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.

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