Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22

OT: Lev. 13: 1-59

Okay, I just took some cold medicine, and I am zoning, big-time, right now. So, abstract thought is currently not my strong suit. But this is the only time I'll have to type today.

You know that phrase, "cleanliness is next to godliness"? I think that idea may have come from the Law. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I think that people had to be "clean" to participate in society and especially to deal in any way with God (like through the tabernacle or through festivals and ceremonies). So that kind of gives the impression that being "unclean" is "bad," because, isn't it "good" to participate in those God-ordained practices? Reading all 59 verses on skin hygiene today, I realized (again) that being "unclean" is not an indication of one's morality. It seems to be all about hygiene and public health. For the good of Hebrew society, people who were unclean, whether they had touched something unclean, or were (ahem) going through something unclean, or infected with something unclean, had to leave. No offense to them, personally. Like I said, it is a public health thing. And public health is good.

However, I see so clearly how people can take something that is good, and can distort it into something bad, how they could start to view chronically unclean people, like women or lepers, as less of people b/c of their "unclean" status. After all, unclean people can't worship God in the traditional ways. So maybe that means that they are not good enough to do so. Maybe it means that God thinks less of them.

I love how Jesus completes the picture for us that was sketched out in the Law. The Law has a lot of good stuff, and it definitely has nothing that is bad or wrong. But human misinterpretation led to some distortions in perception, so much so that when Jesus came to complete the Law, most of the Jews didn't even recognize His fulfillment of it. That's a pity, b/c He gave the world a beautiful picture of how God feels toward the "unclean" and toward the powerless and helpless.

NT: Mark 6: 1-29

Speaking of not recognizing Jesus, today's passage has his own townspeople refusing to see Him for who He was. Despite the fact that they witnessed miracles, they managed to take offense at his "presumptuous" power and teachings. Jesus found their lack of faith amazing, as did I.

Next, Mark gives an incredibly shortened version (when compared to Matthew) of the sending out of the 12 (see Matt. 10: 1-42 for comparison. When the texts differ like this, scholars tend to read into the differences and speculate on the author's audience, setting, and purpose. I am not smart enough to do that, so I'll just note that Mark's is shorter:)). The thing that strikes me about Jesus' instruction in Mark is how low-drama it is. The disciples are to take little with them, stay in one place upon entering a town, and simply shake the dust off their feet and leave if they are rejected. I've heard speculations about why they were instructed to stay in just one house, and I can't remember the details, but it was something about how it was simpler that way. Otherwise, hosts might get their feelings hurt if they left or might seek to manipulate them with offers of room and board or other similarly dramatic things. This way, there would be no favoritism or drama. They would just go to the first house offered and stay there the whole time. The point of Jesus' instructions here seem to be that he wants nothing to interfere with or distract from their message.

After Jesus sends out the Twelve, Mark uses speculation on Jesus' identity as a springboard for telling of John's demise. In Mark's version, Herod is portrayed as even more fond of John than in Matthew's version. Mark points out that "Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled, yet he liked to listen to him." I can't decide if this information makes Herod more likable or less likable to me. I like his feelings about John, but it kind of makes his beheading of him even worse.

Psalm 39: 1-13

David is going through a weird process with God right now, and if I weren't so hopped up on cold meds, I might see better what he is talking about. He still feels weighed down by his sin and God's discipline. Thus, he tries to keep himself from sinning by saying nothing. However, when he failed to say even what was good, his heart burned within him. So he spoke.

And what he asked God was for God to show him the length of his days so that he could better understand the truth that his life was just a breath. Interesting. I think there's more to all that; I just can't quite grasp it right now.

When I first read verses 4-6, my thought was, "Man! Why wasn't this yesterday's reading? Or why didn't I read it this morning before church??" My whole lesson for the teen girls was about our life's purpose. One of my points was that life was just a breath (I actually used those words). And another was that life is ultimately meaningless without God. Wow, these verses would have come in handy!

Proverbs 10:10

"He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin." Not much to say here, so I thought I'd just restate the verse:)!


  1. i also liked how jesus told them not to take much and how to travel. makes me want to become less burdened as i travel through this life. he knew they had no time or energy for distractions, and i would have to agree, they can wear you out.

    and part of me wants to think that maybe in a small way herod was starting to have his heart opened and was "getting it", but then his head got in the way and he stuck to his traditions and laws. at the same time, it sounds like he was a man of his word- if he made a promise, he kept it. funny how this was still all part of God's plan...

  2. From a medical perspective, I think all the skin and uncleanliness stuff is really interesting ..I wonder what God knows taht we dont and if the whole dermatological handbook is wrapped up right here? What disease process does it all refer to? Can we really tell what is infectious or not based on the degree of hairness and its color? I am just saying.

    NT - I think that it is notable that both Herodias and Herod did their dirty deeds via other people. She had her daughter ask the favor, and Herod sent to have it done. Certainly they could both maintain a degree of separation from it all. I wonder if Herod stuck around for the presentation of the head? Also, I wonder about how mean his wife was, knowing that he cared about John and that she was not only putting to death a innocent man but also upsetting him in the process. Not a nice gal.

  3. Ann--Good point about the light load. I remember that phrase that warns us about owning stuff, b/c often stuff ends up "owning" us. That is so true, and it can be SUCH a distraction from our purpose. (Tomorrow's OT reading, however, kind of offers an interesting perspective on that. It's not totally related, but I am eager to see what you think.)


    I've also wondered about the science behind the skin diagnoses. I was hoping that you would know more...since we all know that I know NOTHING about medical stuff:).

    And interesting point about Herod and Herodias. Yeah, she was a piece of work, wasn't she?