Sunday, November 7, 2010

November 7

OT: Ezekiel 16:43-17:24

The rest of chapter 16 continues the metaphor of Judah being like a promiscuous woman, but this section locates the woman within a larger family of promiscuous women: her mothers, sisters, and daughters. In this network of women, Judah's older sister is Samaria, and her younger sister is Sodom. I thought that was interesting, because the first we hear about Samaria is during the divided kingdom, where it is part of Israel. Sodom, on the other hand, came much earlier in Israel's history, during the time of Abraham. So wouldn't Sodom be the older sister? Or is the place in the family determined by level of sins? Even then, I think of Sodom as pretty bad. Anyway, all that to say, I thought the "little sister" designation was interesting.

I also thought it was interesting that in verse 53, God says that He "will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them." Okay, I can see Jerusalem and Samaria, b/c they are cities representing the Israelites. But Sodom? I thought Sodom was long gone! That verse reminded me of when Jesus told...someone...that on the day of Judgment it would be more bearable for Sodom than it would for them. Like this verse, Jesus' statement raised questions about the eternal fate of the Sodomites, which, for me at least, raises questions about the eternal fate of all the OT pagans who were excluded from God's people. In the end, though, I leave all that to God. Those verses just give me something to chew on.

In chapter 17, God gives the Israelites a parable about two eagles and a vine. The first eagle is Nebuchadnezzar, who "plants" Zedekiah, the vine. The vine flourishes and grows, as it is planted in fertile soil. Unfortunately, a second eagle, Egypt, comes onto the scene, and the vine reaches out to that eagle. Because it forsook the first eagle, it will now be uprooted and destroyed. I was intrigued by how positively the vine's situation was portrayed. To me, being set up as a puppet king by an invading army would not be ideal, but this metaphor makes it sound just wonderful. The description fits in to the oddly positive treatment that Babylon receives in many of the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, I guess b/c Babylon is portrayed as the chosen instrument of God to punish His people.

NT: Hebrews 8:1-13

I vividly remember reading verse 5 as either a high schooler or a college student and thinking, "Holy cow--this guy knows Plato!" It was always oddly shocking to me when church history and school history intersected, and the writer's statement that earthly sanctuaries are a "copy and shadow of what is in heaven," seemed to reveal a clear knowledge of the idea of Platonic forms. I thought that it was cool how he applied that knowledge to his understanding of the Law: "This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: 'See to it that you make everything acc0rding to the pattern shown you on the mountain'" (5). I also like this clear assimilation of philosophy and Scriptural understanding b/c it helps to debunk the idea that knowledge of or belief in God is anti-intellectual. People--even Christians--have tended to use some of Paul's statements about God's wisdom v. man's wisdom (e.g. I Cor. 1:18-25) as evidence that Biblical truth and human philosophy are inherently incompatible. And in some cases that is true; Paul elsewhere maintains that, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5). But that verse does not automatically exclude any extra-biblical line of thought; rather, it excludes those philosophies (or even simply the degree to which those philosophies) deny God's presence. The Hebrew writer, then, has no problem using Platonic philosophy to further his understanding of God's Law and the reasoning behind it.

I'm a bit loopy from Nyquil, so I'm not sure if any of that made sense to anyone but me.

This section closes by quoting Jeremiah 31, where God said that he would make a new, personal covenant with His people. The personal, individual nature of this covenant suggests that it will not be with one particular nation, but with each person who knows and follows God, regardless of his/her ethnicity. It also ushers in a deeply personal era, in which God will "put my laws on their minds/and write them on their hearts" (10).

On a sidenote, I understand how the Hebrew writer's use of OT can be off-putting to our modern beliefs about the rules of using and citing sources, but I have very much enjoyed the way he has woven together disparate elements of the OT (psalms, prophecies, laws, obscure OT figures) in order to build a coherent argument regarding the high priesthood of Jesus--which you could argue is itself an artistic construction used to describe Jesus' role to a predominantly Jewish audience. The result for me is that, more than any other book, this one seems so definitely "inspired." (Disclaimer: I know that they are all inspired; I'm just saying that I personally can clearly see it in this case.)

Psalm 106: 13-31

The psalmist continues his alterna-history today. I think there is so much to say about the juxtaposition of Psalm 105 and 106, both praise psalms which relate completely different historical viewpoints. I can't quite put it into words right now, but there are a lot of thoughts there.

Prov. 27:7-9

The first two seem like simple statements of fact. The third extols the earnest counsel of a friend.

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