OT: Judges 7:1-8:17
Before I had children and was no longer entertained by watching people do horrible things to each other, I was addicted to CSI (the Las Vegas one). My favorite opening ever was when the brainy hero, Gil Grissom, was investigating a crime scene. They hadn't found the body, but it seemed clear that the body had been locked in a closet. Rather than open the closet and confirm the presence of the body, Grissom started taking evidence around the door. An officer on the scene complained of Grissom taking too long, and Grissom responded by advocating patience. As he studied the door to the closet, he said, "Sun Tzu once said, 'If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.'" He then opened the door to find a mummified body, and said, "But those were brutal times."
What resonated about that scene was that it is always brutal times here on earth. Our readings for today definitely confirm the presence of brutality in their respective time periods, and we can certainly see it today by turning on the news. What is mind-bending is to try to understand God's perspective on the brutality. I remember that the Law seemed to indicate that God hated bloodshed. "Bloodshed pollutes the land." Didn't it say that somewhere? And even here in Judges, it repeatedly notes when the land has "rest" from the bloodshed. Bloodshed is not natural, according to God. And so God hates it...when He is not advocating it. In other parts of the Law, God demands bloodshed. Here in Judges, God is all about kicking tail and taking names. In fact, He purposely kept some enemies around just so His people could practice shedding blood. You need to be trained in the art, apparently.
And I am "cool" with the bloodshed when it is used as a necessary means to defeat enemies who pose an immediate danger. I actually kind of loved hearing about how the Israelite 300 (hey, wasn't there a movie by that name?) routed the Midianites and co. I also loved how it didn't end up being just the 300, but that Gideon sent messengers, Lord of the Rings style, to the surrounding areas and activated some impromptu recruits. (At least, I picture it LOTR style:)). That was all quite cool, even to my non-blood-thirsty self.
What was not cool was Gideon's "thorns and briars" revenge on men of Succoth. I don't even want to picture what that entailed...so I'm not going to. To me, that was a little over the top. That's the problem with bloodshed; it always tends to escalate. It's like, "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Bloodshed corrupts, too, and kind of in the same way. It is easy to get carried away and get hungry for more.
I did like Gideon's response to the ticked-off Ephraimites who wanted more of a heads-up about fighting the Midianites. Gideon proved himself to be a master of diplomacy, skillfully stroking their ego and causing their wrath to subside.
NT: Luke 23:13-43
The brutality continues, of course, in the NT. Herod and Pilate have had their fun, and they are ready for the game to be over. Shockingly, though, they are not the most bloodthirsty players, as the crowd is far from satisfied with Jesus' beatings and humiliation. They want him dead. Pilate ultimately doesn't care enough to stop them, so off Jesus goes to be crucified.
In light of my thoughts on brutality, what hit me today was Jesus' words to the weeping women: "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (31). To me, Jesus is saying, "You think this is bad? Times aren't even tough right now. Wait about forty years, when things start getting really desperate, and then you will see some depravity." That is such a frightening thought to me. I think that's why it chills me so when I hear about awful things being done by people in America. If we have people hurting each other so much in a peaceful and prosperous society, imagine if times were truly desperate. I think of war torn countries I've heard about in Africa, the Middle East, and Easter Europe. Such atrocities happen when everything is destabilized. In Jesus' day, things weren't destabilized, and still, people were crucifying innocent men and getting totally caught up in the gore of it. Imagine what is going to happen when everyone's lives are in danger.
Today, I was also struck by the insight of the other crucified man. From my own experience with crippling pain, I can say that those times aren't the ones in which I see the clearest or think the deepest. Their is a level of pain where all my deep thoughts subside entirely. That's why I am so impressed by this crucified man's vision of the kingdom. Think about his words: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Okay. Everyone else seems to be picturing the kingdom of God as an earthly kingdom, and thus, to everyone else (including, presumably, the disciples), Jesus' death shuts the door on the possibility of that kingdom coming through him. That's why they are mocking him ("If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."). See, He isn't the king of the Jews. That's the joke. (I'm sure you all got that. I'm going somewhere, though.) But this guy hanging on a cross still sees that He is. And he sees that Jesus' kingdom is still coming, and that it is something that is present beyond the grave. Truly, the man says a very profound thing. Maybe it came out of delirium or desperate hope, but it is profound nevertheless.
You need these kind of psalms sometimes, you know? There are times to question and cry out, and there are also times to just praise God for His power and glory. I like that.
I also like how we have made 98:4-8 into a song, at least I think we have. It seems like our song, "Shout to the Lord" is inspired by those verses. What is interesting is that in our song, "mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name." In the psalm, the seas, the mountain, and the rivers are, like, happily praising God. The sea "resounds," the "rivers clap their hands," and "the mountains sing together for joy" (7-8). That picture is so much happier (and honestly, funnier) than the awe-inspiring image of the song we sing.
Verse 7 interests me greatly: "Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips." One of my character flaws is that I have a low tolerance for (what I view as) idiocy. And yet, I feel like we can learn from everyone, and that I need to be patient and loving, and so forth. But this verse kind of gives me license to just stay away, doesn't it? Hmmmm.......I feel like I am using this verse to reinforce my character flaw, which is a bad thing...and yet, I can see the point about how nothing is gained from hanging out with foolish people.