06 January 2010

Jan 6

Reference links:
Old Testament

Melchizedek, what a great name!  He is the priest who blessed Abram after he rescued his nephew Lot from some dudes who had captured him.  Apparently, there is some confusion about him because, you see, Aaron was supposed to be the first priest.  But this Melchizedek dude was described as "the king of Salem [which some people believe was Jerusalem] and a priest of God Most High".

We get an interesting picture perspective on Abram in Genesis 15.  When the Lord told him that he would have as many descendants as the stars, "Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith."  But when God told him that he would give him the land he was in, Abram questioned God saying, "O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?"  (This is followed by some animal sacrifices and a funky dream with flaming torches moving seemingly of their own volition.)

Genesis 15:16 is an interesting commentary on free will: "After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction." God apparently knows that the Amorites will be sinful enough to warrant their destruction (well, at least in the eyes of a God who was one willing to murder most of humanity).

New Testament

Today we learn what Jesus has to say about several moral issues.  First, adultery.  As is well known, Jesus says "anyone who even looks at a women with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart".  If such a view were taken seriously by those who profess to be Christians, advertising, modelling, and much of Hollywood would not be able to stay in business. Jesus also tells people to gouge out their eyes and cut off their hands if these things cause them to sin.  I also wonder how society would treat anyone who started doing this.  We'd probably institutionalize them.

On divorce, Jesus says "a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery.  And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery."  But it sounds like man who divorces his wife who marries a non-divorced woman is not committing adultery.  Oh, and a woman cannot divorce her husband. Interesting (but not surprising) double standard there.

I always laugh when I read Jesus' admonition against making vows by heaven or earth given that many things in the US such as presidential inaugurations and court witnesses swear their oaths on the Bible; this seems to violate the spirit of Jesus' command even though, since "by the Bible" is not being said it might pass the letter of his command.

I approve of Jesus saying that we should not seek revenge, we should not seek "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", but I think he takes it a bit far.  In particular, when he says
But I say, do not resist an evil person!  If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.
This verse has been one of the sadly many that have been used to keep women in abusive relationships.  As such, I cannot commend Jesus' words even he is countering a sentiment I also disagree with.

On the other hand, the next section about loving your enemies has some good verses.
If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?... If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?"

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's Psalm starts "O Lord, don't rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage."  I have a hard time dissociating most emotions from their temporal context.  This leads me to generally wonder about how a timeless God can have emotions.  However, I can usually accept as somewhat feasible the idea that these are translations of the divine state into terms humans can understand (feasible in the way that I can suspend disbelief and discuss the properties of mythical beasts).  However, I cannot do that for rage.  Rage is such a temporally rooted emotion.  The very idea of God experiencing rage is, in my view, nonsensical.

This Psalm has another interesting line in verse 5.
For the dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave?
This verse challenges the idea of an afterlife.  At the very least, it argues for a view that the dead to not go immediately to heaven or hell but instead are really truly dead until God brings all of the dead back to life and punishes or rewards them.

Today's verses from Proverbs are just an conceptual continuation of yesterday's: if you are destroyed and cursed, it's your own fault for not fearing the Lord.