"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Does God allow Himself to look weak?

This is likely disjointed, but I can't make my trailing thoughts come together into something neat and pretty right now. Thoughts are flowing so I'm just gonna write as they come.  Maybe you can help me pretend I'm not crazy and put some order into what I'm getting at here.  :)

I remember a few months back Amber made a comment on one of my posts about each land having its own gods.  Like if you traveled through ancient Egypt, you'd be moving into the territory ruled by Re or Osiris whereas if you passed through Canaan you may have to contend with Dagon or Baal.  For a nomadic people this could get complicated, huh? 

So if you were supposedly a monotheistic people with a God who claimed to be the God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Sustainer, the Sovereign Almighty One who goes with you where ever you go and leads and guides you... well, that would be pretty special.  That God wouldn't be bound by territory.  He wouldn't have to park His deity at the borders and subordinate Himself to the gods of Egypt or Canaan or Babylon or Assyria. Right?

So what if God's people really believed that. And for good reason. You'd seen miracles - manna delivered from heaven, a pillar of fire to lead, the sea parting so you could cross on dry land, water from a rock.  Stuff like that.  But then, what if this same God who had been a wonderful caretaker gets angry because well, you decide to worship other gods. So like a good, loving parent, He has to discipline you.

Have you ever heard parents tell their children "this hurts me more than it hurts you" when they have to discipline their children? 

Well, what do you think about this quote in relation to all I've tried to say here plus the quote below in red?  The God of the Bible did wonderful miracles and took care of the children of Israel, yet they often turned their backs on Him to worship other gods.  So there were prophets sent to warn the people to repent, but when they refused God would punish them.  Often times this involved other nations conquering them.  I read this in a book the other day and it is what got me to thinking along these lines. The author is talking about the books of the Bible containing visions of the doom that was going to come upon the holy city of Jerusalem.

"In order to sustain the faith of Israel through all these overwhelming reverses -- the complete devastation of cities and farmlands, and the destruction of the temple -- it was necessary to furnish an absolutely decisive proof that these events had taken place by the permission and plan of the God of Israel, rather than because He was a puny god overcome by the more powerful deities of the Chaldean empire (a conclusion which all heathendom would invariably draw after the fall of Jerusalem.)"   pg. 336  A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. 

 
So maybe God wanted to let His people know that He was still in control despite the fact it may seem otherwise.  I mean the Temple was a place the Israelites worshiped God! So His "house" essentially was going to be destroyed...how would this look?  This would be like Mecca being destroyed today along with the Kaaba!  Can you imagine?   Did God not care about His reputation among the nations? among His own people?  Was disciplining His people of more importance to Him than how He looked to surrounding nations?  What does this say - if anything - about God and His ideas of relationship and parenting His children?

Do you know people right now who claim to be the people of God? Whether they designate themselves as followers of Christ, God's chosen people, submitters to Allah, people of the Book, covenant people -- whatever they choose to say regarding themselves.  Essentially they believe themselves to know the Truth that will lead them to salvation -- even if they aren't assured of it, they have pretty high hopes that they are following the correct path to God.

OK, got someone in mind? Maybe it's me or you or both of us. Anyway...what happens when these people of God are punished by God? What happens when bad things happen to them when they have done nothing wrong? Do we wonder "aha, you probably aren't God's person after all...see what you are going through?"  Or do we think, "they must have made God angry and He is punishing them for their wrongdoing"? 

I guess I'm wondering what people of God think when bad things happen to them as individuals or collectively to their people.  And what about those who are outside of that people group -- do they mock, wondering why Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, I AM has forsaken the ones who are supposedly His?  Or do we think their god must be weak because he can't even care for his own...see the earthquakes that hit them?  see the famine, disease, unrest among the people? Surely this is not how the True God's people would act. Surely this is not what The Chosen would have to experience.


Does God put Himself into a position to look "puny" or weak when bad things happen in the world or to those who truly are in relationship/good standing/following Him? If so, why would He do this?

What do you think? 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Links & July Books

The Sad

Carol who blogs as American Bedu is undergoing aggressive treatment for breast cancer that has returned.  Several of her friends have started a project to bring home her cats.  That is from Saudi Arabia to the United States!  If you want to read more about this project, please visit this post.  When she and her husband left Saudi Arabia over a year ago, they never imagined that they would not return together. Instead her husband returned in February in order to die in his homeland while Carol was unable to leave the US due to her cancer treatments.  I remember this post being heartbreaking as well as this one.


The Silly

Dad Life -- someone posted this short video on her blog and it just struck me funny especially the part about yardwork. Andrew and I laughed and laughed. 

The Informative

TED talk on The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives -- I got this from Sarah's blog


The Books I Finished This Month

Screen Play by Chris Coppernell -- a lighthearted fiction book featuring Harper, a struggling actresses who lands a starring role in a Broadway play and her meeting Luke on an online dating site and their meeting up in California.  I found this in the new book section of the local library.




Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them
by Liz Curtis Higgs -- in her humorous way the author discusses ten women such as Eve, Michal, Potiphar's and Lot's wives, Rahab, Sapphira, the woman at the well and the woman who washed Jesus' feet.  My favorite was the woman at the well while the author said her favorite was the woman who washed Jesus' feet. I like that one too.  The story of Sapphira stepped on my toes some.  The degree of badness of these women varied.  Some were former bad girls while others were "good girls" who just did a bad thing that's recorded in the Bible. In conclusion the author says the "common denominator" between good and bad girls is this:  "Good Girls and Bad Girls both need a Savior.  The goodness of your present life can't open the doors of heaven for you.  The badness of your past life can't keep you out either. Not if you truly desire the forgiveness and freedom Christ offers."  (pg. 237)




From Stone to Living Word by Debbie Blue -- "Letting the Bible Live Again"   -- got this book at the library...see previous posts on this book

"'The Word became flesh' is God acting, God reaching. It reveals the lengths God is willing to go in pursuit of humanity, and it reveals an intimate, passionate, and vulnerable pursuit.  The Word enters the darkness in order to bring light...It was not God who created distance: it was humanity; it was sin.  And in Jesus Christ, the distance is overcome.  Jesus Christ isn't God standing back ... in Jesus we see God entering the paltry ruckus of life as we know it.  It looks foolish. But it reveals, perhaps, something about how God feels about us.  It was always in God's heart to give up glory and power in order to achieve union."  (pg. 113,114)




Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis by John R. Coats -- see book review here




Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin -- great library book which takes place around 1920 as Harriet tells the story of her greatgrandmother's anti-slavery work in PA, her grandmother, Bebe and her grandfather, Horatio and their lives during prohibition times and working for women's right to vote.  Really interesting story which is a fun way to learn some things about American history.

"We can't expect other people to meet all of our needs, all of the time. Only Christ can do that perfectly. That's why I know that if you turn to Him, you'll find contentment."  (pg. 165)

Another lesson from this book - trust God, life is like a river, always changing and we have to change too

and "It isn't our calling as Christians to write laws that force people to live moral lives. ... We can make stricter laws, ...but people will just figure out a way around them if their hearts are hardened.... We've had the Ten Commandments since Moses' time, and people still murder and steal every day.  Only God can change people."  (pg. 425)



Primal by Mark Batterson -- rediscovering the essence of Christianity (see introductory post)

 "Minds often remained closed to the truth until hearts have been opened by compassion. There is certainly a place for logical, left-brained explanations of faith. But compassion is the ultimate apologetic. There is no defense against it."  (pg.17)

"Nothing is as disarming as discovering the suffering or sorrow in another person's past."  (pg. 22)

"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries."  (Elizabeth Barrett Browning) -- pg.59

soul -- living in wonder -- everything is a miracle

"Too many of us try to understand truth in the static state. We want to understand it without doing anything about it, but it doesn't work that way. You want to understand it?  Then obey it."  (pg.80)

"The goal of knowing the Bible is knowing God. Anything less is bibliolatry. One of the greatest mistakes we've made in Christendom is equating spiritual maturity with knowledge acquisition, but head knowledge never has been and never will be the litmus test. The truth is that most of us are already educated way beyond the level of our obedience. We learn more and do less, thinking all the while that we're growing spiritually."

James tells us to be doers of the Word...not merely hearers.   "You don't get credit for auditing Scripture. You've got to put it into practice."  (pg. 83)


Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson -- I really love the work this man and his organization are doing in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this book he explains that he wants to go places where NGOs rarely go, therefore, his work takes him to remote places some of which are cut off from the rest of the world for seven months at a time due to snow!   He requires some things of the community - a donated piece of land and workers for starters. And also that girls make up a huge percentage of those allowed to attend.  I read Three Cups of Tea last year and enjoyed it so much.  (see review here)  And this book continues with more wonderful stories and lessons. I love the stories of how Greg and his friends travel, people they meet, local customs, unique characters and even how his board members - made up of men from a variety of backgrounds - get along with each other.   I enjoyed the stories that community leaders told -- such as their experiences fighting the Soviets and Taliban. It's a good way for me to learn some of the background of this place often in the news.  I found it interesting that this one region used to be a well-traveled area, but was effectively cut off and made into a remote place when the Soviet Union was formalized and when the Communists cut off China to people passing through. I found it fascinating how Greg would try to blend into a place with such a mixture of ethnicities that it wasn't unusual to find green-eyed people with Caucasian features.  Really, really enjoyed this!  The stories of the 11 year old orphan, Abdul, who worked as a mechanic and the 14 year old who was looking forward to going to school for the first time in his life...only to have his life cut short due to a landmine exploding -- stories such as these as well as the heartbreaking stories from the 2005 earthquake were enough to make my eyes fill with tears.  Greg didn't tell the stories in tugging-at-heartstrings way really.  It was just sad for me realizing the struggles and sadness some people in this world endure.  I know struggles are everywhere, but as I read and visualized these things it just made it more real how many hardships some people have to overcome just to survive.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Matthew 13 -- Why Parables? And Jesus' Puzzling "Answer"

Matthew 13 is mostly a collection of parables that Jesus tells the crowd gathered to hear him.  Why parables? 

First we should answer the question:  what is a parable?

parable n. A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.


Before reading through a few of these stories, I want to focus on verses ten through seventeen.

 10The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

From my own point of view, I recall how fables with morals or lessons have often stood out in my head. If my mom or dad told me a simple tale often the importance of the life lesson would stick in my mind more than if I merely heard a "No, Susanne, don't do that!" command.  Stories just have a way of helping us visualize things, right? And for some of us, this translates to staying-power..as in the life lesson stays with you better.

An answer like that would have worked for me, but Jesus...wow.  Sometimes I find his answers even more puzzling. It's as if instead of answering the question, he raises more! (Which is great if you are one of those people who love questions more than answers.  Right, Sarah?) 

11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

I can picture the disciples nodding their heads, "Uh huh...yeah."   And Jesus keeps going:

13This is why I speak to them in parables:
   "Though seeing, they do not see;
      though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
   " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
      you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

 15For this people's heart has become calloused;
      they hardly hear with their ears,
      and they have closed their eyes.
   Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
      hear with their ears,
      understand with their hearts
   and turn, and I would heal them.'

16
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Did you get all that?  It has something to do with ears that barely hear, eyes that are closed, calloused hearts and a prophecy of Isaiah.

Does this mean some people want to hear the truth so they do whereas others are biased against it, so they miss out?  Does this have anything to do with coming to God with child-like faith as opposed to "wise and learned" ideas of what God should be like based on our expertise and refusing to budge if God, in fact, reveals Himself to be different from our preconceived ideas?

I found verse 17 interesting as well.  What did many prophets and righteous men long to see and hear that the disciples were now seeing and hearing?  Surely Jesus would not have called them "righteous" if they were purposefully closing their eyes and refusing to hear the truth because of calloused hearts.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Peculiar Bible Story: An explanation of Jephthah's vow

So in this post, I asked y'all about Jephthah's story as told in Judges 11.  The most troubling part was his rash vow to God that if God granted him military success (which equaled his being promoted to leader of the Gileadites who previously shunned him), he would return home and sacrifice whatever came out of the door of his house to meet him as a burnt offering!

This is incredibly troubling because it seems his only child - a daughter - would suffer for his selfishness!

Why would he even make such a vow? 

One author I read said Middle Easterners often kept animals on the lower levels of their houses.  This area was like a stable of sorts to shelter them from outside elements such as bad weather or wild animals or thieves. So Jephthah naturally assumed a goat or sheep would hear him and greet him first. 

This makes better sense than thinking a man would actually chance a wife or child being sacrificed.

And truly from his sorrow I can imagine he never thought a loved one would be the first to greet his return.

So I always thought growing up that God was serious about vows. He didn't require them, but if you made one, you had to keep it.  This made me take vows seriously.

I was reading
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. the other day and he mentions this story. I was pleasantly surprised at his interpretation of it...which he actually got from Keil and Delitzsch's work. It was like a relief for me to not have to take this story literally. Now he may be wrong, but this interpretation was at least worth sharing.  Read it and then tell me if you think it has any merit.


The term for "burnt offering" is 'olah, which everywhere else signifies a blood sacrifice wholly consumed by the fire upon the altar.  But, as Keil and Delitzsch show, this interpretation as a literal human sacrifice cannot stand in the light of the context.

1. Human sacrifice was always understood, from the days of Abraham (for whose son, Isaac, a ram was substituted by God) to be an offense and an abomination to Jehovah, being expressly denounced and forbidden in Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10.  There is no evidence that any Israelite ever offered human sacrifice prior to the days of Ahaz (743-728 B.C.).  It is inconceivable that God-fearing Jephthah could have supposed he would please the Lord by perpetuating such a crime and abomination.

2.  His daughter was allowed two months of mourning, not to bewail her approaching loss of life, but only to bewail her virginity (betulim) (Judges 11:37-38).

3.  It is stated in verse 39 that after Jephthah had performed his vow and offered her as a "burnt offering," "she knew not a man." This would be a very pointless and inane remark if she had been put to death. But it has perfect relevance if she was devoted to the service of Jehovah at the door of the tabernacle the rest of her life.  (For references to the devoted women who performed service in connection with the national cultus, cf. Ex. 38:8 and I Sa. 2:22; also Anna in the days of Jesus -- Lk 2:36-37.)  The pathos of the situation in this instance did not lie in Jephthah's daughter devoting herself to divine service, but rather in the sure extinction of Jephthah's line, since she was his only child.  Hence, both he and she bewailed her virginity.  There was no human sacrifice here.

(pg. 278-279)


What do you think?   

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Peculiar Bible Story: Jephthah's vow and how it affected his daughter

Judges 11 has the peculiar story of a man named Jephthah the Gileadite. Since his mother was a prostitute, his half-siblings didn't want him to inherit anything so he left their region and settled with a bunch of adventurers who followed him. His reputation must have been one of a great fighting machine for when the Gileadites were troubled, they - yes, they who had previously not wanted him to have part of their inheritance - came to ask him to help get rid of the enemy.


 7 Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?"

Good question!  You didn't want me before, but now that you are in trouble, you do.  Hmmmm.

 8 The elders of Gilead said to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead."

So Jephthah was not good enough to inherit from the family, but when everything was threatened by an enemy, what good would any inheritance do for the Gileadites? So they told Jeph if he would rid the enemies, he would be their leader!

Jeph agreed.


The next several verses tell about the diplomatic, letter writing approach Jeph took.  Why are you troubling Israel? and such things.  The exchange is recorded as well as the fact that no solution was reached this way.

Then Jephthah did something we may call crazy. Or maybe not.

30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

I know people often vow things to the Lord when they are in trouble, but would you make such an offer as this one?

What exactly does he mean? Did he think the family dog* would be the one to greet him?

The chapter concludes with Jephthah's great military success and his ride home.  And these potentially troubling verses. 

 32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
 34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."
 36 "My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry."
 38 "You may go," he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
      From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

What do you think? Did he kill his daughter? Why would a man make such a vow as he did?  How do you reconcile this passage?  What were you taught about it? 

I have some answers, but I want to hear your thoughts first.



* In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes the author said animals were often kept in the first floor of the house as a kind of shelter and Jephthah thought a sheep or goat would come out to greet him...not a human!  Certainly not his only child.


This post is related to something I read in A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr., pg. 279.  For more information on this book, see this

Monday, July 26, 2010

What do you think?

I read all of these in Primal. Agree?  Disagree?  Discuss if you please.

"To do them justice, the people who crucified Jesus did not do so because he was a bore. Quite the contrary, he was too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have declawed the Lion of Judah and made Him a housecat for pale priests and pious old ladies."  -- Dorothy Sayers


"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."  -- CS Lewis

"When God wants to initiate a new movement in history, God does not intervene directly, but sends us dreams and visions that can, if attended to, initiate the process." -- Walter Wink

Nature/People Reveal Mysteries "If you love them enough"

If you've ever been tempted to use your past, your poor family life and upbringing as an excuse for why you cannot succeed in life, consider this man.  And the power of hard work, determination and the want to succeed and better yourself and others.  What an inspiration!

 Did you know George Washington Carver was born into slavery?  Although slaves were freed soon after his birth, it wasn't an instant paradise for black people in the United States as they continued to struggle for many many years in order to have equal rights with their white counterparts.  Keep this in mind as you read this excerpt from Primal.
  

George Washington Carver is considered one of the greatest scientific minds of the twentieth century, despite an uphill academic climb. He was accepted by Highland College, then rejected by Highland College when he showed up and they discovered he was an African American. He studied art and piano at Simpson College in Iowa. Then he earned his master's degree in botany from Iowa State University.  Upon graduation, Carver accepted a position at Tuskegee University, where he taught for forty-seven years.

 Around the turn of the century, the agricultural economy of the South was suffering. The boll weevil was devastating cotton crops. And the soil was depleted of nutrients because farmers planted cotton year in and year out. It was George Washington Carver who introduced the concept of crop rotation. He encouraged farmers to plant peanuts, and they did. The strategy revived the soil, but farmers were frustrated because there was no market for peanuts.  Their abundant peanut crops rotted in warehouses. When they complained to Carver, he did what he had always done. He prayed about it.

Carver routinely got up at 4:00 a.m., walked through the woods, and asked God to reveal the mysteries of nature. He interpreted Job 12:7-8 literally:


Ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you ...

Carver literally asked God to reveal the mysteries of nature. And God did.

    I asked God, "Why did you make the universe, Lord?"
         "Ask for something more in proportion to that little mind of yours,"
     replied God.
         "Why did you make the earth, Lord?" I asked.
         "Your little mind still wants to know far too much. Ask for something
     more in proportion to that little mind of yours," replied God.
         "Why did you make man, Lord?" I asked.
         "Far too much. Far too much. Ask again," replied God.
         "Explain to me why you made plants, Lord," I asked.
         "Your little mind still wants to know far too much."
         "The peanut?" I asked meekly.
         "Yes! For your modest proportions I will grant you the mystery of the
     peanut.  Take it inside your laboratory and separate it into water, fats,
     oils, gums, resins, sugars, starches and amino acids.  Then recombine
     these under my three laws of compatibility, temperature and pressure. 
     Then you will know why I made the peanut."  (source)







On January 20, 1921, George Washington Carver testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the United Peanut Association of America. The committee chairman, Joseph Fordney of Michigan, told him he had ten minutes.  An hour and forty minutes later, the committee told George Washington Carver he could come back anytime he wanted.  Carver mesmerized the committee by demonstrating dozens of uses for the peanut. In the end, Carver discovered more than three hundred uses for the peanut.  Or maybe more accurately, the Lord revealed more than three hundred uses.  They included everything from glue to shaving cream to soup to insecticide to cosmetics to wood stains to fertilizer to linoleum ...


"To me," said Carver, "nature in its varied forms are the little windows through which God permits me to commune with him, and to see much of his glory, by simply lifting the curtain, and looking in.  I love to think of nature as wireless telegraph stations through which God speaks to us every day, every hour, and every moment of our lives." ...

"Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also -- if you love them enough." 



the above story is quoted from pgs. 127-128, Primal by Mark Batterson


"On his grave was written, He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."  (source)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Notes: Moses Wrote The Torah

Background:  Some Bible scholars believe Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible whereas other scholars argue for editors during or after the Israelites' exile compiling the Torah (and other early OT books) from oral tradition and some written records.


A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. is a 500+ page book that my dad let me borrow.  I'm about halfway through and wanted to record some notes that I've made thus far. No use reading a book this size without learning something from it!  And if I don't write it down, I may forget. So...blogging it is.

The author presents theories of men who have varying thoughts on the authorship and time period in which the OT books were written.  His emphasis seems to be on Genesis and the rest of the Torah since many believe Moses did not write it and that the first five books of the Bible were compiled by editors during or after the Israelites' exile.  The author makes a case for the conservative view...reasons that make him believe Moses did write the Torah and why it had Aramaic loanwords and such things that others have used to "prove" it was written by editors during or post-exile.  It's a rather large and somewhat technical book. During parts of it I am merely wading through, while other areas are of some interest.

Chapter 8 dealing with The Authorship of the Pentateuch was really good. I thought the author made a strong case for his beliefs. He told how the editor/late date hypothesis made it such that when a P title for God was used in a supposed J text, the theorists had to make it such that the editors did a lot of copying, deleting and pasting within the text. (Yes, I realize editors delete and add a lot, but if you read the chapter you'd understand better why I took note of this.)

Despite the fact it was regularly done in other religions of that time, for some reason it seems unbelievable to the Late-Date Theorists that Moses could or would actually use TWO different words for God.  Elohim and Yahweh couldn't have both been used for God by ONE author within the same verse or chapter in their view.  The author states that Elohim was often used in passages about God as Creator whereas Yahweh or Jehovah was used in covenants between God and man.  (see pg. 125)


Regarding the two creation accounts, I found the "element of recapitulation" argument of interest.  The author claims this "technique" was "widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature.  The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarizing the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance.  To the author of Genesis 1-2, the human race was obviously the crowning, or climatic, product of creation."  (pg. 127)

There is much more that took my attention, but people arguing that a Hebrew couldn't write books at that time perhaps did not realize Moses - as part of pharoah's household - was educated in Egypt  where "the art of writing was so widely cultivated that even the toilet articles employed by the women in the household contained an appropriate inscription."  (pg 118)  Also since Moses was part of the Israelite crowd wandering in the wilderness for all those years, why could he not have used some of that time to record what God wanted him to write?  The author has a chapter on archaeology that shows Semitic people were not as uneducated and illiterate as we may want to think they were.  Sophisticated writing has been unearthed.

Some argue that the Torah has some Aramaic loanwords which point to the exilic period when the Israelites were spread in regions that spoke Aramaic  (e.g. The book of Daniel has much Aramaic and was written during exile).  These scholars say the Torah should have no Aramaic words if it were written during Moses lifetime, however, the author makes a claim that Abraham and Sarah came from an area of the world that likely spoke Aramaic not to mention Aramaic and Hebrew along with several other Semitic languages are related somewhat.  Who knows where Aramaic left off and Hebrew began as far as the children of Israel go?  Hebrew could be an offshoot dialect of Aramaic...so having Aramaic in the Torah isn't really proof that it was written hundreds of years after its claim.  Not only would Abraham and Sarah likely speak Aramaic, but Isaac's wife, Rebekah, was brought back from that region and later Jacob went there, lived at least 14 years and married two women - Leah and Rachel - who may have spoken Aramaic. Leah, Rachel and their maidservants were the mothers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel so I don't find it hard to believe some of "mama's tongue" made it into the children's vocabulary and thus the Bible. (see pg. 138)

The author also found it curious that the Torah - if written post-exile where the "chosen line of David had reigned for more than four centuries in the holy city of Jerusalem" didn't have "a very strong and explicit sanction for the kingship."   He writes, "It is hardly conceivable that any patriotic Jewish author, who believed in the divine authorization of the Davidic dynasty, could have passed it over in complete silence."  (pg. 156)   Likewise Jerusalem is not spoken of with high regard as this holy city would be referred to in future biblical books. (pg. 163)  Actually Jerusalem is not even mentioned by name in the Torah.

"
Although Jerusalem appears in the Hebrew Bible 669 times, it is not mentioned in the Pentateuch. Instead when referring to Jerusalem, the term "the place that God will choose" is used."  (source)


The End.  :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Difficulty in Loving God for God...Nothing More or Less

"Which do you love more: your dream or God?  Do you love God for what He can do for you? Or do you love Him for who He is?  In its purest, most primal form, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is loving God for God. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else."



Arrrrrrrgh!!  Sounds so beautiful, doesn't it? But how hard it is!

How do you just love God for who He is?

Yes, I know I just read this whole book that dealt with this topic, but when Mark put this quote on one of the last few pages, I felt like throwing up my hands as I contemplated how in the world to love God for being God.

And nothing else.

Do we love anybody that way?  Is our love that primal? that pure?  Or do we love most anyone or anything mostly, partly or even teensy weensily because of either what they can do for us, how they make us feel or how they encourage, bless us, love us in return.
Is our love ever that pure?

Even with newborn babies, don't we love them somewhat because they make us feel complete, they bring us joy, they need us, look at us with trust as they hold our fingers?

Are we capable of loving God for God? Or are we only able to love Him based on things He does for us? Healing, showing mercy, demonstrating love, creating, sustaining ...  What do you think? 

And also, how do you love God?
 
quote from Primal, Mark Batterson - pg. 165

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Your Holy Book Alive or Set in Stone?

Do y'all remember earlier this month when I wrote a few posts about From Stone to Living Word by Debbie Blue?  It started with Rethinking Idols, continued to "Love is almost like reverse idolatry,"  "God is a God of life,"  a bit in my post on Midrash and finally The Bible -- Stoning, Slashing, Loving.  I enjoyed the feedback on those posts. 


Well, here are the last notes I have from her book. Rereading this first section just now, I wondered if this could be true of Scriptures revered in other faiths.  Just yesterday I took a few minutes to watch a video on Wafa's blog.  In it Naif Al-Mutawa alludes to his creation of the comic series "The 99" as a way of making the Quran come alive.  He said too many scholars have set the Quran in stone and Al-Mutawa either said or gave me reason to believe this is why so many Muslim-majority nations are thought to be ... what's the word?  I guess stuck in another century? I don't know....I realize some people like being stuck in the past as they see modernity as too wicked and maybe too fast-paced for their liking.

So read this from Debbie Blue and see if you can also apply it to your sacred book or tell me if you reject her thoughts outright when it comes to the scripture you hold dear.



On inspiration of Scripture... "..we often seem to think it means something more along the lines of it being fixed. Not made alive, but set in stone.  As if inspired by God means God told people a long time ago to write down certain things and they did.  And those things are inerrant, absolute, fixed, and settled.  As if God's inspiration stiffens the Word rather than loosing it, objectifies it rather than breathing life into it. Because the words are inspired, we should put them under glass in a museum, worship them more than interact with them, guard them somehow, or appreciate their finality more than take them out to play. ... The church has often recognized the need to guard against bibliolatry, and way it has often done this is to appeal to the Spirit of God."  (pg. 41) 

I know it won't be exactly the same since the Quran is supposedly revealed from God word for word and thus perhaps it's supposed to be "fixed," but if you think more of the application of the Quran, interpreting it for 21st century living instead of years ago before automobiles, cell phones and computers were usual.   Or before slavery and polygyny and child marriages and raiding caravans became more frowned upon than society's norm.  And I don't think Muslims would appeal to the Holy Spirit, but maybe they'd hope for some more moderate imams and sheikhs and scholars who wouldn't have mindsets from the Dark Ages when setting down rules for the ummah. 

The author continues,

"Luther says that unless the Spirit opens scripture, it is not really understood.  Barth says that the texts, the words on the page, aren't the Word of God, the revelation, but the witness to the revelation....The words aren't the Word unless the living God animates these words, makes them alive somehow, breathes into them . . .  This is admittedly a weird thing to believe, but it is clearly a part of the outrageousness of faith."  (pg. 42)

What do you think about the words not being the "Word of God" until God makes them alive?  As I thought of this I remembered John 1 where it is claimed that the Word was with God, the Word was God, the Word created all things and the Word became flesh and lived among us.  Now that is truly a living, breathing, alive, animated Word!

One last thing from the author...

"Reading the Bible doesn't sort everything out and set everything straight. It's more like being drawn into another world where lines break down and separations cease and you lose your sense of righteousness, of being a victim to everyone else's wrong, and your heart is broken open, your joints separated from your marrow. The Word of God isn't a series of flat narratives with clear points; it's a wild, unmanageable 'moving, living organ.' ... Reading it closely, honestly, quizzically, doesn't actually set us straight as much as it rattles us, undoes us, sets us loose so that we might fall into the lap of God."  (pg.43,44)

What do you think? Could you say the same thing about the Quran, Book of Mormon or other religious texts? Do you like the author's thoughts on the Word of God? Why or why not?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Matthew 12 -- Unpardonable Sin, Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit & "The Son of Man"

Thanks much to those who left their thoughts on the "unpardonable sin" questions from yesterday's Matthew 12 post! It was great waking up this morning and reading your feedback on that. Just for the sake of considering another point of view, I wanted to share what my Quest Study Bible (pg. 1403) says.

31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.


What is blasphemy against the Spirit?
Jesus gave solemn warning in these verses to people whose hard-heartedness placed them on the brink of disaster. Blasphemy against the Spirit evidently is not just a one-time offense; rather, it is an ongoing attitude of rebellion -- a stubborn way of life that continually resists, rejects and insults God's Spirit.  This is what makes it, in effect, an eternal sin (Mark 3:29).

Some other helpful points to keep in mind:
(1) Mark notes that Jesus gave this teaching because his opponents claimed he had an evil spirit (Mark 3:30). The Pharisees were so hard-hearted that they could observe the miraculous works of God's Son and then accuse him of being Satan's co-worker -- a tragic calloused contradiction of the truth.

(2) Many people expressed honest uncertainty about Jesus during his earthly ministry because his identity as the Messiah only gradually dawned on them.  Words spoken against the Son of Man could therefore be forgiven. Since the day of Pentecost however, the Holy Spirit's ongoing ministry through the revealed Word offers people the opportunity to repent and accept the gospel. Thus, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to reject all that God is doing to bring us to salvation through Christ.

(3) Blasphemy against the Spirit is not unforgivable because of something done unintentionally in the past, but because of something being done deliberately and unrelentingly in the present. Jesus' warning was motivated by love. If we are willing to repent, God is willing to forgive (I John 1:9).

You may recall when Jesus speaks of the Counselor (some translations say Helper or Comforter) who was to come after him, he said the Holy Spirit would be with them forever (see John 14:16), be the Spirit of truth who lives in you and with you (John 14:17). He would teach them all things and remind them of all that Jesus taught (John 14:26; 15:26), convict the world of guilt (John 17:8) and guide them to truth (John 17:13).  Jesus said additionally the Spirit would take from what was his (Jesus') and make it known to us (John 17:14).  Maybe this last passage means the Spirit would help us put Jesus' examples into action because we all know it takes God's help to truly love people - especially enemies - as we love ourselves! 

So all this was said about the Holy Spirit thus if we reject HIM - God's Spirit who convicts you when you do wrong, makes the truth of God known to you and  leads you to all truth, you have willfully rebelled and this rebellion is what leads you away from God and thus this sin is unforgivable. Not because God isn't able enough, but because you chose to harden your heart, rebel and go the opposite way of God. It's only unpardonable because - in a sense - you made it so as you walked along your own path because you wanted no part of God's way.



Also in yesterday's post I mentioned Jesus often referring to himself as "the Son of Man" so I went on a brief search to understand this term better.  The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel is often referred to as "son of man" perhaps to represent his humanity and dependence on God.  "Son of man" is used around ninety (yes 9-0) times in the book that bears Ezekiel's name.  On the other hand, a passage in Daniel 7 is of a bit greater interest because many Christians believe Jesus' references to himself as "the Son of Man" hearkens back to this chapter.  It reads:

 13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Could this "one like a son of man" be some thing taking on human flesh? Like maybe God since this "thing" is being given authority, glory, sovereign power and the worship of all people? Not to mention his kingdom will never be destroyed.

Of this title my Quest Study Bible (pg. 1438) offers this note:

Why did Jesus call himself the Son of Man?
Jesus revealed and concealed himself by using this somewhat mysterious phrase.  He was clearly human, but he was divine as well. His ministry progressively revealed this fact.  To those who would oppose him, he chose to conceal his identity.To those who would accept him as the Messiah destined to give his life for humanity, the term revealed his identity.


Son of Man is used 14 times in Mark and was Jesus' favorite term for himself. It describes the servant role he willingly assumed. Sometimes the term is used to describe his divine authority, his sacrificial role and his future glory when he returns. By taking on this title in Mark 13:26 and 14:62, Jesus establishes himself as the fulfillment of the heavenly authority figure of Daniel 7 who is granted the right to come to earth, rule and judge on behalf of God.


The term blends the heavenly and earthly aspects of Christ. Because of his divine nature, God grants authority to Jesus to forgive sin. Because of his earthly purpose to be a ransom for many, he must suffer, be rejected, betrayed and killed, finally to rise again.  While others may not have immediately grasped what Jesus meant by this title,  Jesus used it to claim authority, demonstrate power and assume responsibilities no other man could.


Your thoughts on any of this?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Matthew 12:15-50 -- Titles, Divided Kingdoms, Words, Sign Of Jonah

Continuing on in Matthew 12...let's see.  Jesus has just violated Sabbath Tradition according to the Pharisees, declared himself "Lord of the Sabbath," the Pharisees are plotting his demise and he is back to quietly healing the sick around him.  Matthew mentions Jesus fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah 42:1-4.

18"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
      the one I love, in whom I delight;
   I will put my Spirit on him,
      and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
 19He will not quarrel or cry out;
      no one will hear his voice in the streets.
 20A bruised reed he will not break,
      and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
   till he leads justice to victory.
    21In his name the nations will put their hope."

I noticed in verse 23 how Jesus did some miracles

23All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"

So I got to thinking what being "the Son of David" meant to them.  Messianic thoughts, I'm thinking.

Thankfully the Pharisees were there to assure the people that this wasn't the Messiah! Nope, Jesus was doing these miracles in the power of Beelzebub, "the prince of demons," especially when Jesus was casting out evil spirits.

To which Jesus replied,  "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?"

These legalists were so adamant that Jesus was not the Messiah, was not sent from God that they would rather attribute his miracles to the prince of demons!  As if Satan would want the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the shriveled hand catching baseballs and demon-possessed people praising God!  'Cause he's all kinds of sweet like that, right? 

Jesus said,  30"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."

I thought about the gathering and scattering and it demonstrates unity and divisiveness, doesn't it?  One who gathers people together under a common cause (like Jesus) is unifying whereas one driving people away scattering them seems quite divisive. And Jesus just told us a "city or household divided against itself will not stand."

Jesus continues with this:

31"And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."

Questions/Thoughts.

*** So there is an unpardonable sin?

*** And it's against the Spirit?  Why? 

*** What is blasphemy against the Spirit? Why is that unpardonable?


*** Why does Jesus often refer to himself as "the Son of Man"?  Why is it OK to speak against him if his message was God's message?  When I read the Quran I remember accepting Muhammad's message - and thus accepting Muhammad - was necessary for a chance at salvation.  Why is Jesus' teaching different?

Tell me what you think about these questions!

He continues:

 33"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."

Whoa! These were religious guys and Jesus called them a "brood of vipers" and declared them evil!!  No wonder they wanted to kill Jesus!   It seems Jesus was very interested in people's words, huh?  Remember he wasn't so "tore up" about the disciples eating with unwashed hands. He said it wasn't what goes inside the body that made a person unclean, but what proceeded out of the body. 

Our words reveal our hearts. They are the fruit of what is growing inside. Do you think our "words" can also be our "words in action" since we all know actions speak louder than words?  Or do you suppose Jesus only meant what we say with our lips?  Jesus concluded this "word" discussion with


37"For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Has your heart been changed by God so it will bring forth good words?

The rest of the chapter highlights:

1. The Pharisees asked for a "miraculous sign." I guess the miracles they'd seen already were not enough.

2.  Jesus said the only sign for them was "the sign of the prophet Jonah" whom Jesus used as a metaphor for himself. 

40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

3.  Also Jesus declared that whoever does the will of his Father is his brothers and sisters and mother (vs. 46-50).


I've love to hear your thoughts now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fill Your Soul With the Wonderful One

God is not an object of knowledge as much as He is a cause of wonder. 

 



And that sanctified sense of wonder fuels a holy curiosity to keep learning more about the Creator and His creation.



We know just enough to think we know a lot. That is our greatest problem and greatest danger, intellectually.  Like teenagers who don't know how much they don't know, we're so proud of our one-dimensional knowledge of the Creator and His creation.  And we're so sure of our systematic theologies that quantify and classify the Unquantifiable and Unclassifiable One. But quantifying and classifying always lead to demystifying. And when you demystify God, you're guilty of intellectual idolatry.  You end up with a god, lowercase g, who fits into nice, neat cognitive categories. But the god who conveniently fits within the confines of your mind will never fill your soul with wonder.

pg. 91 - Primal by Mark Batterson

Monday, July 19, 2010

Matthew 12 -- "Lord of the Sabbath" & "Greater Than" Statements of Jesus



In Friday's post about
Jesus vs. Sabbath Tradition as recorded in Matthew 12, I concluded with questions about what Jesus' words conveyed to those who heard him. What possibly could he mean by declaring himself "Lord of the Sabbath," the Sabbath being a rest instituted by God Himself? Here is what a study Bible and commentary had to say.


Did Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, change the rules?
No, but he insisted that some values were being ignored. The Pharisees were so particular about nonessentials that they failed to see the deeper truths: Minimal food preparation on the Sabbath did not offend God. Doing good on the Sabbath did not violate the spirit of the law. Ultimately, Jesus offered himself as the central overriding principle: The Lord of the Sabbath was qualified to say what honored God and what did not. (pg 1401 Quest)

Did Jesus break the law?

Jesus didn't violate one of the Ten Commandments, but he refused to obey the man-made laws that violated what God intended for the Sabbath. Instead of the Sabbath being seen as a welcomed rest in remembrance of God, it had become a joyless ritual because of the Pharisees' regulations. Jesus insisted on observing the Sabbath as it was originally intended, not as the caricature it had become. Rather than discarding the commandment to 'keep the Sabbath day holy,' Jesus instead demonstrated that one way to obey God's directive for the day was by feeding the hungry. (pg. 1439 Quest)


In declaring Himself "Lord of the Sabbath," Jesus was actually affirming equality with God; for God had established the Sabbath. (pg. 42 Wiersbe)

Also curious are Jesus' "greater than" statements in this chapter.

6I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. ...

41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.



Did Jesus mean he was a better preacher than Jonah? Had more wisdom than Solomon? How was he greater than a temple? What did the temple represent that a "one greater than" could, well, be greater than?

How often have I heard Jesus referred to as Prophet, Priest and King! So I find these "greater than" statements of greater interest than those who dismiss Jesus as only one of many prophets of God. Hear me out.


Christians often like to point out that Jesus' death and resurrection fulfilled the Law and thus Jesus took the place of the High Priest who was required to offer sacrifices for sins on the children of Israel's behalf. Thus Jesus is the Great High Priest and, therefore, greater than the temple.

Jonah was a prophet and many Christians believe Jesus was the coming prophet who was like Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:18 & Peter's words in Acts 3:23).

Solomon was the third king of Israel, and Jesus - to me as one who believes He is God - is King of kings and Lord of lords. Not to mention his "King of the Jews" title.

Paul actually wrote this concerning Jesus:

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

I actually had this post finished earlier today, but I was looking for Handel's Messiah...that phrase "King of kings...Lord of lords" and instead found this which I felt like posting as it made me happy. In fact I was downright joyful all day! :-D

Thoughts?

A Piece of Heaven on Earth...Hallelujah!

Just found this song while looking for something else. I kind of think heaven will be something like this! Black, white, brown...whatever color you are, all worshiping God together! Beware though...if you don't think followers of Jesus can be joyful in church, you might be offended! I was absolutely grinnin' like a cat that swallowed a canary by the time this video was finished! (My favorite is the last half - around 2:30 - with the 4:30 mark entering the most joyful part...if you must know. :-))

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Earth's crammed with heaven"

Yesterday I sat on my porch as a storm was approaching and basked in the might and glory of God's creation. The wind was tousling my hair, cooling my skin and making the trees sway. A large bird was soaring above and I watched it glide in the wind current looking so free. I stopped to enjoy the show.

I also saw a butterfly flit from blossom to blossom and a hummingbird zoom as those birds are prone to do. I enjoyed an ordinary bush outside...how I love the greenery with raindrop d├ęcor! God gives me much to enjoy. Every day. I just have to open my eyes and look past the hard times in life to recognize this fact.




"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries."
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)






Today marks a year since
my grandparents moved up here! It was on a Saturday though. I remember when we first told Michael that Mema and Pop were moving to NC, he said matter-of-factly, "Oh, they will be glad to see me."


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Traveling to the Far Side & Surviving with Faith Intact

"I would not give a fig for simplicity
on the near side of complexity."


-- Oliver Wendell Holmes,
former chief justice of the United States Supreme Court

In his book Primal, pastor Mark Batterson suggests that we have made Christianity overly-complicated whereas Jesus was able "to simplify complex spiritual truths in unforgettable and irrefutable ways." Writing with the desire that we get back to the simplicity of what Jesus taught and the "primal essence of Christianity", Mark reminds us the most important thing is not the Law, not the Prophets, not Tradition but this:

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark12)


This book was written with this goal and I feel it's great timing since not long ago I was wondering how exactly do I love God. Remember this?

I've been wrestling with the idea of God as a force, an energy, a spirit since I have a hard time relating to loving something that is not human or not able to be seen. In my mind, I picture God a certain way even if He's just a pure white "man" covered with clouds and brightness. It's difficult thinking of him without human qualities and features! How does one love a force? How does one love the universe (if the universe is God for instance)? Does Jesus put a human face to God and this is why Jesus said, "if you've seen me, you've seen the Father"? source

Mark starts off great from the first chapter. I really liked this.

Many Christians settle for simplicity on the near side of complexity. Their faith is only mind deep. They know what they believe, but they don't know why they believe what they believe. Their faith is fragile because it has never been tested intellectually or experientially. Near-side Christians have never been in the catacombs of doubt or suffering so when they encounter questions they cannot answer or experiences they cannot explain, it causes a crisis of faith.

For far-side Christians, those who have done their time in the catacombs of doubt or suffering, unanswerable questions and unexplained experiences actually result in a heightened appreciation for the mystery and majesty of a God who does not fit within the logical constraints of the left brain. Near-side Christians, on the other hand, lose their faith before they've really found it.

Simplicity on the near side of complexity goes by another name: spiritually immaturity. And that's not the kind of simplicity I'm advocating. God calls us to simplicity on the far side of complexity. For that matter, He calls us to faith on the far side of doubt, joy on the far side of sorrow, and love on the far side of anger.



Good stuff, isn't it? Can anyone relate to how she has journeyed through the hard stuff (doubts, fears, sufferings, storms) and come out on the far side of complexity and it has strengthened her faith? Or maybe you are still on the near side and haven't had the doubts and sufferings of life so your faith hasn't been tested. Do you still only know what you believe or have you come to know why you believe it? How many have traveled to the far side only to have that "crisis of faith" Mark mentioned? How did you handle this crisis of faith? Did your faith remain intact, grow stronger, weaker or did you abandon it for another or nothing at all?


(quotes from pgs. 3-6)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Matthew 12:1-14 -- Jesus vs. Sabbath Tradition

Matthew 12 begins

1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."

It wasn't unlawful for the disciples to eat grain from someone else's field. (see Deut. 23:24,25)

Nope, it wasn't
stealing that the Pharisees deemed unlawful for the Sabbath. It was the fact that they picked grain and rubbed it in their hands before eating it. Why?

In their tradition these actions "constituted reaping and threshing" which was work, and therefore, not lawful to do.


Sabbath (from sabat meaning "repose or rest") was a day God instituted for the Israelites and all animals and aliens living within their land as a sign of the children of Israel's relationship with God and a "lasting covenant" (see Exodus 31:16). It was also "an act of mercy for both man and beast, to give them needed rest each week." (Wiersbe, pg. 42) Indeed keeping the Sabbath was important enough to be included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Jesus answered their charge by reminding the Pharisees of the actions of King David, the priests and words the prophet Hosea records, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Indeed Jesus says if the Pharisees knew what these words meant they would not have condemned the innocent! (Mt. 12:7)

How could Jesus declare his disciples innocent when according to Tradition (the Law?), they were guilty? Appalling!

I'm sure his next words really pushed their buttons!

8"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

What?! Is Jesus calling himself the Lord of what God instituted (the Sabbath) and gave as Law to Moses? Does Jesus get to set the rules of what does and does not violate Sabbath rest?

But wait! He doesn't stop there! Next he goes into their synagogue and meets a man with a shriveled hand.

10...Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

Since they were wanting to accuse Jesus, it seems the Traditional answer would be an emphatic "no!" At least according to the legalists' Tradition.

But as Wiersbe puts it in his commentary, "Any religious law that is contrary to mercy and the care of nature should be looked on with suspicion. God wants mercy, not religious sacrifice. He wants love, not legalism."

Jesus answered them with this:

11He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Read that? Humans are more valuable than sheep!

And it's lawful to do good on the Sabbath which probably means it's a great idea to treat others kindly and mercifully any day of the week - holy day or not.


Jesus didn't just stop with saying those wise words, but he healed the man.

13Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Can you imagine the man there? Just happened to be in the synagogue that day probably never realizing his hand - his withered, crippled hand - was going to be healed!

My pastor often points out this man's faith. Surely over the years he'd tried to stretch out that hand, willed it to be whole, to move, to grab - all to no avail. He couldn't play ball with the kids...at least not any that involved catching. It was difficult to steady and carry a hot bowl of soup from the stove to the table. Yet, here one Saturday when told by Jesus to stretch out his hand, he did..."and it was completely restored"!

Hallelujah!

Yet not everyone can celebrate your miracle with you...are their hearts just that cold?

14But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

I say legalists are just party poopers, eh? Jesus did a good deed yet they scurry away making plans about how they might rid the world of him.

What do you think about this passage? What does Jesus declaring himself "Lord of the Sabbath" mean? How do you think the Pharisees took those words? Why do you think they wanted to kill Jesus? Might he be disrupting their Tradition in a way that made them furious?



Noted quotes from The Bible Exposition Commentary, volume 1 by Warren W. Wiersbe