Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30

OT: Judges 11:1-12:5

Yesterday, I wondered why the author of Judges elaborated on the lives of some leaders, but said nothing about others. After today's reading, I am thinking that he definitely has some reason and rhyme to his choices. After all, yesterday's portion centered on Abimelech, a man who was marked by his "outsider" status as a son of a concubine. The author then skipped over the next two judges and focused instead on Jephthah, who, coincidentally, has the same problem. I am sensing a theme, people! I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but it is interesting that the author goes out of his way to highlight the illegitimate parentage of both judges. It is also interesting to see the different ways those judges react to the challenge of their parentage. Abimelech does not handle it well, to say the least. Jephthah, on the other hand, opts not to kill all of his father's legitimate sons on a rock, and instead just leaves. And yet, they both end up leading Israel. Again, I'm not sure what to make of that. All I know is that Jephthah sure did a better job than Abimelech!

Though, at the same time, I'm not sure if I can think of anything dumber than to vow to sacrifice whatever comes out of your door to God. Seriously, what did Jephthah think was going to come out of his door? Did he have a large amount of animals walking in and out that were prone to greet him upon arrival home? It seems to me that the daughter coming out first was not a freak occurrence. The chances that it would be a person were quite high. Again, what was he thinking?

Also, the text makes no mention of Jephthah's allegiance to Law. Maybe he wasn't totally against human sacrifices. Maybe he was just sad that it was his daughter, but not that it was a person per se. That's so weird to me. The most intriguing part is that God's Spirit was on this man in a powerful way (29)...and yet he was still an idiot. He makes that vow, after all, after God's Spirit came upon him (30-31). To me, that clearly shows how, despite the powerful presence of God's Spirit, "we" are still there. We can have God's Spirit with us and in us, and yet still struggle with our humanity, our limited intellect, our weaknesses. That is an interesting concept. In my life, I struggle with my chronic imperfection despite my daily pursuit of the Spirit. These verses suggest to me that, even with the Spirit, "I" will always be there, too. These verses also show me that I shouldn't write people off. Sometimes, I am tempted to think, "Well, if that person was really a Spirit-guided Christian, then they would do x, y, and z." And I'm not condoning willful sin or anything like that, but I'm just thinking of the (often sharp) differences of opinions that we have as Christians. Or the limitations with which we struggle. And I guess what I'm saying is, just because we don't all have our stuff together, it doesn't mean that the Spirit is not working in us and guiding us. I mean, look at Jephthah. The Spirit was definitely in him, and he still did idiotic things. So just because someone does something or thinks something that I think is ridiculous, it doesn't mean that they are not a serious Christian who is guided by God's Spirit.

I don't know. I'm not sure how much I can really apply the Jephthah story to today, but those were just some of the thoughts I had while reading it.

And lastly, the Ephraimites were just a rowdy bunch, weren't they? They were always itching for a fight, and if you didn't invite them to yours, then they would fight you. Jephthah didn't respond as well as Gideon did earlier, and they all ended up fighting. Really, Jephthah doesn't seem that great of a guy. He beats the heck out of Abimelech, for sure, but he is no Gideon (and Gideon was no Joshua). And it is extremely interesting and perplexing to me how the "judges" of late don't really seem to be godly in the least. I don't have developed thoughts about that to type now, though.

NT: John 1:1-28

I may have mentioned this before, but I once heard the authors of the gospels described as caricatures, and it was hilarious. Matthew was the Super Hebrew. Mark was Mr. Action. Luke was the nerd. And John was the hippie. "In the beginning was the Word, man. And the word was...with God. And the Word, like, was God." Deep, man:). And in Greek class, I quickly learned that John was by far the easiest to translate. He is definitely the Dr. Seuss of the gospel writers. Just read verses 1-5, and you'll see what I mean.

Seriously, though, I loooove John. It is a toss up b/t him and Luke as to who is my favorite. And John is deep. I wasn't just messing with him with my earlier statement. I have meditated on these opening verses so many times in my life. In fact, when I first specifically tried to practice the Christian art of meditation, and these are the verses I chose to think about. And when I even get close to wrapping my mind around them, they blow me away. We have the right to be children of God. Whoa.

I love the way John is simultaneously simple and deep. I love simple, true thoughts, and I love deep things put in clear ways where anyone can understand them. John is the master at that.

I also love John's Jesus. Jesus says amazingly wonderful things in John that you don't hear in the other gospels. The way, the truth, the life--that's John. Life to the full? John. He also says some amazing things on peace. And after the three synoptics, I am ready to have a fresh perspective on Jesus. John will give us that.

Psalms 101:1-8

I was thinking this earlier about the Spirit and Jephthah, but didn't get around to saying it, and it kind of fits in here. One thing that struck me about the Spirit working in Jephthah was that the Spirit of God is a powerful force that brings us victory over our enemies. And yet, in the evolution of the kingdom of God (?), our enemies have shifted. In the OT, the enemies of God's people were...other people. And as such, they had to kill them. But in the NT, Jesus ushers in a new era of loving your enemies. Paul elaborates on that philosophy by explaining that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). Strictly speaking, Christians do not fight other people; we fight evil and darkness. I think we often lose sight of that.

And one reason it is easy to get confused on that point is that there is a shift b/t the OT and NT. After all, David (yay! I finally got to the psalm) sounds so spiritual here (and he is), and yet he is also all about physically punishing the wicked (5-8). David adamantly says that he will "not endure" proud men, and yet, as NT Christians, we are supposed to love all people. I really think we have a different role than the one David claimed.

I love verses 2-3, though. "I will be careful to lead a blameless life--when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me." I like that David differentiates b/t the person and the deeds in that verse. And I also love his request for God to come to him, a sign of intimacy b/t them.

Proverbs 14:13-14

"Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief." I love how insightful the proverbs are to the nature of humanity.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29

OT: Judges 9:22-10:18

Random notes:

9:25--Here we have the first example of what I consider "terrorism." Terrorists like to kill random people as a way of "hurting" some other, less accessible person or position. Here, the citizens of Shechem take to robbing random passers-by as a way to hurt Abimelech. Good plan, guys.

9:26--Abimelech isn't great, but Gaal doesn't sound like a winner, either. As such, I didn't really care who won in this sordid ordeal. I didn't have a dog in this fight.

9:28--Gaal kind of pulls the same stunt that Abimelech did earlier by appealing to the people's blood relations and loyalty. He tells the townspeople, "Serve the men of Hamor, Shechem's father!" This statement helped nail down a point of confusion for me. You might recall ol' Shechem, son of Hamor from Genesis 34. He was Dinah's rapist, who unleashed the wrath of Simeon and Levi. Apparently, the town named after him has not made great strides in civility since then. Ironically, it is supposed to be a city of refuge for the Ephraimites. Needless to say, it doesn't do a great job fulfilling that role in today's reading.

9:46-49--Well, I was wondering if Abimelech could be a bigger loser, and apparently he could. Here, he burns down the tower of Shechem, killing the last 1000 survivors of the town. That reminded me of a particularly haunting scene in The Patriot, which is one of the few scenes of that movie I can still recall with any clarity.

I'm also a little confused on how the Shechem ordeal affected the rest of Israel. Is Abimelech king over all Israel? I would really like the author to "zoom out" at some point and show us how this fits in with the rest of Israel. Unfortunately, he doesn't. I also think it's kind of weird that he lingers so long on this sordid tale, but then tells us nothing of Issachar and Jair, the next two judges.

This is going long, but I'm going to throw in my favorite line of the OT reading. Regarding God, the text says, "And he could bear Israel's misery no longer." I liked that little glimpse into the divine nature.

NT: Luke 24: 13-53

Man, I would love to hear all of that conversation on the way to Emmaus! I love the idea of Jesus "open[ing] the Scriptures to" the two disciples. I love that those two had an opportunity to have God explain everything, to make everything make sense to them. How wonderful would that be!

And then Jesus repeated it all with the rest of the disciples. Luke 12:45 says, "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Lord, please open my mind! I have felt that You have done just that at several different points this year, but I long for more vision. For instance, Jesus says, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (46). Where is that written? I'm sure His statement is an amalgamation of Scriptures, and I want to know them all...

Psalm 100:1-5

More fun praises to God. I really do love every verse here, but perhaps my favorite is verse 3: "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." That verse is both comforting and humbling. It is so comforting to know that God is God, and we are not. And it also humbles me to remember that He does not owe me any answers.

Proverbs 14:11-12

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." I used to love this verse, but I have also seen how it can be misused. Basically, you can tell this verse to anyone who disagrees with you, citing their opinion as an example of what Solomon is saying here. I saw that recently in the comments on a Christian blog, and it kind of opened my eyes at how easily this verse could be misapplied.

I still like it, though.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 28

OT: Judges 8:18-9:21

Whew! Today's OT reading was just full of bad news! Let's see...

Gideon made a golden ephod, before which the Israelites then prostituted themselves. Seriously, prostitution is a good analogy for their compulsive desire to worship anything set before them. They really have a problem. It's a golden piece of clothing, guys! Control yourselves!

Gideon had many wives and a concubine (though really, what's the difference when you get into the high numbers like that?). Seventy sons is a lot. I wasn't a big fan of that.

Upon Gideon's death, the people "again prostituted themselves to the Baals." Good grief!

Abimelech killed all seventy of Gideon's other sons. Good grief!

Things aren't going well.

And wow...I thought Jesus told confusing parables. He has nothing on ol' Jotham! I get that the thornbush is Abimelech, so do the three trees represent three of Gideon's sons who turned down the kingship? If so, what is the meaning behind the olive oil, the figs, and the wine? I sense that I need more historical background. And poor Jotham--he is a mess! I'm sure he is completely distraught over his brothers, and you can definitely see those feelings reflected in his impassioned, broken speech to the people.

NT: Luke 23:44-24:12

Verse 48 was a bit unusual: "When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away." Okay, beating your breasts is a sign of mourning, right? So...who are these people???? I kind of got the impression that everyone was clamoring for Jesus' demise and mocking Him while He was being crucified. And the thing is, this verse isn't referring to Jesus' friends. The very next verse says, "But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things." So the first group truly was "the crowd." What is up with their change in attitude? Are they experiencing remorse?

And what a striking image of all of Jesus' friends and followers standing at a distance and watching the horror. What a dark day. That was a day when so many dreams came crashing to the ground. So many illusions were shattered. So many hopes were dashed. And all of that mental destruction took place in the form of a small, silent picture being played out in the distance. A small man lifted up on a small cross, at least from their far-off perspective. And yet, such big and wonderful things were ultimately happening, even at humanity's darkest moment. It is so clear how their perspective was so minute, so limited. I see definite corollaries to my own perspective. I see just the tiniest part of the big picture. Imagine what time will do to change that view.

Psalms 99:1-9

Another psalm praising God. What is wrong with me that I like the dark ones better? Really, it is not the darkness that I like, but the intimacy. Anyone can say, "God is great, God is good," and it's hard to say whether they mean it or not, or what that statement even means to them. But when someone is pouring out the sorrows of their heart, you can rest assured they are not faking it. I am drawn to that authenticity before God.

Proverbs 14:9-10

"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." I think it is noteworthy how evil and foolishness are generally interchangeable with Solomon. In the case of this proverb, for example, I think it would take a real jerk to mock the idea of making up for their wrongdoing. Solomon calls such a man not a jerk, though, but a fool. I guess they are the same.

"Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." Well, there is a proverb supporting the idea of individualism, I guess. As someone who lives in and very much values close community, I don't know if this proverb is always entirely true for me. And yet, I do think it is very hard, if not impossible, to fully share in another's bitterness and joy. Only God can be so close to a person.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27

OT: Judges 7:1-8:17

Before I had children and was no longer entertained by watching people do horrible things to each other, I was addicted to CSI (the Las Vegas one). My favorite opening ever was when the brainy hero, Gil Grissom, was investigating a crime scene. They hadn't found the body, but it seemed clear that the body had been locked in a closet. Rather than open the closet and confirm the presence of the body, Grissom started taking evidence around the door. An officer on the scene complained of Grissom taking too long, and Grissom responded by advocating patience. As he studied the door to the closet, he said, "Sun Tzu once said, 'If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.'" He then opened the door to find a mummified body, and said, "But those were brutal times."

What resonated about that scene was that it is always brutal times here on earth. Our readings for today definitely confirm the presence of brutality in their respective time periods, and we can certainly see it today by turning on the news. What is mind-bending is to try to understand God's perspective on the brutality. I remember that the Law seemed to indicate that God hated bloodshed. "Bloodshed pollutes the land." Didn't it say that somewhere? And even here in Judges, it repeatedly notes when the land has "rest" from the bloodshed. Bloodshed is not natural, according to God. And so God hates it...when He is not advocating it. In other parts of the Law, God demands bloodshed. Here in Judges, God is all about kicking tail and taking names. In fact, He purposely kept some enemies around just so His people could practice shedding blood. You need to be trained in the art, apparently.

And I am "cool" with the bloodshed when it is used as a necessary means to defeat enemies who pose an immediate danger. I actually kind of loved hearing about how the Israelite 300 (hey, wasn't there a movie by that name?) routed the Midianites and co. I also loved how it didn't end up being just the 300, but that Gideon sent messengers, Lord of the Rings style, to the surrounding areas and activated some impromptu recruits. (At least, I picture it LOTR style:)). That was all quite cool, even to my non-blood-thirsty self.

What was not cool was Gideon's "thorns and briars" revenge on men of Succoth. I don't even want to picture what that I'm not going to. To me, that was a little over the top. That's the problem with bloodshed; it always tends to escalate. It's like, "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Bloodshed corrupts, too, and kind of in the same way. It is easy to get carried away and get hungry for more.

I did like Gideon's response to the ticked-off Ephraimites who wanted more of a heads-up about fighting the Midianites. Gideon proved himself to be a master of diplomacy, skillfully stroking their ego and causing their wrath to subside.

NT: Luke 23:13-43

The brutality continues, of course, in the NT. Herod and Pilate have had their fun, and they are ready for the game to be over. Shockingly, though, they are not the most bloodthirsty players, as the crowd is far from satisfied with Jesus' beatings and humiliation. They want him dead. Pilate ultimately doesn't care enough to stop them, so off Jesus goes to be crucified.

In light of my thoughts on brutality, what hit me today was Jesus' words to the weeping women: "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (31). To me, Jesus is saying, "You think this is bad? Times aren't even tough right now. Wait about forty years, when things start getting really desperate, and then you will see some depravity." That is such a frightening thought to me. I think that's why it chills me so when I hear about awful things being done by people in America. If we have people hurting each other so much in a peaceful and prosperous society, imagine if times were truly desperate. I think of war torn countries I've heard about in Africa, the Middle East, and Easter Europe. Such atrocities happen when everything is destabilized. In Jesus' day, things weren't destabilized, and still, people were crucifying innocent men and getting totally caught up in the gore of it. Imagine what is going to happen when everyone's lives are in danger.

Today, I was also struck by the insight of the other crucified man. From my own experience with crippling pain, I can say that those times aren't the ones in which I see the clearest or think the deepest. Their is a level of pain where all my deep thoughts subside entirely. That's why I am so impressed by this crucified man's vision of the kingdom. Think about his words: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Okay. Everyone else seems to be picturing the kingdom of God as an earthly kingdom, and thus, to everyone else (including, presumably, the disciples), Jesus' death shuts the door on the possibility of that kingdom coming through him. That's why they are mocking him ("If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."). See, He isn't the king of the Jews. That's the joke. (I'm sure you all got that. I'm going somewhere, though.) But this guy hanging on a cross still sees that He is. And he sees that Jesus' kingdom is still coming, and that it is something that is present beyond the grave. Truly, the man says a very profound thing. Maybe it came out of delirium or desperate hope, but it is profound nevertheless.

Psalms 97:1-98:9

You need these kind of psalms sometimes, you know? There are times to question and cry out, and there are also times to just praise God for His power and glory. I like that.

I also like how we have made 98:4-8 into a song, at least I think we have. It seems like our song, "Shout to the Lord" is inspired by those verses. What is interesting is that in our song, "mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name." In the psalm, the seas, the mountain, and the rivers are, like, happily praising God. The sea "resounds," the "rivers clap their hands," and "the mountains sing together for joy" (7-8). That picture is so much happier (and honestly, funnier) than the awe-inspiring image of the song we sing.

Proverbs 14:7-8

Verse 7 interests me greatly: "Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips." One of my character flaws is that I have a low tolerance for (what I view as) idiocy. And yet, I feel like we can learn from everyone, and that I need to be patient and loving, and so forth. But this verse kind of gives me license to just stay away, doesn't it? Hmmmm.......I feel like I am using this verse to reinforce my character flaw, which is a bad thing...and yet, I can see the point about how nothing is gained from hanging out with foolish people.

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26

OT: Judges 6:1-40

On Sunday, my preacher's message was all about "mak[ing] the most of every opportunity" (Col. 4:5). As a way to emphasize the importance of jumping on opportunities, he mentioned the Israelites' one-time shot at taking Canaan before their 40 year punishment, as well as Apollos' deferral of Paul's suggestion he travel to Corinth (1 Cor. 16:2). He noted that we never read of Apollos making that trip. Both of those were appropriate examples of the dangers of not jumping on the opportunities God gives us. They were definitely sobering.

And yet, I take hope in Gideon's story, which is rife with the worry and lack of confidence that I often experience when pondering God's will. Gideon is so weak and hesitant that his story is meandering and messy, so let me try to nail down the major plot points in Judges 6:

11-12: The angel appears to a man hiding in a big hole and makes fun of him.

13: Gideon responds petulantly.

14: The angel gives him a task (interestingly worded as, "go in the strength you have and save Israel..." Hmm...well, I'm guessing the strength Gideon has is...not much.)

15: Gideon responds that the strength he has is...not much.

16: Task repeated, along with assurances that God will be with him.

17-22: Gideon asks for a sign. Sign granted. Gideon freaks out.

23-24: God calms Gideon down. Gideon builds a true renegade altar, but God doesn't seem to mind. God gives him peace.

25: God starts Gideon off in baby steps with the smaller job of tearing down the local idols.

27: Gideon does night and in secret.

28-32: Gideon would not make a great criminal, as everyone finds out that it was he who tore down the idols. He does not defend himself or speak up for God. Instead, his daddy bails him out by making some good points about Baal and Asherah.

33-5: "The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon" in the face of an eminent attack. He calls people to arms, and, shockingly, they answer.

36-38: Gideon asks for another sign.

39-40: And another.

See? Gideon whines and wavers. He hesitates and haltingly goes forward. He asks for (and receives) constant assurance throughout the whole process. Yeah, I like the way God dealt with Gideon. And I like the way that God dealt with Moses, the ultimate excuse-maker, and Barak, the cowardly lion. And for that matter, how he dealt with Jacob, the liar, and David, the adulterer, and Peter, the bumbler, and Paul, the...well, I'm not going to write what Paul could sometimes be, b/c it is probably not fit for a Bible blog. I'm glad that God works through sinful, reckless, weak, stumbling people and still accomplishes his purposes. Don't get me wrong; their humanity messes them up. Moses ended up having to use Aaron as a mouthpiece; Barak missed out on the glory when a woman killed Sisera; Jacob had a rough row to hoe with Laban as kind of a payback for all his deceit (my interpretation); and David lost his son.

I sincerely hope that that is how God deals with me. I hope that He is patient with my weakness, with my need for assurances from Him. I hope that He forgives any wavering as a lack of confidence in my own ability to discern His will, rather than a lack of confidence in Him.

NT: Luke 22:54-23:12

What struck me today was how Herod and Pilate became friends during Jesus' trial. The way Luke words it, it almost seems like they became friends in part by Herod's little joke on Jesus. According to 23:11-12, "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends--before this they had been enemies." Well, geez, with friends like these, who needs enemies? I really think that Pilate was amused over Jesus coming back in one of Herod's elegant robes, and that the mockery was a bonding experience for them. Clearly, they both thought the whole case was ridiculous, and I'm sure the idea that this lowly Jew considered himself a king was pretty hilarious to them. And so, even though they lacked the murderous vigor of the Sanhedrin, they still thought nothing of beating and mocking this hapless man (in their eyes). Wow. As always, I am struck by the utter darkness of this story.

Psalms 95:1-96:13

It's funny to me how 95: 1-5 and 6-7 have been made into two different songs with very different tones. The first song we sing is upbeat and joyful; the second is much slower and more reflective. I think the stark difference in our two versions highlights how tonally unique the psalms are. In a single psalm, you can have joy and jubilation, sorrow and mourning, and reflection and reverence. I wonder what the tunes they used back then sounded like.

Proverbs 14:5-6

It's funny: verse 5 is obvious, bordering on redundant ("a truthful witness does not deceive"), and in contrast, verse 6 is almost obscure ("the mocker looks for wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning"). It's odd that someone would search for wisdom and not find it, but I guess if he is a mocker, then he is prideful, and thus blind to the wisdom. As for knowledge coming easily to the discerning, well, that makes me think of the verses that say, "Whoever has will be given more...whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him" (Matt. 13:12, 25:9, cf Mark 4:25, Luke 8:18).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25

OT: Judges 4:1-5:31

Simple question: how in the blazes did a woman become a leader over Israel? I know the Law didn't say anything specific about women not being prophets, though it was specific about men being priests. But just given the "vibe" of the Law and the attitude of the time, how did all the men come to listen to a woman? And how did she squeeze in the time between all the baby having and/or regular uncleanness? I find that situation to be remarkable...which is why I just remarked on it, I guess:).

This whole story is quite remarkable, actually. It is yet another one where I don't know quite what to think. It doesn't raise any new questions in the grand scheme of things, but I am having a little problem with Jael's motivation. What was up with that? What made her go the tent peg route? Where was ol' Heber during this time period, and what did he think upon his return?

Anyway, I am now going to share with you a genuinely "fun" fact. Let me set it up, first. I was struck today by all the humanness and messiness of this story. The messiest part of course, was the "tent peg through the temple" bit. The second "messiest" part was Deborah and Barak's song. I was particularly struck by their ruminations on Sisera's mother. First of all, it seems a little hard-hearted to clearly imagine and celebrate in song the agony you have just unleashed on someone's mom. Secondly, the seemingly approving mention of the practice of "finding and dividing the spoils: a girl or two for each man" (30) was a bit disturbing. I didn't care for it. For me, it reemphasized the humanity involved in the whole process (as did the fact that their song got the story wrong. Sisera didn't sink or fall, like verse 27 says; he was already lying on the ground.) Anyway, though, despite the corrupt humanity involved, God was clearly in the picture, too. Obviously, He was with Deborah beforehand, and He was with the army during throughout their victory. But He was also clearly presiding over the big picture.

I know this because He gives us a clue in this story. Greg told me something he had heard, and I looked it up, and it is true. Jael means "goat." Deborah means "bee." Do you see any significance there? I'll wait.

Milk and honey:).

It's a little thing, but I just loved that. I really do think that God does things like that to show us that He is the one orchestrating events. He promised to bring these people into the land of milk and honey, and despite their rebellion, He is keeping His promise.

NT: Luke 22:35-53

Today, I just focused on and sympathized with the plight of Jesus' disciples:

Jesus' poor disciples. They had to be so confused. Surely, they had in their head Jesus' remarks about suffering and dying, though they were not yet able to wrap their minds around that. Surely, they also had OT-prophecy-induced visions about a coming earthly kingdom of God. And then Jesus tells them to get swords.

Now you're talking! We were getting worried by all that "take up your cross" talk!

The swords are the first thing they mention back to Jesus: "See, Lord, here are two swords" (38). They are on it. They have already started their collection. (And where did they even get the swords? Were two of them packin' already?)

Then Jesus deflates their fledgling militia with, "That is enough."

See, to me, two swords isn't enough, because their are eleven remaining disciples, plus Jesus. That must have been confusing.

Then, it is off to Gethsemane. Apparently, the disciples' reaction to all the events up to this point isn't great, b/c they fall asleep, "exhausted from sorrow" (45). Why? Why were they so sad?

Regardless, confusion continues to reign when these exhausted men are jolted awake suddenly, only to see an approaching mob. They are still trying to get their head on straight and are probably trying to compute why their compadre, Judas, is leading the mob, all the while gaining a growing understanding of their eminent danger. When it clicks with them that Judas is betraying Jesus, one of them asks, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" (49). Such confusion. I would have hated this situation. I hate not knowing what to do during key events. Before Jesus answers, another one (Peter) takes out his sword and cuts off Malchus' ear. What a random act. Did he mean to cut off the ear, or was he just swinging wildly? Something tells me that these men were not used to wielding swords. And then Jesus ends any coming battle with his words, "No more of this," and his action of healing the ear.

What a confusing experience. No wonder most of the disciples ran away. I'm quite sure that that's what I would have done, though perhaps I would have been like Peter and John and a safe distance.

Psalm 94:1-23

I love psalmists. I love them b/c they remind me And that kind of comforts me. See, pondering God often puts me on a roller coaster. Up and down, back and forth. I try to figure it all out; I try to make the picture make sense, whether that picture is the Bible or the world around me. The psalmists do the same thing. Here is the process:

1. They weep, they wail, they question: "How long will the wicked, O Lord, how long will the wicked be jubilant?" (3). How long? That is the question of dissatisfaction, of discontent. It is a question of confusion.

2. They list all that is wrong with the world, all the things that don't make sense: "They pour out arrogant words...They crush your people...They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless" and so on (4-7). I can add to that list from what I see and hear about in the world. They abuse children. They torture innocents. They enslave the helpless.

3. And yet, they then chastise those (including themselves?) who don't understand that God is in control. They apply logic to the situation: "Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish?" (9-10).

4. They recognize that they just don't get it, and that God is beyond them: "The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile" (11).

5. They take solace in recounting what God has done for them: "Unless the Lord had given me help, I would have soon dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul" (17-19).

6. They reaffirm their faith: "But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them" (22-23).

Yep, I've totally been there. Um...yesterday, in fact.

Lastly, verse 20 puncture a little hole in the "divine right of kings." I wonder if that verse ever struck Englishmen in past centuries the way it struck me. Of course, most of them probably didn't have their own Bible...

Proverbs 14:3-4

I didn't really understand verse 4.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 24

OT: Judges 2:10-3:31

Today's reading gave me an answer to my question yesterday. I essentially asked, "If God was with the Israelites, as He repeatedly said that He was, then why didn't He grant them total victory, which He also seemed to guarantee?" According to Judges 2:23, "The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua." The text goes on to elaborate that "he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience" (3:2). Okay, let's explore that. I really did get the impression that God would give the Israelites victory over all their enemies...but maybe He didn't say that precisely. I'm going to look it up...

Okay, I first turned to Joshua 1, and here is what God said to Joshua, "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses...No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life." (1:3, 5a). O-kay. Anyone got any insight into this one?

I will say this: throughout Scripture, God seems to sometimes give misleading impressions. Maybe misleading isn't the right word, but let me give an example. The prophets seem to clearly indicate that the Messiah would be a victorious king, and often those portrayals contain the image of military and/or political dominance. Off the top of my head, I can think of Isaiah 9, one of the most famous prophecies about Christ. The verses leading up to the famous part insinuate that God is going to free the people from their oppressors: "For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor." So...Rome then? He would free the people from Roman oppression? Then, verse 6 begins, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders."* Verse 7 continues the theme: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." Okay, c'mon. If you were a Jew reading that, how would you picture the Messiah? It seems pretty clear to me that you would picture a powerful, political leader. Jesus, needless to say, did not fit that bill.

I'll give you another example of this type of confusion. Jesus tells his followers, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Mark 21:22). He says this type of thing several times, and His statements are usually woefully bereft of caveats. You just have to believe, He says, and you will receive whatever you ask. Wow, really? That simply has not been my experience.

So, what do we do with these statements? God says He will grant Joshua total victory, and He doesn't. God says that the government will be on the shoulders of His Messiah, who will reign forever on David's throne, and it wasn't. God says He will give us whatever we ask for, and He doesn't.

Best I can tell, we have three options. We can conclude that God is a liar. We can conclude that the Bible is false and contradictory. Or we can trust in a God whose ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts. We can trust that God tells us exactly what we need to know, on the level we need to know, at the time we need to know it. We can trust in a God who continues to cultivate mystery between Himself and His followers, for some purpose that is beyond us. We can trust in a God who says repeatedly that He made us, He loves us, and He wants us to live with Him forever. I choose to trust. God has been faithful to me, and good. God has worked powerfully throughout my life and has filled it with love, peace, and joy. And so even though I have no clue what to make of those Scriptures, other than to conclude that it is all beyond me, I choose to trust in the God who gave them to me.

*Whenever you italicize a verse, you are supposed to put, "emphasis mine" at the end in parenthesis. At least, that's what all the fancy books do:). That always seemed a little dumb to me. I'm sure you know that whenever I italicize part of a verse, it is my own emphasis. After all, the Bible does not italicize verses.

NT: Luke 22: 14-34

I had more wording issues today, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Here are two phrases that were just a little bit beyond me. I wanted to understand their exact meaning in its fullest sense, and I just couldn't quite get to it:

"For I tell you I will not eat [this Passover] again again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (16).
Problem words: it finds fulfillment

"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (20b).
Problem words: is (the 1st one), in

*Update: Got the first one. I'm there.*

My favorite part of the NT passage, though, was verses 31-32. I will take the liberty of translating a bit into Southern American, so that we can get the full effect: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift y'all as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." He really singles Simon out as a leader here. He puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders (and I almost wonder if it is b/c Simon is going to fall the worst. Maybe He is giving him a reason in advance to return.)

Regardless, that had to be a cool moment between Jesus and Simon, albeit one for which Simon was woefully unprepared. He probably could wrap his mind around the fact that Jesus singled him out to lift up in prayer and to be the one who helped the others. But he couldn't grasp that he would fall, too. He says as much in verse 33. And did you notice the ironic shift in name in verse 34? Jesus calls him Peter. "I tell you, 'Rock,' before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me." Jesus always manages to use His new name for Peter in the most ironic contexts, and I'm pretty sure it is on purpose. He starts out so gently with him: "Simon, Simon..." So earnest. But when Simon responds with bluster, Jesus switches to a little gentle irony. Not that Simon got it at the time, but it's like Jesus is reminding Simon that He is only a "rock" to the degree that God strengthens him into one. And for that to happen, Simon needs all the prayers that he can get.

Psalm 92:1-93:5

"How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!" (92:5). That verse took me back to the OT discussion, and how God is just so much bigger and deeper than us. I simply cannot grasp His ways. Their profundity is utterly beyond me. And yet, He is still beautiful to look at. I love gazing through His word into the depth of His mystery. It is like looking out at the enormity of the ocean....which, according to the next psalm, also praises God (3-4).

Proverbs 14:1-2

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down" (1). I love the value and the responsibility that this verse lays on wives. I know that I am doing an important job in nurturing my family and taking care of my home, but it is also good to be reminded of the value and the power of this role.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23

OT: Judges 1:1-2:9

First things first: was I the only one totally repulsed by the cutting off of Adoni-Bezek's thumbs and big toes, only to hear his perspective on the situation and think, "Okay, well that actually makes sense"? It makes me wonder what other seeming atrocities might make more sense if I just had a fuller perspective. (Or rather, if I just could keep a fuller perspective. Sometimes, I really do have the "long view" and can kind of get what God is doing in the OT, while other times, it continues to baffle me.)

The beginning of Judges overlaps with some of Joshua, and it was kind of enlightening to see the different perspective. For one, Judges notes that failure to drive out the Canaanites completely was the rule, not the exception. After all, Judah, Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali all failed to drive out the Canaanites (so, six tribes. I guess it was technically neither the rule, nor the exception.) And the text is just as complex as Joshua in noting the dichotomy b/t God's promise to defeat Israel's enemies and the actual failure of the tribes to do so. Judges 1:19 says, "The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots." So. Try to wrap your mind around that. Apparently, iron chariots are too much even for God! (It's sad that I feel the need to clarify that I'm joking:). But I really am confused about that paradox.)

Lastly, I have a quick comment about the continuing discrepancy among the translations regarding who told whom to ask Caleb for a field in the Othniel-Acsah story. I think I've mentioned before that translators often go with the translation that makes the least sense, on the theory that the more sensible of the translations would be the ones that have been edited. Furthermore, our end note says that the translation our Bible uses is from the Hebrew, while the translation that makes more sense (that Othniel asked Acsah to ask Caleb) comes from the Septuagint and the Vulgate. Those were both later texts, and they weren't even in Hebrew (they were written in Greek and Latin, respectively.) So it makes sense that they would have been edited to make the verse make more sense.

NT: Luke 21: 29-22:13

Okay, you know what? Forget it. I don't care if it was 70 AD or the end times, or both, okay? I don't! I'm not talking about it anymore. It doesn't matter! My final analysis is that it's both, but I don't care. And if John brings this up, too, so help me...(:.

In 12:34, Jesus warns, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." I have been drawn lately to verses about dissipation, after an enlightening Sunday school class on the subject. In the context used by the Bible, dissipation essentially means waste, like a wasteful pursuit of pleasure. That interests me. When does the pursuit of pleasure become wasteful? Is any pursuit of pleasure wasteful? When does it get excessive? When does it become a distraction from the meaning of your life (which is what Jesus is warning us about in verse 34)? I know that for me, getting on Facebook or checking the blogs one too many times a day can be dissipation. That is my #1 time waster. I'm not so into tv and movies anymore; I don't sit around and drink my cares away; I don't even really read that much these days, and when I do, I generally read useful books. But man, give me a computer, and I can show you how to dissipate:). And when I engage in dissipation, I end up feeling awful, because I am missing the point of my life. I am "checking out," instead of playing an active part in this world.

And yet, I am torn. Part of me feels like everyone needs to just "turn their brain off" sometimes, and that that's fine, as long as it is not excessive. And yet, the other part of me wonders why we need to turn our brain off. Is it because we are selfish...or just weak? Or both? Is it wrong to mentally check out? Does it mean that the Spirit is not empowering us, that we are relying on our own mental strength, which fails us? I don't know.

Psalms 90:1-91:6

Wow, I am sooo glad they put these two psalms together. It creates quite the paradox, doesn't it? In Psalm 90, human life is defined by suffering. Verse 10 says, "The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." In Psalm 91, on the other hand, suffering only happens to the unrighteous. The righteous, on the other hand, are spared all the cares of this life. They don't have to worry about the "fowler's snare," or the "deadly pestilence," or the "terror of the night," or the "arrow that flies by day." (3-6). After all, "no harm will befall" them (10). I guess that Psalm 90 describes the condition of sinners ("you have set our iniquities before you"), while 91 deals with...I don't know...some fictional person who never sins? But it doesn't even say that the psalm pertains only to the perfectly righteous. Psalm 91 claims to describe the lives of "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High" (1). I guess the key to understanding the paradox is found in understanding what is meant by that verse.

I love paradoxes, though, and I kind of think that most of life's deepest truths come in paradox form. The Bible, for example, is chock full of them:

The righteous prosper while the wicked suffer (much of Psalms and Proverbs) except when the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (the rest of Psalms and Proverbs, plus Jesus).

And along those lines, wealth is a reward to the righteous, except when the righteous are the poor and mistreated (same references).

We are saved by faith and grace and not actions (Paul), except that we are also going to be judged by our actions (Jesus, James).

It gets a little confusing. But honestly, what do you expect from a God who sins a righteous Law-breaker for a Messiah, who in turn foretells a Kingdom run by the poor, the weak, and those who are like little children? Paradox is the order of the day in Christianity.

Oh, and I love 90:12--"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I have that verse written in the front of my journal, and yet I didn't know it was from Moses. I learn something new every day.

Proverbs 13:24-25

Verse 24 gives yet another paradox. Love is often shown in punishment, in administering unpleasantness. That's not how we generally think of love, but the Bible's definition of love is much fuller and stronger than mainstream society.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22

OT: Joshua 24:1-33

Well, my goodness. I thought Joshua's death was a little abrupt. I guess because we had been so forewarned about Moses' death, I thought that we would get a little more prep with Joshua. But nope--he gives his speech, sends the people away, and then dies (27-29).

I loved his speech, though. There were so many good thoughts. First of all, there were his ruminations on Balaam (I know, I know! Let him go, Kim. Let him go.). Joshua's version in verses 9-10 kind of helped put Balaam's role into better perspective for me. The reason that Balaam did any good at all is that God directly intervened to stop the bad that he would have done. I can kind of see that. Okay, that helped. I'm letting him go now.

Secondly, I thought Joshua's words in verses 11-13 were great. They were all about how God gave them "a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant" (13). See, I know that God has taken pains to make this clear for quite some time now, but I can also see how the Israelites could also think, "Hey, we fought for this land. We worked for it. We were dedicated. We sacrificed." And so on. Not every battle was like Jericho, you know? They had to get down and dirty. And as their occasional inability to oust the people would indicate, the fighting was rough. But...even though they worked for it, the land was still a gift from God. I can totally see how that idea applies today. We are told that everything we have is a gift from God, but often we fall into the trap of thinking that we earned it through our hard work, our good decisions, our frugality, etc. And those factors do come into play. Just like the Israelites had to fight for their land, we have to work for our wealth. And yet, both the land and all of our physical resources are such a gift. It is an interesting paradox.

It's funny: verses 15-16 are so famous, but I don't think we pay close attention to what comes next. These verses were Joshua's encapsulation of Moses' "Choose Life" speech, and Joshua's audience eagerly chose to follow God. And when we read those verses today, we react the same way, as if the choice were a no-brainer. Joshua's next words, however, are jaw-dropping: "You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins" (19). Whooooa, there, big man! Aren't you trying to talk the people into choosing God? Joshua's words remind me of Jesus' admonition to his would-be followers to count the cost before they sign up. It's the same in both the OT and the NT: it's easy to get all enthusiastic about the idea of choosing God; it is much harder to actually follow through.

I can't help but love the people's reaction, though: "No! We will serve the Lord!" (21)

Joshua: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord" (22a).
In other words: "Your funeral."

People: "Yes, we are witnesses." (22b)
In other words: "Our funeral."

And it does go south from there, doesn't it? There are a few high points, but oh-so-many low points. And even when Jesus, the grand Redeemer, comes, so many Jews fail to even recognize Him. But still...I still love their response. I don't know why. I guess that there is something so reckless and passionate about it, something so....human. And I actually mean that in a good way. And I would think that, despite the hard times to come, the Israelites would not have gone back and chosen differently (for some reason, Garth Brook's "The Dance" just popped into my head. All together now: "And I'm glad I didn't know/The way it all would end/The way it all would go." Wow. I may be a little bit tired tonight.)

Anyway, as lengthy as my thoughts have been about verses 15-22, they still aren't getting to the heart of what strikes me about it. There's something profound in this idea of being asked to choose God, and not being worthy or able, but wanting to do it anyway. There is something deep there that spans the whole Bible, but apparently, it is just beyond my grasp tonight. Plus, I think Garth Brooks derailed me.

NT: Luke 21: 1-28

Good lands. After so many ruminations on Joshua, I'm going to keep this part short.

Love the widow. And she kind of terrifies me, too.

Luke's version of verses 7-28 makes it totally seem like Jesus is talking about AD 70. Everything from the opening question (essentially, "When will Jerusalem be destroyed?") right up until verse 27 can work, which makes verse 27 the lone standout. So...maybe the picture of "the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory" had some other meaning that we aren't getting. I don't know. I'm still not incredibly invested either way. Just interesting to think about.

Psalms 89: 38-52

Is the "anointed one" one of David's sons? I'm guessing so. Clearly, all is not well in Israel right now.

Verses 47-48 really sum up the bleakness of the human condition without God: "Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men! What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave?" The sad part is that Ethan feels that way while knowing God. Those poor OT'ers. I just want to tell them, "Widen your gaze." (Those last three words are a movie quote. Mom?)

Proverbs 13: 20-23

"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." That's a keeper.

I also like the way that verse 23 tempers the inclination to take some kind of "health and wealth gospel" idea from 21-22. While the first two verses seem to clearly state that wealth and righteousness are related and that misfortune and financial ruin are linked to wickedness, verse 23 clarifies that many are poor due to injustice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21

OT: Joshua 22:21-23:16

Well, the conclusion of the renegade-altar-building story was relatively drama-free. Thank goodness--I just love those Reubenites, Gadites, and 1/2 tribe of Manassites (i.e. the 2 1/2), and I'm glad that they are cool with everyone again. I had somehow forgotten that you couldn't just build an altar wherever your little heart led you to build one, which makes the uproar over the 2 1/2's, er, monument make a little more sense.

But you know what really strikes me about the whole story? It's this: how sad is it that the 2 1/2 thought they had to build a tangible reminder to remind the others not to take God away from them? Their exact words were, "We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the God of Israel? The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you--you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord'" (22:24-25a). Is that not epically sad? Seriously, the idea of taking God away from someone has literally has got to be the saddest thing I've ever heard. And that the 2 1/2 would fear this from their own brethren, people with whom they have experienced so many awe-inspiring things, people with whom they have fought for God, people who loved them and just gave them such a warm send-off.

What is even sadder than the fear is the fact that it was probably well-founded. After all, I know that that's what the Israelites ended up doing to the Samaritans. At the time of Jesus, the teaching among the Jews was literally that the Samaritans had no soul and thus could not participate in the afterlife. That's why the Samaritans had their own place to worship, and why the woman at the well essentially asked Jesus, "Where is God--here, or in Jerusalem?" (source: Casandra Martin, Women's Retreat. I know I don't have her direct sources, but they sounded credible at the time:)). And that's also what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing to the lay people when he said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to" (Matt. 23:13).

How incredibly tragic is it that God's people, His conduit to the world, would take Him from other people? God's Law said so much about welcoming the alien and foreigner, and yet, their human tendency was to keep this God to themselves. They often tried to shut others out.

The 2 1/2 were pretty smart, I tell ya.

I wonder if this idea applies to us today. I honestly think that it can and sometimes does, but I can't exactly explain how. I guess I believe that we sometimes put so many rules and traditions around God that true outsiders can't get in to Him. I mean, we aren't trying to stop them, but all the junk piled up around God turns them away. I actually have a few examples in mind, but I just can't make them vague enough, so I'm not going to try:). But I know that I have my own spiritual comfort zone and that I am sometimes afraid to break out of it and to become "all things to all people in order that by all possible means I may save some" (probably a paraphrase).

NT: Luke 20: 27-47

I remember when I first heard this story as a child, I hung on every word. I thought the Sadduccees had asked a rockin' good question. And I still do, honestly, even though I know that they were trying to trip up Jesus and all that. But it is a conundrum, isn't it? Jesus didn't seem to think so, but I sure do. After all, my bond with Greg is the most amazingly strong thing I've ever experienced. I believe that it is sacred, that it is from God, and that it will last forever. I want it to last forever. So...when Jesus seems to say that it will all go away in heaven, what does that mean? And what does it mean for my children and my parents? I want us to still be a family, you know?

Honestly, though, this doesn't exactly keep me awake at night b/c I know that heaven is going to be way better than anything I can imagine. And maybe the strongest bonds that I currently feel on earth are nothing compared to the bonds that will be in heaven. Though that's crazy to think about, it's well within the realm of possibility.

I found Jesus' wording here to be absolutely fascinating though. I don't have time to cross-reference to see how it compares to Matthew and Mark, but I am intrigued by the following phrases:

"those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection" (35)

"in the account of the bush" (37--that one was just funny)

"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive" (39).

With each of those phrases, I just found the wording to be so uniquely interesting. Jesus has a way of saying things that makes me want to mull over them indefinitely.

Psalms 89: 14-37

Well, even though yesterday's installment of this psalm didn't quite do it for me, I loved verses 15-17a:

"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength."

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just found my theme verses for today, if not the foreseeable future.

Proverbs 13:17-19

Wicked messengers v. trustworthy envoys
He who ignores discipline v. whoever heeds correction
A longing fulfilled v. fools

One of these contrasts is not like the others. Not as...clear, I'd say.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20

OT: Joshua 21:1-22:20

Okay, I can't take it anymore! Must. have. visual. I did a little research online and found a couple of maps that, while not great, at least give a general idea of what we're working with here. You can find one here and another here. Oooh...and I just found a better one here that specifically shows the Levitical cities that we are reading about today.

Ummm...what on earth is up with Joshua 21: 43-45: "So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled"?

Okay, remember what I was talking about yesterday? Either these verses are a biblical example of complete historical revisionism, or I am missing something about God's promises (which is one of the possibilities I mentioned yesterday). See, when I read these verses, I think of the Ephraimites, who "did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer" (16:10), or the Manassites who "were not able to occupy [certain] towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region" (17:12). NOW, I must say that the Ephraimites perhaps had the ability to dislodge the Canaanites, but they might have chosen not to. And though the Manassites were first unable to conquer their Canaanites, they did grow stronger and gain the ability to do so. And they apparently chose not to, as well. SO...the vast majority of God's promises did come true just like He said, and the very few exceptions were the result of the people's own choice, the result of their lack of willingness to do their part.

I find this interplay between God's promises and the people's actions to be fascinating. Like I said yesterday, I see a lot of possible insight and application to how He works in our lives today.

And, holy cow! I have read all this before, but I still did not see the abrupt change in tone coming when the 2 1/2 tribes built the altar on the way back home. They enjoyed such a warm, upbeat send-off, and I was shocked by the reaction to the altar. I just assumed that they had built an altar in praise to the Lord, but apparently not? Regardless, I did like the message that the others sent them, urging them to turn from their sin. And I'm glad that they seemed to learn a lot from Achan ("he was not the only one to die for his sin." Too true). I can't wait for tomorrow when I get to read the exciting conclusion!

NT: Luke 19: 28-48

Okay, seriously, I loved reading these stories again, but I just have nothing new to say to them. I'm sure that I have convinced you by now that I can ramble on about anything, but I am just genuinely out of things to say.

Except for this: I wonder what Jesus' real thoughts are on the "taxes to Caesar" issue. Luke makes clear that His response was based on his understanding of their nefarious intentions ("He saw through their duplicity and said to them..."). And I know that what He said was not dishonest or anything, but I would just like to hear an answer whose purpose was not to swat away enemies. Though I adore the succinctness of His response, another, more elaborate, discussion on the topic would be interesting, too.

Psalm 89:1-13

Well, welcome, Ethan the Ezrahite! You wanna throw your hat in the ring, too, huh? Well, let's hear it!


I started to write an analysis of this psalm like it was just another poem, but everything I started to write sounded mildly blasphemous, and I don't want to detract from something written to praise my Creator. So...I will just say that verses 5 through 7 are interesting. Ethan is either talking about angels or other deities. I hope that they are angels!

Proverbs 13:5-6

"Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard." This sounds like a good verse to work into future "Choose Life" speeches. People don't want a hard life, you know? So then don't be unfaithful!

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19

OT: Joshua 21:1-22:20

Apparently, the author of Joshua is getting as bored as the rest of us are b/c he seriously shortens the descriptions of these last few territories. Instead of graphic depictions of the curves of the borders, we are simply treated to a list of each tribe's major cities. I am totally down with that decision.

I thought it was interesting that Simeon's land "was taken from the share of Judah, because Judah's portion was more than they needed" (9). Okay, so maybe "interesting" isn't the best choice of words to describe that particular fact, but it did spark an interesting line of thought, at least to me. To continue an idea from yesterday, I keep wondering about the balance between God's work/power and the people's work/power. So much of what Moses said in Deuteronomy and what Joshua says in the beginning of Joshua seems to indicate that God is going to work throughout this process of land settling. He is going to do the work of driving the Canaanites out and of giving Israel the land. At least, that is the impression that I got, though I'm too lazy to go back and check right now. And yet, more and more lately, we are seeing evidence that the Israelites are acting on their own power, and not always successfully. In the past few days, they have had trouble dislodging several groups of Canaanites. And today, they apparently fumbled on dividing up the land and had to go back and give Simeon some of Judah's land.

This relationship between God's power and the people's power is interesting to me b/c when I read the NT, I kind of get the impression that I am supposed to be filled with perpetual, divine power that keeps me from sinning. I kind of get the impression that the Spirit of God is supposed to live in me and that I am supposed to have a Romans 8 type of existence, as supposed to a Romans 7 type of existence. And yet...I still relate so much to Romans 7! I still mess up; I still feel weak sometimes; I still struggle. And so, I wonder if there is a corollation b/t what I experience as a Christian and what the Israelites experience in Joshua. God has assured both of us that He is with us and will be working through us, and yet we both still mess up. We both still have weakness.

In both cases, clearly I am missing something. Either I am misinterpreting what God is saying on the front end, or I'm misinterpreting how He is working in both cases. Or perhaps, both the Israelites and I are missing something about how to tap into this power. I don't know. I do know that I have learned more and more about God's Spirit lately, and that I've seen it more at work in my life. I have also been asking for it and pursuing it more, so that probably has something to do with it.

NT: Luke 19: 28-48

Are we already at the triumphal entry again? Time flies.

Okay, random thought: I've always been curious about the owners of the colt who just let some random guys take it away. I have wondered if this is something that Jesus has arranged ahead of time, although it doesn't seem likely. His disciples don't know about it, for one, and He hasn't been to Jerusalem recently. So, it would seem that this is a God moment for Jesus; it would seem that there is some divine knowledge at work here. And at the same time, there is also a good little lesson on faith. Say the owners didn't know the guys who were untying their colt, and all the explanation they get is that, "the Lord needs it" (34). The fact that they are able to take all that on faith leads to their playing a role in the biggest event in history. Their colt gets to carry the Messiah, right before He dies to save them. That's pretty cool.

I also liked it that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I'm glad that God weeps over the coming (physical) destruction of children and babies. After all the carnage we have witnessed in the OT, it is very reassuring to understand that God doesn't like it either.

Psalms 88: 1-18

The Sons of Korah are not doing well in this psalm.

The highlight to me is in the series of rhetorical questions found in verses 10-12: "Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in places of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?"

According to the Sons of Korah, the answer to all these questions is a resounding, "No." They ask them as a way to coerce God into sparing them from death. They want to see God's wonders, after all, to rise up and praise Him. They want Him to declare His love and faithfulness and to make known His wonders and righteous deeds.

And yet, I would argue that this is where the Sons of Korah, and for that matter, David and all the rest of the Israelites, are mistaken. When they think this way, they are being short-sighted (not that it's their fault. They just don't have the NT.) The NT shows us that God does show His wonders to the dead, like Jairus' daughter, the widow's son, Lazarus, and all those in the OT who were somehow retroactively saved by Jesus' blood. These dead do rise up and praise God. And according to my best interpretation of God's perspective on death, sometimes His love is declared by sending us to the the grave, by destroying our physical lives. And in fact, for every Christian, His love and faithfulness are most obvious in death, b/c that's when we see the full fruit of His love and faithfulness. That's when we see heaven. And lastly, we do often see His wonders in dark places, and His righteous deeds in the land of oblivion. Those types of places are often when God's light shines the brightest.

And so those are some ways where I differ from the Sons of Korah:).

Proverbs 13: 12-14

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (12). I once quoted this verse in an intro to an analysis of a Lanston Hughes poem. Ten points to whoever guesses the poem:).

I really liked the way the other two verses were worded, though verse 13 was challenging. In my pride, I tend to want to scorn instruction sometimes. It's awful. And I have paid for it from time to time.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18

OT: Joshua 16:1-18:28

Three things today, from least important to most important:

1. As boring as it is to read about places that are completely foreign to me, I do kind of like hearing about the order and geographical structure of Canaan. I am a person who loves the idea of civilization, and so I can handle reading all these random names for the same reason that I enjoy details of daily life in 18th century British novels and that I love drinking coffee in my clean, white china: because I love order and the trappings of civilization. Boundaries are a part of that. So while it is still boring as all get-out to read about, it does make the Israelite society seem a little more "real" to me.

2. We are still keeping tabs on Zelophehad's daughters, are we? I wonder why that is. Is it just that it was incredibly revolutionary to give women land? Or does this decision have an effect on the future? I don't know. I just think it is interesting that scripture follows through with their story. One thing I have noticed is that scripture does tend to see its narratives through to the end. You saw that with Balaam. You see it with Caleb coming and getting his promised land from Joshua. There aren't really a lot of narrative threads left hanging. I like that.

3. It is so interesting to me how God was completely "with" the Israelites in the beginning, and they were kicking all kinds of booty. And yet, in both today's and yesterday's reading, there is mention of inhabitants whom the people were unable to dislodge. One example is found in 17:12-13, which says, "Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely." seems like the Israelites tried at first, but they were too weak. But...weren't they always "too weak"? Wasn't it God who conquered the land through them? So what happened there? (Then, when the people grew stronger, they opted not to drive out the Canaanites, which will come back to bite them.) Along those lines, it is interesting what Joshua tells the Ephraimites when they express doubts about their abilityto drive out the Perizzites and Rephaites (15-18). Joshua doesn't tell them that God will be with them; instead, he essentially says, "You can do it. You're strong!" When did it shift from God's power to the people's power? That's what I want to know.

NT: Luke 19:1-27

No new thoughts about Zaccheus today, but I was intrigued by the parable Jesus told to those who "thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once" (thanks, Luke!). Like with many of Jesus' other parables, I don't think that there is a 1:1 correlation between the king of the story and God/Jesus, though the king is clearly supposed to represent one or both of them. While, like the king, Jesus was hated (14), He is not "a hard man, taking out what I did not put in and reaping what I did not sow" (22). Unless that description of Him is an example of man's misconception of God (which it could be, since the king does not actually claim that it is true), I don't see how it applies. Often, when I read these type of parables, it makes me a little frightened of God. However, today it kind of made sense to me why a king would be mad at someone who didn't use what He gave him. I can understand why God would be angry at us for squandering our talents and resources. They are precious gifts, after all, that God gave us to further His Kingdom. When we waste them, we are probably guilty of "withholding good from those who deserve it," because we aren't blessing people the way God intended for us to (Prov. 3:27).

As for Jesus' proclamation that "to everyone who has, more will be gien, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away," I don't know what to make of that exactly (26). I've heard that Jesus is referring to faith. And "faith" makes sense in that sentence, but I don't really see how it is talking about faith here. It seems like it is talking more about talents and abilities. And if it is talking about faith instead, then it still doesn't seem fair b/c in the parable, it was God who gave the people their faith. If God didn't give someone much faith, why is that the person's fault? I think I am stumbling here into the idea of God and predestination, which is always completely confusing to me, so I'm going to stop for now.

Psalms 87:1-7

Today's entry was a short little tune about how everyone will eventually come to recognize the blessed status of Zion.

Proverbs 13:11

This was a good one, and good inspiration for steady, frugal budgeting: "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow." I can definitely see how that is true on a practical level. After all, if someone doesn't have the self-discipline to work hard and gain money honestly, they will probably not have the self-discipline to manage it well. However, when you do work for your money, you tend to appreciate it more and to use it wisely.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 17

OT: Joshua 15:1-63

Well, the author of Joshua apparently felt that his material was a bit dry, so he tried to liven it up a bit for us today. Here are all the things that Judah's southern boundary did in today's reading: it started (2), crossed, continued, went over (3), ran, curved (4), passed, and joined (5). He didn't repeat a verb! Here's what the northern boundary did: it started (5), went up, continued (6), turned, came out (7), ran up, climbed (8), headed, came out (9), curved, ran along (10), and passed along (11). That was one busy border! I was seriously impressed by the variety of verbs. They really made the border "come to life":).

We also met Othniel, one of Israel's future judges, in today's reading. Today, we learned that he was Caleb's nephew and, due to his derring-do in capturing Kiriath Sepher, also became his son-in-law. And either he or his wife got the idea to ask for a field, but she instead asked for some springs. That part was weird and...vague.

And then we learned about every single city in Judah. Wonderful. I did note that Jerusalem was in Judah's territory.

NT: Luke 18:18-43

Since I've already discussed my take on the rich young ruler twice, today I will merely share the outside interpretations that swirl in my head as I read it. One is that when Jesus says that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle," He wasn't referring to a sewing needle. Instead, there was a gate into Jerusalem (?) that was called the "Eye of the Needle" or "Needle's Eye" or something, and it was very difficult for a camel to get through. The camel would have to crouch down or something. And so...Jesus was saying that it is difficult but not impossible. I tend to swat that interpretation away b/c I just don't believe it. "Eye of a needle" is not capitalized, for one thing. For another, the disciples seem to think that it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, judging by their response ("Who then can be saved?").

The second memory that always accompanies this story is of my childhood preacher's interpretation. He highlighted Jesus' response that, "What is impossible with man is possible with God" (27). And thus, Jesus is not saying that the rich will not enter heaven. It is impossible, after all, for any of us to enter heaven without God. This explanation makes sense to me, and I do think that there will be rich people in heaven (after all, wouldn't I be considered rich?), but I still hesitate to embrace that interpretation. When you take this story in conjunction with all of Jesus' teachings on wealth up to this point, you still get some really stark and challenging messages about wealth. I don't want to sell them short. I do think the rich have a special challenge in this life.

Psalms 86:1-17

I didn't read who wrote this poem until I got started and thought, "This sounds different." I don't know why, exactly, it sounded different to me, but it just didn't seem like Asaph or the sons of Korah. I think it was all the first person singular. And sure enough, it was David! Yea!

I loved our highlighted verse: "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (11). As a perpetual student, I love the idea of God teaching me, and I also love the image of walking IN, being immersed in, God's truth. Furthermore, I rejoice in the idea that an undivided heart is something that I receive from God. I cannot mold it or conjure it up on my own. I find the idea of resting in God's provision--even his spiritual provision--to be very calming and peaceful.

Proverbs 13:9-10

Verse 10 says, "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." I hate quarrels and drama of all kinds, so that is a compelling reason for me to seek humility.

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 16

OT: Joshua 13:1-14:15

Fun fact: my brain apparently has a selectively permeable membrane that welcomes some things in and shuts other things out entirely. Some things that make the "shut out" list are never-ending details about the borders of territories about which I know absolutely nothing. Seriously, trying to get my brain to focus on what the book of Joshua was saying today was like trying to get my three-year-old to eat green beans: it seemed simple enough, but it was not happening.

However, I do love to hear about people. And so I did notice yet another mention of Balaam today. Joshua 13:22 says, "In addition to hose slain in battle the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination." Now, I'm not going to defend Balaam and say that he was a great guy. I'm not even going to say that he didn't deserve to die. But I think it is interesting how much Balaam has been reduced by this point in Israel's history. Yes, Balaam practiced divination...but does that statement encapsulate Balaam? In a very literal sense, Balaam had a relationship with God. God spoke directly to Balaam. God intervened in Balaam's life and told him great truths about the future. Balaam stood firm under Balak's pressure and delivered God's word. But here, he is just the guy who "practiced divination." There is something profound here that I can't quite articulate. I think that it is the human desire to oversimplify other people and their journeys. It is so easy to think of people as "good" or "bad." It is especially helpful if you have to kill them, as was the case with Balaam. It is probably harder to kill someone if you are conflicted about their goodness. Thus, I think it was because the Israelites did have to kill Balaam (at least, I guess they had to) that they went on to reduce him to one sentence about his sin. Needless to say, I think God's view of the whole situation was a little more complex.

Last little note: So, does Caleb saying that he was 85 tell us that the Israelites have been clearing out Canaan for about five years now? He was 40 when they were told that they had to wander in the desert another 40 years. And so it has been five years since that punishment ended. So, surely that helps us with our timeline, right?

NT: Luke 18:1-17

Man, I could get used to these helpful intros to Jesus' parables. Luke 18:1 sets up the parable by saying, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." And verse 9 says, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable." Thanks for that, Luke! Granted, it would have been more helpful to give these explanatory intros to more confusing parables, such as the one about the wineskins. Jesus Himself explains these two pretty clearly. Still though, I appreciate the effort. I am all about clarity!

In fact, these parables are so self-explanatory that I have little to comment. God says that He will bring justice to those who ask Him (and that He'll do it "quickly," which I find a little...confusing, since we don't always see that), and He says that whoever humbles himself will be exalted (and vice versa). Good stuff.

And as a mom of little children, I of course love Jesus' interest in and compassion toward babies and children. I especially love how He makes His interest into a profound teaching tool. He uses the children to reveal a great truth about the kingdom of God. That's cool.

Psalm 85:1-13

I love the hints of the NT that you get in the OT. I love ideas like, "You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins" (2). Or, "Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation" (7). Oh, don't worry, Sons of Korah. He will!

I also love verse 10: "Love an faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other." Not that this is terribly important, but I picture righteousness and peace doing that both-cheek-greeting-kiss (that's the technical name). Like, they are old friends and they are happy to see each other.

Wow, that was deep:). Moving on.

Proverbs 13:7-8

These verses seem almost like statements of fact more than "proverbs." I just read them and was like, "Yup." does that apply to me?:)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15

OT: Joshua 11:1-12:24

I've realized that as I have been reading the Bible this year, I have been attempting to answer two questions:

Who is God? and

What does He want from me?

Now, you could argue that I already know the answer to these questions, and in a way, I do. However, in a more accurate way, those two questions are kind of beyond me. God's identity, especially, is just so big and complex and deep and infinite. There's just too much there for a finite human to comprehend. And as for what He wants from me, well, I kind of wonder if I am not so distorted by my culture that I cannot fully see what He wants. Maybe Jesus' words to me are so crazy and incomprehensible because I love myself and my comfort too much. Maybe not...but maybe.

Anyway, I thought I'd give that little explanation as a way of apologizing for the fact that I am about to cover the same ground again. But I just keep coming back to the things that I don't understand about God, b/c I am searching for the answer to the question, "Who is God?"

Today's reading was all about slaughter and mayhem. To me, the real stand-out verse was 11:20, which says, "For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses." Wow. That verse just about covered all of my questions and "objections" to God. It described everything that bothers me about reading about Him: heart-hardening, mass extermination, lack of mercy. Yep, it's all there.

And don't worry: no intellectual grappling today. I have already done all of that. At length:). The problem is that I read the Bible like an apologist. I think I have an imaginary atheist who sits on my shoulder, and I anticipate his reactions and think about how I would explain God in this passage or that passage to him. And let's just say, my imaginary atheist was not amused by today's reading. He asked me how anyone could believe in such a cruel-sounding God. And I was just too tired to answer with logic and apologetics.

Later, though, as I was driving to pick up Luke from preschool, and I was listening to the song, "We Bow Down," as I pondered this passage. And it occurred to me that if I were in the throne room of God, this issue would totally be a moot point. If I were before God, I would be on my face, fully recognizing that everything He said was right. Because God is God. When people in Bible times got a glimpse of God, they knew enough to be scared. But since Jesus bridged that gap, sometimes I forget how truly awesome it is that I can seek God so fearlessly and intimately. And so sometimes, I might get a little too impertinent with Him. But the bottom line is, He is the God of the universe, and I am not.

And that's all the explanation I need.


NT: Luke 17:11-37

Of course the one man who came back was a Samaritan. Of course. I'm telling you, Luke loves pointing that stuff out. (And in case it came across wrong, I do fully believe that that man was a Samaritan. I just like that Luke is all about that fact.)

And of course, I also love Jesus' pronouncement that "the kingdom of God is within you" (21). Just this afternoon, I had a conversation with my neighbor about how exciting it is to ponder "life to the full." I think that pondering the idea of the kingdom of God within me is equally exciting. See, right now I love my life and the depth of my existence, and I just fell that the Christian life is absolutely glorious. And yet, when I think about the amazing things Jesus says about the kingdom of GOD being within us, or the things He says about mustard seed faith, it thrills my soul. What more is beyond me? What more is just outside of my grasp?

I look forward to finding out.

I'm not going to say too much about 22-37, mainly b/c I think that I'm incapable of saying anything intelligent about the second coming. I just take the "wait and see" approach with that one. I was struck, though, by the reminder that it will come suddenly. It reminds me that all of the "stuff" that make up daily life is an illusion that will be burned away. The only thing that will remain is the stuff we did for God (I Cor. 3:10-15). So...we should probably build our lives around that stuff.

Psalm 84:1-12

"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself..."

My maiden name was Sparrow, and so I was always drawn to the verses about sparrows. The Bible is pretty consistent on the idea that the sparrow is a pretty worthless animal:). It is always given as an example to prove God's love for us. Basically, if God even cares about the sparrow, then of course He would care about you. As a teenager, especially, I found that idea so comforting. I kind of felt like the sparrow sometimes, when I considered myself before God. I was soooo hoping that He would not give up on me (that was one of my most repeated prayers), and it gave me great comfort to know that God even loved the sparrows.

Proverbs 13:5-6

More righteous v. wicked. The righteous love truth and are shielded by their righteousness. The wicked bring shame and disgrace and are overthrown by their wickedness.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14

OT: Joshua 9:3-10:43

The whole matter of Gibeon is so interesting to me. Through his own carelessness, our great and mighty Joshua is tricked into making a treaty with a people who live in Canaan. That seriously derails God's plan. And yet, God doesn't seem too angry with Josh. After all, Joshua's failure to consult God does not lead to any military defeats or consequences of that sort. God is still very much "with" the people. I kind of find examples like this to be comforting, b/c it shows that just because Joshua messed up, he didn't totally wreck God's plan. Yes, it was a setback, and yes, there were consequences, but God was still with Joshua and the people. Joshua's humanity didn't screw things up too much. At least, not yet. I wonder if having the Gibeonites around will lead to problems down the road...

NT: Luke 16:19-17:10

Luke is the only gospel that includes this story, and it very much fits in with his particular interests. After all, this story clearly divides along economic lines, with the poor being whisked off to heaven, and the rich suffering in hell. Odd detail: I guess it goes without saying that the rich man was punished because he failed to help Lazarus. The reason I guess that is because it literally did go without saying: Abraham didn't accuse Lazarus of being unkind to the poor; he accused him of being rich. Specifically, he said, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony" (16:25). Odd detail number 2: Abraham calls the rich man "son," which is saying something because the Jews were quite proud of being sons of Abraham. And at one point, Jesus accuses them of not being Abraham's true sons but rather being sons of the devil (John 8:39-44). So it is an interesting detail that Abraham calls the rich man, "son." It is also probably meaningless. Odd detail number 3: the rich man is not given a name, but the poor man is. That goes along with the idea that the last will be first, and the humbled will be exalted. In life, people tend to know the rich man's name, and not the poor man's. It is kind of a status symbol for people to know your name, you know?

Okay, there wasn't a ton of application in those odd details, but I kind of feel like we all get the application here, so I just wrote what stood out to me. I would also like to note that Jesus is really hammering the idea of having worldly wealth here, especially when taken in conjunction with yesterday's reading.

I love the idea of faith in this passage. First of all, I love the idea that it takes faith to live in the radical way that Jesus calls us to live. The disciples realize that because, when faced with Jesus' tall order about forgiving others in 17:3-4, they immediately reply, "Increase our faith!" The only way that they felt that they could obey Jesus' teachings was if they had more faith. Not more self-discipline. Not more determination. More faith. That is interesting to me.

Also, the idea that if we only have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can verbally throw mulberry trees into the sea is fascinating to me. I am open to the idea that Jesus is being a wee bit hyperbolic, but I am also drawn to the idea that we are all just on the tip of the iceberg of possible faith. Compared to what we could have, our general level of faith is smaller than a mustard seed. I guess you could think of that as a depressing thought, but it actually kind of excites me. There is a lot of potential for growth there!

Psalm 83: 1-18

I really want to know the exact historical context of this verse. I looked it up in my chronological Bible, but it was just listed with all the other psalms. The reason I wonder is because of verse 8's mention of the Assyrians. Is this psalm written right before the Assyrian invasion? If so, it would be quite haunting to me. As it is, I'm sure that I could research when Asaph lived and when the invasion occurred, but I don't have the time right now.

Proverbs 13:4

"The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are satisfied." That's a good one to teach to your children. It gives compelling reasons to work hard!