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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Introducing Samuel…

Samuel 1-2

Samuel is an extremely important figure in Israel’s history. He is the last judge of Israel and the one who will become a prophet and “king-maker” as Israel becomes united under a single monarchy. Today’s reading tells about how his mother was barren for many years and although loved deeply by her husband, she suffered deeply without children. Again, the importance of childbearing and the continuance of family plays such a significant role in Bible narratives. What should be a joyous occasion at the Tabernacle every year is instead a misery for her as it is a painful reminder of her inability to bear children. So while there she cries out to God, begging for a child.

When she receives that child, he is dedicated to the service of the Lord. It’s important to note that she definitely still loves him and brings him clothing every year. Eli, the priest, is so impressed by this act of faith that he asks God to provide her with more children. This entire story allows Israel to have a new spiritual leader, as the priesthood has failed. Israel is in a state of religious turmoil with people having no morality and worshiping all kinds of false gods. Eli’s sons are a mockery to the priesthood and God and abuse their power to steal food from the altar. The text even makes sure that we understand they aren’t even ashamed or subtle about it.

After Samuel is born, Israel’s spiritual leadership shifts more in the direction of prophets and less from the priests. God, knowing that this needs to happen, provides a faithful boy from a faithful family who can be raised among the priests and learn their ways, while still remaining true to God. He is the last judge and will oversee Israel’s transition to a monarchy as God continues to develop his relationship with Israel.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

David’s Great-Grandmother – Official’s Son

Ruth 2:1-4:22

We basically got to read the entirety of Ruth’s story today. Ruth’s story has always been an interesting one. She’s a foreign woman who decides to stick around to bring glory to the family of her deceased husband. In doing so…she becomes King David’s Great-Grandmother. Had she not been faithful to her husband’s family, David would have never been born! The stage is being set for David to enter the picture.

John 4:43-54

We have a rather short NT reading today. The official comes to Jesus because he wants his son healed. Jesus replies that they will never believe unless they see signs and wonders. The official insists that Jesus should come home with him but Jesus makes him leave without really knowing whether or not his son is alive. We see Jesus act in different ways in regards to healing people. He touches some. He speaks directly to others. Sometimes he just does it from a distance. In this situation, Jesus just says “Go…your son will live.” I’m curious as to what is going through the guy’s mind as he’s on his journey home. Was he wondering what all the hype was about Jesus? Did he believe the whole way home? Doubt? I’m not sure what the man was thinking about after walking away from Jesus, but I can tell you that he probably didn’t have any doubt after the fact!

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Namesake and Samaritan Woman

Judges 21

This passage wraps up the book of Judges and is really just the conclusion of the story of the Levite and his concubine. The entire narrative about the evil done to her and intended for the Levite is there to show just how terrible things have become with God’s people. They have fallen so far in the book of Judges that when this horrible crime takes place, they aren’t even sure how to deal with it. When the respond with vengeance and violence, they don’t know what to do with what’s left of Benjamin. It’s a huge mess that has resulted from the people’s lack of faith and refusal to follow God and teach him to the next generation.

Ruth 1

As the story begins, Naomi’s husband and two sons have died and she and her daughters are left widows in a foreign land. In that culture, the most important aspect of that tragedy is that the family line will die with Naomi and her husband. This is extremely significant and Ruth recognizes that she is Naomi’s last hope. It is also a way to honor the memory of her dead husband, by seeking out one of his kinsman to have children with and continue the family line. However, pursuing this comes at a great cost. That doesn’t stop Ruth, though, who insists that she will remain faithful and loyal to her husband, her mother-in-law and their God.

John 4

One of the most well known stories in the Gospels is only included in John’s Gospel. Jesus finds himself alone at a well in Samaria in the middle of the day, presumably because she is too ashamed to be there at the same time as the other women because of her guilt and sin. Jesus begins by talking about simple things, but as always they quickly turn to spiritual things. The woman seems bothered by Jesus’s presence and does not respond well until after he confronts her as being on her sixth man. She then recognizes that he must be a prophet and becomes open to spiritual conversations.

There are three things (ignoring the commonly discussed topics of Jesus treating her well despite her sins, her gender, and her nationality) that I love about this story. First, when scholars put the events of the Gospels in chronological order, it is very likely that this woman is actually the first person that we know of who Jesus plainly tells that he is the Messiah. While he is normally evasive about this and others often imply he is the Messiah, he simply tells this woman that he is. Second, I love that her response is to share this news with others. The woman who previously desired lonely shame is now willing to chase the crowds and tell them about Jesus. The suddenness of that transformation is powerful in itself. Finally, the Samaritan crowds come because Jesus can tell everything this woman has ever done (we aren’t sure if they are coming because he can prophesy or to hear about the things she has done). However, by the time they leave, they make it clear that they believe because of their own experience with Jesus and not because of her’s. This is also an example of something John loves to do, which is show how “dirty” Samaritans are able to understand and believe in Jesus while Jews struggle to do so. The contrast is convicting and embarrassing, to say the least.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

He Must Become Greater; I Must Become Less

Judges 19:1-20:48

I’m honestly not too sure what to do with this story. It kind of makes me sick…which I think might be part of the point of it. Israel reaches a point to where their story and Sodom and Gomorra’s story are almost looking identical. As for all the people who die in the battles…I hope you have some insights on it and would be willing to share.

John 3:22-4:3

I said before that I would like to develop the same understanding that John has for his purpose in the world. When John is more or less told that he should be jealous of the work that Jesus is doing he simply replies, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Imagine how the world would be different if we took to the task of lessening ourselves in order for Christ to becomes greater.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Micah’s Idols and Being Reborn

Judges 17-18

What’s so stunning about these two chapters is how terrible things have become in Israel. In Judges 2, we learn that an entire generation has grown up not knowing God or what he had done for Israel. The story of Samson makes us realize that at this point, even the Judges have problems. Samson gets married to Philistines (against God’s wishes), sleeps with a prostitute, gets revenge, lies, and does all other kinds of things and also judges over Israel for 20 years. That’s not great.

So now in Judges 17, a mother curses her son who stole from her and then blesses him for his honesty. In his honor she builds an idol which they and and their neighbors begin to worship. What’s odd, is they don’t seem to have any concept for who God really is, but they do know that Levites are supposed to be priests. So when a Levite comes by, Micah talks him into bring his priest. Later, men from Dan decide to go pillaging the countryside because they have found some easy targets and they go bullying and conquering and acquire a priest.

And just to make things worse, when they finally settle on a priest in Laish, now called Dan, they get a man named Jonathan to be priest. Jonathan is the son of Moses’s firstborn son, Gershom. This let’s us know exactly how quickly things have got so bad. Several times we read the phrase that Israel had no king and everybody did as they saw fit. Clearly that has allowed Israel to fall into a bad situation where nobody even knows who God is or how to worship him if they wanted to.

John 3

Nicodemus meets with Jesus at night, presumably because he is wanting to meet in secret. He is clearly interested in what Jesus is teaching, although John wants us to see that even though Nicodemus is taking the initiative to pursue Jesus, he doesn’t seem to understand much of what Jesus is staying to him. When Jesus says that he must be born again, Nicodemus asks how he could possibly fit back inside his mom. He doesn’t seem to get it.

Jesus wants him to see that physical things can clean physical things but it takes spiritual things to clean spiritually. The idea here is that being born again of water and spirit gives you a new life that is spiritual in nature. Jesus goes on to mention the “Son of Man” passage from Daniel and also the passage about Moses and the bronze snake that when looked upon would heal the plague caused by sin. Jesus is implying that he will do this as well when he is lifted up.

The book begins with John the Baptist talking about how Jesus is bringing a light that the world doesn’t understand. Now we have a Jewish religious leader who not only wants to meet Jesus in the dark, but doesn’t seem to be able to figure much of it out (still in the dark about Jesus’s teachings). This is going to really be a contrast to the story of the Samaritan woman who is right around the corner. It’s amazing how much the people who expect Jesus the most are the ones who accept him the least.

 

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Bad Nazarite – The Greater Honor

Judges 15:1-16:31

These two chapters have some of the most amazing stories in the book of Judges. In the category of most random ways to to get revenge…fire-tailed foxes wins hands down! It is apparent that Samson is a little stupid when he gets around women. After being tricked into giving away his secret his hair is cut and he loses his strength. As Kent pointed out yesterday…Samson isn’t the best Nazarite. His hair grows back out and his strength returns. After praying to God for one last act of strength, Samson brings down the temple in one push and kills more people in that act than he ever did in his lifetime.

 

 

 

This time reading Samson’s story I realized something that I hadn’t paid attention to before. Like the rest of the Judges, Samson does amazing things with the strength of God. The difference with Samson is that every time he kills lots of people it seems to be because of what they did to him and not much of anything to do with what they did to Israel. Even in his last big attack he asked God for strength to get revenge on what they did to his eyes. I’m honestly lost on what redeeming qualities Samson has. I might be being too harsh though.

 

 

John 2:1-25

Jesus’ mother, who’s name is not mentioned in this Gospel, comes to Jesus and tells him to fix the problem. Jesus says, “No.” Taking that as a “yes” she then tells the servants to do what Jesus says. Jesus then turns water into wine, saving the bridegroom and the master from a ton of shame. Who receives honor in this story? On the surface we would be quick to say the bridegroom and the master since they were saved from shame. Since we know who Jesus is, we see that the bridegroom and the master never knew what Jesus had done and we see that Jesus is instead revealed to the servants. Those who are the least of the party are the ones who received the honor of knowing who Jesus is. Jesus brings greater honor to those who have none! To know Jesus is the greater honor!

Why does John have Jesus clearing the temple at the beginning of his ministry when the other Gospels have it at the end? There is a lot of debate over whether or not Jesus cleared the temple twice or what. Here’s my take…I think John wants his readers to see everything in Jesus’ ministry through the lens of the resurrection. Jesus is here at the beginning of his ministry and his first major public proclamation is, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Samson and Stairway to Heaven

Judges 13-14

God tells Samson’s parents that they will become pregnant and give birth to a special son who is to be a Nazirite. If you remember from Numbers 6, there are three significant rules for a Nazirite. First, do not cut your hair or shave your beard. Second, abstain from wine, grapes and other products from the fruit of the vine. And finally, to never come in contact with death.

Pay attention to these three important promises to Samson’s Nazirite vow as we read his story over the next several days. While Samson is very well known for his strength and ability to slaughter Philistines, he doesn’t really behave the way God would want him to. His hair does get cut. He intermarries with Philistine women. He drinks. And above all, the guy is pretty well known as having spent a lot of time around dead bodies. It seems that as we near the end of Judges, that even the judges aren’t as faithful any more. If Samson actually kept the commands of one under a Nazirite oath, he would have to cut his hair every time he killed a man, which would be the end of his strength. And on top of that, there is no question that Samson has some serious problems (especially with women). Much more to come on this guy…

John 1

John the Baptist tells two of his disciples that Jesus is the one they have been waiting for to take away the sins of the world. One of these disciples ends up being Andrew. The other isn’t named. Many people assume that this unnamed Apostle is actually the Apostle John. Which makes it very interesting that one of the only writers of the New Testament who was actually there when Jesus was baptized, didn’t choose to write about it. Get used to John being different in this book. Jesus continues gathering other ministers.

Stairway to Heaven

At the end of this passage, Jesus says that he is the stairway between Heaven and earth. Jesus is clearly referencing the vision that Jacob had where he witnesses angels coming and going between heaven and earth. That place was where heaven and earth intersected. Later, that intersection would take place at the Tabernacle and eventually the Temple. Those places are the locations where God meets people, and where heaven and earth collide. Jesus is telling the Apostles that he will be the new intersection between heaven and earth and that through him, his followers will always be about the business of uniting heaven and earth.

So if Jesus is the one who unites heaven and earth, then as his people, shouldn’t we be that as well?

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Dedication – New Creation Story

Judges 11:1-12:15

The dedication to God that Jephthah had is something that I cannot grasp and I really hope to never be in a situation where I have to do what he did. I feel like most of us would make a promise to God and then when we see our only daughter come out of the house we would somehow justify our way out of our promise to God. We don’t see Jephthah doing that. I’m also amazed by her understanding of his commitment to God and what he had to do because of it. We often look at what we are putting ahead of God in our lives…but have you ever considered your own family?

The next story actually made me laugh a little. This would be the equivalent of meeting a German and asking them to say “Want to watch the women work as waitresses?” and getting “Vant du vatch de vomen verk as vaitresses?” I just feel sorry for the guy who couldn’t speak well…

John 1:1-28

John the Evangelist (13th Cen)

We’ve made it to our Fourth and final Gospel! I’m really looking forward to the discussions that John’s Gospel will bring about. I’ve spent the entire summer working on projects for a class on the Gospel of John and I promise not to get too wordy with the posts! The purpose of this blog is really to reflect on the readings without digging into commentaries. Kent and I are having a great time sharing in this with you!

I love the way this Gospel starts out. There is an arrow pointing back to the Genesis creation narrative “In the beginning…” and there seems to be a bit of a theme of new creation running throughout the gospel with the climax being Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener after the resurrection. It is hard to imagine that being an accidental connection.

I reread this poetic passage a few times in order to let the imagery of it all set in. There is so much about God packed into these few verses. Go back and read it again. What stands out to you that John is communicating about who Jesus is? Why do you feel like John saw this as an important way to start his Gospel?

Pretty quick to the spotlight is John the Baptist. John is the kind of person who understand his role and doesn’t really stray from it. He confessed freely that he was not the Messiah but quotes Isaiah 40:3 which points to the rest of the passage,

“A voice of the one calling:

‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD;

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,

and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”

John is saying that one is coming who is going to bring about transformation on the earth! God is coming so get ready! Pay attention to John’s role throughout the beginning of the Gospel. I hope that I will understand my purpose in life as well as he did his.

John the Baptist (6th Cen.)

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

King Killer and Jesus’s Resurrected Body

Judges 9-10

Weapon of Choice

If you are ever in one of Bill Day’s classes and he asks you who the first king of Israel was (with a smirk on his face) you now know that it’s a semi-trick question and that while most people would say Saul, Judges indicates that it’s Abimelech. Abimelech is likely more of a regional king while Saul was later king of a more united Israel. He wasn’t a good king and rebellion happened and he squashed it. Then he got overzealous in his attacks and went to destroy another tower and a woman bashed his head in. He immediately had one of his men kill him to avoid the shame of being killed by a woman.

Then there were stories about other judges.

Luke 24

So if Abimelech had his own man kill him to avoid the shame of being killed by a woman, then you certainly wouldn’t make women the lead characters in your story if you were making it up during this time. This idea is part of N.T. Wrights argument that the Apostles’ story about Jesus’s resurrection has to be true because if it had been a lie they would have told a better lie. They certainly would not have made themselves look like foolish cowards while making the women faithful and understanding. Women wouldn’t have been called on to be witnesses in court, let alone be witnesses to the resurrection of God’s only Son.

Not only that, but they would have found a better way to describe his resurrection, or at least his resurrected body. There was at that time, much like our own, some belief of disembodied spirits floating around after death. There was also an idea that there would be some final resurrection at some point in the faraway future (See Mary at Lazerus’s death). But this idea that Jesus would be resurrected in some heavenly and physical body was so foreign to them that you can tell they are having a hard time describing it. God hid Jesus’s identity (which seemed to almost change somehow) from two disciples. He appears and disappears from rooms. And yet, Luke wants us to know that you could touch him and he could eat. This was no ghost. Jesus is now something like the Temple or the ladder in Jacob’s dream. He is in some way part of both this creation and heaven. Do I completely understand this? No. Do I think that Jesus is the firstborn and that we will also have a bodily resurrection like he has? Yes. Want more info than this? Come to church on Sunday nights.

It is important that Jesus blessed them. Like a father would bless his sons, Jesus is providing them with blessing, inheritance, and commission to continue his work all in this moment. In Acts, the same story includes the details about them waiting for something after Jesus ascends until two angels tell them to leave. I do think it’s almost a crime that Luke’s books aren’t next to each other in the Bible. In Luke, the Apostles and Disciples have a strong sense of mission and purpose and praise immediately after the ascension. In Acts, the focus is much more on what’s to come with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Who’s Your King – Nonsense!

Judges 8:18-9:21

Israel comes to Gideon with the intentions of making him king. His response shows that he has a good understanding of his role, “The LORD will rule over you.” Interestingly, he then asks for a portion of the gold that they had and he made an ephod out of it. An ephod is the breastplate which the royal priest normally wore. It is hard to tell what exactly Gideon did with the ephod. Sometimes, in pagan practices, an ephod was placed on the image of worship. It doesn’t seem likely that Gideon would set up an idol for Israel to worship since he started his career destroying them! It could possibly be that it was placed over the idol that he knocked down in order to show that this place now belongs to God. Either way…Israel missed the point and prostituted themselves to it.

Abimelek Crowned King

After 40 years of peace, after Gideon declined being king in order to point them back to God, they turned back to the Baals as soon as Gideon died. Seeing their desire for a king to rule them, Abimelek jumps on the opportunity to gain power for himself. He kills all but one of his brothers and is crowned king. Jotham stands up against him and calls all of them out…tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 23:44-24:12

“They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” The stone rolled away, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and angels wearing bright white clothes all seemed a bit much to take in for the apostles. I’m sure the women reminded them of what Jesus had said about it all but they still saw it as nonsense! We have a group of men cowering in a room refusing to believe the resurrection of Jesus. Soon we will see their lives transform into the men who will change the world with the message of this reality. The dedicated way they lived was a testimony to the reality of their belief in Jesus’ resurrection and in turn their own! What does your life say about what you believe in?

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Bible in One Year