OT: Deut. 21:1-22:30
Well, CSI: Ancient Israel looks a lot different from the CBS shows on the subject. Based on these instructions, the ancient Israelites spent about 0% of their time actually looking for clues or tracking down murderers. Instead, they had to figure out which town is closest to the body, so that that town can atone for the bloodshed. I found the whole set of instructions regarding the heifer and the atonement to be...well, just interesting.
And "interesting" is the word of the day today. (It is really the word of every day, but today it is even more so than usual). The instructions regarding the captured women...interesting. The instruction regarding the man loving one of his wives more than the other...interesting. The instructions regarding rebellious children...interesting. The verse that said "anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse".....interesting. The instructions regarding donkeys of brethren, cross-dressing, egg-taking, parapet-building, vineyard-planting, tassel-making, virgin-slandering, and well, raping...interesting.
In some cases, interesting means "cool." In some cases, interesting means...interesting. And in some cases, interesting means, "What the heck?!?!" You should not ignore your brother's things and animals when they are lost...cool. That's a really neat command that seems to clearly reveal God's will and to agree with NT teachings. You should not mix clothing materials or seeds in your vineyard or plowing animals...interesting. Perhaps these instructions are to serve as a metaphor for the level of spiritual purity expected of the Israelites. Virgins should always keep proof of their virginity on hand, or--even better--give it to their parents...What the heck?!?!" If you rape a girl who is not betrothed, you have to marry her...What the heck?!?! That is so not cool.
There is apparently a prayer that Jewish men pray(ed?) that thanked God that they were not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. People call it sexist, but if I were an Israelite man, I would be thanking God for all those things. I would not want to be a woman in ancient Israel.
So...what does that say about God? (No seriously, what does it say? I have no idea.)
Along those "no idea" lines, did God really despise people who cross-dressed? Really? Sometimes the consequences in today's readings seemed disproportionate to the actions. God despises a cross-dresser, but not a rapist? Seriously? Wearing a woman's clothing is despicable, but raping her isn't? And also, it will go well with you and you will live a long life if you take the eggs out of a nest but spare the mother? Seriously? You get the same results as when you honor and obey your parents?
I'm not trying to be obtuse here. Maybe it is just that my mind is in no frame to do the mental gymnastics required to make these things make sense to me.
NT: Luke 9:51-10:12
One of the things my handy dandy Writings of the NT pointed out was that in Luke, the action all moves toward Jerusalem and climaxes with the crucifixion and resurrection. In Acts, it starts in Jerusalem and moves outward. So in Luke, the action is going toward Jerusalem, and in Acts, it goes away from Jerusalem. This is a device of Luke's, an artifice; the other synoptics have Jesus going back and forth between Jerusalem. Luke, on the other hand, uses location to organize his narrative symbolically. You can definitely see it in 9:51: "As the time approached for him to be taken into heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Everything else in Luke happens on the way to Jerusalem or in Jerusalem. It occurs to me that this journey is what He was talking about with Moses and Elijah in yesterday's reading. Even then, He was preparing. I was wondering yesterday why the transfiguration occurred. Thinking about it in light of 9:51, it occurs to me that maybe God sent Jesus a support team to give Him a little pep talk. After all, He had a long road ahead of Him, both literally and figuratively.
In the context of Jesus' resolute march to his death, the rest of today's reading comes into focus. I could always understand why Jesus rebuked James and John for their visions of fiery destruction, but I can see even more so why their retributive desires would clash with Jesus' current mindset. And though I used to wonder why Jesus seemed to swat away potential followers like flies in this section, I see it better now. Jesus is literally walking to His own torture and death. He does not have the time for excuses, nor the inclination to sugar-coat. So when people talk about delaying in joining Him, it's almost like He's thinking, "Hey, I'm going to be dead soon. Come now, or don't bother."
Moving on. The idea of giving and taking your peace still intrigues me. And I was also drawn in by the idea that the Kingdom of God is near both the believing towns and the unbelieving towns (10:9,11). For the former, that is good news. Not so much for the latter.
Psalms 74: 1-23
Wow, this Asaph dude has the touch. I really like his writing. Although he is sometimes clumsy with the figurative language (5,11), I found his imagery to be effective overall. Especially his animal imagery. I liked verse 1's picture of God's "anger smolder[ing] against the sheep of [His] pasture." Asaph is questioning why God is so angry, and I thought that comparing the people to sheep was a good choice here. I mean, really, why would you be smolderingly angry at sheep? They're sheep. They aren't that bright to begin with, and they certainly aren't worth passionate, unrelenting anger. Good choice, Asaph. I also liked, "Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts" (19). But then again, I am a sucker for heavy handed imagery, and that definitely qualifies:).
My favorite verse, though, is marked by its literary simplicity, by it's lack of adornment:
"We are given no miraculous signs;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be."
I love simple language, and that verse was just powerful to me. (Seriously, just read it aloud.) I think that most people throughout history have been able to relate to that verse at one time or another. I would think we have all had times in a spiritual desert, where we believed in God, but just hadn't had a direct word from Him in so long....
"He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment."
It is odd how much I loved this verse, how much it resonated with my soul. There is a lot I could write about it, but I'll just say that yesterday, I was thinking about how so many people are dissatisfied with their life. And a lot of times, people believe that the solution to their dissatisfaction is to live wider. In other words, they think that they need to have new and different experiences. They need to move or to change jobs or to do something drastic and radical. And sometimes God does call people to make changes, even big changes. But I also think a lot of people are dissatisfied not because they need to live wider, but because they need to live deeper. It's not what they are doing that dissatisfies them; it is how they are doing it. They aren't living every moment of their lives for God. They are not living on purpose. And so, today when I read this verse, it reminded me that those everyday things we do are good. Consistency is good. And on the other hand, sometimes chasing our dreams is foolish. (Talk about counter-cultural! I felt a little like I was committing blasphemy typing that last sentence.)