Thursday, February 4, 2010

February 4

OT: Ex. 19:16-21:21

Well, tonight is the first time that I can officially say that I would not be writing this were it not for the promise of someone reading it. I am soooo sleepy! (Usually, I write earlier in the day.) So thanks, guys, for taking the time to read. I am so grateful for the accountability.

Okay, today's reading presented kind of an odd view of God. He doesn't seem interested in a close, personal relationship with the Israelites. In fact, He takes great pains to keep His distance. In order to make Himself known to the people, He chooses to reveal Himself not as a gentle whisper, not as a man who does not break bruised reeds (like Jesus), but with thunder and lightning and fire and smoke and trumpet blasts. Very intimidating. Then he warns Moses to tell the people to keep their distance. Like that was going to be a problem, anyway, what with all the thunder and lightning and fire and smoke and trumpet blasts! Plus, Moses reminds God that they have already put up physical barriers to keep the people away from God, per His earlier request. Okay. So...God is not trying to convey Himself as approachable. Got it.

So did the people. They saw all that and told Moses, "You know what? We are totally cool with you being our intermediary. Turns out, we'd rather not talk to God directly" (20:19, paraphrase:)). Moses then presents a possible explanation for God's intimidating theatrics: "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning" (20:20, not a paraphrase). That makes sense, I guess. I love the idea of the fear of God and everything. But I'm just trying to understand the big picture of the evolution of God's relationship with man. Though I haven't commented too much on it, I have been very drawn to these first interactions, beginning in Egypt, between God and the Israelites as a people. This seems like it should be really important, like it should tell us something about God's desire for interaction with us. And yet, some parts of their relationship really stand in contrast to the picture of Jesus in the NT. The incarnation of Christ seems in some ways to be the opposite of Thunder Mountain. Granted, Jesus could bring the thunder sometimes (as He is about to do in our NT reading), but it is still such a vastly different picture.

I just deleted a paragraph of gobbledy-gook where I tried to make sense of those seemingly opposing pictures, but believe me, it would have helped no one:). Why don't you just tell me what you think?

Okay, the Law. I have actually been looking forward to this day. I am interested in reading through the whole Law and exploring what it means. We start with the Ten Commandments. Now, this may be mildly blasphemous, but what about the idea that the Ten Commandments are listed in order of importance? I know, I know...they are all important. But the first four seem to be all about our reverence and respect for God (in descending importance). And I feel that I could make a good case why the last five are listed in order of importance. But if all that is true, then, man, honoring your father and mother is extremely important. The two other parts of the Law that we read today about stoning those who attack or curse their parents seem to bolster this idea.*

Other than the Decalogue, I was most interested in the commands regarding slaves. Particularly, what was the situation with women sold into slavery? I am trying to read between the lines of the commands in 21: 7-11 to understand the culture about which they are written. Did men sell their daughters as servants to other men hoping that they would marry them? Or that the men would give the servants to their sons to marry? And what does it mean to let her be redeemed if the master does not select her (21:8)? I just don't understand the cultural context here.

Also, in some ways, these laws are not very idealistic. One law reads, "If men quarrel and one hits the other with a stone..." and then goes on to specify what to do in different situations (21:18-19). How about just making a law that says, "Don't hit people with stones!" That sounds reasonable to me! And the law in 21:21-22 does not say, "Treat your servants with respect." Instead, it essentially says, "Don't beat them to death, but it's okay to incapacitate them for a few days." Well. That's cheerful! I am just not sure what to make of that...

*To be clear, they are all important. When I talk about "importance," I mean it more as an organizing principle than an excuse to ignore or make light of one. (Our NT passage sheds some light on this idea. Too bad I'm too tired to talk about it:)).

NT: Matt. 23: 13-39

I do, however, know what to make of the "woes" to the Pharisees. It is always nice to get to hear Jesus let someone else have it. And then, of course, you see how He is talking to you, and it gets significantly less nice. Today, I was especially hit by the verses about the inside and outside of the cup/tomb/whatever. I honestly don't feel particularly hypocritical these days (especially in terms of my preacher's definition on Sunday), but still, I am amazed on a daily basis how filled with selfishness and self-indulgence I am. I do what I need to do, I take care of my family, but so often, my "self" just wants to indulge and not do the things I am supposed to do. I so want to be free from my "self"...and yet, "I" am still here!

Psalm 28: 1-9

My brain is in "shut down" mode right now, but I did like a lot of these verses. I guess my favorite would be, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped" (7a).

Proverbs 7: 1-5

Yay for wisdom:).

It is interesting to me how Solomon seems to have chosen adultery as his representative "sin." You know who his mom was, right?


  1. friend, go to bed next time, we can wait! a little rest is good for the soul. :o)

    (just so you know, i am only reading the NT on a daily basis right now. so that's why i comment on nt usually!)

    what strikes me about these verses is that they are TEACHERS OF RELIGIOUS LAW...woe to us that teach and lead others to Christ. hopefully we are guarding our hearts as we do this and remembering to look at our own sin. hopefully we aren't judging them but are gifting them with love and freedom in Christ.

    verse 30 gets me too, when it says "then you say, 'if we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets'..." sounds like what we say about the israelites! "i just don't see why those israelites didn't get it??" hhhmmm!

    the teachers of law/pharisees try to sit on the fence and make the law work for them the way they want...not quite unlike us...and as we learned in the lesson on sunday, there is no lukewarm. God wants all of us, no corners cut for our convenience.

  2. Thanks, Ann. I just want to be faithful to what I said I would do. And from past experience, waiting once until the next morning opens gradually opens the door to all kinds of slacker-ness:).

    "The Kingdom of God is not a matter of TALK, but of POWER."

    Thinking about the, "if we had lived in the days of our ancestors..." always makes me think of civil rights. I have always thought that if I had lived back then, I would have participated actively in the movement. And yet, I wonder sometimes what "movements" today am I ignoring? I wonder if one day, when abortion is outlawed, my kids or grandkids will ask, "What did YOU do to speak up for the unborn?" Ummmm....

    So yeah, I think it is easy to judge previous generations. In some ways, it only serves to take the focus off of our own unrighteousness, as it did with the Pharisees.

  3. OT -

    I am thinking, as I have thought alot this reading around ...God just does NOT fit into the box I have created for Him! :) I am amazed how so many facets of God's image in the OT is in direct contrast to my image of Him all my life. I am in a place where I can accept that God is beyond our understanding, and that is where our faith comes in.

    Striking me otherwise ...

    *Why just these 10 commandants? I mean, he gives 100000000 more throughout the law. Why are THESE the ones he put on tablets? Was it that he knew these people and knew these spoke the most to their hearts?

    * Parents are a BIG DEAL! Apart from the honorary mention in the 10Commandments, we are instructed to not attack them, and not curse them. Perhaps it is where I am right now with my thoughts, but the guidance of Christian parents and their counsel is supposed to be highly honored is part of God's design for families and when that is not followed ..bad stuff can happen.

    * Also, backtracking to yesterday's Proverb ...I am really struck with the frequent warnings against adultery, both there and in today's reading. Sex is obviously a serious area of weakness for these people and their culture (and ours) - but I think the law given them speaks to their heart and how God is trying to guide them to a closer relationship with them.

    I wonder if the evolution of God's relationship with man is a gradual progression of experiencing his power (the thunder/lightening/smoke, the plagues), experiencing his law, experiencing his wrath/anger, and His grace/love/ forgiveness based on the law and then how God introduces Jesus and a totally different outlook later. He progresses from law to grace in accordance to what the people needed?

    That is totally not well thought out, or worded well but I can see how the focus went from "just follow some rules people!" to "rules arent enough, you gotta have heart too!" ..but the progression makes sense I think.

    God doesnt. But, right now I am cool with that :)

    More on the NT later :)

  4. I am so glad you are keeping this up. I am a few days behind in my reading but I am still reading. I really want to finish it this year. Keep up the good work.

  5. I am too tired to make a rational comment, but I did read. This accountability thing works both ways. :) Keep it up, Kim!