Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 31

OT: Lamentations 4:1-5:22

Wow, Lamentations has got to be the saddest book in the world! Here are some of the more chilling images from today's reading:

"Because of thirst the infant's tongue
sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread,
but no one gives it to them" (4:4).

"With her own hands compassionate women
have cooked their own children,
who became their food
when my people were destroyed" (4:10).

"Our skin is hot as an oven,
feverish from hunger.
Women have been ravished in Zion,
and virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes have been hung up by their hands;
elders are shown no respect.
Young men toil at the millstones;
boys stagger under loads of wood" (5: 10-13).

Wow. One thing about the Bible is that it tends not to skip over the ugliness of Israel's history. It would be easy enough to say that God punished them for their sins and then gloss over the brutal effects. But no. Scripture dwells on the dark side of Israel's history. It's not just this suffering. It's the whole history--the leaders' hypocrisies, the people's sins, the nation's misadventures, the rampant immorality...all the bad sides are highlighted. And yeah, you get a gloss in Chronicles, but Samuel exposes even what Chronicles skipped over.

It's quite an amazing history, when you think about it. Modern history would, I'm sure, consider it to be ethnocentric (to put it mildly), but I think some of our own history books could learn a lesson or two from the Bible's "warts and all" approach.

That said, it does not make it an easy book to read. Like all of Lamentations so far, today's passage was wrenching.

NT: Hebrews 2:1-18

There is a lot I could say about this reading, but I think I'll concentrate on a thought about these two verses:

"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (8-9).

For a couple of years now, I have been fascinated by the idea of kingdom of God. I've wondered what it was, specifically, and have studied basically everything that Scripture has to say about it. I might have already shared this, but my current opinion on the kingdom of God is that it is anywhere that God reigns supreme. That's why heaven is the only full version of the kingdom of God, and also why Jesus tells his followers that the kingdom of God is within them. God reigns in the hearts of Christians, and He fully reigns in heaven, and so His kingdom is any place where He is in total control. Yes, He is "in control" of everything, since He is all powerful, but with His decision to give us free will, He voluntarily renounced some of His control. And thus, His Kingdom is not in most of our world, which is populated by people who do not serve Him. Verse 8 backs up these ideas. It maintains that even though all things are ultimately subject to God, "at present, we do not see everything subject to him." So true.

BUT. But we see Jesus. In Jesus, we see a glimpse of the fullness of the kingdom of God, a fullness that we will never see in this world. And in his life, we see how that kingdom comes: Jesus is "now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death" (9). By willingly dying to Himself (quite literally, I might add), Jesus entered God's kingdom and is now "crowned with glory and honor." He also paved the way for us, made it so that we, too, can enter God's kingdom. As God's Spirit purifies us and teaches us to die to ourselves on a daily basis, as He teaches us to be more and more like Christ, God's kingdom comes more and more into our hearts, and we then live as citizens of that kingdom, even in the midst of this sinful world.

So...that's my metaphysical thought of the day. Like I said earlier, the rest of Hebrews had some good stuff, too:). Although, I will say that he quotes OT scripture in some really interesting ways...

Psalm 103:1-22

This is a really good one. I love verses 2-4:

"Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

It also makes for an interesting counterpoint to Lamentations!

Prov. 26:23

"Like a coating of glaze over earthenware
are fervent lips within an evil heart."

That actually took me a little while to get, but I see now that it's saying that fervent lips gloss over an evil heart and make it look better, just like a coating of glaze makes earthenware look better. I guess.

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