Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16

OT: Micah 5:1-7:20

Today's reading starts out with a prophecy that a ruler would come from Bethlehem, a ruler "whose origins are from of old,/ from ancient times" (2). This ruler would also

"stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be there peace" (4).

Now, I can see how the Jews would interpret this ruler, even in this passage, to be a military ruler. At the end of verse 6, there is one last reference to this ruler delivering them from the Assyrian army. Thus, I don't know if this is one of those sensus plenior things, where there was a man who came around that time and delivered the people from the Assyrians. But I do know that I can so clearly see Jesus in this prophecy. The Bethlehem birth and the shepherding of the people are two characteristics that obviously jump out. But I also see Him in the idea that His followers will live securely b/c His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And He will be our peace. Christ's greatness does reach to the ends of the earth, and He is our peace--both physically, in his reconciliation of us and God, and spiritually, as we go throughout our lives. And because He is our peace, we do live securely, even in this dangerous world, even in the midst of people who want to kill us (and so often succeed in doing so). Our security, however, is not found in our physical lives or our safety or in anything here on earth. Our security is found in the fact that we have peace with God and will live with Him forever.

Oh man, that was just the first few verses.

I also liked the image in 5:7, which read,

"The remnant of Jacob will be
in the midst of the peoples
like dew from the Lord,
like showers on the grass,
which do not wait for man
or linger for mankind."

I'm sure the ephemeral nature of dew made that image less than comforting, but I thought it was lovely. I love the idea of God's people being like sweet dew on the grass of the world. Very nice. But then the next verse kind of kills the mood, b/c it likens the remnant to a lion that mauls the animals around it. Um, what happened to the dew?? This is a jarring juxtaposition of imagery, don't you think? And then, in the next verses, God talks about how "in that day" he is going to destroy Israel (10-15). I'm sorry--what? "In that day" is a transition between the "Israel is a lion" passage and the "Israel is going to die" passage. So...Israel is dew, Israel is a devouring lion, and Israel is going to be destroyed. That was some roller coaster imagery.

Moving on to chapter 6. We get the famous passage, but first, there is yet another Balaam reference (5). This man figures prominently in Israel's renditions of their history. I just don't get it.

One thing Harris said was that Micah rejected the idea that sacrifices brought people to God. I was all ready to argue with him on that one, b/c I didn't think that Micah 6:8 (the only passage I knew) ruled out the idea of sacrifices. But wow--the verses before it sure seem to. It's not just that Micah rhetorically suggests--and rejects--the idea of bringing sacrifices as a means to come before the Lord. It's that he compares them to child sacrifice, something that was clearly heinous to God (6-7). And I don't think he is saying that one is on par with the other, but just to have them together like that was pretty crazy to me.

And of course, I love Micah 6:8. It has always been one of my favorite verses. I love verses that sum up what God wants from us, and 6:8 does that beautifully.

Chapter 7 describes a land wracked with sin and distrust, but holds out hope that, even after this land is destroyed, it will rise again.

NT: Revelation 7:1-17

More craziness. All this symbolism is straight over my head. But I did love verse 9:

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lam. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

'Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb'" (9-10).

Reading those verses, it occurred to me: This is the end of the book. After all, we are almost done reading through the Bible. And this is the end of the story. Even though we are finishing the book, we ourselves are still in the middle of the story, somewhere in history between Jesus and Revelation. But this is how it ends. In a way, it reminds me of the end of LOST. At the end, part of you is kind of like, really? Really, this is where we were going? The story of the plane crash and the island and the Losties and the Others led us here? And thinking of the Old Testament, I think you can have that same reaction: Really? All that stuff about Israel being God's chosen people? All that violence toward other nations? And really? Here we are, all together at the end? One big happy family? But when you see the evolution in perspective that took place during and after the exile, and the massive evolution that came with Jesus and with the whole idea of going "into all the world," it kind of comes together. And, as with LOST, I still have some unanswered questions about how we got from point A to point B. But as with LOST, the end is so beautiful and moving and fulfilling that I don't care so much about my questions. I'm just glad that we (the peoples of the world) are all here together.

Not that the book of Revelation is even close to being over. I have a feeling that there is lots of violence and judgment and stuff left to occur.

Psalm 135:1-21

A praise psalm to God.

Prov. 30:5-6

God's word is flawless and "a shield to those who take refuge in him" (5). And we should not add to His words (6).

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