Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25

OT: Isaiah 45:11-48:11

One thing about the One Year Bible is that you can sometimes get whiplash from jumping from the OT to the New like that. Even though the two testaments ultimately form one coherent narrative, it is sometimes jarring to transition so quickly from, say, man-as-instrument-of-God's-wrath in Isaiah to man-as-instrument-of-God's-love in Ephesians.

For example, in Isaiah, God prophecies that,

"The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
and those tall Sabeans--
they will come over to you
and will be yours;
they will trudge behind you,
coming over to you in chains.
They will bow down before you, saying,
'Surely God is with you, and there is no other;
there is no other god'" (45:14).

And for that matter, today's psalm declares that:

"The Lord says, 'I will bring [my enemies] from Bashan;
I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
that you may plunge your feet in the blood of your foes,
while the tongues of your dogs have their share" (68:23).

When you contrast that with verses in Ephesians telling us to be completely humble, gentle, patient, and loving (4:2), it gets a little crazy. And I'll be the first to admit that I see all this through a glass darkly, and that I am painting with some really broad strokes here, but to me, the difference between the two roles of man in the OT and NT is Jesus. It's not that God changed, b/c the OT does contain many examples of mercy, and the NT has its fair share of wrath. Rather, it seems that with the advent of Jesus and His teachings, the role of God's people evolved. They went from dragging their enemies behind them in chains (in Isaiah) and bathing in their blood (Psalms) to turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. (Actually, rereading the verse, I'm not sure what the image in Isaiah is. It doesn't really say that they dragged their enemies behind them in chains, but definitely that God handed over their enemies to them.)

And you know? Isaiah definitely pictures a transition from punishment to restoration, from wrath to forgiveness. It occurs to me that perhaps that transition has been occurring throughout history, as God's people move from thinking of themselves as agents of His wrath to seeing themselves as agents of His love. I don't know. I can see how I'm not doing great exegesis right now. But I have gone around and around with this idea of the OT/NT divide, and I've prayed about it, and these are the thoughts I ended up with, so I'm writing them down.

NT: Ephesians 4:1-16

Wow. There is so much here. I'll take it from the top and see how much I can cover. First of all, I have always loved verse 1, where Paul tells the Ephesians to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received." That is a phrase that has stuck with me through the years. I have often asked myself if I am living a life worthy of my calling, and I have sometimes wondered what such a life would look like. Part of me thinks that I could never live a life worthy of the calling I have received. I'm reminded of the end of Saving Private Ryan where the saved Private Ryan frets over whether he has "earned" the sacrifice of the men who saved him. Clearly, he has felt a lifelong burden of acting in such a way that would be worthy of the price paid for his life. In some ways, I can relate to that burden, and yet, I also know that I have God's Spirit in me, through which I can do all things, including living a life worthy of my calling.

And apparently Paul anticipated my questions about what a worthy life looks like b/c he seems to lay it out pretty clearly in the next few verses: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Good stuff. There are some verses that I can read and cannot help but be changed by them. Whenever I am annoyed or feeling impatient, I can read these verses (or Col. 3:12-14), and it becomes so hard to justify my behavior and feelings that I usually have to let them go. Now, that's what I call powerful Scripture!

Verses 4-5 are some great unity verses.

I get a little lost in verses 7-10.

But verse 11 brings me back, talking again about unity. I like the picture of the church, the body of Christ in 11-16. Much like 1 Cor. 12, these verses state that God gives us different gifts and that the purpose of those gifts is to bless the church as a whole, to motivate them to serve, and to encourage them. The end goal, according to verses 13-16 is complete unity, spiritual maturity, steadfastness, understanding, and transformation into the likeness of Christ, who is our head.

Psalm 68: 19-35

A continuation of yesterday's psalm.

Prov. 24:3-4

Ooooh, I love this one:

"By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures."

If I cross-stitched, I would stitch that verse and hang it on my wall:).

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