10 March 2010

Mar 10

Reference links:
Old Testament

Yesterday, scouting reports terrified the Israelites. Today, they continue to doubt God's ability to help them conquer the land contemplate finding new leaders who will lead them back to Egypt. And we all know the God of the Old Testament hates doubt. God's response to this doubt:
“How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”
God once again, I think for the second time, threatens to murder all of the Israelites and to make a new nation from Moses. Fortunately, Moses once again calms him down and mass murder is prevented. Moses used the same approach as before: appeal to God's vanity.
But Moses objected. “What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?” he asked the Lord. “They know full well the power you displayed in rescuing your people from Egypt. Now if you destroy them, the Egyptians will send a report to the inhabitants of this land, who have already heard that you live among your people. They know, Lord, that you have appeared to your people face to face and that your pillar of cloud hovers over them. They know that you go before them in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Now if you slaughter all these people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of your fame will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring them into the land he swore to give them, so he killed them in the wilderness.’

“Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”
This passage also highlights how little we have actually been shown that God is slow to anger and has unfailing love for the Israelites.

Instead of killing all the Israelites, God decides to make them wander about in the dessert for 40 years. In the midst of that passage, we get this tidbit:
The ten men Moses had sent to explore the land—the ones who incited rebellion against the Lord with their bad report— were struck dead with a plague before the Lord
I personally am very glad that God no longer goes around killing those who work against him.

New Testament

Jesus is tried. The religious teachers cannot find any evidence against him. Fortunately for them, Jesus commits blasphemy:
Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The casing on the "I Am" conveys that Jesus was using a phrase of self reference that was only considered appropriate for God. Jesus is essentially saying that he is equal with God. I do not condone executing someone over blasphemy, but I can certainly understand why the religious teachers were so deeply offended by his words. From their point of view, Jesus was one of many who performed miracles and taught. Maybe his teachings were more profound and his miracles more powerful, but unless the religious teachers had been at one of the events where God talked from the sky (John's baptism of Jesus or Jesus' transfiguration) or had heard about them from a source they considered reliable, they had nothing but Jesus' claims about himself to go on. We have even read that Jesus tried to keep his identity as the Messiah rather hushed up from those outside of his inner circle. Would you, with their knowledge, believe someone's claims to be the Messiah?

In today's reading, we also read about how Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crows twice (once before the first crow and twice more before the second crow). Minor contradiction: in the version of this story in Matthew, the prediction that comes true is that Peter will contradict Jesus three times before the cock crows even once. Oops.

Psalms and Proverbs

Repeat! And a rather annoying one at that. Today's psalm, Psalm 53 is almost exactly the same as Psalm 14. This is the psalm that says that only fools say there is no God. I have already commented on why Christians should not quote this passage (in short, it makes them sound like jerks).