Daily Scripture readings for September, set # 21:
The account in Judges 19 is terrible. It’s sad, it’s wrong, and it’s NOT intended to be normative or an example of how human beings should interact with each other. This is an important thing to keep in mind when reading the Old Testament. The idea that the OT was written, in it’s entirety, as a moral and ethical “how-to” rulebook or collection of advice is absolutely false, and remembering that is helpful in figuring out what to do with a narrative like Judges 19. That being said, I’m confused as to what the bigger problem is in the chapter’s characters and their behavior. Is this an account of how bad things had gotten in Israel during the Judges period, or is it an account of how selfish and self-protecting this Levite was (even giving over his wife to death after having sought her out to return to him)?
Psalm 90:4 is a familiar verse to many, describing God’s “otherness” to us with respect to time and his authority over it. I’m struck today as I read verses 5-6, which continue to poetically develop the theme from verse 4: “You sweep them (the thousand years) away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” The span of time between 1000 AD and the present, and all the “important” developments and achievements of mankind… they are simply swept away by God, and are only a dream.
Jesus, in Mark 8, takes a minute to warn the disciples of the Pharisees, and uses a a bread metaphor to do so. When the disciples don’t get it, he asks them, “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” (vs 17-18). Apparently having “eyes” doesn’t automatically equate with “seeing.” This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:10-16.
Within 1 Corinthians 14’s context of prophesying vs speaking in tongues, Paul uses an analogy of music to make his point. “If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me” (vs 7-11). These verses had a HUGE impact on me when I read them last year. The idea that by playing my instrument indistinctly I could speak past everyone and not help anything really sharpened my focus toward being EFFECTIVE with what I play in a worship service. Using musical instruments in our worship gatherings has become commonplace for modern churches, but this places a serious burden on the musicians to speak clearly not be a foreigner to those in the congregation.
Daily Scripture readings for September, set #22:
The book of Judges, concluding with chapter 21, ends with these famous and ominous words: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (vs 25). Our culture currently admires and works hard to advance the freedom to do whatever is right in one’s own eyes. What I’m pointing out is of course not new, but it struck me in a fresh way today as I read it.
After reading Psalm 91 I can definitely see how the “health and wealth” prosperity gospel proponents arrived at their doctrines. A surface reading of this chapter suggests that nothing bad will ever happen to someone who trusts God. While I would certainly acknowledge that this Psalm is meant to encourage the reader, a close reading and a focus on context (not to mention taking the rest of Scripture into account) prohibits the prosperity reading. Even Jesus, when the devil quoted this Psalm to him, saw through the misinterpretation.
“I see men, but they look like trees walking” (Mark 8:24). So then Jesus puts mud on his eyes AGAIN, as if the first time didn’t work quite right. Seriously… Mark’s gospel is so strange.
Controversial verses alert: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (vs 34-35). I found a helpful article on understanding these verses here.