OT: I Kings 20:1-21:29
So...turns out, I don't really understand God at all. At least, I feel that way right now. Often, as I type, I begin to work things out in my head.
But first of all...how awesome was the smack-talk session b/t Ben-Hadad and Ahab?? I thoroughly enjoyed that, and by the end, I was definitely wanting Ahab to kick some butt. My favorite were the last three exchanges:
Ben-Hadad: "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful."
Ahab: "Tell him: 'One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.'" (Boo-yah!)
Ben-Hadad: "Prepare to attack."
I was feeling conflicted for rooting so whole-heartedly for Ahab, but it turns out that God rooted for him, too! That was the first point that confused me, b/c it has been pretty clear that God thinks Ahab is a big loser....so why is He helping this guy?? Upon a bit more reflection, though, I guess God has to pick one or the other. And as bad as he is, Ahab does seem like the lesser of two evils.
After reading this, I can now be sure that God understands what I feel like when I vote.
So God gives the Israelites the victory twice. And then Ahab is merciful to Ben-Hadad. See, I would have thought that that was a good thing. Though of course, mercy to Israel's enemies has never been God's style. David definitely seemed to understand this, as he killed a great many of Israel's enemies. And perhaps God viewed Ahab's mercy to Ben-Hadad as selling out. Maybe by associating so closely with someone so immoral (e.g. calling him "brother" in verse 32) was a sign of Ahab's own immorality. I don't know. I just thought that God's reaction was weird.
I also thought it was weird how God chose to convey His reaction. For instance, why kill the guy who refused the prophet's inexplicable request to wound him?? Can we be a little less careless with life, please? And why did the prophet pull that whole charade? His tactic struck me as a much less effective "Nathan," though Ahab got the point. I'm not sure, however, that I got the point. According to the prophet, "This is what the Lord says, 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, you people for his people'" (20:42). Okay, so...shouldn't Ahab die now and the people be punished? When is that going to happen?
Ahab lives long enough to take Naboth's vineyard, prompting God to tell him again that He was going to kill him. This time, Ahab mourns, and because of his mourning, God decides to spare him and to pass the punishment to his son.
And about 0% of all that makes sense to me.
Ooh, today we got to read about the only person besides Abigail that the Bible describes as "intelligent."
But before that, we get a cool picture of the church at Antioch, which is apparently quite multicultural. For one, this is the church that reached out to Greeks as well as Jews. For another, I get the feeling that both Simeon and Lucius were African. Simeon's nickname was literally, "Black," and Cyrene was located in Libya (of course, Google just told me that it was a Greek colony, so that might not mean that Lucius was of African descent). Regardless, I am digging the diversity here.
Even more, I love how active the Holy Spirit is, how He guides the church specifically and sends them on missions. There was apparently a lot of worshipping, fasting, and praying going on, so that might be one reason that they are so in tune with God.
The intelligent man is Sergius Paulus, a proconsul who is very interested in the faith. When his attendant tried to dissuade him, Paul struck him temporarily blind. Needless to say, Sergius Paulus found this display of power quite convincing.
Next, Barnabas and Saul went to Pisidian Antioch. They visited the synagogue and the men asked them to speak. Somehow, I feel like this story is going to end in trouble for them.
Psalm 137: 1-9
In his book Mere Discipleship, Lee Camp talked about this psalm in a way that made sense to me, and I really wish I could remember exactly what he said, b/c it would be helpful. I know he discussed verse three, where the Babylonians force the Isralites to sing songs of Zion. The best I can remember is that Camp elaborated at length on the sorrow and heartache of the Israelites, which explained the emotionalism of that last verse about dashing infants against the rocks. What I clearly remember was Camp's position that that was not a godly response and that it was not meant to be understood as one.
"Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?" I liked that verse. It was amusing, and yet it also made a good point.