OT: Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
Wow, today's reading was so exciting!
First of all, I have kind of given up on the time line b/c I can't keep those "exile kings" straight. Regardless, today's events happened during the reign of Zedekiah and prior to the conquest of Jerusalem. But lots happens, both on the national stage, and in Jeremiah's own life.
On the national stage, Babylon pulls away from Jerusalem to do battle with Egypt, who is appearing to be a good ally, after all (key word: appearing). This is good news, right? I'm sure everyone is breathing a big sigh of relief to have Babylon off their backs. But then here comes Eeyore and Chicken Little rolled into one, still giving the same doom-and-gloom prophecy: Babylon is going to beat us, surrender while you still can, everyone who tries to fight the inevitable will die, and so on. Clearly, this is not what people are wanting to hear. And because Jeremiah seems so unpatriotic, he is then mistakenly accused of trying to defect to Babylon! And honestly, given his recent prophecies, I can see why they thought that! I mean, he's telling everyone else to go to Babylon. Why not him? Of course, he is not trying to defect b/c the irony is that Jeremiah might just be the most patriotic of all the Israelites. He truly wants what is best for the nation. What is best just happens to be the opposite of what is popular. Thus, the chest-thumping nationals ready to fight for Jerusalem are not happy with him.
First, Jeremiah is locked up for desertion. Then, he is thrown into a muddy cistern, apparently to die. Then, he is rescued and placed back into the courtyard of the guard. In the midst of this turmoil, he keeps meeting with Zedekiah, who seems to have some kind of love-hate relationship with him. On the one hand, Zedekiah probably hates Jeremiah's message. On the other hand, he seems to really think that he is a true prophet. Thus, he just can't kill him. Instead, he rescues him from his first prison, only to turn him over to the cistern-dumpers, only to order him pulled back out. Add periodic secret meetings together, and you get a truly bizarre relationship. Anyway, today's reading ends with Zedekiah once again calling for Jeremiah and listening to the same prophecy again. I think it's like, Zedekiah knows what he is supposed to do. He knows he has an order from God. But he just can't do it. He just really, really doesn't want to. So he keeps asking, "What was that order, again?" in hopes that it might change. At least, that's my theory.
NT: 1 Timothy 6:1-21
One day, when I actually have a little time, I'd love to hear what scholars think about this book. To me, it really seemed to take the "social hierarchy/social values" teachings of Ephesians and Colossians and elevate them to the next level. For example, its instructions to women, while not new, are certainly the harshest of any of the books, in my opinion. And today, the instructions toward slaves are similarly zealous. Slaves are to "consider their masters worthy of respect," whether or not their masters are worthy of respect (1). And they are to serve fully and faithfully, even if their masters are believers. Also, it is interesting to me that this passage has no corresponding instructions to masters, even though context makes clear that there were believing slave owners in the community.
Also, even though Paul warns Timothy strongly against the "love of money," and urges him to "flee" from it (7-11), this passage also has the only NT reference that I can think of that does not speak of rich people negatively. Let me know if you can think of others, but verses 17-19, while stern, make it clear that one can be rich and still be a Christian. Now, as a very rich person (globally speaking, of course), I'm down with that. But I do think it is interesting. This whole book seems almost like an antidote for all that counter-cultural, crazy stuff that Jesus was talking about. Camel through the eye of a needle, what? Crazy talk! Now, I don't think they contradict, of course...but I do kind of have a hard time seeing how they fit together, exactly. So if anyone has any insight there, feel free to share!
But like I said, as a globally-rich person, I liked Paul's instructions in verses 17-19. He tells us "not to be arrogant nor to put [our] hope in wealth, which is uncertain, but to put [our] hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (17). Nice! I think that part of me really likes this verse, b/c I feel like I already do it, whereas Jesus' teachings are always so challenging. And with Jesus, I feel so far away from where he is pointing. But this--I can do this! And again, I wonder, Is this the right attitude, the right interpretation? Is this good? I just don't know. But that said, I also like Paul's next instructions to be "rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (18). Again, that seems so do-able. So attainable. So...not like the rich young ruler, or the poor widow, or even Zaccheus. Those stories are so hard. This is much easier.
But then I have to ask myself, what is the relationship between these instructions and those stories? How do they work together? And specifically, how do I understand them so that my life will look how it is supposed to look? I want to know God, and to be with God, and I want to do whatever it takes to do that. But...what does it take?
Psalm 89: 38-52
So...I'm wondering if the "anointed one" whom God has rejected is David (38). If so, then this guy has to be a contemporary, right?
On the importance of self-control.