12 March 2010

Mar 12

Reference links:
Old Testament

Yesterday God killed a bunch of people for threatening to rebel against Moses. Today, we learn that perhaps murder does not make a good management strategy.
But the very next morning the whole community of Israel began muttering again against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the Lord’s people!” As the community gathered to protest against Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the Tabernacle and saw that the cloud had covered it, and the glorious presence of the Lord appeared.
The people are rebelling again. God's attempt to force obedience through murder failed. Fortunately, God has a plan. Kill even more people!
Moses and Aaron came and stood in front of the Tabernacle, and the Lord said to Moses, “Get away from all these people so that I can instantly destroy them!”
God starts sending a plague through the people. Moses reacts quickly and asks Aaron to burn some incense to purify the people. Not sure why burning a little incense will stop God's rage, but apparently it works. Because of the quick actions of Moses and Aaron, "only" 14,700 people died instead of the whole community of Israel.

To give a final proof that Aaron was the chosen leader of the Israelites, God commands Moses to have every tribal leader give Moses a staff inscribed with his name. Moses places the staffs in the Tabernacle overnight, and God makes the chosen leader's staff bud and blossom. God, of course, chooses Aaron's staff. As a result, the Israelites seem to accept Aaron's leadership, but they still are not happy with it.
Then the people of Israel said to Moses, “Look, we are doomed! We are dead! We are ruined! Everyone who even comes close to the Tabernacle of the Lord dies. Are we all doomed to die?”
In short, we should be thankful that we no longer have God's presence quite so directly among us. It's a death sentence.

But seriously, it seems that the real purpose of the stories in the last several days readings is to discourage questioning of authority. If any sign of rebellion against God and his chosen leaders is punished by death, then even reasonable dialogs about authority are cut off.

Also, the Levites in general and the priests in particular get to keep all the loot that the Israelites give to God (except the parts that are burnt) because they do not get land. As with the other passages that are about what the priests get, this passage reads very differently depending on whether you accept the traditional authorship of Moses or the more modern belief that the authors were Levitical priests.

New Testament

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome go to Jesus's tomb (didn't Matthew say it was  just Mary Magdalene and the other Mary?). When they arrive at the tomb, the stone is rolled away, and an angel is there to tell them Jesus rose from the dead. They fled from the scene, saying nothing to anyone because they were too frightened. This is where the most reliable manuscripts end.

There are two alternate endings to this gospel. The majority of manuscripts contain the longer one. The shorter one is only a paragraph more. After fleeing, the women tell the disciples about Jesus, and then Jesus himself sends out the disciples to spread a message of salvation.

In the longer ending, Mary Magdalene meets Jesus (in Matthew all the women meet Jesus). Mary tells the disciples Jesus is alive, but they do not believe her. Then two more followers meet Jesus, but again, no one believes him. Finally, the disciples meet Jesus, and he rebukes them for not believing in his resurrection. Jesus sends out the disciples to preach and then is taken up into heaven. The end!

The particular things Jesus tells the disciples before sending them out (in the long ending) are... interesting.
Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.
By this statement, I guess there are either no true believers, or they are keeping their poison drinking, snake handling, and miraculous healing skills secret. (Jesting aside, there are actually people who take these ideas (e.g., snake handling and faith healing) seriously. Scary and dangerous.)

Psalms and Proverbs

In today's psalm David is dealing with betrayal at the hands of a close companion. This verse stuck out as me as perhaps being applicable in the modern world. I'll let you figure out how on your own since I try ever so hard not to talk about current events.
Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders,
but the real danger is wickedness within the city.