27 March 2010

Mar 27

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading seems to have these main points.
  • The Israelites have a duty to destroy their enemies because they are God's holy people.
  • For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.
    The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.
  • The Israelites should completely destroy their enemies. Now, while total destruction may have been a rational strategy for the ancient Israelites given the world at that time, it is not an attitude that I can accept in a being worthy of being called God.
  • When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy.
  • God will bless the Israelites if he obeys them and curse them if they do not. On the one hand, it is reasonable for God to demand something (obedience) in return for what he is giving (prosperity). On the other hand, it provides a useful out for the good and bad that inevitably happens in any society.
  • Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. ...
    ... But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.
  • Everything God did in the dessert, including nearly starving and dehydrating the Israelites and killing tens of thousands for them was just to prove their character. I did not realize that mass murder was an acceptable way to prove character.
  • Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
New Testament

As I noted when we started reading Luke, one of the themes of Luke is a concern with women. This shows up in today's reading. We read the story of a woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, and we read a list of women who followed Jesus.

With just that summary, you might think that this is the same as the story presented in Matthew and Mark where a woman pours a jar of expensive perfume over Jesus' head shortly before his crucifixion. You may or may not be wrong. In detail, this version is quite different, but just similar enough to make it unclear as to whether or not one or two events were described (or one story grew in two ways).
  • Who: In Matthew and Mark, the anointing was done by woman. In Luke, the woman is specifically an immoral woman.
  • Where: In Matthew and Mark, this occurred at the home of Simon, a former leper. In Luke it occurred at the home of Simon, a Pharisee.
  • What: In Matthew and Mark, the woman came in and poured the perfume over Jesus' head. In Luke, it is Jesus' feet that are anointed with a mixture of an expensive perfume and the woman's tears. In both cases, the perfume was in a "beautiful alabaster jar".
  • The criticism: In Matthew and Mark, the disciples criticize the woman for wasting perfume that could have been sold for money to give to the poor. In Luke, Simon is aghast that Jesus is letting himself be touched by a sinner.
  • The resolution: In Matthew and Mark, Jesus declares that the woman has done a beautiful thing and will be remembered. In Luke, Jesus forgives her sins.
Luke's list of women travelling with Jesus shows that Luke, at least, viewed women as significantly powerful than we might think. Luke also notes that women were supporting Jesus out of their own resources. I do not have the background to know whether or not such activities were radical for the time. If they were, it does a lot to support the argument that Christianity treats women as equals (a view that, as we will see, Paul provides plenty of support against). If such a view was not radical for its time, it shows how much we had regressed before the 20th century women's liberation movements.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm appears to be another one in the pattern "God has abandoned me. Oh look! Now he's saved me." However, since it is broken over two days of readying, today we only get the part where the psalmist complains about how much he suffers for God and how God seems to have abandoned him. Presumably, tomorrow we will get the part where we hear about how God saved him and is wonderful and what not.

Today's proverb actually seems like a good one,
To learn, you must love discipline;
it is stupid to hate correction.
Learning does requires discipline and being open to acknowledging you are wrong.