Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24

OT: Deut. 2:1-3:29

I have a feeling that you will all get sick of me talking about history in this section. But it's going to happen:). After all, this is a history...of Moses reciting history. I mean, what else are we supposed to talk about?

What I find absolutely fascinating about Moses' rendition is the way he shapes the narrative for the people. Strictly speaking, he is telling the people a slightly altered version from what he writes in Numbers. For instance, Moses throws in that the reason that Sihon didn't let the people pass through his land was because God had hardened his heart. I don't remember that detail being in the earlier version. You can tell from these details that Moses' history here has a thesis, like I mentioned yesterday. The thesis is that God has always been in control of every event, and that He has carried them to this point. Thus, Moses chooses not simply to recite the events, but to build in a commentary that supports his thesis. For example, I find his statement in 2:7b a little bit hilarious: "These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything." I could see the people thinking, "Yeah...except for, um, THE PROMISED LAND. And occasionally food and water. And meat, we never had meat. And a place to call home. And all the family members we lost that God killed. But yeah, other than that, you're right--we haven't lacked anything." See, Moses is giving an interpretation. I'm not saying his interpretation isn't correct; I'm just saying that other people could reasonably have a different interpretation of those last forty years. And interpretations are really important. Our perceptions of reality are often more influential than the reality itself. That's why I think it is important to ponder and pray over our own personal history and to let God shape our narrative. For example, I could look at my brother's death as a sick joke of the cosmos, the bizarre and arbitrary malfunction of synapses that led an otherwise healthy man to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger. Or I could interpret the events in the framework of the thesis that God controls the world, and that He loves me and my family and wants what is best for us. That interpretation is what is going to maintain my faith. In the same way, Moses gives the people an interpretive narrative that will maintain their faith as they enter the promised land and begin the task set before them.

NT: Luke 6: 12-38

Well, it's time for the Sermon on the Plain! I learned in college that, because this version differs so drastically from the Sermon on the Mount, and because verse 17 specifies that Jesus went down "to a level place," that this sermon should be considered as an entirely different occasion than the Sermon on the Mount. I am always interested in communication, and it fascinates me how Jesus can use the same rhetorical structure to convey two entirely different messages. For instance, the message of the Beatitudes is a completely spiritualized version of the Sermon on the Plain's literal references. The Sermon on the Plain concerns itself with physical poverty and wealth, and it is one of the factors that lead scholars to believe that Luke had a soft spot for the poor. (A soft spot for women and the poor--and in that day and age, too! I'm telling you, he was a cool guy.)

If it is possible, the Sermon on the Plain is even crazier than the Sermon on the Mount, and that's saying something! According to Jesus here, poor people are blessed and wealthy people are cursed. Even if I could skirt around the idea of being "wealthy" (which I can't), I definitely can't deny that I am well-fed. So...this is bad news, right? I mean, what do I make of this?

Well, if I take the rest of the sermon at face value, I won't be "wealthy" for long, will I? If someone steals my coat, I should give him my shirt, too, right? And if someone asks me for anything, I should give it to him, right? So I probably should have given money for that bus ticket to that guy who pounded on our door at 5:00 am when we lived at the parsonage, right? I mean, even though the church had already given him bus ticket money when he hit up the office, we still should have given it to him because he asked, right? And if he hadn't knocked, if he had instead broken into our house and taken something that belonged to us, we shouldn't have demanded it back, right?

It might seem like I am being sarcastic, that I don't really believe these things are true. But the fact is, I don't know what to think of these words. I mean, what does following them look like? I really have no mental picture that doesn't either 1) seem ludicrous and unfeasible, or 2) seem to completely water down Jesus' words into something more palatable to my instinct for self-preservation.

And those were just the verses on giving! Do not even get me started on turning the other cheek. (Wow, clearly I have made no progress since reading the Sermon on the Mount! It seems that I was just as confused then....)

I do love verses 37-38. If I could cherry pick from this sermon, then these are the verses I would choose to follow:). Don't judge; don't condemn. Instead forgive and give generously (but not to the crazy degree, like earlier. This one just says, "Give." I can do that:)). Peace, love, and happiness, dude. Just chill with all the judgment and condemnation. I could handle that part:).

Psalm 67: 1-7

Wow. Anyone who is feeling uneasy about events in the world at large (that would include me) should just take a nice, deep breath and read this psalm aloud. It makes for a great prayer; praying it did wonders for me.

Proverbs 11:27

Whoa. I know I must have read this proverb before, but my brain totally erased it. Thus, it was a wonderful discovery today. "He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it." This is kind of like the divine version of karma. And I see loose ties to the crazy thoughts on the Sermon on the Plain. To show the level of goodwill that Jesus seems to be requiring sounds so irrational. But this verse reminds us that people who seek good get good. I tend to think that seeking the good of loving my enemies would get me broken teeth. But this proverb showed me a different view of the concept....

1 comment:

  1. Deuteronomy:

    It is good to be able to see the "big picture" here after having read more of the details. I feel like this version of events is more like what God must see, whereas the other accounts were more from the people's and Moses' perspective.

    It's interesting that God tells them NOT to bother certain groups of people because He has given them their land. That's a refreshing change.

    Also... GIANTS! I guess all of them got killed (well, maybe not since Goliath shows up later), but, still, that's pretty cool. I actually know somebody who thinks (for real) that the stuff in the "Lord of the Rings" is all true. I wouldn't go that far myself, but I'm always amused when I see mention of supposedly mythical beings (giants, witches, dragons, etc.) in the Bible. Well, we have midgets (dwarves?) now, so why couldn't we have the other extreme? All of the ideas/people/creatures written about in fantasy books had to come from somewhere. I so wonder what those days were really like.


    *Sigh* Sometimes I feel like I really "get" Jesus, but other times I'm like, "Wait? What?" I'm with you; part of me wants to take this all literally, but then the other part (the part that is concerned because I already have my comforts now) thinks this can't all be as extreme as it sounds. I guess it comes down to the principle that, as you give, it will be given to you.


    I had to go back and read this psalm again after your comments. I missed it the first time, but it was very meaningful after throwing the modern day perspective on it.


    More a = a philosophy... (You may be a history person, but I'm a math/language/patterns person.) :)