Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16

OT: I Kings 15:25-17:24

Whew! Today, we went through a slew of kings in Israel: Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab. Here were my observations on the kings:

--Due to the wickedness of the kings, there is no royal line established for any length of time. Jeroboam's lineage lasted only through his son, Nadab. Baasha was unrelated, and killed off Jeroboam's family. Then Baasha's son, Elah, became king, only to be murdered two years later by the unrelated Zimri. Zimri's reign only lasted seven days, when he was attacked by Omri and thus burnt down the palace around himself. That was quite dramatic. Omri proved to be the worst king of all, surpassed only by his son, Ahab. So far, no royal line in Israel has lasted past two generations.

--I thought it was cool to read how Asa's reign continued through all of these falling dominoes of Israelite kings. Each time a new king of Israel is introduced, the text dates the reign by noting in which year of Asa's reign it happened. Thus, this passage definitely paints a dramatic picture of the righteous standing firm while the wicked topple.

--I also noted that Samaria was founded in today's passage. It was built by Omri on a hill he bought. I hope we get some more of this city's fascinating history as the Old Testament unfolds. At one point, for example, did the Samaritans become outcasts? I hope the Bible tells us!

--Of all the stories in today's reading, I was most familiar with Elijah's. Indeed, the strongest images I have of Elijah are of him being fed by ravens in the Kerith Ravine and then living with the widow of Zarephath and her son. What I found odd about reading the story is what little introduction we actually get to Elijah before these stories. In my foggy mental history of Elijah, I pictured these stories somewhere in the middle of his tenure as a prophet. But no, we just hear that he is "Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishba in Gilead," and that he tells Ahab that there will be no rain. How old is Elijah? How long has he been a prophet? How does he know Ahab? How long has he been prophesying to Ahab? I really feel like I need more background!

NT: Acts 10: 23B-48

I liked Peter's response to Cornelius' bowing: "Stand up, I am only a man myself" (26). On the one hand, I could see Peter delivering that line brusquely. I'm still not sure how sold he is emotionally on entering a Gentile's house, and perhaps he found Cornelius' gesture awkward and offensive. At the same time, I love the idea of being sure to give all glory to God and to avoid any semblance of others worshiping you. As John the Baptist said, "He must become greater; I must become less." Like John and Peter, we Christians are always supposed to point away from ourselves and toward God.

I also liked Peter's words in our highlighted verses for the day: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right" (34-35). I found myself drawn to the phrase, "I now realize how true it is..." There are so many things that I "know" in my head, but it is not until something happens that I really know them, if that makes sense. Like, I have always "known" that God is faithful. But then when He specifically provides for me in profound ways, I know it. I've always "known" that God intervenes in the lives of men, but it was not until He intervened in my own life in powerful ways that I really knew it. I think that Peter has always "known" in his head that God does not show favoritism, but it was not until this powerful experience that he truly knew it.

Also, I am now reading with interest the renditions of the gospel given by the early evangelists. I want to see specifically when Christ's atoning sacrifice begins being relayed. Today, the core message of the gospel is that "Jesus Christ died for our sins." And yet, we haven't heard that so far. Even today, when Peter relays the gospel to the Gentiles he only mentions the following: 1) Jesus was a powerful and Spirit-filled man anointed by God, who did good and healed people, 2) He died on a cross, 3) He was rose from the dead, and 4) He commanded his followers to preach that "he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead" (32). Verse 43 says, "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name," but that verse still does not say that our forgiveness comes from his death or the sacrifice that He made. It just says that forgiveness comes through Jesus' name. And I guess that that is not a new idea. Jesus did explicitly forgive sins when he was alive, and Peter has preached that repenting and being baptized in Jesus' name will bring forgiveness of sins. But he has still not said that it was Jesus' death that did that. I find that omission so interesting, and I really hope that we see the shift when it happens. I am guessing that it comes with Paul, b/c I remember most of that theology in Paul's letters.

Lastly, as a member of a church that believes in the importance of baptism and that teaches that Christians receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized, I have heard the case of this Gentile audience cited as an example of people who received the Spirit without being baptized. Now, I don't claim to have all the answers regarding God's Spirit and baptism, but it does seem clear to me that this is a special case, a landmark event. The Spirit's presence among these Gentiles made it clear that they should be baptized, which then opened the door for other Gentiles to become Christians without first converting to Judaism.

Psalm 134:1-3

A short and sweet poem, exhorting the priests to praise.

Proverbs 17: 9-11

I love, love, love verse 17: "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." If that is not a powerful indictment of gossip, I don't know what is.

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