Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20

OT: Haggai 1:1-2:23

Today, we polished off yet another bite-sized book of prophecy. Haggai, it seems to me, has the distinction of being one of the few prophets that people actually listened to. He tells the remnant of Israel to rebuild the Temple, and they then get to work! Crazy!

I think some of the principles in Haggai's advice to the people are timeless. He essentially tells the people to put God first, and not themselves. Only when they do that will they find true fulfillment. He tells them, "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it" (1:5-6). For one thing, I like Haggai's admonition, which he later repeats, to "give careful thought to your ways." I am a big fan of giving careful thought to one's ways. I think it is important to examine your actions as honestly as possible. And so I like how Haggai encourages such reflection. Secondly, I know that he is partially referencing the bleak economic conditions of the time (b/c I read the short intro that Harris gave), but I also think that Haggai is describing a timeless human condition in these verses. He describes that emptiness, that Sisyphus-like feeling of futility that you get when you aren't focused on what's important in life. Verses 5-6 describe a discontentment in the people, a sense of not being fulfilled with their lives. Haggai's answer is simple: you aren't fulfilled b/c you aren't focused on what's most important. You aren't putting God first.

I can relate to the people's situation b/c it is not like they are turning and running from God. Harris says that they had already laid the foundation of the Temple, but had become discouraged. It's not that they said they wouldn't build the Temple; it's just that they were putting it off: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built'" (1:2). Because of their life circumstances, it was not convenient, or perhaps even prudent, to proceed with construction. And yet Haggai tells them, you have to put God first, even when it is hard. I can totally see myself in the people's position, and so Haggai's instructions are meaningful to me, even in the 21st century.

NT: Revelation 11:1-19

Today, John is told to measure the Temple, minus the outer court, "because it has been given to the Gentiles" (2). I'm a little confused as to why that matters. Aren't Christian Jews cool with Gentiles now? Then, God foretells that two deadly messengers are going to prophesy for 1,260 days in sackcloth, and will be able to do all kinds of miracles and bring all kinds of plagues. Their power is very reminiscent of the power God showed through Moses in Egypt. Afterward, a beast will come from the Abyss and kill them, and everyone will be happy, and the people will leave the prophets' bodies outside for three and a half days. Then, they'll come back to life and ascend to heaven.

I found verse 8 to be oddly amusing: "Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified." In other words, John is saying, *Cough* "Jerusalem" *Cough.* I thought the statement was interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the slam it is on Jerusalem. And also, why did he have to disguise the city, and why did he do such a poor job of "disguising" it. I mean, if I get it, you can bet the audience did, too.

Ooh, ooh! Or maybe it is Rome.

Anyway, after the two messengers go to heaven, an earthquake comes and terrifies everyone, prompting them to turn to God. Then, the seventh angel announces that the kingdom of Christ has officially come down to the earth, and the 24 elders sing praises to God. I thought that that was a pretty violent coming.

Lastly, God's Temple in heaven was opened, and there was the "real" (Platonically speaking) ark of the covenant, along with lightning and thunder.

Psalm 139: 1-24

A famous psalm, mainly because of verses 13-14, which are used to support the pro-life position in Christians. And again, don't get me wrong, b/c I'm very pro-life, but I'm not sure these are the passages I would turn to to "prove" that a fetus is a real person. I mean, it's a psalm! Are we supposed to take it literally? Two verses later, David claims that his frame was woven together in the depths of the earth (15)! Is that where we think babies are made? No. The point of the verses is, of course, that God had a specific plan for David even before he was born, which is a very pro-life point. But as far as using this as some kind of literal proof of when life begins...well, that just doesn't work for me.

Prov. 30:15-16

I think this is one where you need to read the whole chapter at one time b/c I am not getting the flow when the verses are chopped up like this. Today, we hear about four things that are never satisfied: the grave, the barren womb, land,and fire.

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