Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30

OT: Judges 11:1-12:5

Yesterday, I wondered why the author of Judges elaborated on the lives of some leaders, but said nothing about others. After today's reading, I am thinking that he definitely has some reason and rhyme to his choices. After all, yesterday's portion centered on Abimelech, a man who was marked by his "outsider" status as a son of a concubine. The author then skipped over the next two judges and focused instead on Jephthah, who, coincidentally, has the same problem. I am sensing a theme, people! I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but it is interesting that the author goes out of his way to highlight the illegitimate parentage of both judges. It is also interesting to see the different ways those judges react to the challenge of their parentage. Abimelech does not handle it well, to say the least. Jephthah, on the other hand, opts not to kill all of his father's legitimate sons on a rock, and instead just leaves. And yet, they both end up leading Israel. Again, I'm not sure what to make of that. All I know is that Jephthah sure did a better job than Abimelech!

Though, at the same time, I'm not sure if I can think of anything dumber than to vow to sacrifice whatever comes out of your door to God. Seriously, what did Jephthah think was going to come out of his door? Did he have a large amount of animals walking in and out that were prone to greet him upon arrival home? It seems to me that the daughter coming out first was not a freak occurrence. The chances that it would be a person were quite high. Again, what was he thinking?

Also, the text makes no mention of Jephthah's allegiance to Law. Maybe he wasn't totally against human sacrifices. Maybe he was just sad that it was his daughter, but not that it was a person per se. That's so weird to me. The most intriguing part is that God's Spirit was on this man in a powerful way (29)...and yet he was still an idiot. He makes that vow, after all, after God's Spirit came upon him (30-31). To me, that clearly shows how, despite the powerful presence of God's Spirit, "we" are still there. We can have God's Spirit with us and in us, and yet still struggle with our humanity, our limited intellect, our weaknesses. That is an interesting concept. In my life, I struggle with my chronic imperfection despite my daily pursuit of the Spirit. These verses suggest to me that, even with the Spirit, "I" will always be there, too. These verses also show me that I shouldn't write people off. Sometimes, I am tempted to think, "Well, if that person was really a Spirit-guided Christian, then they would do x, y, and z." And I'm not condoning willful sin or anything like that, but I'm just thinking of the (often sharp) differences of opinions that we have as Christians. Or the limitations with which we struggle. And I guess what I'm saying is, just because we don't all have our stuff together, it doesn't mean that the Spirit is not working in us and guiding us. I mean, look at Jephthah. The Spirit was definitely in him, and he still did idiotic things. So just because someone does something or thinks something that I think is ridiculous, it doesn't mean that they are not a serious Christian who is guided by God's Spirit.

I don't know. I'm not sure how much I can really apply the Jephthah story to today, but those were just some of the thoughts I had while reading it.

And lastly, the Ephraimites were just a rowdy bunch, weren't they? They were always itching for a fight, and if you didn't invite them to yours, then they would fight you. Jephthah didn't respond as well as Gideon did earlier, and they all ended up fighting. Really, Jephthah doesn't seem that great of a guy. He beats the heck out of Abimelech, for sure, but he is no Gideon (and Gideon was no Joshua). And it is extremely interesting and perplexing to me how the "judges" of late don't really seem to be godly in the least. I don't have developed thoughts about that to type now, though.

NT: John 1:1-28

I may have mentioned this before, but I once heard the authors of the gospels described as caricatures, and it was hilarious. Matthew was the Super Hebrew. Mark was Mr. Action. Luke was the nerd. And John was the hippie. "In the beginning was the Word, man. And the word was...with God. And the Word, like, was God." Deep, man:). And in Greek class, I quickly learned that John was by far the easiest to translate. He is definitely the Dr. Seuss of the gospel writers. Just read verses 1-5, and you'll see what I mean.

Seriously, though, I loooove John. It is a toss up b/t him and Luke as to who is my favorite. And John is deep. I wasn't just messing with him with my earlier statement. I have meditated on these opening verses so many times in my life. In fact, when I first specifically tried to practice the Christian art of meditation, and these are the verses I chose to think about. And when I even get close to wrapping my mind around them, they blow me away. We have the right to be children of God. Whoa.

I love the way John is simultaneously simple and deep. I love simple, true thoughts, and I love deep things put in clear ways where anyone can understand them. John is the master at that.

I also love John's Jesus. Jesus says amazingly wonderful things in John that you don't hear in the other gospels. The way, the truth, the life--that's John. Life to the full? John. He also says some amazing things on peace. And after the three synoptics, I am ready to have a fresh perspective on Jesus. John will give us that.

Psalms 101:1-8

I was thinking this earlier about the Spirit and Jephthah, but didn't get around to saying it, and it kind of fits in here. One thing that struck me about the Spirit working in Jephthah was that the Spirit of God is a powerful force that brings us victory over our enemies. And yet, in the evolution of the kingdom of God (?), our enemies have shifted. In the OT, the enemies of God's people were...other people. And as such, they had to kill them. But in the NT, Jesus ushers in a new era of loving your enemies. Paul elaborates on that philosophy by explaining that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). Strictly speaking, Christians do not fight other people; we fight evil and darkness. I think we often lose sight of that.

And one reason it is easy to get confused on that point is that there is a shift b/t the OT and NT. After all, David (yay! I finally got to the psalm) sounds so spiritual here (and he is), and yet he is also all about physically punishing the wicked (5-8). David adamantly says that he will "not endure" proud men, and yet, as NT Christians, we are supposed to love all people. I really think we have a different role than the one David claimed.

I love verses 2-3, though. "I will be careful to lead a blameless life--when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me." I like that David differentiates b/t the person and the deeds in that verse. And I also love his request for God to come to him, a sign of intimacy b/t them.

Proverbs 14:13-14

"Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief." I love how insightful the proverbs are to the nature of humanity.

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