OT: Lev. 7:28-9:6
After today's reading, I finally caved and did a little research on the different types of OT sacrifices. My research took about two seconds and led me to this chart. And, just like that, it all became clear.
I knew that I just needed a good chart or table or something. Surely this couldn't all be as confusing as I was making it in my head!
I know I have repeatedly made this observation, but it strikes me anew every day: how can they have any animals left???? God gave some rules today about dishonesty and theft. After listing a bunch of examples, He wrapped up the list with, "or if he commits any such sin that people may do" (6:3). Talk about a catch-all! God is leaving no loopholes!
And, as usual, I was struck by the strictness of the regulations. There were no spontaneous offerings to God here. Even if you gave a freewill offering of thankfulness, God is very specific on how you are to thank Him for His blessings. They are to be "cakes of bread made without yeast and mixed with oil, wafers made without yeast and spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well-kneaded and mixed with oil." Plus, the giver should add some "cakes of bread with yeast." O-kay. God definitely lets the people know what He wants.
Reading all these confusing rules makes me think that there is no way that people can perfectly fulfill the Law. I bet the priests were screwing up left and right. And those were the ones who were actually trying. In the 5th-6th grade Wednesday night class that I teach, we learned how Hophni and Phineas insisted on eating the fat that was supposed to be burned up and slept with the women who worked at the entrance. So there were tons of priests who were just big losers. But even the ones who wanted to do right probably couldn't handle it!
It seems like, according the NT, God was making a point here that people could not obey the Law. They could not meet the requirements demanded by God's holiness. Got it. But...He still wanted people to try! He still expected them to do their best to fulfill the Law for hundreds of years. That part is a little weird to me. It is like He is setting them up for failure...
NT: Mark 3:7-30
It's funny how Jesus gives the demons strict instructions not to tell about Him being the Christ. I believe that my Writings of the New Testament book addresses that idea, but I have already done enough research for you guys today:). (Plus, I want to go to bed!)
A lot of this was repeat from Matthew, and I felt like we explored it well in his version. I was kind of drawn to the scene, though, where Jesus calls the disciples. The text says, "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" (13-15). This is an interesting scene to me. First of all, it doesn't say he just called the twelve. It says He called "those he wanted" and appointed twelve of them specifically. So maybe it was a bigger group, from which the twelve were chosen. I wonder how Jesus decided "those he wanted" and how He decided on the twelve (if they are two different groups). And I also noticed today that He gave the twelve special authority. I guess I should have always known this, but I think I have just been picturing things differently. I haven't been picturing Jesus choosing twelve from His big group and giving them special powers. I wonder what the others thought (if there were others there).
This psalm always reminds me of 9/11, b/c I read it shortly afterward and was comforted by it. It still provides a lot of comfort. I am a scaredy-cat, as I've repeatedly mentioned, and this world seems very "big and bad," especially now that I am an adult and realize that adults don't have the special knowledge and powers that I thought they did:). So much goes on in this world that is completely beyond my control and understanding. Sometimes the darkness is just overwhelming, and I want to form a protective cocoon around my family and never come out. But this psalm comforts me, and it reminds me that I don't have to understand everything or know how to fix everything. All I have to do is "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture" (3). And even though my pastures may not always seem safe by my standards, I know that I will always be safe as long as I have the Good Shepherd with me.
I've always loved verse 4: "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." I think that this is especially true b/c as you delight yourself in the Lord, the desires of your heart begin to conform to His will. Suddenly, a lot of the selfish things and creature comforts of this world are no longer your biggest cravings. Instead, you long to know Him and love Him and serve Him. And of course, God will give you the desires of your heart. (Whoa, as I typed that, I realized that another way to read it was just how I interpreted it. The NIV doesn't say that God will fulfill the desires of your heart; it says that He will give them to you. In other words, your very desires will come from Him. Wow, that's an interesting way to read it.)
Also, I noticed that our footnotes says that this poem was an acrostic using the Hebrew alphabet. That's pretty cool. I wonder how many other poetic devices, like rhythm and rhyme, are lost in translation. It's an amazing thought to me, b/c I think the psalms are beautiful and brilliant. I wonder how much more so they would seem in their original language.
There is a lot I can say about how the Lord "thwarts the craving of the wicked," but I'm too sleepy. I'll just say that I see it all the time. In our society, standards are falling away right and left, and it is truly becoming a world of "anything goes" and "do whatever you want to be happy." And yet, are we happier as a society? I think not. When we crave happiness apart from God, I just don't think it is possible to ever really fulfill that craving.