacrifice? Perhaps they figured it was better to put some precautionary rules around the rules, just so they wouldn't run out of animals!

Regardless, I can see what Jesus meant when He talked about old and new wineskins. The Pharisees didn't just need a "tweak" to their thinking; they were so far off that they needed a whole new way of thinking. If you tried to pour Jesus' teaching into the "old wineskin" of their thinking, their brain would explode:). (I know that the old and new wineskins here are more traditionally considered to be the Old Law and the New Law, respectively. However, in light of the idea that Christ didn't come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, I would posit that the problem wasn't with the Law, per se, but with people's understanding of the Law.)

I also found it interesting that Jesus got angry at the people's hard hearts and was "deeply distressed" by them (3:5). The whole scene with the healing of the hand provides some interesting insight into Jesus. It also serves as a sad example of just how far wrong the people had gone, and how in need they were of the Man who now stood before them.

Psalm 36:1-12

This psalm has some amazing uplifting and encouraging verses in it, but I had a hard time appreciating them because I was hung up back at the first four. I am used to David's description of sinners not describing me. He talks about people seeking to take his life, plotting evil against him, giving false testimony to trap him...things like that. I can honestly say that I don't do any of that to anyone else. So when I read in verse 1 that David was going to take a few moments to elaborate on sinfulness, I wasn't too worried. But when I read verses 2-4, I was really stopped in my tracks. Especially verse 2: "For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin." How blind am I currently to my own sin? Or if I do know that something might be wrong, like my choice in tv show, for example, do I really hate that sin? Or do I rationalize it? And I try not to be wicked and deceitful, but have there been times when I've ceased to be wise and to do good (3)? Don't I have stagnant times when I'm not thinking deeply and growing and doing the good that I know I should do? And while I don't feel like I "plot evil," have I ever committed myself to a sinful course, like to seeking earthly security or wealth (4)? And am I guilty today of not rejecting what is wrong? Has my society eroded my morality in ways I don't even fully realize?

Those are all the things I thought of while reading the first four verses. Thus, I kind of stared, shell-shocked, at the rest of the passage without having all the happiness and light really sink in. I guess I can just say that it is a good thing that God's love reaches to the heavens and that His faithfulness stretches to the skies. I need all the love and faithfulness I can get during the long process of God's refinement of my heart!

Proverbs 10: 1-2

Here's one to read to Luke throughout his life:). My interest in family values was peaked today reading that verse. It occurs to me that Solomon really seems to view the relationship between parent and child to be pretty sacred. In particular, children have strong obligations to their parents. This idea, of course, has echoes in the Ten Commandments, which tell children to obey their parents, even before it forbids murder and adultery and all that other bad stuff. And yet, Jesus comes and says that He is going to bring division and to call people to leave their parents and families. And He says to hate your father and mother. I understand that "hate" is hyperbolic, but it just seems weird that He would say those things in light of OT teaching. I guess I have such a continual problem with that idea b/c I am so wrapped up in my family, and I just can't see how that is wrong. To me, loving my family is a major part of loving God. So why would Jesus make family sound like a distraction or a detriment?

1 comment:

  1. I was interested in how the leaders, priests and such who were sinful (even unintentionally) brought sin on the whole people? Yikes. That is harsh.

    I am wondering too, as I often have before and will a million times in the course of the OT, how much of these conceptual ideas will translate to the New Testament line of thinking? I speak, for instance of this idea of "sinning unintentionally" but still being guilty. I have kinna always (subconsciously, I think) thought that once you are AWARE of sin in your heart you are guilty ..thinking logically, that doesnt make sense i realize. We cant use ignorance as an excuse - but then again, what about those who never had the chance to be taught God?

    But then AGAIN, in Romans where it says that all men are "without excuse" because God is everywhere ..I guess that is speaking to that thought?

    And, if someone doesnt "become aware" of his sin, is he is off the hook? No, because it says that he is still guilty? But clearly, once you are aware of a sin you have work to do! That one is a no-brainer.

    I just am trying to ponder what that whole idea of "unintentionally" means and how to what degree we are still held to those standards. Should I be praying for forgiveness for those things I am doing that I dont even realize I am doing?


    Hm. I guess I answered my own question. Thanks :)

    NT - I do think that it is so interesting how the readings in the OT are such a perfect preamble to the NT readings. We are reading about the harshness, often seemingly unreasonable, laws that are being established with the people; and then we see the result of that structure on the jewish humanity centuries later. I can see how they would become legalistic with stuff - trying to follow every law and guideline given to them.

    Then again, I can see how Jesus is trying to mold humanity in general into this new thinking that says its not about the law, but about the heart. Moving from the law to the heart seems a monumental task!

    Psalms ..loved your take on that one. I hadnt caught all that and I and see it oh so clearly now :)

    Proverbs ..I think it is SO important to teach our children to honor and respect the guidance of their parents. I know its so important to me that my children learn now to all me to be a guide for them, and so important to me that I am worthy of that!