Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29

OT: Job 31:1-33:33

Job continues his long, increasingly emotional speech by dwelling on the various aspects of his personal righteousness. He spends most of his words today trying to fully establish that he has done nothing--nothing--wrong. Some of his words seem a little over-the-top:

"If I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless--
but from my youth I reared him as would a father,
and from my birth I guided the widow--" (31:17-18).

As a child, Job raised orphans? From his birth, he guided the widow? Huh? You could argue that Job is simply using a bit of poetic license here, but that at least raises the question of how much of this whole speech is poetic license? Was Job really that righteous? Is that even possible? Hmmm. I could follow this trail of bread crumbs, but I sense it leading me to some highly debatable territory, so I am going to move on.

I did think it was interesting that his three friends finally stopped responding, not b/c they had decided that Job was, in fact, righteous, but that "he was righteous in his own eyes" (32:1). Truly, there is not much to say to a man who is that righteous in his own eyes!

However, a young onlooker named Elihu does finally speak up. After spending 22 verses explaining that he was about to speak (32:6-33:5), he finally gets to it. Unfortunately, his inexperience shows through his words, as much of what he says has kind of a rambling incoherence to it. I did like the heart of his defense of God:

"For God does speak--now one way, now another--
though man may not perceive it" (33:14).

His two examples of God speaking are through dreams and through suffering. I would add that God speaks through nature, through circumstances, through other people, through the Bible...basically through anything. As a Christian, much of my faith rests on the idea that God speaks to us humans. And as Jesus said, "He who has ears, let him hear!"

NT: 2 Corinthians 3:1-18

It's kind of weird: these past few days, I have had no idea what Paul is talking about. I mean, I get the individual ideas, but I am not picking up on the flow of the letter. Maybe it is because I have just been reading such a little bit at a time, but this letter is just not working for me this time around.

I do like some of the ideas, though. In today's reading, for example, I love the idea that people are to be the result of our work, not accolades or praise. Changed lives are the end to which we labor. In light of that reality, Paul eschews the need for a letter of recommendation, saying, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2-3). I loved those lines even before I became a minister's wife, but they are even dearer to me now. After nine years serving with Greg in youth ministry, I have so many teens in my heart. When I think of whether I have done anything of worth in these past nine years, I inevitably think of them.

Another reason that makes this letter a bit hard to follow is that it is apparently the letter of flowing metaphors. The metaphor of tablets of stone continues in a different way in verse 7, in which it represents the old Law. In this new metaphor, the glory of God through the old covenant is contrasted with the increased glory that must come from the new, superior covenant. The recipient of the old covenant, Moses, was so filled with glory that he put a veil over his face to keep people from staring at him (7). In this new covenant, we have even more glory from God, and yet we are so bold as to refuse to wear a veil to hide this glory (12-13). But wait! The veil then flows into yet another metaphor, b/c the Jews still have a "veil" over their hearts when the old covenant is read. And so, "whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (16). Paul then ties the subsequent freedom from the veil removal back into his first veil metaphor, concluding, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit" (18). I love that verse, and as convoluted as Paul's metaphor(s) are here, I do like the section as a whole.

Psalm 43:1-5

David is in the dumps and pleads to God to lift him up.

Proverbs 22:8-9

One against wickedness; another for generosity.

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