Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17

OT: Neh. 12:27-13:31

If I could sum up today's reading in one word, it would be "harsh."

After dedicating the wall and reading the Law aloud, Nehemiah describes some of his efforts to make the Israelites follow the Law. Here are some of his initiatives:

Initiative 1: Expel all foreigners from Israel (Neh. 13:1-3). (Well, actually, this wasn't just Nehemiah. It was all the people). First of all, I looked up the verse that inspired them, and it was Deut. 23:3, which says, " No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation." Okay, fair enough. But to expel all foreigners? The Law clearly allows for foreigners to be a part of Israel! It repeatedly tells Israel to be kind to foreigners. This clearly seems like an example where zeal for the Law pushed the people too far.

Initiative 2: Throw Tobiah out of the room Eliashib gave him (13:4-9). You don't rent out God's rooms, or even give them away from free. I can see where Nehemiah is coming from on this one.

Initiative 3: Make sure the Levites and singers get their portions (13:10-13). Good job.

Initiative 4: Stop people from selling goods on the Sabbath (13:15-22). This involved rebuking them, locking the gates to the city, posting guards, and threatening bodily harm. Nehemiah got harsh at the end, but he made his point.

Initiative 5: Stopping the intermarriage with foreigners (13:23-28). Nehemiah didn't just threaten bodily harm here; he inflicted it. He "beat some of the men [who had intermarried] and pulled out their hair" (25b). He also drove an offending high priest away from him (28). Hmmmm. Now, I'm not really down with beating and hair-pulling, so this strikes me as "too far." But then again, Jesus went at the money lenders in the temple with a whip. And His disciples remembered that it was written that "zeal for your house will consume me." I guess you could say that Nehemiah had zeal for God's house.

So...what to think of Nehemiah's tactics? Clearly, he thinks we should regard them as positive. He even asks God specifically to remember these things that he has done (13: 14, 22, 29, 31). And I guess that they are good (minus the first one)--again, they just seem pretty harsh.

NT: 1 Cor. 11: 3-16

Ah yes. Here is the offensive Paul that I know and love. When I was fifteen, his words in this passage inspired a torrent of indignation in my journal, let me tell you. Man, and not Christ, is the head of woman? Woman is the glory of man? Woman was created for man?

I was not amused.

And I'm not going to lie: those statements, by themselves, still carry a bit of a sting. But, as my One Year Bible is so eager to point out, Paul does relent and speak with some reciprocity. Our highlighted verses for today are verses 11-12: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God."

Thank you.

And lest we forget, these words do not form an independent treatise on gender roles; rather, they are part of an argument for the importance of head coverings. Apparently, women should cover their heads when they pray and prophesy. And in case you were wondering, I do not cover my head when I pray or prophesy. And actually, I don't prophesy.

So...why don't I cover my head when I pray?

Well, I've been told two things. One, I've been told that long hair is a woman's covering. Paul seems to say as much in verse 15: "For long hair is given to her as a covering." But not so fast. In verse 6, he says, "If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off." So...if hair is the covering, then that verse could be reworded like this: "If a woman does not have long hair, she should have her hair cut off." Huh? That doesn't make sense. It really does seem like Paul is talking about a separate hair covering.

And even if he's not, there are a lot of women with short hair nowadays. My pappaw says they are wrong to have short hair. Is he correct? This brings me to the second thing I've heard. I have heard that head coverings were a cultural thing, b/c the only women who didn't cover their heads in those days were prostitutes. And okay, whatever. I'll go with that.

But remember this discussion. I'm going to refer back to it when we get to the whole "women should be silent" bit, and thinking about the reasons I've heard that that passage is applicable. We'll see if the logic holds up:).

Psalm 35: 1-16

Since I'm looking for harshness to complete my theme, David is a bit harsh in this psalm as he begs for God to wreak vengeance on his enemies. To his defense, though, his enemies are really mean.

Proverbs 21: 17-18

The first talks about how loving pleasure will make you poor. I have no idea what the second one means. But it sounds harsh (oh, okay. It doesn't. So much for my theme:)).

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