Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15

OT: I Kings 14:1-15:24

Okay, so...so far in Israel, we have Jeroboam-Nadab.

In Judah, we have Rehoboam-Abijah-Asa-Jehoshaphat.

To complicate matters, Jeroboam also had a son named Abijah, whose illness and death is the subject of our first story today. To me, the most interesting part of this story was the prophet, Ahijah's, words regarding Abijah (and could all their names sound the same, please?): "When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good" (12b-13). Oddly, the prophet describes Abijah's death as a kind of reward for his relative goodness. While that idea is bizarre to a worldly perspective, it makes much more sense from a Biblical perspective. The Bible ultimately teaches that death is not the enemy, an idea that is so profound to our life-loving selves that even the great majority of OT'ers totally did not get it. By the NT, Christians are beginning to catch on, which is why they face death so fearlessly, and why Paul can say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). From the Biblical perspective of death, the idea that God would give the one good son a proper death and burial makes more sense. Though death is often used by God as punishment (and this one, too, did have an element of punishment), there is definitely a deeper layer to the meaning of death. That is why I am ultimately okay with the seemingly arbitrary deaths of Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah. I realize that death is only a beginning and that it does not equal eternal punishment.

Like Jeroboam, Rehoboam was a loser, and in the fifth year of his reign, he even lost much of the treasures of the temple and royal palace (14:25-26). In a move that had unfortunate symbolic undertones, Rehoboam was forced to replace his father's gold shields with bronze ones. Like those shields, his kingdom, of course, had also seriously degraded even from the reign of imperfect Solomon.

Luckily, he was replaced by Asa who was a good guy.

Lastly, whenever I read the references to "the annals of the kings" (14:19, 29, 15:7, 23), I am reminded of my mom's reaction the first time we read through the Bible. She said, "Aren't you glad we don't have to read those books, too?" That's still funny to me:).

NT: Acts 10: 1-23A

First of all, how weird is it that they split a verse today?

Today we meet Cornelius, the Jackie Robinson of the early church. Cornelius was the first Gentile member to be allowed into the church, which is absolutely huge, considering that the vast majority of Christians today are Gentiles. In fact, it is always a bit disorienting when I realize (yet again) that the history I have read up to this point does not include me. Until Cornelius' conversion, I would not have been allowed into the church without first converting to Judaism. That is so crazy to me, especially because I still consider the Israelites to be my brothers, or more accurately, my fathers in the faith. As a Christian, their history is my history; it is the history of the God I serve and the people He loves.

Anyway, like most famous "firsts," Cornelius was an exceptional person. He was the overachiever who opened the door for the rest of us. First of all, he was a centurion, a man of high military rank. Not that that part mattered to the Jews--they tended to hate Roman officials. Secondly, though, Cornelius "and his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly" (2). I find it interesting that Cornelius was already a very spiritual person who pleased God, even though he wasn't a Christian. That idea comforts me, and it shows me a specific example of a person from a different background seeking God with all his heart. When he did that, Cornelius found Him.

I always love laughing at Peter's intransigence in his dream, yet honestly, I can understand his stubbornness. He probably thought God was just testing him, like when Jesus asked him three times, "Do you love me?" He answered the same thing every time then, too. I can see Peter thinking, "Even though I'm really hungry, I'm NOT going to fall into this trap! God will be so proud of me for standing firm!" Poor Peter. His worldview was about to receive a major shift.

Psalm 133:1-3

I LOVE verses 1-2:

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron's beard,
down upon the collar of his robe."

Even though I don't exactly understand the imagery, I think it is pretty profound. Aaron was the first priest, and wasn't the oil supposed to, like, consecrate him as priest? To take that idea in conjunction with this verse, and to wed them both to Jesus' prayer for unity, is our unity what consecrates us as Christians? Jesus says that the world will know Him by our love for each other. And so when we live together in unity, there is that idea of us being consecrated as priests, taking God's message to the world.

I have no idea if any of those musings are accurate, but if nothing else, I like the imagery of abundance here, of overflowing. Simply put, brothers living in unity is an overflowing blessing, like oil being liberally poured on the head.

Proverbs 17:7-8

Verse 7 condemns arrogant and lying lips, but verse 8 seems to praise bribes. Weird.

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