OT: Neh. 7:61-9:21
We finished up the list of exiles that was started yesterday, and then moved on to the reading of the Law to all the people. Ezra stood up and read all morning to the people, and apparently, there was also a fair amount of translating and interpretation going on, as well (8). The result of this long public reading and explanation was that the people wept. Why did they weep? Were they overwhelmed by how much they fell short...or overwhelmed by the heavy burden that was being placed on them? I'm not going to lie: if I heard the whole Law at once and was told that I had to follow it, I would probably weep, too. It is just a lot to take in.
The priests, however, told them to celebrate, not to weep. They told the people to eat and drink, and to share their meals with those who did not have any. I feel like there is something symbolic there, but I am too tired to piece it together.
Apparently, the priests' advice, together with the good food, really lifted the people's spirits. The very next day (8:2, 13), they celebrated the festival of the booths (I think that's what it's called). I kind of got the impression that the people didn't have much of an idea what they were doing--but what they lacked in experience, they made up for in enthusiasm! For seven days, they lived in their booths, celebrated, and listened to Ezra read from the Law (8:16-18). Then, a couple weeks after that (9:1), they gathered together and repented of their sins. During this time, some of the Levites took the opportunity to recite some of Israel's history.
Again, I feel like there is a lot of symbolism in, not to mention lessons to be abstracted from, the Israelites' behavior, but I am too tired to make any applications. All I can say is that I felt a kind of kinship with them as they sought God as best they could. I admired their passion and their earnestness, and I hope to always share in that spirit.
NT: 1 Cor. 9:1-18
I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea that Greg is a paid minister. I love that he is able to dedicate his whole life to his passion of serving the church, and like him, I am fully committed to that task. In an ideal world, though, I think that Greg would get to do all this without relying on the church for income. To me, it just seems like a healthier relationship when it is done voluntarily and out of passion. Yet, here in the real world, if Greg got another job, then he wouldn't have nearly the amount of time to serve the church. Unless we were just independently wealthy or could afford to live on a part time salary (yeah....), it's not going to happen.
Reading this passage, though, shows me that it is not unhealthy to get a living from the church. Quite the contrary: Paul asserts that it is wholly acceptable, even to be expected. He even calls it a "right," and he spends a lot of verses giving various analogies to explain why it is so acceptable. Yet, he chooses not to use this right (12). And the reason is that he does not want to hinder the gospel of Christ in any way. Like I said, I think that, ideally, I'd want to follow the example of Paul. And yet, realistically, there is no way that Greg or I could pull in enough income and still do all that we are driven to do for the church and our family, respectively.
Win we win the lottery, though, we will totally work for free.
Of course, that means we would have to start actually playing the lottery:).
I was also intrigued by the idea that Paul thought that he was put in this world to preach. In his words, he is "compelled to preach" (16). For him, bragging is out of the question, b/c he is not going above and beyond by preaching the gospel; he is "simply discharging the trust committed to" him (17). I feel that way about certain things. I believe that there are certain things that I was put on this earth to do, that I am "compelled" to do. And though an outsider would think I had no obligation to do them, I know that they are what God wants me to do. And so, in doing them, I am not doing anything special. I am merely using the "talent" that the Master gave me to invest. In doing those tasks, I am merely doing my duty.
Psalm 33: 12-22
This psalm is a good reminder that a nation's fate is in God's hands, and not in its own.
The first proverb states that it is easier for the wise to gain wisdom than fools, and the second notes God's displeasure with the wicked.