OT: Judges 2:10-3:31
Today's reading gave me an answer to my question yesterday. I essentially asked, "If God was with the Israelites, as He repeatedly said that He was, then why didn't He grant them total victory, which He also seemed to guarantee?" According to Judges 2:23, "The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua." The text goes on to elaborate that "he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience" (3:2). Okay, let's explore that. I really did get the impression that God would give the Israelites victory over all their enemies...but maybe He didn't say that precisely. I'm going to look it up...
Okay, I first turned to Joshua 1, and here is what God said to Joshua, "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses...No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life." (1:3, 5a). O-kay. Anyone got any insight into this one?
I will say this: throughout Scripture, God seems to sometimes give misleading impressions. Maybe misleading isn't the right word, but let me give an example. The prophets seem to clearly indicate that the Messiah would be a victorious king, and often those portrayals contain the image of military and/or political dominance. Off the top of my head, I can think of Isaiah 9, one of the most famous prophecies about Christ. The verses leading up to the famous part insinuate that God is going to free the people from their oppressors: "For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor." So...Rome then? He would free the people from Roman oppression? Then, verse 6 begins, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders."* Verse 7 continues the theme: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." Okay, c'mon. If you were a Jew reading that, how would you picture the Messiah? It seems pretty clear to me that you would picture a powerful, political leader. Jesus, needless to say, did not fit that bill.
I'll give you another example of this type of confusion. Jesus tells his followers, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Mark 21:22). He says this type of thing several times, and His statements are usually woefully bereft of caveats. You just have to believe, He says, and you will receive whatever you ask. Wow, really? That simply has not been my experience.
So, what do we do with these statements? God says He will grant Joshua total victory, and He doesn't. God says that the government will be on the shoulders of His Messiah, who will reign forever on David's throne, and it wasn't. God says He will give us whatever we ask for, and He doesn't.
Best I can tell, we have three options. We can conclude that God is a liar. We can conclude that the Bible is false and contradictory. Or we can trust in a God whose ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts. We can trust that God tells us exactly what we need to know, on the level we need to know, at the time we need to know it. We can trust in a God who continues to cultivate mystery between Himself and His followers, for some purpose that is beyond us. We can trust in a God who says repeatedly that He made us, He loves us, and He wants us to live with Him forever. I choose to trust. God has been faithful to me, and good. God has worked powerfully throughout my life and has filled it with love, peace, and joy. And so even though I have no clue what to make of those Scriptures, other than to conclude that it is all beyond me, I choose to trust in the God who gave them to me.
*Whenever you italicize a verse, you are supposed to put, "emphasis mine" at the end in parenthesis. At least, that's what all the fancy books do:). That always seemed a little dumb to me. I'm sure you know that whenever I italicize part of a verse, it is my own emphasis. After all, the Bible does not italicize verses.
NT: Luke 22: 14-34
I had more wording issues today, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Here are two phrases that were just a little bit beyond me. I wanted to understand their exact meaning in its fullest sense, and I just couldn't quite get to it:
"For I tell you I will not eat [this Passover] again again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (16).
Problem words: it finds fulfillment
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (20b).
Problem words: is (the 1st one), in
*Update: Got the first one. I'm there.*
My favorite part of the NT passage, though, was verses 31-32. I will take the liberty of translating a bit into Southern American, so that we can get the full effect: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift y'all as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." He really singles Simon out as a leader here. He puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders (and I almost wonder if it is b/c Simon is going to fall the worst. Maybe He is giving him a reason in advance to return.)
Regardless, that had to be a cool moment between Jesus and Simon, albeit one for which Simon was woefully unprepared. He probably could wrap his mind around the fact that Jesus singled him out to lift up in prayer and to be the one who helped the others. But he couldn't grasp that he would fall, too. He says as much in verse 33. And did you notice the ironic shift in name in verse 34? Jesus calls him Peter. "I tell you, 'Rock,' before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me." Jesus always manages to use His new name for Peter in the most ironic contexts, and I'm pretty sure it is on purpose. He starts out so gently with him: "Simon, Simon..." So earnest. But when Simon responds with bluster, Jesus switches to a little gentle irony. Not that Simon got it at the time, but it's like Jesus is reminding Simon that He is only a "rock" to the degree that God strengthens him into one. And for that to happen, Simon needs all the prayers that he can get.
"How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!" (92:5). That verse took me back to the OT discussion, and how God is just so much bigger and deeper than us. I simply cannot grasp His ways. Their profundity is utterly beyond me. And yet, He is still beautiful to look at. I love gazing through His word into the depth of His mystery. It is like looking out at the enormity of the ocean....which, according to the next psalm, also praises God (3-4).
"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down" (1). I love the value and the responsibility that this verse lays on wives. I know that I am doing an important job in nurturing my family and taking care of my home, but it is also good to be reminded of the value and the power of this role.