18 January 2010

Jan 18

Reference links:
Old Testament

Jacob favors Joseph "because Joseph had been born to him in his old age." This made Joseph's brother's jealous. I wonder if Jacob also favored Benjamin since Benjamin was born to Jacob after Joseph was born.

The brothers' anger increases when Joseph starts having strange dreams. In the first dream, he sees them bundling grain together. His bundle stands up while his brothers' bundles bow. He then dreams that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bow down before him (I would imagine they bob more than bow). The implication is that Joseph, the second youngest of twelve sons, will somehow gain power over his brothers. They dislike the idea, not surprisingly.

One day, Joseph's brothers are pasturing sheep. Jacob sends Joseph to report on the flocks. When Joseph's brothers see him coming, they plot to kill him. Reuben, the oldest, convinces them to just throw Joseph in a cistern and let him die naturally (but Reuben really planned to come back and rescue Joseph). Joseph's brothers execute this plan, but then take advantage of a passing caravan of traders and sell Joseph into slavery. The traders eventually sell Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharaoh. The brothers dip Joseph's robe in blood and presented it to their father. Jacob then mourns deeply for his favorite son.

We then take a brief break from that story to read about Judah and Tamar. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Bad luck plagues him. He married a Canaanite woman and had three sons with her. The oldest son, Er, marries Tamar. But the Lord considered Er to be wicked and killed him. Judah then forced his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar and produce an heir for Er (tee hee, "heir for Er"). Onan thought this arrangement sucked and so pulled out early whenever he had sex with Tamar (remember, it's the Bible being explicit, not me). God thought this was evil of Onan and so killed him too. I think that is rather evil of God.

Judah sent Tamar back home, promising to marry her to his third son when he is older. However, he intended to break his promise because he did not want his third son to die. Tamar eventually figured this out, and decided to take matters into her own hands. She fooled Judah into thinking she was a prostitute and got pregnant by him. When Judah finds out that Tamar was pregnant, he declared that she should be burned to death. However, she had been clever and had proof that he had slept with her. This convinced Judah that Tamar is righteous because apparently it is okay to sleep with your father-in-law if he does not arrange for you to marry his last son. In any case, she gives birth to twins and Judah never sleeps with her again.

New Testament

Jesus heals another demon possessed man and people start to wonder if he is the Messiah. The Pharisees think that Jesus gets his power to cast out demons from Satan. Jesus makes a good point when he responds
Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.
Sadly, he follows this up with a terrible point.
Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me.
So remember, if you do not explicitly support Jesus, you are his enemy. In the same line, Jesus goes on to condemn anyone who does not listen to him or who wants him to actually demonstrate evidence for his claims of being able to do miraculous claims. Jesus apparently hated skeptics.

Psalms and Proverbs
Keep me safe, Oh God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
I wonder how often that verse has been cried out by those is despair only to have their hopes crushed, their refuge refused? In any case, today's psalm presents a different message from the psalms we were considering the other day. Instead of doubt being the centerpiece, hope takes a central position. For those who actually believe the Bible, this must be a lovely song of praise.

More good moral lessons in the proverbs:
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
when it's in your power to help them.
If you can help your neighbor now, don't say,
"Come back tomorrow, and then I'll help you."
Yesterday, I commented on Jesus' teachings about healing on the Sabbath. I claimed that Jesus did not make a very strong case for allowing it. He could have done a much better job if he had quoted the verses above. Those verses provide clear cut instructions that it is better to do good now than later.

Also, don't plot against your neighbor or pick fights or copy the ways of violent people.