OT: Lev. 11:1-12:8
Whenever I think of the Law, I think of "clean and unclean." For some reason, those particular regulations are the epitome of the Law to me. I guess I feel that way because I think that they, more than anything else, set the Israelites apart from everyone else. And that was one of the main purposes of the Law, I think. As God says in 11:45, "I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy." Holy means "set apart." And that was what God was doing to the Israelites by giving them the Law. He was setting them apart from everyone else in order to have a relationship with them.
As such, the specifics of the Law didn't really have to make sense. God could have said, "The color purple is to be detestable to you," and it would have fulfilled the purpose of setting the Israelites apart. His Laws, however, apparently do make a lot of sense. I say "apparently," because I don't completely see it myself. However, I have heard some compelling reasoning from other people on the subject. Patrick Mead, for example is a Scottish preacher up in Rochester, MI. This is all via Greg, but Mead apparently has some sort of scientific background, and he also used to be an atheist. One of the major factors in his conversion was the Law. He read it, and to him, the laws made so much sense, and for reasons that the Israelites could not have conceived.
And no, he's not a misogynist, which would have been my next question.
That would have been my next question, b/c I have always found portions of the Law to be extremely offensive. If you are trying to build a Biblical argument that God doesn't like women, look no further than the Law. In the Law, natural parts of womanhood are considered "unclean," which just fries me. I've always thought that it was, like, women were supposed to feel guilty for things that they couldn't help!
Patrick Mead has an explanation for that. I'm trying to correctly remember what Greg told me, but I think the idea was that being "unclean" wasn't necessarily immoral or anything. And that, in calling women unclean in certain times of their lives, God was giving them a chance to rest. Okay, I can go for that. I want to believe that God doesn't view those things as wrong or dirty, after all. And I totally get needing to rest after you have babies, like the Law talks about in 12:1-8. Patrick Mead says that when women were "unclean," they had to leave the camp, and so they set up a red tent outside of the camp where the women gathered. And since they were outside of the camp, they could just relax and not have to do any of the work that they had to do inside of the camp. (Take this with a grain of salt. All of this info is 100% based on my faulty memory of what Greg told me about the podcasts of Mead that he had heard.) But if that is true, I can go with it.
However, why are women more unclean because they have a girl?? And why do they have to give a sin offering just for having the baby? Maybe this is part of where Catholics get some of their ideas about sin and sex. And original sin. Hmmm.
Regardless, one thing I don't buy is that all of this was just "cultural" stuff. God doesn't change, folks. If this came from God, then it says something about how He feels on the matter. And most of the Laws He gave the people were radically counter-cultural. So why would he get all "traditional" in this one area?
Well. I got way off on that. The bulk of our reading was really about food! Patrick Mead loved this part, too, and apparently, it made a lot more sense to him than it did to me. One command I can get behind, though, is the pronouncement that rats and all kinds of lizards were unclean. Hear, hear! Those have both been the bane of my existence for some time now:). And I definitely agree with the idea that if a dead rat falls into your jug of water or in your food, then it is all unclean. You think? I'm glad that God makes that clear to the Israelites! It was certainly clear to me already!
NT: Mark 5:21-43
The editors of this book did this on purpose--I know they did! It would have made more sense to leave the OT reading at the end of Leviticus 11, rather than to shoehorn in eight verses in chapter 12. But they were trying to juxtapose the laws on childbirth and bleeding with Jesus' healing of dead girl and and a bleeding woman. I guarantee you:). "See?" the editors are saying, "I know you might have gotten the impression that God doesn't care as much about little girls based on those OT commands about childbirth. But look! Here He is going out of His way to raise a dead little girl to life. And I know that you think He is unmerciful to all those "unclean" women in the OT, but look! He heals this woman from her bleeding disorder. See?"
And it is a powerful juxtaposition. I have to say that even I was mollified by reading the story of Jesus' healings. It served as a reminder to me that, as always, you have to look at the whole picture of God's revelation to us to see the truth. You can't just hone in on one verse or chapter. (Sidenote: Greg has always found it hilarious that when people think of "context," they often just think of the surrounding verses. To Greg, context, at minimum, is the whole book in which the verse is found. But this reading shows us how "context" ultimately includes all of Scripture. You need the whole picture of the OT and NT to understand God. If you take either one without the other, you are going to get a skewed picture.)
Wow, David is really low here, and for good reason. Usually when he is depressed, it is due to outside forces and enemies who are overwhelming him. Today, though, he has been brought down by his own sin and the subsequent discipline of God. I just have to say, Welcome to the human race, David! I wasn't sure you were a member there for awhile, when you boldly asked God to search your heart, when you maintained your total innocence and purity. But now that I see that you suffer and feel immense guilt like the rest of us, I can relate to you. I have definitely been there where my own sin and feelings of distance from God have been so overwhelming. I'm not saying that I have felt the same as David, or that God has disciplined us the same, but there are plenty of times that I myself could have written, "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear" (4).
One interesting thing about this psalm is, ironically, how close David feels to God during this pain. Often, David is calling out for God, asking Him where He is and why He is hiding. Here, David knows that God is right there, that He is the One causing the pain. David says, "All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you" (9). That's an amazing perspective. Usually, when I am brought down by sin and feeling awful, I tend to think of myself as far from God. However, perhaps I should start viewing those awful feelings as being from God. Perhaps I should start to understand the perhaps even more painful truth that God is right there with me when I sin.
You know, I almost think that I would rather double the reading and go through Proverbs twice this year. Or triple it and go through it three times. It is hard for me to get any "flow" going while just reading one or two verses at a time. But the good part is, I'm usually out of words by the time I get here, so I'm glad that there is not much to say!
"The wise in heart accept commands" (8a). It doesn't say that the wise in heart accept the commands that they understand. As I read through the Law, and I get so confused about what God means, I have to always remember that, as God's child, my job is to accept His commands because they are from Him, not because they make sense. If they make sense, then all the better. But ultimately, my obedience is what is required--not my understanding.