27 January 2010

Jan 27

Reference links:

Old Testament

As I was washing dishes this evening, I realized how odd it is that none of the Pharaohs that the Hebrews interact with are named. They are always referred to as "Pharaoh" or "king of Egypt". Given that Egypt is well documented for an ancient society, the stories in Egypt would be more believable if the Pharaohs were named.

Moses, being a sensible man, realizes that he cannot expect the people of Israel to believe that he is speaking for God just because he says so. Whatever his personal experience might have been, he cannot transfer that experience to other people. He makes this point to God, and God gives him the ability to turn his staff into a snake, make his hand diseased and healed again, and turn water of the Nile into blood.

Moses next protests that he cannot speak well. God has an answer for that,
Who makes a person's mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.
Some early Biblical descriptions of God make him responsible for misfortune as well as good; this passage supports that view, at least with respect to some types of misfortune. Whether you take this physically (God makes people blind) or metaphorically (God keeps people from understanding), this passage seems at odds with the idea of a God of love. That said, a God responsible for both good and evil is more consistent withthe view of God as omnipotent and the creator of all.

In any case, God agrees to let Moses get help from his brother Aaron. Given that Pharaoh declared that all Hebrew boys should be murdered at birth, I wonder where Aaron came from. What he born before the decree? After it was lifted? Did Moses' mother hide a second child? Was Aaron actually Moses' brother-in-law? No clue.

After finishing up his conversation with God, Moses, his wife, and their sons leave Midian for Egypt. On the way something very strange happens.
On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. But Moses' wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, "Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me." (When she said "a bridegroom of blood," she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the Lord left him alone.
Okay... Apparently God changes his mood as quickly as Jesus (so there is a family resemblance!). Moses had just been talking to God. Now God tries to kill him. Maybe God had a good reason, but it seems extreme. And weird. I would expect that if God tried to kill someone, he would succeed. Also, good call on Zipporah's part figuring out (somehow) that a rapid and probably somewhat imprecise circumcision would appease God.

Aaron and Moses meet up, go to Egypt, convince the elders of Israel they are speaking for God, talk to Pharaoh, Pharaoh refuses to let the people leave to worship God. Then, Pharaoh commits a management snafu. He assumes that since the people have the will to ask for things, they must lack work. Pharaoh gets the great idea of making them find their own straw for their bricks without reducing the number of bricks expected of them. I guess slave drivers cannot be expected to have a great understanding of people management.

New Testament

Today, the disciples ask "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus replies that those who make themselves like a humble child are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Today, we also read about Jesus' (hopefully metaphorical) recommendation of self mutilation.
What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. It's better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It's better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
A couple of lessons. Believers should avoid things that might tempt them to sin (hopefully you won't take that to mean that you should stop reading my blog!). Also, either your physical body enters heaven or hell, your spiritual body reflects the state of your physical body, or this passage is completely metaphorical.

We also learn today that
if two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.
It is not completely clear who Jesus is addressing here. He could just be addressing the disciples. However, the preceding passages seemed to be addressed to believers generally. Furthermore, the passage says "where two or three gather together as my followers" without any qualification. If the passage is referring to all believers, it is problematic. What if different groups of two or three believers get together and ask for contradicting things? How do we to account for all of the things asked for by groups of believers that do not come to pass? This passage specifically says that if the believer agree concerning anything they ask, God will do it for them.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing particularly noteworthy in today's reading from Psalms. We do have some good lines in Proverbs today. Rather racy.
Drink water from your own well --
share your love only with your wife.
Why spill the water of your springs in the streets,
having sex with just anyone?
You should reserve it for yourselves
Never share it with strangers.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts satisfy you always.
May you always be captivated by her love.
Still, as entertaining as those lines are, I sometimes tired of the way Proverbs seems to always address men.