Monday, June 7, 2010

June 8

OT: I Kings 3:4-4:34

Today, God tells Solomon to ask for whatever he wants, and Solomon asks for wisdom. I particularly like the wording of the request: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (3:9). God is pleased with this request and says He will also give Solomon riches and honor. Next, Solomon settles a dispute between two prostitutes involving a baby. I have to admit, I had no recollection of the two women being prostitutes. I guess my Sunday school teachers decided not to add that detail in their retelling of the story, though I am sure I have read the actual text at least once (and I would think several times). Anyway, that detail jumped out at me today. It actually makes the story make more sense, since it explains why two women would be living together without husbands. It also makes you wonder about those babies’ upbringings. I just paused in my typing to reflect on those babies’ lot in life, from everything to their early childcare arrangements to their future prospects. Of course, one of them died in infancy, which is the cause of the dispute.

It kind of strikes me as odd that this case would make it before the king. No one involved has any status whatsoever. Both the plaintiff and the defendant have two strikes against them, being that they are women and prostitutes, and it is not like children (especially illegitimate ones) enjoyed any special privileges in that day. But here they are, arguing for this baby’s life. It always kills me how the woman who is not the mother is perfectly willing to let the baby die. I understand that she must be in a LOT of pain from the death of her own child, but to me, her callousness reflects something deeply broken in the human condition. Thankfully, though, her cold-heartedness leads to the baby being returned to his rightful mother.

Three more small things: 1) I noticed another Shimei in 4:18. So maybe the Shimei that rallied to David earlier wasn’t the same Shimei who cursed him. Apparently, that’s a pretty common name. 2) Verse 4:20 describes the lot of the people under Solomon’s (early?) rule: “they ate, they drank, and they were happy.” I’m pretty sure that word formation makes an appearance in Ecclesiastes, and I just thought that was interesting. I feel like if I knew Ecclesiastes better, and if I were in a more reflective frame of mind, I could analyze that description from a philosophical angle. 3) Apparently, Solomon was a bit of a scientist. Verse 4: 33 says that he “described plant life” and “taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.”

Acts 6: 1-15

I have always found the beginning of this chapter fascinating, b/c it gives yet another inside peek at what the early church looked like. By chapter 6, the church is getting big enough that they are beginning to have logistical difficulties. The problem is that the Grecian Jews feel that their widows are “being overlooked in the daily distribution of food” (1). Thus, the apostles delegate seven men to take care of the food distribution. There are several aspects of both the problem and the solution that are fascinating to me. One, the church felt a responsibility to provide daily food for all its needy widows. They literally provided complete sustenance to many of their members. Second, this is the first instance of a rift in the brotherhood. Up to this point, everything has been hunky-dory, but now, sectional animosity is beginning to creep in. I say “sectional” b/c I’m not sure about the difference between Grecian Jews and Hebraic Jews, but it seems like some sort of ethnic thing (I’m guessing one of the two is from Greece). I know that Jew/Gentile rivalries will eventually get bloody (though this will happen after the NT is written), so it is a little ominous to see any kind of tribal fissure in the church. Third, this passage shows the value in delegating. And fourth, it really gives a clear idea of the church’s priorities and how they relate to each other. To the Twelve, preaching the Gospel is the first priority. Feeding people is the second. That is interesting to me b/c I think that the “emergent” church tends to get that confused. (I retyped that sentence about five times and finally settled on “’emergent’ church.” One, b/c that’s the name of a popular movement in the church today, and two, because this church is literally, currently emerging, and is looking to be future of Christianity.) The emergent movement tends to focus on physically helping people, and I am SO all for that. I feel strongly that helping the poor has been sorely overlooked by the church in the past. At the same time, I want to remember that our ultimate goal is to preach the gospel. To me, the only way that you can effectively preach the gospel is through active love, such as through feeding and clothing people. But feeding and clothing are NOT ends to themselves. Rather, they are ways to point people to the God who loves them.

Psalm 126: 1-6

I am becoming more and more curious as to the timeline of the psalms. When were all these written? Clearly, many of the ones written by David are easily dateable, but what about these later ones that refer to captivity? Is this psalm about the Assyrian, or the Babylonian captivity? Exactly how far apart, chronologically speaking, do the psalms range?

Proverbs 16: 26-27

I liked the practicality of verse 26: “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” It kind of has a “silver lining” quality to it. It shows the good side of hunger, that it can be a motivating force. I can see how you could apply that principle to all kinds of negative circumstances.

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