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.


  1. It's funny you would mention the "renegade altar" story in this context. Just this past weekend, my cousin and I were talking about religion over a family dinner, and in the course of half an hour, he managed to let me know that the NIV was unreliable due to Calvinist bias in the translation and that Billy Graham is a terrible false teacher. I didn't have the heart or the energy to inquire about poor old sprinkled-on-the-head C.S. Lewis. Perhaps those folks should have their own altar...?

    The question about marriage and heaven hits me in two ways. On the one hand, it comforts me that my Granddad was not wronged by my Grandmama's remarriage after his death. On the other, I like the idea of being re-united for eternity. I think that for some family-oriented folks, that's one of the top selling points of Mormonism. Yet the fact that scripture doesn't always give us the "easy" answer, or the one that would sound best in a sales pitch, is (at least to me) further evidence that it really is true. God doesn't need my approval for His rules.

  2. OT: Yes, I feel the same way. That IS very sad to think about, but I hadn't thought about us doing that to other people. I guess we do, don't we? That IS very sad.

    Here is yet another example of setting up a memorial. I have GOT to figure out some modern day equivalent of that. I wish that our church did something to help us remember the things that God does for us.

    NT: Not being married in heaven is sad too, though, obviously, we will have better things to think about. I guess maybe when we're in heaven the purpose(s) of marriage will be moot.

    Psalms: Looking at the whole psalm makes it better. There are some good nuggets in there, though I guess some of the poetic langauge is lost in translation. (I so wish I could have experienced these psalms as they were written, understanding their relevance in their own time and culture, and with the actual music. I think we are left with just a shadow of what they must have been.)


    My verse 19 says, "It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools will not turn from evil to attain them." I think that makes more sense, though it still doesn't quite fit the pattern of 17 and 18. Sometimes Solomon is very clever with his language and literary devices, but other times I think he is just vomiting wisdom onto the page however it comes out.