Friday, March 5, 2010

March 6

OT: Numbers 6:1-7:89

Oh, my. The laws regarding the Nazirite vow really messed me up today. I don't know what it was. I mean, I'm not going to be taking a Nazirite vow any time soon. Obviously. And yet, in my quest to see the Bible as a coherent whole with the same God portrayed in both the Old and New Testaments, I have to say that I was a little intimidated by the vow regulations. What got me was that the Nazirite vow was something that people took as a way to go "above and beyond." They didn't have to take the vow; it was a vow to bring them closer to God (as 6:2 seems to indicate). And yet, even this voluntary, "above and beyond" thing had such regulations! God has such incredibly high standards! It intimidates me very much.

It makes me wonder, "So if I set aside $5 to spend on groceries for the food pantry every week, and one week I only spend $4.67, am I sinning?" When I decide to do something "above and beyond" for God, something not explicitly required by Scripture, and then I don't do it in the way I've committed to in my head, is that wrong? Again, these standards just seem so high to me.

And then to throw a monkey wrench into my whole line of thinking, I have another spin-off of thoughts. I am very interested in the way our human nature distorts our vision of God. And more and more, I am realizing that, by nature, I am a very "driven" person. That's the best way I can describe it. I am driven to excel, driven to give 110% to everything, and it's not always the most healthy habit. I would like to tell you that it is because I want to do all things to God's glory, but the truth is, my "driven-ness" definitely pre-dates any relationship with God. And it's not for external accolades, b/c those have long since fallen away, and yet the drive remains. Best I can figure, I feel like if I don't excel/give 110% at whatever, then I am a failure. And thus, when I read things like this in the Bible, I just see this really high standard that I can never meet. And I understand about grace and mercy and all that, but even when I read Jesus, I see that same standard. If anything, I see a higher standard. "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"? What the heck?! I tend to take what Jesus says literally, and so how can I be perfect???

I'm beginning to wonder if my innate personality is making me miss the point with God sometimes. I'm beginning to wonder if the very way I interpret the Scripture I read is influenced by this inner drive, and if I'm not totally misreading what God expects of me. The only problem is, this is who I am, and I can't seem to see things any other way.

Okay, I think that was enough navel-gazing for one day. Time to move on:).

I love the blessing in 6:24.

And I thought the tribes' gifts to the Tent of Meeting weren't very original:). They all got the same thing! Then I realized that now the Tent of Meeting has a set of 12 of everything, which is good. I began to think of it more like buying an engaged couple place settings of china, and then the repetitive gifts made more sense.

NT: Mark 12:38-13:13

To continue my thoughts on God's requirements, one thing that Jesus makes clear in 12:38-44 is that God cares about the heart. The teachers of the law are condemned for being vain and prideful, even though they seem so "holy." In contrast, the lowly widow who only gives less than a penny is praised because she gave 100%. So God does not judge by external appearances; He judges the heart. If you are a normal person, you might think that that would make me feel better. Yeah, not so much. I read that and think, "The heart has to be right, too?? Do you know the darkness that resides in the human heart?? My heart is horrible! I am selfish and impatient and judgmental! I try so hard, and God's Spirit definitely helps me a lot, but believe is a lot easier to have right actions than right thoughts!"

Do you see how these are high standards?? Is it just me?

In chapter 13, Jesus talks about the end times. One thing that jumped out at me in Mark's rendition is that Jesus is specifically answering the disciples question of when the temple would be destroyed (13:2-4). And the temple was destroyed in AD 70. So....has this prophecy already come to pass? I really do think that in one sense, it has. There are definitely things that Jesus talks about that apply to the early Christians, like being flogged in the synagogues. Yet, at the same time, if I recall correctly from Matthew, Jesus is going to go on to say some things that haven't happened. He seems to refer to His second coming. Okay, now I'm going to bust out a big word that I learned in Dr. Briley's Isaiah class (in the off-chance he's reading, he will be so proud. Except for, I think I'm about to butcher it:)). It is called "sensus plenior." I don't know if it totally applies here, but sensus plenior refers to a "deeper meaning" intended by God but not intended by the human author. Like, a lot of times, David might have thought that he was just writing about himself, but he was actually also writing about Christ (like in Psalm 22). apply the term here...Jesus' prophecies have one level of fulfillment in AD 70...but they have a deeper fulfillment at a future time. I think that's they way it goes. College seems like such a long time ago....

Psalm 49: 1-12

Sons of Korah, I'm sorry I've been so critical of you. This is a really good psalm! I only wish I had known it when I gave my "meaning of life" lesson two weeks ago. This psalm does such a good job of laying out how short life is (a point I tried so hard to make in my lesson) and how all of our external measurements of success (like riches) are meaningless. It makes several good points around those two ideas, and it is altogether a great psalm.

Proverbs 10:27-28

It's funny to contrast this practically-minded proverb with the words in today's psalm. "The fear of the Lord adds length to life"? Well, who cares? We are all going to die anyway, as our psalm makes so abundantly clear:). I get what the proverb is saying, and I know that it is generally true, but at some point, the external motivation of a long life should stop being one's primary motivation for fearing God. Jesus kind of turned all of those expectations on their head with all of His "dying to self" talk!


  1. Numbers: When I read the vow of the Nazirite, I felt fast-forwarded to our own worship. We don't have those very very spelled out/specific rules, regulations, requirements, sacrifices, etc. b/c JC came to be all those things to us. So, that "vow" looked more like our service today in that it is for a specific time - our own lifetime - and it is a choice we make, a heart thing, and we try TRY to be that living sacrifice that He calls us to be. Perhaps I totally missed the point, it is just what hit me when I read about that.

    As for the Proverb, MAYBE this proverb and the "prospect of the righteous is joy" really is just referring to eternal lengthening and heaven.

  2. Yeah, mom, I definitely see the modern day corollary to the Nazirite vow as our service for God--all the things we do, not because we "have" to, but because we love God. And yet, reading God's standards for the Nazirite vow made me question God's standards for my service. God doesn't seem like the "I'm just happy you tried" type here. He seems very demanding, and like I said, you still see a lot of that demanding nature in Jesus, with his admonitions to be perfect, and what not.

    My relationship with God is so cyclical,and I have definitely considered this conundrum before. Ultimately, it usually leads me to just throw myself on God's mercy and put my faith in Him and His power to work through me. I have to understand that I can never meet God's standards, and my main job is to long for Him and to seek Him with all my heart. And then HE will lead me in paths of righteousness. They are beyond my ability to accomplish on my own.

    And yet, whenever I read things like this, that "driven" part of me gets intimidated all over again, and I have to walk back through that cognitive process:).


  3. I had a comment about the Nazarite vow thing, but it just rambled on into ridiculousness, so I'll just say that I can certainly understand why you would feel "driven" to do more, but I myself am not bothered. From recent events in my life, I feel convicted that I just want to live up to as much as I feel called to do at any given time, knowing that sometimes I may be called to more or less. This in itself is hard enough. I have thought before about what it might be like to have kids, and sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking of all the things I will have to teach them. But, then I remember that I will only have them for one day at a time, so I don't have to give them all their lessons at once. I don't think God expects us to learn all of our lessons at once either. I do think He wants us to give more than we think we can give (because He wants to be the power behind what we are doing in such an obvious way that we know it is not ourselves doing it). I think it is good to feel stretched and pulled out of our comfort zones, but I don't think God wants us to be so overwhelmed to the point of feeling guilty for not doing things we haven't even promised yet to do. (Now, THAT feeling I DO relate to.)

    On a different note, I think it is interesting that God set it up so that the priests would ask the blessing on the Israelites, and THEN God would bless them. I get the feeling that God wanted to bless the people anyway, but it was important for him to be asked. From a practical standpoint, it seems kind of silly to me. That's like me telling my niece to have her mother ask me to take her to the park. It's all roundabout and wierd. But... I guess more communication is always better than less. If God just blessed the people without them consciously asking for it, they probably wouldn't appreciate it as much, or they wouldn't recognize the things that happened to them as blessings. So, in this case, the asking was more for the people (I think) than for God. I think prayer is like this too (in general).

    I love verses 8 and 15 of the Psalm:
    "Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave... But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of death." This sounds like your sensus plenior. They couldn't have known at the time how right they were... could they?

    "Well, who cares? We are all going to die anyway..." LOL :)