OT: Judges 8:18-9:21
Whew! Today's OT reading was just full of bad news! Let's see...
Gideon made a golden ephod, before which the Israelites then prostituted themselves. Seriously, prostitution is a good analogy for their compulsive desire to worship anything set before them. They really have a problem. It's a golden piece of clothing, guys! Control yourselves!
Gideon had many wives and a concubine (though really, what's the difference when you get into the high numbers like that?). Seventy sons is a lot. I wasn't a big fan of that.
Upon Gideon's death, the people "again prostituted themselves to the Baals." Good grief!
Abimelech killed all seventy of Gideon's other sons. Good grief!
Things aren't going well.
And wow...I thought Jesus told confusing parables. He has nothing on ol' Jotham! I get that the thornbush is Abimelech, so do the three trees represent three of Gideon's sons who turned down the kingship? If so, what is the meaning behind the olive oil, the figs, and the wine? I sense that I need more historical background. And poor Jotham--he is a mess! I'm sure he is completely distraught over his brothers, and you can definitely see those feelings reflected in his impassioned, broken speech to the people.
NT: Luke 23:44-24:12
Verse 48 was a bit unusual: "When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away." Okay, beating your breasts is a sign of mourning, right? So...who are these people???? I kind of got the impression that everyone was clamoring for Jesus' demise and mocking Him while He was being crucified. And the thing is, this verse isn't referring to Jesus' friends. The very next verse says, "But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things." So the first group truly was "the crowd." What is up with their change in attitude? Are they experiencing remorse?
And what a striking image of all of Jesus' friends and followers standing at a distance and watching the horror. What a dark day. That was a day when so many dreams came crashing to the ground. So many illusions were shattered. So many hopes were dashed. And all of that mental destruction took place in the form of a small, silent picture being played out in the distance. A small man lifted up on a small cross, at least from their far-off perspective. And yet, such big and wonderful things were ultimately happening, even at humanity's darkest moment. It is so clear how their perspective was so minute, so limited. I see definite corollaries to my own perspective. I see just the tiniest part of the big picture. Imagine what time will do to change that view.
Another psalm praising God. What is wrong with me that I like the dark ones better? Really, it is not the darkness that I like, but the intimacy. Anyone can say, "God is great, God is good," and it's hard to say whether they mean it or not, or what that statement even means to them. But when someone is pouring out the sorrows of their heart, you can rest assured they are not faking it. I am drawn to that authenticity before God.
"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." I think it is noteworthy how evil and foolishness are generally interchangeable with Solomon. In the case of this proverb, for example, I think it would take a real jerk to mock the idea of making up for their wrongdoing. Solomon calls such a man not a jerk, though, but a fool. I guess they are the same.
"Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." Well, there is a proverb supporting the idea of individualism, I guess. As someone who lives in and very much values close community, I don't know if this proverb is always entirely true for me. And yet, I do think it is very hard, if not impossible, to fully share in another's bitterness and joy. Only God can be so close to a person.