OT: 2 Chron. 33:14-34:33
Today, Manasseh makes good on his repentance. I had to admit that I was temporarily confused by Manasseh doing good stuff, so I had to turn back to the end of yesterday's reading. Oh, yeah--it ends, "Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God" (33:13b). So today, Manasseh rebuilds the wall and the infrastructure of the army (I'm not sure that this specifically has to do with his repentance, but it is listed as one of his many positive acts), gets rid of the foreign gods, and removes his pet idol from the temple. It's funny to me that II Kings does not mention any of this. Rather, it treats Manasseh as uniformly bad. It's interesting to see the authors' choices of what to include and what to omit. As I've noted before, historians still do that today. I am currently reading a biography on John Adams, and I was eagerly awaiting this dramatic moment where King George turns his back on Adams and Jefferson. I had read about that moment in a very well-respected bio on Jefferson. Well, turns out, according to the Adams biographer, that moment never happened! And he makes a very compelling case for why the story was essentially hear-say. And yet, this well-respected Jefferson biographer chose to include it! To me, that is far worse a stretch than much of what the authors of Kings and Chronicles do. Leaving out info is much better than adding in fake info!
Sorry I went off on that. The historian in my finds the process of writing down history to be fascinating in itself. Moving on.
After Manasseh comes Amon, who is treated as uniformly wicked both by 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. And after the short, notorious reign of Amon comes, of course, Josiah. Not Joash, Josiah. I know it gets confusing, but try to keep up:).
I thought it was interesting to read about how Josiah's turning to God is a gradual process:
--When he is 16, he starts seeking God (34:3).
--When he is 20, he starts purging the country of idols (3).
--When he is 26, he starts repairing the temple (8).
I like reminders that following God is a gradual process, b/c I tend to get impatient and want to arrive at perfection, like, now. It's so easy for me to get discouraged by all that I'm not doing to be a good Christian, and I have to remind myself that my job is to seek God and to do what He is putting on my heart to do through Scripture. I won't figure the whole thing out now. I will be farther along ten years from now. The key is not to try to force perfection or holiness, but to seek God with my whole heart each day and to trust Him for the rest.
Also, I noted that, as with many of his predecessors, part of Josiah's purge involved killing any priest who served foreign gods (4-5). Those actions are very much in keeping with the Law, and they reminded me of a thought I'd had while reading and writing about that part of the Law. Namely, my question was, "How do you keep evil out?" In the Israelite law, you kept evil out by killing anyone who brought it in. Now, I'm not sure exactly why God chose that route, though I'm sure it has something to do with his holiness. I do believe, though, that the old Law was just a shadow of what was to come, and that it was a physical manifestation of the deeper spiritual truths that Jesus came to teach us. Because the truth is, killing people is certainly not a fool-proof way of keeping evil out; evil ultimately resides in each of our hearts. Only by killing that side of us and turning it over to the Holy Spirit can we keep evil out. And only God can do that.
Next, Josiah's men find the book of the Law, and that seems to be a really big deal, even though they seem to already have some form of the Law, what with their earlier Passover celebration and all. It makes me think that, although they had some form of the Law (maybe oral tradition or something), their version of the Law was "off" in a lot of respects from the original one. It reminds me of that game, Telephone, where you whisper a message around a circle and marvel at how much the message changes from beginning to end. The "message" that Judah had been following was apparently much different from the original, a fact which caused Josiah to tear his robes and weep.
Lastly, I thought it was interesting that Josiah referred to the people in Judah at that time as a "remnant" (21). Hmmm...now that I looked back at the verse, I'm having second thoughts. The verse says, "Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah..." (21). I didn't notice the first time that he mentioned Israel, and Israel by that time was just a remnant, having been conquered by Assyria. So maybe Josiah meant the remnant-in-Israel...and Judah. That's probably it. Oh well. I was going to speculate on that word choice for awhile, but now you have been spared all that:).
NT: Romans 16:8-27
Paul wraps up his letter today with more greetings and a few last words. I don't have much to note, except that Paul specifically greeted at least seven women in his letter: Priscilla (3), Mary (6), Tryphena and Tryphosa (12), Persis (12), Julia (15), and Nereus' sister (15). In fact, the first person he greeted was a woman. Plus, he refers to these woman as hard-working and, one would assume, valuable members of the Kingdom. I note all that b/c Paul has been viewed (by myself, among others) as somewhat harsh in his treatment of women in his letters.
I also liked verse 19b: "I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." That's how I want to be. Sometimes, it gets confusing to me when I think of what that innocence entails. Most people don't want to be ignorant; rather, they want to be informed of what is going on in the world. I do think there is a line, however, between being responsibly informed and in delving too deeply into the bad stuff that happens every day. I have no idea where that line is, as I tend to want to err on the side of burying my head in the sand. I have to work to find the balance b/t innocence and ignorance.
A psalm in which David is feeling quite morally confident. My favorite verse was 3, in which David asserts, "your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth." That's basically the goal of my life, summed up in a sentence.
"A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much." I think that the link between talking too much and gossiping here is right on. Inevitably, the times I get myself in trouble and cross the line into gossiping and sin are when I'm sitting around with a close friend or two and just gabbing away. It's like, after awhile, you just run out of things to talk about, and so you start in on the stuff you probably shouldn't talk about. And I never want to be an untrustworthy person. To betray the confidence of a friend sounds horrible to me. Thus, I've been trying to work on that whole "idle chatter" thing.