Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23

OT: Numbers 36:1-Deuteronomy 1:46

This is not the first time that the division of the land has come up, nor is it the first time that we've heard about Zelophehad's daughters. But I don't think that I have elaborated before on how intrigued I am by God's method of distributing land. He doesn't do it based on might or merit. No, he divides it equally among His children. (This is not a socialist rant, btw:). For the last time, I'm not a socialist!:)). But it is interesting to me to note the ways that God takes pains to keep a meritocracy or a "might makes right" mentality from taking over. He seems to want to keep things fairly even. And so He institutes the Jubilee, a year in which all land is to revert to its original owners. No matter how hard you work or how rich you get, you don't get to keep the land you gain.

In today's reading, God keeps marriage from dividing the land disproportionately. If the land is passed down to a woman, then she must marry within her tribe, so that the land stays equally divided. (I am also interested in how, despite all these provisions, there were still poor people and wealthy people.)

This is interesting to me not because I think that it is a useful model for today (heaven forbid I think much of what we have read so far be a useful model for today. We are not a theocracy, for one. God doesn't tell us to annihilate our enemies, for another.). Rather, it is interesting to me to read about a society that is soooo different from our current one...and yet, seems to be an okay model. I mean, God designed it. When I got on Facebook today, I saw holy terror in the statuses of so many Christians when faced with the possibility of a change in our society. And I have nothing to say about that change, per se. I was more interested in the fear. I mean, even I am a little scared of the change. And so, it was oddly comforting to take a long view of man's history and see that our little time period is not the end-all.

Moses agreed with me on the history thing, because as his society was about to make a big change, he thought it would be a good time for a little history lesson. In Deuteromy 1 (woooo-hoooo! Who would have thought I would be so happy to get into Deuteronomy?!), Moses began to recount all that had happened to the Israelites since Mt. Horeb (is it bad that I cannot remember what happened at Mt. Horeb?). I kind of think that the thesis to Moses' recollection is found in verse 31: "There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place." I never thought I would reference that "Footprints" poem in this blog, but that's what I thought of when I read that line. In the poem, and in Israel's history, the people probably did not feel at the time that God was carrying them. It was only when they looked back that they could see it.

Oh, and I also like how Moses is the world's first historical revisionist! In verse 37, he claims, "Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, 'You shall not enter [the land] either.'" Um, no dear, that was because of you. Don't go blamin' your problems on other people!:)

Of course, since it was Moses who wrote the Pentateuch (right?), he was at least honest in the written version, the one that we've already read. That's what counts, right?

NT: Luke 5:29-6:11

Jesus is a crazy person in today's reading! He and his followers hang out with sinners, they don't fast, and they pick and eat grain on the Sabbath! And then He even heals someone on the Sabbath! Does this Man have no respect for the Law?

Of course, I don't really remember anything in the Law about eating with sinners. Or fasting. Or, for that matter, picking and eating grain (specifically) on the Sabbath, or healing people on the Sabbath. Hmmm...

It's crazy how much the Pharisees seem to have expanded the already daunting Law. Again, isn't the Law hard enough to keep on its own? This "hedge around Torah" is beginning to look ridiculous.

I was intrigued by verses 36-39. I think we have already read them and discussed them, but they struck me for two different reasons today. For one, I somehow stumbled onto a blog today that strongly advocated that women wear only dresses. Their chief support was found in some verse in Deuteronomy, which said that men shouldn't wear women's clothing and vice versa. That line of reasoning brought to mind several people that I know that believe that the Law is still at least partially in effect, or applicable today. My interpretation of this verse really speaks to that idea. Jesus did not come to put patches on the Law. For instance, He did not come just to fulfill the burnt sacrifice part but leave the "no tattoos" part. No, He fulfilled the whole Law, which meant that even all of the foods were now clean. It meant that Paul could even urge people not to be circumcised. He brought, in other words, a new wineskin.

The second thing that struck me was how Jesus said, "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" It's a little odd b/c old wine is better than new wine, isn't it? But I think that Jesus' point here is that people don't like change. We always tend to think that the old is better. It seems just to be a general human tendency to think that the past was better. I know that I tend to feel that way!

I may be off on my interpretation of these verses, but the context leads me to believe that the view has some merit. I can think of objections, though....

Psalm 66:1-20

Wow--I don't even know if David wrote this psalm (I'm thinking 'no'), but I still love it! I love how upbeat it is the whole time, even while it is very open about the bad things that happen in life. Verses 8-12 really exemplify this idea. The psalmist starts out by praising God for preserving the people's lives. And without any change in tone, he goes on to recount how God "tested" them and "refined [them] like silver" (10). The psalmist elaborates that God imprisoned the people, laid burdens on their backs, let them be trampled, and sent them through fire and water. He does not sugarcoat the situation, to say the least. And yet, this psalm is one of uninterrupted praise. I like that.

Proverbs 11: 24-26

These type of verses always remind me of my parents, who give ludicrously to others. Seriously, they hemorrhage money...and the great bulk of it is in giving to other people! (Sorry Mom, I had to share!:)). And yet, God always gives back to them and provides for them in amazing ways.

I think this proverb was particularly well-timed for both my mom and me. They have their tax appointment today, which is never fun. And I was debating yesterday (when I read and wrote this) whether or not to have a yard sale this Saturday. My mom could probably use the reminder that God always provides for the generous, no matter how much they end up paying in taxes:). And I needed this verse to push me over the edge and decide not to have a yard sale and instead give all the baby clothes and toys away. After all, the vast majority of them were given to me. I really need to pass it on. It would be seriously cheap of me to sell a bunch of stuff that was given to me! Thanks, Proverbs!


  1. really good nt thoughts today! thanks for sharing your interpretations.

  2. Right on. I have been trying not to get mixed up in the health care debate, so I don't fully know what is going on. However, as with any issue like that, my mindset (now; it certainly hasn't always been this way) is that God is in control, so we shouldn't worry about things of this earth that seem "bad" to us. Our governmental system, though loosely based on Judeo-Christian ideas (sort of), is not dictated by God. Therefore, we shouldn't feel like it is the only way to go. I do believe that our leaders are appointed by God, but the system itself (the "state") is separate from the "church." We shouldn't expect, then, that our government would act like the church. Certainly we should pray for the nation and for our leaders to make good decisions, but we have no need to get all bent out of shape when things happen that we don't like.

    Speaking of doing things differently than we're used to, how about these girls being forced to marry within their tribe? Our culture would scream out against that. I'm glad that we do have more freedom now, but sometimes I can see the benefit in being forced to marry a certain person. Then the couple would just make it work instead of leaving when they get pissy because they have the mentality that the point of marriage is to make them personally happy (see "Sacred Marriage"). Of course, it would suck if one of the betrothed were already in love with somebody else. But, generally, the idea of arranged marriage doesn't bother me so much.

    It's funny how we speak/hear so much about "progress" and young people tend to want to do things differently than their grandparents did, but when it comes right down to it we don't like change.

  3. Becky, I loved Sacred Marriage:). (Oh, and how did you italicize in a comment? Can you do it on fb, too?:))

  4. Do you know how to do html tags? That works for comments too (I'm not sure about fb; I haven't tried it.) If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll have to write it down for you in person because I don't think it will let me type it out here and not actually try to italicize something.

  5. 2012 Thoughts:

    Sooo happy that Numbers is over, and it even ended on somewhat of a high note, with some measure of freedom given to Z's daughters. Women in their situation could inherit land,and they had the freedom to marry whomever they wanted (as long as it was within the tribe). To me, that's pretty forward thinking!

    NT: Today, the verse that jumped out at me was 6:10, in the story of Jesus healing the man with the shriveled hand. In another version of this story, it says that Jesus gets angry. Here, it just says that "he looked around at them all." I wonder how much emotion was contained in that look. I wonder what He saw. I have so many more thoughts on this incident, but I think I'm going to expand it into a blog post.

    What a GREAT psalm. Like last time, I appreciated the unflinching look at Israel's history.