Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13

OT: Joshua 7:16-9:2

The slow-but-steady weeding-out of Achan had to be absolutely nerve-wracking to him, much like the marches around Jericho must have been nerve-wracking to the inhabitants. I have to hand it to God--He really is the Master of suspense (move over, Hitchcock:)).

It is also eerie to me how calming Joshua is to Achan. I'm sure his kind urging in 7:19 had to give Achan a glimmer of hope that maybe everything would turn out okay. It didn't, of course. Again, God's reaction to Achan provides a stark contrast to His reaction to people once Jesus entered the picture. What is interesting to me is that Jesus' words on earth seemed to indicate a shift in God's M.O., even before He died. I mean, I can see how God would be merciful to us afterward, since Jesus had paid for our sins. But Jesus was merciful to people even before His death. I strongly believe that if Jesus had had this same interchange with someone during His ministry, it would not have ended with that person and his family being stoned. The story of the woman caught in adultery, in fact, provides a good counterpoint to Achan. Again, that contrast is so interesting to me. I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

I do note that God tends to be more forceful on the front end of a covenant. He gave plenty of stark object lessons in the desert about the wages of disobedience, and now that the Israelites are just starting their conquest of Canaan, I guess it was time for another object lesson. You see that same tendency at the start of the new church, with Ananias and Sapphira. It's like, in directly and harshly punishing sin at the beginning of an endeavor, God is trying to help the people get started on the right foot. I don't know.

I do know that even though I'm not one for conquest and carnage, I just love Joshua's strategy with Ai. Despite my distaste for bloodshed per se, I love reading about battle strategies. One of my favorite classes in college was my U.S. Military History class. I don't know why; I guess I'm just admire the intelligence behind well-conceived and well-executed battle plans.

NT: Luke 16:1-18

Have I talked about the shrewd manager before? It seems like I have, but I checked a chart of parables in the Gospels, and the chart said that this story is only told in Luke. Regardless, I know I have talked about it with Greg recently because I have his take on it fresh in my mind. I am always confused by the moral of this parable. With parables like the banquet one, or the one about the unjust judge, you can see that the shrewd/immoral actions in the parable aren't the main point. They are instead intended to illustrate a deeper principle. With this parable, though, it seems that the shrewdness of the manager is the point: "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into heavenly dwellings" (8-9). I have never been able to make heads or tails of this parable, but I like Greg's take, even though it is a little "out of the box." In light of all Jesus' teachings on the poor and on the idea that the last will be first, it seems like the "head honchos" in heaven will be the poor, the weak, the helpless, and the oppressed. And so, if you want to be welcomed into heavenly dwellings, it would be shrewd of you to help those people while you are on earth. So...according to Greg, what Jesus is saying here is that it would serve you well to use your wealth to help the poor.

Jesus immediately goes on to talk about the need to be trustworthy with worldly wealth, which I take to mean that we should do things like help the poor. Thus, Greg's interpretation makes sense in light of the surrounding verses. I also love how Jesus contrasts "worldly wealth" with "true riches" (11), and how he refers to our wealth and possessions as "someone else's property" (12). It is interesting to consider what exactly "property of [our] own" would be. These verses are always good to hear, especially since, believe it or not, my conscience is currently clear on that point:).

Psalm 82:1-8

I honestly don't understand this psalm. My reading comprehension skills just failed me, I guess. I get that it paints a picture of God addressing a great assembly and that the bulk of the psalm consists of His words to that assembly. I get verses 2-4 about the good things the members of the assembly are supposed to be doing, and that they are not doing those things. But who are the assembly? Why does God refer to them as "gods"? Why does He switch person in verse 5, shifting from "you" to "they"? And what on earth does verse 6 mean? Weird, Asaph.

Proverbs 13:2-3

Okay, maybe it is me and not the text, because I also don't have a great understanding of verse 2 here: "From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence." What do part A and part B have to do with each other? Why does it just say a "man" and not a righteous/good/honest man? What does part A even mean, really? Are the fruit of a man's lips his words? It doesn't say that either the man or the words is good or bad, so how do they inevitably lead to good things?

Okay, I give up. Someone explain, please:).


  1. Luke: I think this is just saying that people in the world are clever and wise when it comes to advancing themselves towards their purpose which are earthly goals... SO WE as followers of Christ should be clever and wise towards advancing our purpose by using what we have in a way that gives us our purpose which is eternal life with Christ. Kind of like what Greg said!

  2. Psalm: It just sounds like a cry for justice. I don't know if it is refering to something going on around David or whoever at the time or if it is a cry out for justice in general or even, possibly, a cry out for judgment justice. But sometimes, don't we sort of cry out for justice and even judgment in our hearts? I mean, I ache when I see (more likely through the media) terrible things happening in the world and I want God to make it stop - a cry out for justice.

  3. I also am perplexped by the difference in the pre- and post-Jesus interpretation of the Law. Jesus even says that the Law is extremely pertinent (Luke 16:17), but then he saves the adulterous woman from being stoned. I don't know. I understand why God would enforce the rules at the beginning of something new, like you said, but the discrepency seems bigger than that to me.

    I don't like reading about people being stoned. :(

    The shrewd businessman parable has always perplexed me too. I would have thought that the guy was just sneaky and underhanded. Well, it says that "a rumor went around that the manager was thoroughly dishonest," but that doesn't mean that he was dishonest. Perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps his reputation had been marred without cause, but instead of making a jerk or himself he used his awkward position to do nice things for people. That makes more sense, I guess. Oh... wait a minute... verse 8 says, "The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd." Crap. I guess he was dishonest. Nevermind... So much for that theory. Well, I understand the idea of using one's influence to help the poor. But, this seems like part of the point of doing that is to make people on earth like you. That seems contrary to Jesus' usual message. I don't know. Maybe Jesus is just saying that we need to be smart. In any given situation, we should use our brains to make the best decision, which would be the decision that helps people who need it.

    As for the Psalm, my verses 1 and 2 say, "God presides over heaven's court; / he pronounces judgment on the judges: / 'How long will you judges hand down unjust decisions? / How long will you shower special favor on the wicked?" Then it goes on to talk about being fair and helpful to people who need it like orphans and the destitute. I think God is calling judges (as in the people who intrepret the laws and doll out punishments for breaking them, not like, you know, Samson) to be fair. God is the ultimate judge who is juding those who judge others. In verse 6 where it calls them "gods," I think that just means that the people being addressed are important and have power on earth, but really, as verse 7 says, they are "mere men." They do have power, and they need to use that power for good, not bad, but they shouldn't get big heads either because in the end they themselves are subject to God's judgment. That's what I think anyway. :)

    My version of Proverbs says, "Good people enjoy the positive results of their words, but those who are treacherous crave violence. Those who control their tongue will have long life; a quick retort can ruin everything." Basically, people who are "good" say good things because they like the way it feels to spread their "good-ness" to other people. People who are "bad" say bad things because they like the way it feels to spread their "badness" to other people. They "crave violence," which I think just means that they are malicious, which is the opposite of the good people with their intentions of making people feel good with the things they say. (Sorry if I over-explained that one.) :)