Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15

OT: Isaiah 19:1-21:17

Today, Egypt gets bad news, though it ends up good for them. After describing the trials and tribulations that they will face, the prophecy ends with Egypt pledging "allegiance to the Lord Almighty" (19:18). In the ensuing verses, Isaiah explains that God brought trials on the people in order to turn them to Him. I thought Isaiah's words here were extremely interesting:

"The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance'" (22-25).

Now, I've mentioned before that I am no prophecy expert, and I have no idea what scholars think about this passage. I haven't brushed up on my Egypt and Assyrian history in awhile, so I can't speak for the historic implications here. What I can say is that this passage seemed to give some kind of insight into God's plan for the nations and the people of the world. This prophecy was written to lands in turmoil. They were all fighting each other and causing so much suffering and destruction. And here, God gives a rough blueprint, a method to the madness. The ultimate goal, it would seem from this passage, would be for all of the nations in question (Egypt, Assyria, Israel) to turn to God. The master plan was not the Israelites would be separate forever from the doomed pagans, but that God would reach out and save them all. Now, like I said, I don't know if there is any historical record of these three nations having a big revival together (somehow I doubt it), but it seems to me that the larger message of this prophecy is that God's plan and goal is to bring all nations, all people to Him.

NT: Galatians 2:1-16

Paul continues to give some personal background designed to prove that his gospel does not come from men. Because he has that goal in mind, he takes almost comical pains to distance himself from the popular church leaders of the day. In today's narrative, he lets fourteen years pass before journeying back to Jerusalem, and even then, he only goes because he has received a direct, personal revelation from God (2). In other words, it's not because Peter, or anyone else, told him to. In fact, he refers to such people as "those who seemed to be leaders" (2). A few verses later, he refers to that same group of leaders as "those who seemed to be important--whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance," and he adds, "those men added nothing to my message" (6). (By the way, if I had to guess, I'd say he was describing the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15.) Lastly, he refers to the fact that "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me the right hand of fellowship" (9). Do you see how he is undercutting them? They seem to be leaders, they are reputed to be pillars, and Paul personally doesn't care either way--it "makes no difference" to him. He finishes up his distancing by giving a vivid example of him opposing Peter "to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong" (11).

Now, again, I don't think that Paul is doing this b/c he has a beef with the church leadership. Rather, I think his point is to make clear that he is not a puppet, and that the gospel he preached was not something that he got from "higher ups." God gave him his message. That is his point. He is not wowed by earthly authority or leadership; he is only doing the duty given to him by God Himself. To demonstrate my point, let me add this: if he is truly referring to the council at Jerusalem, then that alone provides a good example of his relationship with the other leaders. Even though (as I wrote at the time) I don't think that Paul agreed 100% with the outcome of that council, he did agree to go along with it, probably out of some mixture of respect for his brothers and a desire for church unity. So Paul did know how to play ball. He thus makes his current point not out of disrespect for his brothers in the faith, but out of his zeal for the purity of the gospel.

At least, that's my analysis:).

Psalm 59:1-17

David prays again for deliverance from enemies.

Since I am now mostly writing a one line synopsis for each psalm, I have been able to see how so many of David's psalms are essentially the same. I kind of like that. It shows that he went to God over and over again when he was facing trouble. He poured out his heart before God regularly, and he did not hide his desires from Him.

Prov. 23:13-14

On the value of discipline.

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