I feel that it is only responsible to tell you on the front end that I am essentially "phoning it in." I'm exhausted, so these are truly just my passing thoughts on various verses with very little reflection.
OT: I Kings 9:1-10:29
9:3-9--God gives Solomon a promise, but it is full of caveats. Its very wording shows how often God's "forever" promises are contingent on certain actions. For example, in verse 3, God says, "I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there." Later in the passage, though, God warns that if the people disobey Him, He "will reject this temple I have consecrated for my name...And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?'" To me, this way of communicating is unfamiliar to us b/c we have a different style. But I'm finding more and more that the formula, "Sweeping generalization, followed by major caveats that seem to contradict the original generalization," is pretty common in the Bible. I feel like I understand them better now, whereas they used to bother me.
9:16--Whoa, was Pharoah not cool with Solomon's marriage to his daughter?? Because Pharoah's wedding present was to capture an Israelite town, kill the inhabitants, and set it on fire. Oh, wait. I get it. Gezer wasn't an Israelite town; it was a Canaanite town. Pharoah killed all the Canaanites and then gave it to his daughter, and then Solomon rebuilt it. I'm sure they would have rather him not set it on fire....
Plus, that's a pretty brutal wedding gift!
9:21--The footnote for the word, "exterminate," was interesting: "The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them." Now, that is an interesting view of killing. I'm going to have to ponder that one. Apparently, the Israelites viewed the destruction of towns differently from how I'm viewing them.
9:25--Solomon "fulfilled the temple obligations," by offering sacrifices three times a year? That was in conjunction with the bi-daily sacrifices, though...right?
10:1-13--I would have loved to hear the conversation between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And for some reason, I was drawn to the phrase, "she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind" (2). I'm too tired to put my finger on why I like that so much, but I guess it is b/c I love deep, one-on-one talks about real things. The idea of talking to Solomon about all that is on my mind sounds wonderful:). Plus, I would love if someone answered all my questions!
NT: Acts 8:1-40
Wow, I didn't realize that the region from yesterday's reading was Samaria. That's pretty amazing, given the deep animosity b/t Jews and Samaritans. Here, it is treated like it's no big thing. First, Samaria "accepted the word of God," and secondly, the apostles and Jerusalem reacted by "sen[ding] Peter and John to them" (1). Apparently, the early church has already moved past some pretty deep ethnic divides. In fact, their evangelism to and acceptance of the Samaritans were way more impressive to me than Philip's conversion of an African. I'm not sure how Africans were treated by Jews (though they did force Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus' cross, so my guess is "not great"), but it could not have been as bad as they treated Samaritans. And I know that Jesus tried to help them get past that while He was on earth, but old habits die hard. So, I'm impressed.
Here's my big question of the day: When did the early church put together that Jesus died for their sins? So far, Peter's speeches have explained Christ's death and resurrection as a phenomenon that happened in order to fulfill the prophecies that the Christ must suffer. He hasn't yet mentioned that Jesus was an atoning sacrifice, or anything like that. No one has verbalized that Christ was punished in place of us, or that He died in our stead. They simply say that He was killed, and that He rose from the grave. And I'm trying to decide whether today's reading is the first instance of an awareness of that atoning sacrifice. After all, the passage the Ethiopian was reading also contains verses that say:
"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities,
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds, we were healed" (Is. 53: too tired to look it up).
That part is not quoted in Acts, but it does say that Philip began with that passage. I wonder if he used the whole passage, and if this is thus the first indication that Christ's atoning sacrifice was common knowledge. If so, I wonder why Peter didn't mention that fact in the sermon at Pentecost.
I like the highlighted verses today:
"If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
therefore you are feared" (3-4).
I love those verses for the obvious themes of forgiveness and mercy, but I am especially fascinated by that last part. God is feared because of his forgiveness? I tend to fear God b/c I'm scared He won't forgive me. It is interesting to think of His mercy as a reason to fear Him. And I know that fear means more of "reverential awe," than, "holy terror," but still. It just seems like a weird reaction.
"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart." I love it. But I've got to say, it's this kind of verse that makes me fear God. To borrow an image from the psalm, who can stand before a God who tests our hearts? Whose heart is righteous enough to pass that test? I guess that's why verses about His mercy are so reassuring!