Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29

OT: Deut. 11:1-12:32

So many thoughts are swirling around about this passage. There is not a single, unifying thread that runs through them, so I will try to grab them each and put them down here before they get away.

The first is that Moses is getting quite repetitive, but I understand why. I mean, it's not like he can send the people email reminders of his message. It's not even like they can each get a transcript and read back over it when they forget. This is his one shot to address the people and to get his message through their thick skulls. And so, as such, he repeats his basic premises over and over: "God is in charge. God is about to GIVE you this land. (Not you. God.) When you get in there, follow God. Do what HE says. Do not follow idols. If you follow God, it will go well with you. If you forget Him and/or follow idols, it will go poorly." Repeat those concepts about 18 times, and you get the gist of Moses' message here.

Secondly, as a parent, I am intrigued by Moses' use of both carrot and stick. He doesn't just use one or the other, and he also doesn't say, "Follow God because He made you and loves you, and it would make Him happy if you followed Him." In other words, Moses does not highlight the intrinsic benefits to following God; he emphasizes the extrinsic benefits to following God. I find that to be an interesting choice, and in the context of the people's relationship with God, it makes sense. Spiritually speaking, they are toddlers. I have toddlers myself. And though I do try to emphasize the intrinsic benefits of making God happy, I also take the carrot and stick approach. I try, for example, to explain the value and importance of the church service to my kids, but I also tell them, "If you sit quietly in church, you can play in the gym afterward. If you don't sit quietly in church, you will get a spanking." I feel bad sometimes about using so many extrinsic rewards/punishments, but my kids just aren't at the point where the intrinsic ones are compelling. I don't think the Israelites are there, either.

But at the same time, do you think all these benefits are for real? If they follow the Law, will people really not be barren? Will they really not get any diseases? Will it really always rain when it is supposed to? Will all their animals really not miscarry? Will everything really go just splendidly for them? I keep thinking of David. Granted, he wasn't perfect, but he has repeatedly cited times where everything is going poorly for him, despite the fact that he is righteous. So...what do you think of these guarantees here? I personally don't know what to think.

And lastly, three verses really stuck out to me. Deut. 12:4 says, "You must not worship the Lord your God in their way." Verse 8 says, "You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit." And verse 13 says, "Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please." The principle that I get from these three verses is that we can't just worship God however we want. As NT Christians, we do have a lot more freedom than the Israelites had, but we are still supposed to fear God and to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." We have freedom, yes, but that freedom is only in the context of glorifying God completely with our lives. We don't have the freedom to worship God in whatever way we choose, or however "works for us." We are slaves to righteousness, and we are bound by scripture just as much as the Israelites were. I hate to think of the ways that my life and worship conforms to the culture around me and not to His word. It's so hard to figure that out sometimes.

BUT, on the flip side, I thought it was cool that God even gave the Israelites some freedom. He demanded a lot of their animals for sacrifices, as we have already discussed. And yet, He also gave them permission to kill and eat their own animals whenever they wanted. Since they had been complaining about having no meat in the desert, I guess that had been taboo up until this point. I love 12:15, which says, "Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want...according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it." I like this verse because it kind of gives us the freedom to enjoy our blessings, even as we try and serve God with our whole lives. Though Greg and I don't spend our own money on too much frivolous stuff, my parents have given us a ton of wonderful blessings, and I'm glad that I can be thankful for them and not feel guilty. (Even though, Mom, seriously, you've got to tone it down. We are all going to be spoiled rotten!:))

NT: Luke 8:22-39

Third time, guys. Third time. I read these two stories again and liked them, but I had nothing new. Then I prayed and read them again, and this time I was just impressed by God's power. In all three gospels so far, these two stories have been linked together in this order. In Luke, it connects them very closely in time: "When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town" (27a). So, first Jesus calms nature, and then he calms the human spirit. First, He drives out a storm, and then, He drives out a demon. First, He controls the weather, and then, He controls the devil's forces. Both of those displays of power are amazing, but it almost seems like the first one is merely a prelude for the second. The first miracle was "big." It was huge and awe-inspiring and amazing, and it directly affected (and saved) the lives of twelve men. The second was big, too, especially when you consider the amount of pigs involved, but it was not as "big" as calming a whole sea. And it only directly saved one man, and even then, his life wasn't in mortal danger, like the disciples. But it strikes me that freeing one soul from bondage is better than (temporarily) freeing 12 lives from physical death.

It is also interesting to note that the reactions to both of these miracles were fear and awe. As the disciples asked one another, "Who is this man?" Exactly.

Psalm 70: 1-5

Poor David.

Proverbs 12:4

Love it, of course! I sooo want to be my husband's crown. The idea of bringing disgrace to Greg is just abhorrent. And I certainly don't want to be "decay in his bones." I want to give him energy and joy for life!

1 comment:

  1. OT:

    Interesting point about the carrot/stick thing.

    I think that the people would, literally, physically, get all of the happy blessings God promised, but that would have been dependent on ALL of the people doing what they were supposed to do. I'm not sure that ever really happened (okay, maybe a few times, very briefly). So, our "poor David" didn't stand a chance.

    Something in verse 2 of chapter 12 caught my attention: "When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods--high on the mountains, up on the hills, and under every green tree." I read in a book (that semi-New Age book I told you about, so it is, of course, not entirely reliable) that really high places (like mountains and hills) and heavily veggetated places (like where there are trees) are areas where, basically, it is easier to tap into the spiritual world. I'm not sure what to think about that, but it seems like (based on my own observations and on what little I know of ancient religions) there could be something to it. After all, even God's prophets (Moses, Elijah, etc.) had "mountaintop experiences" where they encountered God. Jesus was even crucified on a hill. I don't know. It's all pretty mysterious, but I think there's something going on there.


    Interesting that fear was the reaction in both cases. I wonder what Jesus would have wanted the guys in the boat to do. Apparently, they acted out of little faith. What would much faith have looked like?

    Jesus told the man who has been possessed to "go back to [his] family and tell them all the wonderful things God [had] done for [him]." Then it says that "he went all through the city telling them about the great thing Jesus had done for him." Maybe this is just a weirdness with my version, but it sounds like Jesus was talking about blessings (plural) while the man was thinking of a blessing (singular). I wonder what the other "wonderful things" were. I also wonder why Jesus doesn't specifically say that this man's sins are forgiven like he does in a lot of cases.


    "For the choir director: A psalm of David, to bring us to the Lord's remembrance." Does God really need to be reminded of our troubles, or is it just that we need to acknowledge that God is the one who saves us?


    Ditto what you said.