OT: Ezra 3:1-4:24
I read today's reading to Greg on our way up to Charlotte this afternoon. We talked about the beginning of chapter 4, where the "enemies" of the Judeans offer to help rebuild the temple. These enemies say, "Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here." (4:2). Understanding the Bible clarifies that these enemies are the Samaritans, and I seem to remember something about the king of Assyria sending men from other nations to resettle in Samaria. What I didn't get about this passage is why the returned exiles so flatly refused: "You have no part with us in building a temple to our Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us" (3). Was this the right response? My instincts say no. Yeah, those people were foreigners, but the Law seemed to make it clear to me that the Israelites were supposed to welcome foreigners who desired to worship their God. My instincts also tell me "no," because the Israelites go on to hate the Samaritans with a ferocity that Jesus soundly refutes in the NT. He was kind to the Samaritan woman, and even pointedly made a Samaritan the star of his most famous parable. Not to mention the fact that Jesus was all about love, and not hatred.
But then again, I'm certainly not completely sure that they were wrong. The subsequent bitterness of their enemies definitely raises some questions about their motives. Apparently, since they weren't allowed to help, they then try to sabotage the whole project by writing Artaxerxes to try to get him to stop the Israelites. And they were successful! Our reading today ends with Artaxerxes ordering the temple work to stop. And indeed, it "came to standstill" in the last verses of today's passage (24).
NT: 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4
Paul continues the theme of man's wisdom versus God's wisdom, maintaining that God's wisdom can only be understood by spiritual people. I found myself to be a bit ambivalent about this tactic employed by Paul. On the one hand, it seems to shut down all dialogue. What I get from Paul is that if you don't understand or believe him, well, it is just because you aren't spiritual enough (or spiritually mature enough). How do you respond to that? It puts those who disagree in an indefensible position.
On the other hand, I ultimately believe that what Paul says is true. Like I talked about yesterday, so much about God's revelation to us is counter-intuitive. My mom was telling me that she had used one of my old Sunday school lessons on Uzzah to teach her 5th and 6th graders. The theme of the lesson was on trusting God rather than your own instincts. As an application, she used those "crazy" portions of the sermon on the mount. My mom loved the lesson, but assured me that her 5th and 6th grade boys were not having it. She said they just shook their heads, laughed, and said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Bev, but if someone slapped me in the face, I'd punch them." Yeah, I guess the concept of turning the other cheek, even to an insult, doesn't make a lot of sense in the light of "human wisdom." Now, to be clear, I think that Paul is talking about more than just turning the other cheek here. Rather, it seems that he is referring to the whole idea of Jesus. I think this b/c the only specific reference Paul makes is to the crucifixion of Christ: "None of the rulers of this age understood it [God's secret wisdom], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (8).
By far, the most intriguing line of this passage to me is found at the end of verse 16, where Paul declares, "But we have the mind of Christ."
We do? That sounds awesome, but what does that mean?
Judging by all that comes before it, I'm guessing that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit. And wow. What a great way to refer to the Spirit. At first, it seems intimidating. Whenever I read that verse, I have to think, "Do I have the mind of Christ?"
And you know what? I do! It's not that I'm perfect by any stretch of the imagination, or that I always know what's what (this blog more than proves my ignorance in so many areas). But I truly believe that for the most part, I love what God loves, I hate what God hates, I mourn what God mourns, and I celebrate what God celebrates. I believe fully that as I've walked with God as a Christian over these last almost twenty years, that He has refined my heart and helped my moral compass to point closer to north. Do I still screw up on an alarmingly regular basis? Yes. Am I still plagued by selfishness? Guilty. Do I still have a breathtakingly long way to go? Oh, yes! But do I have the mind of Christ? I believe so.
Psalm 28: 1-9
David begs for God's intervention in his life.
When I read today's reading off Greg's phone this afternoon, it was in the NLT, and its version of verse 24 said:
"The Lord directs our steps,
so why try to understand everything along the way?"
I laughed out loud when I read that, b/c it seemed so tailored to me: "But I want to understand everything along the way! Is that so wrong?!"
While typing my blog tonight, I had my NIV in front of me, and its version is more stately:
"A man's steps are directed by the Lord.
How then can anyone understand his own way?"
To me, that concept is deeper than what is conveyed by the NLT. I'm going to have to ponder that one...