OT: Judges 17:1-18:31
Oh my. Is the author of Judges just trying to pick out the bleakest stories, or is this how all of Israel is living?
First of all, if Micah and the Danites are any indication, the people have totally lost sight of God. They are adrift. The Law is what anchored them, what revealed to them God's identity and His will. Clearly, the Law is no longer in play. These people are totally Lawless. And as such, they remake God in the image of the surrounding culture. I think it is noteworthy that Micah and the Danites did not worship false gods like Baal or Asherah. No, they claimed to worship the Lord. And yet, they did so through the use of idols, which is totally abhorrent to God.
I definitely think that Micah and the Danites are not unique in the way that they succumbed to the cultural influences around them. Even today, when we are not firmly rooted in Scripture and in a Spirit-led church, we can easily become unmoored. I am reminded of the rise of the "health and wealth gospel," which took hold in the early 1900's. Basically, the health and wealth gospel says that God wants you to be rich and comfortable. Not surprisingly, it caught on quickly. During that time, a man named Richard Conwell delivered a sermon called "Acres of Diamonds" about 5,000 times. He and his sermon became enormously famous and popular. Here is an excerpt:
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is our duty to get rich. How many of my pious brethren say to me, “Do you, a Christian minister, spend your time going up and down the country advising young people to get rich, to get money?” “Yes, of course I do.” They say, “Isn’t that awful! Why don’t you preach the gospel instead of preaching about man’s making money?” “Because to make money honestly is to preach the gospel.”
Even today, though, Christians fall into the trap of thinking that God's goal for us is to happy or rich or comfortable. We remake God in the image of our culture. As with Micah and the Danites, the situation is particularly tricky b/c we never think we "leave" God. And yet, what we are worshiping is not actually the God of the Bible.
That idea always humbles and sobers me. I want to pursue the true God, not an idol distorted by my own sinfulness.
Lastly, I was a little confused by the fact that the Danites didn't yet have an inheritance, when Joshua 19:40-48 seems to indicate they did. The text does note that they had some trouble, so maybe things went south and they were eventually dislodged.
NT: John 3:1-21
I've gotta say, the Pharisees get a bad rap and all, but when I compare the religious culture of Jesus' day to the religious culture of the time of the Judges, Jerusalem AD 30 is looking great. The people study and follow the Law; they take it seriously; they base their culture around it. And yet, they still missed God when He came and lived among them. If anything, that is a more sobering example than Micah and the Danites. I'm not Lawless like Micah and co. I have the Bible and seek to follow it. And yet, the Pharisees show me that it is possible to love Scripture and still miss God.
So let's see. On one side, I have to remember not to let my cultural background distort my view of God. On the other hand, I have to remember not to let my love for Scripture devolve into pride and legalism. I'm telling you, it is hard being a sinful human. I have a fine line to walk, don't I? I guess that's why I need the Spirit's power and wisdom every single day.
I do love that there were Pharisees who searched for the truth. I'm even okay with Nicodemus coming to Jesus secretly. He wasn't ready to make a stand yet; he didn't know what he thought. He just knew that Jesus had a power that he couldn't deny, and thus, it behooved him to investigate the source of that power, even if his Pharisaical brethren disagreed. I like that.
And I must say, I always think of John's Jesus as being warm and fuzzy, but in a lot of ways, he is pretty harsh. He fusses at Nicodemus for not understanding His esoteric statements and refers to the Pharisees as "you people" (11). And in that verse, He kind of chastises Nicodemus for the sins of the whole group, even though Nic isn't acting like that. But then Jesus goes on to break it down nice and clear for Nic, and I like that part. Of course, John 3:16 is iconic, but I am a sucker for the light and dark imagery of verses 19-21: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light...But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." I LOVE the image of "coming into the light." I also love the idea of our deeds being clearly seen as God-powered. That's honestly how I feel about this blog. When I first started writing it, I kind of panicked at how long it took every day. But when I made it through January, I started praying that God would let me finish the year without missing a day. If I did that, it would be clear that it was through God's power that I made it. I simply don't have that type of consistency, nor do I have the control over my circumstances that would ensure the possibility of daily typing. I hope that people around me see that whatever good I do comes from God. I know that those who get to know me realize that I am simply not that good of a person! Clearly, if I live a righteous life, you know the Spirit is involved in a big way!
Psalm 104: 1-23
I think the praise song, "How Great is Our God," is based on the beginning of this psalm, which is cool. I love that the psalmists take time to praise the wonders of God that might normally go unnoticed, like his provision to the birds (12). I also loved verse 15, which lists some of God's physical blessings: "wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil that makes his face shine, and bread that gladdens the heart." I'm not a drinker, but I love that this verse shows an understanding of how physical blessings can also be emotional blessings. I love good food and drink, and they really do gladden my heart:). And while oil would cause my face to majorly break out, I do appreciate some good make up. Looking good makes you feel good. I like that the psalmist understands that, and that he seems to think that's okay. We aren't supposed to live for pleasure, but it seems okay to honestly enjoy the physical blessings that God gives us. And we should always remember to thank Him for them.
It's funny: verse 20 seems to be a bit anti-poor, but verse 21 clarifies that people should be kind to the poor. I'm glad those verses came together. In light of verse 21, verse 20 just seems to be stating a fact. It doesn't say that the poor should be shunned and that the rich should have many friends; it just says that that is usually the case.