OT: 2 Sam. 18:1-19:10
Today, the civil war ends, as Absalom is killed by Joab, after getting his hair caught in a tree. Joab's actions here show him to be a practical, yet ruthless guy. I mean, Absalom really has to die, doesn't he? He wants to be king; he wants to kill his father; and he is quite close to succeeding. Is there ever a time period or a country where such a man would be allowed to live? It kind of seems like Joab does what has to be done.
Needless to say, though, David is not a fan of this action. His cries when he hears the news are among the more heart-wrenching of those in Scripture: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you--O Absalom, my son, my son!" I remember my preacher reading these verses in one of his first sermons after his thirteen year old daughter had died suddenly and tragically. He talked about how much he related to David's words, and I remember my 17-year-old self crying along with David and Mr. Rob.
I get so caught up in David's sorrow that I am always unprepared for Joab's (verbal) slap in the face and his rather harsh, "Pull yourself together" speech. Again, though, Joab makes sense. The man is nothing if not practical. David has a kingdom to consider, and an army to lead and maintain. He has got to quit weeping for his enemy. That's sad, but again, I see what Joab is saying.
Random question: Verse 18:8 says, "The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword." What on earth does that mean?
NT: John 20:1-31
Oddly, both our OT and NT readings today contain tales of one man outrunning another. Both tales are similar to me in that I find their inclusion in Scripture to be pretty bizarre.
The story of Jesus talking to Mary, and particularly the question, "Woman, why are you crying?" has sentimental value to me, but I won't go into the whole thing now. I will just say that I love that interchange and that I can totally relate to the experience of not being able to see the God that is right in front of me. And when you do recognize Him, as Mary did, it is a wonderful experience.
I was pretty confused a few verses later, though, when Jesus gives His disciples the Holy Spirit and tells them, "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive the, they are not forgiven." What? How do the disciples have the authority to forgive sins, or even more importantly, to withhold forgiveness of sins? Is it just because they have the Holy Spirit? Because I have the Holy Spirit, and I certainly don't believe I have that authority. This, to me, sounds like another example of something the Catholics apply more literally than we do. Don't Catholic priests have the authority to forgive sins? I need to ask my neighbor.
I think I have either heard or read that, due to verses 30-31, this was considered to be the original ending of John, and that the rest was added later. Of course, I have no idea if that is true. I think the main argument is the conclusive nature of those last two verses.
Psalm 119: 153-176
Love for God's word is a primary theme in this chapter, obviously. The psalmist's suffering is a somewhat smaller theme. And a third, even smaller theme is the psalmist's contempt for those who do not follow God's Law. I have seen it in several of the stanzas, but today it especially jumped out at me, for some reason. Looking back, the theme is only explicitly in verse 158, but that verse is just so jarring: "I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word." Well. I don't know what God thought about that with OT people, but Jesus does not seem to be of that mind, to say the least.
Two more proverbs about kings, both of which seem more like observations than pieces of advice.