Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February 23

OT: Lev. 14:1-57

Everyone, we have our first baptism! And it's a bird baptism! How crazy is that?

Seriously, I saw some of what is apparently God's favorite symbolism in the dipping of the live bird into the blood of the dead bird during the ceremonial cleansing of the diseased person. The live bird is literally washed in the blood of the dead bird, in order to symbolize the transformation from uncleanness to cleanness. Wow. Now, if I only knew how the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn, and the hyssop played in. They seem symbolic, but of what? I know in Psalm 51, David says to God, "Wash me with hyssop, and I will be clean," so apparently hyssop was considered some kind of cleansing agent? Or maybe David got that concept from the Law. Hmmm....

Also, it was interesting for me to note that health care costs were high even back in ancient Israel! Whenever anyone got an infectious skin disease, they had to sacrifice two male lambs and one ewe lamb, three-tenths of ephah, and one log of oil in order to be pronounced clean. Wow. A couple weeks ago, Luke got a deep cut on his forehead, and we thought he might need stitches. Sadly, since I have a high-deductible health plan, my most recurring thought while tending his wound was, "This is going to cost me at least a grand." (Thankfully, it ended up not being that bad, so we didn't go to the ER.) I wonder if in ancient Israel, a person looked at the spot on their arm and thought, "Wow, this is going to cost me." (Actually, they probably had deeper fears than that, b/c if it was leprosy, then their current life was basically over.)

As with the women and childbirth thing, I found it odd that the previously infectious person had to offer both sin and guilt offerings at their cleansing ceremony. It occurred to me today that they offerings weren't for the uncleanness itself, but for any sins they committed during their time of uncleanness. After all, they hadn't been able to participate in the tabernacle stuff, so surely they were due to give an offering.

I also found the whole set of laws on mildew in one's house to be interesting. First of all, God says that He puts mildew in people's houses (33). To me, mildew is the equivalent of an annoying and time-consuming home repair. It was truly a pain to deal with the mildew problem. You had to empty your whole house, leave it for at least a week and then, at minimum, do some really serious renovations (36-45). And at worst, your home might be totally destroyed. All of that sounds like a more dramatic version of the practical headaches that we deal with in our everyday lives today. I tend to view things like home maintenance as...well, almost like distractions from my purpose, which is to glorify God. They seem like one of the many meaningless things that "just happen" and have to be dealt with. And yet, the view of God that He gives us through the Law is that He is over all things, and is in direct control of all things, even things like mildew in one's home. And so, if God is in control of all things, then they aren't things that "just happen" that have to be dealt with. They aren't distractions from God's plan for us; they are a part of God's plan for us.

Hmm...I don't know what I think about all that. I just wrote it down b/c those were the thoughts running through my head while reading.

Mark 6:30-56

Okay, I've mentioned before that I don't try to find themes, but my brain loves to make connections, and this idea of practical, daily life is in my head right now. In my own life, I am very interested in the idea that every moment of one's life can be used to God's glory. And yet, I don't want that idea to morph into a level of complacency in my life. So, the OT gave me some ideas about how the mundane, practical things can be part of God's plan for you. And now the NT is showing me how having too practical of a viewpoint can make you miss God's plan for you. The disciples were being eminently practical when they suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could buy themselves something to eat. If anything, the disciples probably thought that they were being smart and even considerate to understand that the people were probably hungry by now. Jesus, on the other hand, had bigger plans. When he told the disciples themselves to give the people something to eat, they were still hung up on the practical impossibility of the request. And I don't blame them. Who wouldn't be thinking that way? However, I think if they had better understood Jesus' power, they would have been more inclined to see what He was wanting from them. Maybe. I don't know. I just thought it was interesting that the disciples' "practical" viewpoint obscured what Jesus was asking from them.

Well, I've mentioned that people have thought that Peter was Mark's source, but if that was the case, then why doesn't Mark include Peter walking on water here? He totally skips it! I would think that Peter would have been eager to have that one in there....

And lastly, I liked it that when Jesus and his disciples were super busy, He told them to come with Him to a quiet place to get some rest (31). It was a good reminder that everyone needs their batteries recharged, ideally by spending some quiet time with their Savior.

Psalm 40:1-10

Wow, this is a cool psalm. Our bolded verse is good, about God lifting us out of the slimy pit and putting us on a firm rock. Because God blessed me with wonderful Christian parents who raised me to love Him, I have never really experienced the feeling of sinking into a slimy pit, spiritually speaking. So while I like that verse, it wasn't my favorite in the psalm.

I also really liked verse 5: "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare." This verse does a great job of describing God's lavish care of His people, especially in the plans He has in mind for them.

My favorite verses, however, were verses 6-8: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, 'Here I am, I have come--it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is written on my heart.'" Wow--what a visionary David is. No wonder he was called a man after God's own heart! How revolutionary for an OT Jew to understand that ultimately, "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire...burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require." Umm, strictly speaking, didn't God require those things?? I think I just read about them....

It occurs to me that the Law is a door to God, and that David has walked through it. Somehow, he has perceived the deeper truth behind the instructions for sacrifices, and as a result, has had God "pierce his ear" and write His commands on David's heart. He has entered a life of voluntary, love-driven servitude to God that completely surpasses the outward requirements of sacrifice, and God has made His will known to David in a profoundly personal way. I know that part of the reason that God's commands are written on his heart is because, as future psalms attest, David is ravenous for God's word. Apparently, it has started sinking in, in a big way!

Proverbs 10: 11-12

I love the idea that "the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life" (11a). What a great image. I pray that my words always bring life to those who hear them, that they always point them to God and His love.

I also loved verse 12: "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." There are so many ways to take that last phrase, but my favorite way ties into the idea that "love always protects" (I Cor. 13:7). When Greg and I got married, my preacher offered a cool interpretation of that verse. He said that when you know someone so intimately, you learn all the unpleasant things about them that they manage to keep from everyone else. At that time, you have two options. You can either expose those things about them and/or ridicule them yourself. Or you can protect that person and seek to help them and complete them with your own love for them. I am so glad that Greg and I both took these words to heart. There are so many things about us that are less than stellar. But in most cases, our love for each other covers over those things. For example, I tend to stress and freak out over little things, to be "high strung," I guess you could say:). Instead of complaining about this tendency in me or resenting it, Greg has been amazing at "covering" it with his laid-back calm. Rather than allowing my sinful tendencies to "cause dissension" in our relationship, he is great at calming me down when I am stressed and helping me to see the big picture. And thus, his love for me gives me peace where I earlier had stress. It "covers" my wrongs.

That is just one possible interpretation of a very deep verse. If anyone has others, please feel free to share!

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