Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12

OT: Joshua 5:1-7:15

Well, today we learned two things about consecration. One was that consecration can be painful (5:2-9). The other was that a lack of consecration can severely jeopardize God's plan for you, as we saw in the case of Achan and the failed attack on Ai. The principles that I take away from this idea of consecration and its relationship to God's plan is that God calls His people to holiness. When we choose not to pursue holiness, we limit any work that He will do in our lives.

I also thought it was interesting that the manna stopped right before the attack on Jericho (5:10-12). To take the logic of my preacher this morning and apply it in a different way, there is a time for preparation and a time for action. There are times when God carries you and times when he "pushes you out of the nest," so to speak. And with the Israelites, the time of preparation, of desert provision and testing, was over. Now was the time to apply what they have learned. Now was the time to act.

Yet another interesting detail in chapter 5 was the angel's answer to Joshua. Joshua asks him, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" The angel answers, "Neither." Neither! How crazy is that? The God of the OT sometimes gets criticized for being a very tribal and primitive God, based on modern readings of the text. In light of that criticism, I find the detail that God's angel is on neither side to be fascinating. Even now, God is bigger than just the Israelites. His plan is bigger than them and their success. Right now, their success is a definite component of His plan. But the end game of God's plan is not just for the Israelites, but for all humanity to come to Him. In that way, He does not take sides between men, even as He grants victory to one and defeat to another.

Lastly, I like the description of the people's hearts melting and becoming like water (5:1, 7:5). To me, that is an great description. I tried to remember times when I was really frightened, and yes, it did feel a little like my heart was melting:).

And I bet the hearts of the people of Jericho melted a little more each day when the Israelites walked around the city. Can you imagine how eerie that would have been to have an entire army silently (minus the trumpets) circling your city like so many vultures? That would have been incredibly unnerving to me.

NT: Luke 15:1-32

The juxtapositions of the OT and NT readings are just completely amazing sometimes. Today was one of those days. In the OT, the last words we read were of God's instructions to Joshua regarding a sinner among them. God was explaining to Joshua how to weed out this one sinner and eradicate him. And the impression that I got was that God must have been really dedicated to purity to dole out such huge consequences (the rout at Ai) for one sinner, and to spend so much time and energy going after this one sinner so that He could punish him.

After reading this story of Achan, the first thing we read in the NT is the story of the lost sheep. Basically, this story (and the next two, as well) are mirror opposites of the story of Achan. Outside of Jericho in the OT, there are a lot of Israelites; in Jesus' parable, there are a hundred sheep. In the OT, there was one sinner who disobeyed God and went his own way; in Jesus' parable, there was one sheep who wandered away from the shepherd. In the OT, God patiently took the time to weed this one person out and to kill him and his family; in Jesus' parable, the shepherd patiently takes the time to go find this one sheep and to restore him to the flock.

Wow. I mean, I see how you could argue that Achan and the person represented by the lost sheep are two different people in different situations. You would be speculating, of course, but you could also be right. At the same time, this juxtaposition highlights the complexity of God to me. It is just so hard to wrap my mind a being who is so holy and yet so merciful. In so many situations, those two characteristics seem to contradict each other, and it is always interesting to see what "side" God falls on, or seems to fall on. I know that He maintains that balance perfectly; it is just hard for a finite human to understand sometimes. For instance, our preacher mentioned today the "sin that leads to death" and how John says not to pray for people who are sinning that way (I John 5:16). My Bible cross-referenced that verse to two in Hebrews that said that if we continue to sin after receiving knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left (Heb. 10:26 and another one that I forgot). Those verses seem to contrast with the picture of the prodigal son, who lived in his father's house, enjoyed his love, and then willingly walked away from him. Rather than give up on him or tell people not to pray for him, the father in the story eagerly awaits his return and runs to greet him when he sees him. I know that those verses do not contradict, but it is kind of hard to wrap my mind around the different viewpoints sometimes. Again, I think it comes down to the immense complexity of God. And in the contrast between Achan and the lost sheep, you really see how Jesus changed the game.

Psalm 81:1-16

This psalm is some praise mixed with some history. The one verse that jumped out at me was the second part of verse 10: "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." At first, I thought that verse sounded great, mainly because I love food:). But then, I got to thinking about the actual image. To open your mouth like a little baby bird and have someone fill it with sustenance seems like a pretty humbling experience. I kind of like to feed myself, you know? The idea of somebody spoon-feeding me seems almost humiliating and even kind of frustrating. I mean, you have to acknowledge that you are too weak and incapable of even putting food into your own mouth. Maybe that is one reason why Israel did not open their mouths. Verses 11-12 say, "But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices." These verses remind me that I must continually humble myself before God and continually acknowledge that I am nothing without Him. And then I must humbly open my mouth and let Him feed me with the good things He has for me.

Proverbs 13:1

Today's proverb was good, but also very typical. "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke." Yup.

1 comment:

  1. When I read Joshua today, I was struck by the thought that all of these things really happened. The thing with the river, the angel showing up, the fall of Jerico, all of it was real. How sad that these days we don't tend to think that God will actually do things like this. He so will!

    The "neither" comment struck me as weird too. Maybe that is not so much a statment about God himself, but simply about the angel. The angel was just a messenger, bound by God's will. He was not there to be a friend, he was only delivering a message. Anyway, I like that idea better than thinking that God would not just say, "Oh yeah, I am definitely your friend!"

    When I read things like the Beattitudes, where it says that those who have X now have already received X, I sometimes get scared that I won't be as much rewarded in Heaven. Talking about the "Prodigal Son," I hope I haven't already received my inheritance. (Of course, I didn't ask to be born in America into a middle-class family. I mean, I do ask God for blessings, but I guess that is different.) What would that really look like though, asking for the inheritance now? I understand the going away and sinning part and the coming back in humility part, but I wonder about the inheritance.

    You know, I wonder if God was more harsh (hasher?) in the OT because He knew that, even after the people died, they would have a chance to repent later when Jesus came to them after his death. I really don't know much about that whole thing, but I have gotten the impression from somewhere that Jesus spoke to those who had died earlier and gave them a chance to accept forgiveness. I don't know. That thought just randomly popped into my head.

    Good point about the open mouth thing. I thought it was a little awkward-sounding when I read it, but it does make sense that it would be symbolic of humility.