Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 24

OT: Ezekiel 47:1-48:35

Chapter 47 has one of those prophecies where you are reading, and it slowly starts to dawn on you that it's a metaphor of some kind. Maybe the fact that it dawned on me slowly reveals more about my own intelligence than the nature of the prophecy, but regardless, I did finally conclude midway through the water section that the water was somehow Israel. In an inversion of Jesus' metaphor about the goodness of saltiness in Matt. 5:13, Ezekiel describes Israel as the fresh water that will desalinate the "world" of the Mediterranean Sea. The fresh water starts from the temple, and eventually spreads to all the water, bringing all kinds of life and vegetation with it (47: 3-10). As much as the fresh water spreads, however, there will still be pockets of saltiness that will not desalinate (11). So there's your metaphor.

The rest of chapter 47 and 48 are devoted to land allotment. Now, normally, that is not a fascinating topic, and it wasn't really that scintillating today. In light of my thoughts on property ownership from yesterday, however, it did raise a few questions. The main question was, "Hasn't the land already been allotted?" Don't the tribes already have their eternally granted properties? If so, is this just a reinforcement of those existing property lines, or are these new portions? That would probably be easy enough to figure out, but--full disclosure--I'm currently at Disney World, about to leave for the "Pirates and Pals" fireworks show, so the chances that I'm going to be doing a comparative study of Ezekiel and Leviticus (or Numbers or Deuteronomy) tonight are slim. However, I note for future record that if these land allotments are different, then I have a few questions about them.

NT: 1 Peter 2:11-3:7

Speaking of Disney World, I am definitely experiencing some cognitive dissonance between reveling in "the happiest place on earth" and reading instructions to live "as aliens and strangers in the world" (2:11). I don't really feel guilty, and I am loving spoiling my children (or rather, having my children spoiled, as I am in no way personally bankrolling this little venture), but my readings have definitely helped keep our vacation in perspective. The "eternal" part of this vacation is the love we pour into our children, which will hopefully equip them with the confidence to go out into the world and serve boldly.

Anyhow, today Peter urges us to "abstain from sinful desires" and to "live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (12). I love that. So often when I am on the internet (usually on a Christian site, which makes it even worse), I see Christians behaving terribly toward "pagans." There seems to be this idea that if you just make someone feel stupid, then they will see the error of their beliefs. In the meantime, I'm reading such comments and thinking, "You've lost already." It doesn't matter if we make our point when talking to non-Christians. If we don't do it with love, we've lost. 1 Peter gets this. Rather than tell us to make converts with our wittiness and brilliance, it advises us that the best witness is our own good actions.

Along those lines, verses 13-15 tell us to submit to authorities. Verse 15 makes clear that the reason for this advised obedience is to "silence the ignorant talk of foolish men." Again, we silence that talk through "doing good" (15). I think the instructions to slaves regarding masters are given here for similar reasons, though such submission also has the added bonus of making you more Christ-like (18-22). That idea, though naturally repugnant to us, would probably be encouraging to an audience familiar with unjust suffering, whether slave or free.

Chapter 3 continues the trend of valuing good works by advising women to submit to their husband and to define themselves by their inner character qualities rather than their outer appearance (4-5). Similarly, husbands are to treat their wives well.

Psalm 119: 49-64

Two more stanzas of the ode to God's word. The "Zayin" stanza reminds me of 1 Peter, b/c it deals some with suffering. The verse that jumped out to me was verse 50:

"My comfort in suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life."

Peter has been busy elaborating on this comfort to the early church.

Prov. 28: 12-13

The first contrasts the popular reaction to the victories of the righteous and wicked, respectively. The second advises people to confess their sins.

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