Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27

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.

Psalms 97:1-98:9

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.

Proverbs 14:7-8

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.


  1. N.T. comment: "When the tree is green". I kept reading over that and decided that it meant that while Jesus was alive on the earth. If they didn't believe in Him face to face with all the miracles and wonders, then how would they believe without Him? And how would people live without Him in their lives. So, maybe we are saying the same thing here. Which leads me to thinking that the O.T. does good to remind us of what happens to nations that forget God and gives me hope that they turn back to Him after they have suffered their consequences and recognize them as such. What a cycle!

  2. Time in an interesting thing ..as a student of history I am amazed with how it cycles in and out and really doesnt seem to change a whole lot! The "green" time while Jesus was around, was mild compared to the "dry" time coming for the Christians in Rome and in around the areas where the first century church is going to grow.

    The violence of that that time was comparable to that of the OT ...look at Roman history as they moved across the land slaughtering people to conquer land for their empire that will eventually fall.

    Its so bloody ..I am glad I dont live in that time period! I keep thinking of all those peoples that the Israelites were swooping in and destroying. Their were babies and women killed ..not awesome. But, apparently still all part of God's plan.

    Again, thanks God taht you planted me in this time and this place! :)

    I liked the underdogness of Gideon's story too. One thing I was really struck by in regards to him was how wimpy he was initially...he was so fearful of the people around him, pressing God to convince him over and over again that He would really be there. And, I love how God took that small group's chance to brag away - he didnt want there to be any doubt who was in charge here. So cool.

    Okay ..that was kinna random and all over the place but good stuff! :)

  3. I appreciate that you see how horrible some of the things in the Bible are. Maybe eventually you will open your eyes and see that the Bible does not condemn horrors such as Gideon's revenge anymore than it condemns so called necessary evils.

  4. As a Christian, the ambiguity of the Bible is definitely problematic. It's so true that the text does NOT overtly condemn every evil action the way we want it to. Frankly, I'm not sure that the author of Judges knew what to think one way or the other. As Christians, we just have to take the sum total of God's teaching in the Bible to come to our own conclusions about whether a particular action was right or wrong. It would be so great if God actually told us, and even if He did that in life. I would love if He would verbally distance Himself from the crazy things that Pat Robertson says, but He doesn't.

    One thing that the Bible shows me is that God is a God who clearly cultivates mystery. I was struck by how He purposefully kept the Jews at arm's length during the giving of the Law, only allowing Moses to come up to the mountain. And even Jesus, who in many ways came to "bridge the gap," so to speak, speaks often in esoteric parables. Isaiah 55 reminds us that our ways are not God's ways, and our thoughts are not God's thoughts. Clearly, God has a purpose in not communicating all knowledge to us.

    Is that convenient? No, it is not convenient at all. I would love if God told us everything. My brain wants answers to everything, and generally believes that if I cannot find the answers, then the answers must not exist. When I think like that, though, I hold my brain up as the highest force in the universe. And even to my puny logic, I have to admit that the chances that, in this humongous universe, there is a GREATER force than my brain, that there are deeper plans than I can grasp, is pretty high. So I choose to have faith, and to pursue God with all my heart.

    I hope, Erika, that this does not come off as defensive. Typing to strangers is so tricky, you know? Who knows what tone I am conveying? I very much don't want to come across as hostile or defensive b/c I am feeling no such thing. As you can probably tell by this blog, I type these things in part to work through them myself. I learn best while communicating, I think. Regardless, thanks for checking out my blog, and I will try not to write a novel whenever you comment:).