OT: Deut. 13:1-15:23
How do you keep evil out?
That is what today's text made me ponder. Under the OT Law, the way you kept evil out was to kill anyone who brought it in. That was definitely dramatic, and it had a degree of effectiveness, I'm sure. And yet, there are a couple of drawbacks to that strategy. For one, you had to kill a lot of people. For another, its success depended on the resolve of the Israelites to kill even their closest family members. I've decided that you don't really want any plan to depend on the resolve of the Israelites for its success.
I think that God's instruction here was intended to demonstrate something, but I can't quite figure out what. Well, for one, it showed how deadly serious He was about sin and evil. Jesus furthers this stance with His (hyperbolic?) declaration that you should cut off your hand and gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin. At the same time, though, I think that both God's instructions here and Jesus admonition to self-mutilation are intended to show ultimately show us how evil cannot be kept out by external means. If you kill the one idolater, there will always be others. I don't think you can kill all the avenues through which evil can come because it ultimately comes through everyone's hearts. And seriously, if you cut off your hand or gouge out your eye, is that really going to keep you from sinning? No. It wasn't your eye or hand that caused you to sin; it was your heart.
We should, of course, remove the external factors that lead us to sin as much as possible. If that means (ahem) cutting off those who continually tempt us, or cutting off our own resources that allow us to sin, then that's what we need to do. Our family only has one tv, and that without cable, for that very reason. Best we can figure, nothing good for our family can come from multiple tv's or cable (except for ESPN for Greg:)). Not that it is bad to have multiple tv's or cable, but that is just one way we have found at this point in our lives to keep evil influences out of our home. Ultimately, however, building up barricades and/or hacking away at the world around us is not going to keep our hearts free from evil. Only God's presence, only His indwelling Spirit, can do that.
Changing gears...I am still loving all the debt-canceling that goes along with Jubilee. What a great picture. In the Jubilee instructions, however, I found another example of how all these teachings seem to point to the possibility of an ideal world, while acknowledging that it's not going to happen. For instance, earlier verses seemed to say that if people did what they should, then there would be no barrenness, no disease, no famine, etc. And yet all those things still happened. Along those same lines, the first few verses of chapter 15 talk about canceling the debts of fellow Israelites, and verse 4 follows those instructions with, "However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord you God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you." That's right: there should be no poor around them with all of these laws on helping the poor, and with all of God's blessings that He is going to give the people. And yet, verse 11 of that same chapter says, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in the land." So....if everyone does what they should, then there won't be any poor people. BUT...there will always be poor people. So, I guess that God knows that there will NEVER be a time when everyone does what they should. It's also interesting to note that it seems clear that it is not the poor people's fault for being poor. God is all about punishing sinners with consequences in the Law, but here, He commands the people to be kind and generous to the poor. Interesting.
NT: Luke 8:40-9:6
Today, I got all caught up in silly stuff while reading. I was so intrigued by the idea that the girl was twelve years old, and that the woman had been bleeding for twelve years, and that the woman was healed around the same time that the girl died. And my brain wanted so much to find something symbolic in the twelve years and/or the life-disease/death-life continuum portrayed in the story. It almost seems like Luke/God is going for something more here...but I've got nothin'. (But wow, how many slashes can I use in one paragraph?)
I also noticed today how Jairus was a synagogue ruler, yet another Jewish leader who believed in Jesus. It is so easy for me to see groups of people as cartoons, or at least as homogeneous in their identity and beliefs. And yet, groups of people are always made up of complex individuals. You can't really put them in a box. So let's see...so far, we know of Jairus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and ostensibly the teachers of the law present at the healing of the paralytic who were not cartoonishly bad.
And I'm still loving the idea that Jesus sent the apostles out with nothing but the clothes on their backs...oh, and the "power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases" (9:1). I'm sure that was handy:).
Favorite verse #1: "My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure" (15).
Favorite verse #2: "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up" (20).
And, is it just me, or do you think the editors of this Bible sometimes just close their eyes and point to pick the verse they want to highlight? Verses 22-23 aren't bad, just kind of random...
The righteous are just, are saved by their words, and have houses that always stand firm. The wicked give deceitful advice, use their speech to lie in wait for blood, and are ultimately overthrown.