Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23

OT: Judges 1:1-2:9

First things first: was I the only one totally repulsed by the cutting off of Adoni-Bezek's thumbs and big toes, only to hear his perspective on the situation and think, "Okay, well that actually makes sense"? It makes me wonder what other seeming atrocities might make more sense if I just had a fuller perspective. (Or rather, if I just could keep a fuller perspective. Sometimes, I really do have the "long view" and can kind of get what God is doing in the OT, while other times, it continues to baffle me.)

The beginning of Judges overlaps with some of Joshua, and it was kind of enlightening to see the different perspective. For one, Judges notes that failure to drive out the Canaanites completely was the rule, not the exception. After all, Judah, Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali all failed to drive out the Canaanites (so, six tribes. I guess it was technically neither the rule, nor the exception.) And the text is just as complex as Joshua in noting the dichotomy b/t God's promise to defeat Israel's enemies and the actual failure of the tribes to do so. Judges 1:19 says, "The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots." So. Try to wrap your mind around that. Apparently, iron chariots are too much even for God! (It's sad that I feel the need to clarify that I'm joking:). But I really am confused about that paradox.)

Lastly, I have a quick comment about the continuing discrepancy among the translations regarding who told whom to ask Caleb for a field in the Othniel-Acsah story. I think I've mentioned before that translators often go with the translation that makes the least sense, on the theory that the more sensible of the translations would be the ones that have been edited. Furthermore, our end note says that the translation our Bible uses is from the Hebrew, while the translation that makes more sense (that Othniel asked Acsah to ask Caleb) comes from the Septuagint and the Vulgate. Those were both later texts, and they weren't even in Hebrew (they were written in Greek and Latin, respectively.) So it makes sense that they would have been edited to make the verse make more sense.

NT: Luke 21: 29-22:13

Okay, you know what? Forget it. I don't care if it was 70 AD or the end times, or both, okay? I don't! I'm not talking about it anymore. It doesn't matter! My final analysis is that it's both, but I don't care. And if John brings this up, too, so help me...(:.

In 12:34, Jesus warns, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." I have been drawn lately to verses about dissipation, after an enlightening Sunday school class on the subject. In the context used by the Bible, dissipation essentially means waste, like a wasteful pursuit of pleasure. That interests me. When does the pursuit of pleasure become wasteful? Is any pursuit of pleasure wasteful? When does it get excessive? When does it become a distraction from the meaning of your life (which is what Jesus is warning us about in verse 34)? I know that for me, getting on Facebook or checking the blogs one too many times a day can be dissipation. That is my #1 time waster. I'm not so into tv and movies anymore; I don't sit around and drink my cares away; I don't even really read that much these days, and when I do, I generally read useful books. But man, give me a computer, and I can show you how to dissipate:). And when I engage in dissipation, I end up feeling awful, because I am missing the point of my life. I am "checking out," instead of playing an active part in this world.

And yet, I am torn. Part of me feels like everyone needs to just "turn their brain off" sometimes, and that that's fine, as long as it is not excessive. And yet, the other part of me wonders why we need to turn our brain off. Is it because we are selfish...or just weak? Or both? Is it wrong to mentally check out? Does it mean that the Spirit is not empowering us, that we are relying on our own mental strength, which fails us? I don't know.

Psalms 90:1-91:6

Wow, I am sooo glad they put these two psalms together. It creates quite the paradox, doesn't it? In Psalm 90, human life is defined by suffering. Verse 10 says, "The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." In Psalm 91, on the other hand, suffering only happens to the unrighteous. The righteous, on the other hand, are spared all the cares of this life. They don't have to worry about the "fowler's snare," or the "deadly pestilence," or the "terror of the night," or the "arrow that flies by day." (3-6). After all, "no harm will befall" them (10). I guess that Psalm 90 describes the condition of sinners ("you have set our iniquities before you"), while 91 deals with...I don't know...some fictional person who never sins? But it doesn't even say that the psalm pertains only to the perfectly righteous. Psalm 91 claims to describe the lives of "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High" (1). I guess the key to understanding the paradox is found in understanding what is meant by that verse.

I love paradoxes, though, and I kind of think that most of life's deepest truths come in paradox form. The Bible, for example, is chock full of them:

The righteous prosper while the wicked suffer (much of Psalms and Proverbs) except when the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (the rest of Psalms and Proverbs, plus Jesus).

And along those lines, wealth is a reward to the righteous, except when the righteous are the poor and mistreated (same references).

We are saved by faith and grace and not actions (Paul), except that we are also going to be judged by our actions (Jesus, James).

It gets a little confusing. But honestly, what do you expect from a God who sins a righteous Law-breaker for a Messiah, who in turn foretells a Kingdom run by the poor, the weak, and those who are like little children? Paradox is the order of the day in Christianity.

Oh, and I love 90:12--"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I have that verse written in the front of my journal, and yet I didn't know it was from Moses. I learn something new every day.

Proverbs 13:24-25

Verse 24 gives yet another paradox. Love is often shown in punishment, in administering unpleasantness. That's not how we generally think of love, but the Bible's definition of love is much fuller and stronger than mainstream society.


  1. I'll give you this comment with the little scrap of brain cells I have left for the day... As far as wasting time, I think there has to be balance. Even Jesus went away by himself (granted, to pray, but still), though he was almost always, it seems, interrupted. I think that there are some things that God created simply for our enjoyment, so it would be less glorifying to Him to spend all of our time working and no time appreciating. I think that applies to works of art (books, music, movies, etc.) and people (blogs, facebook) as well. But, like I said, there has to be balance. It's one of those "everything in moderation" kind of things.

    Still, it IS alarming to read not to be caught up in the worries of this life. Reading that was certainly an "oh crap" moment for me.

    I think the end times/A.D. 70 stuff must be "both" too, but, you're right, it's not worth getting all huffy about.

    Oh, and, I don't care how you spin it, it is simply horrifying to think of cutting off one's appendages.

  2. You wanna see some spin, then check out tomorrow's entry...