Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8

OT: Isaiah 1:1-2:22

Another new book. I actually looked some stuff up on this one, but didn't find a ton of helpful information. Apparently, most scholars seem to think that the book we call "Isaiah," is really three books with three different authors. So...make of that what you will. Anyway, they say the first part consists of chapters 1-39, and that it is actually by the prophet, Isaiah. This book focuses on the looming threat of Assyrian invasion, blaming the Israelites for the coming destruction if they do not repent from their wicked ways. At least, that was the general gist of what I read this afternoon.

Today's reading definitely seems to bear out my impressions. In Isaiah's prophecy, God roundly condemns the Israelites for being more stubborn and rebellious than oxen and donkeys (1:2), and he pictures their punishment in vivid terms (1:5-9). Then, God goes on to even condemn their worship. It seems that to God, the people's gatherings and worship services mean nothing to Him--in fact, He hates them--because their lives are so hypocritical. He calls their offerings "meaningless and their incense "detestable" (1:13). He says His "soul hates" their festivals and feasts, that they are a "burden" (14). And He says He will not listen to their prayers (15). The reason for these harsh words is that the people's "hands are full of blood." He thus tells them,

"Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow" (16-17).

After such denunciations, God does extend hope, telling the people that they can be cleansed from these sins through obedience (18-19). Incidentally, there is a really good song by Jon Foreman that is based on these words. Needless to say, it's not your typical Christian song.

After this passage, there are a lot of contrasts between wickedness/punishment and righteousness/restoration. Then, in chapter 2, Isaiah shares a vision of the kingdom of God coming in its fullness. At that time, "all nations will stream to" God's temple to learn His ways (2:2). As a result, there will be no more war and bloodshed, for the people "will beat their swords into plowshares/and their spears into pruning hooks./Nation will not take up sword against nation,/nor will they train for war anymore" (4). That is a wonderful, beautiful picture. I hear that United Nations has this verse written on the side of their building.

I think they still have a ways to go.

Lastly, I remember loving verse 22 when I was in college:

"Stop trusting in man,
who has but breath in his nostrils.
Of what account is he?"

That sounds harsh, but it was a good reminder for me at the time. I was kind of naive and had all sorts of high (and probably unfair) expectations of people, and I was often disappointed. This verse reminded me that people are, well, human. I should recognize human weakness, in others and myself, and adjust my expectations accordingly. After all, my ultimate trust is in God, not man.

NT: 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Paul continues to be defensive. It really makes me wonder what went down between him and the Corinthians. First, he defends himself against the accusation that he is only bold from a safe distance away and that he is meek in person (1-2, 9-11). Next, he goes on a lengthy defense against his boasting, which he maintains is within the proper limits of boasting (7-8, 12-18). While I understand what he is saying, I must admit that I don't fully get why he is saying it. I guess it goes back to me not understanding the fuller context of their relationship.

In the midst of these rather personal appeals and defenses, Paul does speak in more general terms. I love verses 3-4, in which Paul declares, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." Now, as I was recently warned against lifting out particular verses as applicable to everyone without regard to the larger work, and as I clearly don't fully understand the context of this larger work, I hesitate to apply these words generally and universally.

That said, I apply these words generally and universally:).

They are just so good! They make so much sense to me in light of Jesus' "turn the other cheek" talk and Paul's command to "overcome evil with good." They make so much sense when thinking about both Jesus' and Paul's teachings on love as the greatest command (Matt. 22:37, John 13, 1 Cor. 13) and thinking about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. We do not wage war as the world does, b/c we use love as our weapon! Love has the divine power to demolish strongholds.

Now, maybe I'm wrong. I do see problems with such a simple interpretation, and I do know that I have a tendency to veer quickly off into hippie land in my visions of living out the Bible, but that's how I tend to read those verses.

Psalm 52: 1-9

It was funny that Paul talked so much about boasting today, b/c David starts off his psalm by condemning boasting in wicked men. As such, his words are not applicable to Paul, but they did make me laugh in light of all the "boasting" that had just been going on in the NT:).

My favorite part today was the contrast between those who trust in their own wealth, and with apparently good reason, and those who trust in God (6-8). Unlike the strong, seemingly self-sufficient man who will be brought low, the one who trusts in God is "like an olive tree/ flourishing in the house of God" (8a). For some reason, planted tree imagery really appeals to me. I also love the tree planted by the streams in Psalm 1.

Prov. 22:26-7

Against going into debt.

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