02 March 2010

Mar 2

Reference links:
Old Testament

Reward and punishment make up the main topic of today's reading. If the Israelites obey God's commands, he shall bless them. The rains will come in season, the trees and fields will yield bumper crops, then land will be peaceful, and wild animals will not bother them. If they obey God, the Israelites will defeat their enemies and multiply in number. God will live among them.

God says a lot more about punishment (about three times as much text). Is is pretty terrible. If the Israelites do not obey God's commands:
  • He will bring terrors of disease and fevers upon them and let enemies conquer them (and eat their crops).
  • If they still do not obey he will stop the rain and harden the land, making it yield no crops.
  • If they still do not obey, he will send wild animals to eat the children and livestock of the Israelites.
  • If they still do not obey, he will, send armies to destroy the Israelites and plagues on those who flee. He will also destroy the food supply to the point where rationing is necessary.
  • If they still do not obey, he will cause the Israelites to resort to cannibalism, destroy property, destroy cities, take no pleasure in offering, and scatter the people among the nations. This is not an exaggeration:

    If in spite of all this you still refuse to listen and still remain hostile toward me, then I will give full vent to my hostility. I myself will punish you seven times over for your sins. Then you will eat the flesh of your own sons and daughters. I will destroy your pagan shrines and knock down your places of worship. I will leave your lifeless corpses piled on top of your lifeless idols, and I will despise you. I will make your cities desolate and destroy your places of pagan worship. I will take no pleasure in your offerings that should be a pleasing aroma to me.Yes, I myself will devastate your land, and your enemies who come to occupy it will be appalled at what they see. I will scatter you among the nations and bring out my sword against you. Your land will become desolate, and your cities will lie in ruins. 
  • And for anyone who survives that, God will demoralize them to the point where living a normal life is impossible.
But eventually God will remember his covenant because the people will repent, and he is a just God. (If you can call the series of punishments above just. I would have a hard time calling any God who would force people to eat their children just.)

The list of punishments and their escalations actually makes a lot of sense given that modern scholars believe that Leviticus was composed after the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.

New Testament

In today's reading, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come to ask Jesus if they can sit at his left and right hand in heaven. Jesus says that to do so, they must drink from the bitter cup of death he will drink from, but actually only God can decide that. But what I want to point out is that in the version in Matthew 20:20-23, it was supposedly their mother who made this request.  In this version, they make the request directly. Which version is right? (Answer: probably neither, because most likely the story exists to make a point, not because it was true.)

Today we see another example of what I would call genuine kindness on Jesus' part. A blind beggar, Bartimaeus, called out to Jesus to heal him. The crowd tried to shush him, but Jesus took mercy on the man and healed him. What amuses me about this story is the crowd. At first they yell at the man, "Be quiet!" But once Jesus tells him to come they yell, "Cheer up. Come on, he's calling you!" Crowds are so fickle!

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm contains something different! Instead of going on about how great God is for blessing the psalmist or how terrible he is for neglecting the psalmist, today's psalm seems to be a tribute to a king in honor of his wedding. Despite the cheery subject matter, the psalm briefly touches on the difficulty of being a woman in these times, even if that woman is a queen.
Listen to me, O royal daughter; take to heart what I say.
Forget your people and your family far away.
How sad it must be to marry and be effectively cut off from your past forever. How grim to grow up knowing that such is likely your destiny.