OT: 2 Sam. 20:14-22:20
I must say, I was a fan of the "wise woman" in Abel Beth Maacah. The only time that I 100% endorse violence without any qualms is when it is the only thing to stop even more violence. Human life has great value, and to me, the only time you can weigh it with any accuracy is when you weigh amount v. amount. For example, one life is sacred and precious. But, all things being equal, three lives are even more sacred and precious. So to sacrifice one life for the sake of three is a worthy sacrifice. Thus, to sacrifice one man (Sheba, who was also the one who caused the trouble in the first place) for the sake of a city is a great deal, if you ask me. I applaud this woman's tenacity.
On the other hand, I had so many "buts" and "why's" when I read the story of the famine in Israel. After three years of famine, David learned from God that the famine was God's punishment for Saul's treatment of the Gibeonites. Thus, David went to make reparations to said Gibeonites, and they demanded the deaths of seven of Saul's male descendants. David complied, and the famine stopped.
Here are my "buts" to the story:
--But the Gibeonites are only still "with us" because they tricked Joshua in the first place (Joshua 9).
--But Saul thought he was doing the right thing by killing them (21:2).
--But those seven men hadn't done anything wrong!
Here are my "why's":
--Why did God just now get around to punishing Israel for that?
--Why was He cool with the sacrifice of innocent life?
And now, I will attempt to address my "buts" and "why's."
An oath is an oath is an oath. Joshua swore an oath to the Gibeonites, and apparently, that means Israel must always keep that oath. In and of itself, fidelity to oaths is not bad. Also, the best intentions in the world don't make a wrong thing right. And looking more closely at the text, I'm not even sure Saul had the best intentions. He wasn't killing the Gibeonites for God; he was doing it out of "zeal for Israel and Judah." This story thus shows the danger of blind nationalism. For one thing, it can end up hurting the very nation you are trying to advance. And lastly, the theme of the innocent suffering for the guilty, especially when the guilty happen to be their parents, is pretty common in Scripture and in life. Several times, God has cursed a man and his descendants, and several times, whole families are punished for the sins of the father. In fact, the deaths of Saul's seven descendants could be an enactment of one of God's curses on Saul, given through Samuel. I'm not saying I'm cool with the idea; I hate when children suffer for the sins of the father. I'm just saying that this story does not present a new problem.
As far as the timing goes, I have no idea.
Lastly, at the end of this passage, we have another song by David. This one is much more in line with the psalms, artistically speaking.
NT: Acts 1:1-26
Wow, we are out of the Gospels. I loved reading them, but I am also excited for something new.
We can safely assume that Luke wrote Acts for a lot of reasons (scholars actually start with the theory that Luke wrote Acts and use that to link his authorship to his Gospel). I won't revisit those reasons here, but if anyone is interested, I can elaborate.
The content in this first chapter was all really familiar, and so the main thing that struck me was the stylistic difference between Acts and John. Acts reads so much more like a typical history, as opposed to John, which reads...well, I'm not sure what John reads like. It is the author's own unique creation, I guess!
I also thought it was interesting to get a window into that brief time between Jesus' ascension and the coming of the Spirit. In chapter 1, Jesus' followers are without His physical presence or His Spirit. In that gap, the way they spend their time is in prayer. In fact, verse 14 says that they joined together constantly in prayer. Whenever I feel like I am lacking God's Spirit in my life, prayer is the number 1 thing that helps me. However, I notice that the disciples did not pray individually, as I tend to do. No, they joined together collectively on a constant basis. I wonder if I should do more of that with my brothers and sisters.
I also liked that Peter really takes the reins in this chapter. I have a soft spot for fumbling, bumbling Peter, even over "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Peter was full of passion and potential, and in Acts, he really comes into his own. His first order of business is to help Jesus' followers process and understand Judas' betrayal. He even refers to a few psalms, Spirit-free, which I think is impressive. The followers take Peter's advice and cast lots for Judas' replacement. The lot falls to Matthias. I also enjoyed the window into the larger group of Jesus' disciples. The Gospels really focus on the twelve, but Acts reminds us that Jesus was part of a larger network, as well.
Verse 1-2 are quoted in a song that plays on Christian radio, but I can't remember which one. I only remember the part where the psalm is quoted.
This psalm is all about how God watches over us.
Today's proverb is quite famous: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."