14 April 2010

Apr 14

Reference links:
Old Testament

I am not very good with violence. I close my eyes even at the moderately violent parts of movies. Thus, these readings about Israel's conquering of the promised land have been difficult for me to read. Despite the fact that I know there is no reason to believe they actually occurred, I get a knot in my stomach every time I read about how the Israelites completely destroyed another city. Today's reading was particularly difficult.

It starts with a story about how the Gibeonites saved their lives by fooling the Israelites into effectively making them their slaves instead. They pretended to be from a distant land and asked the Israelites for a peace treaty.
They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy.
The Israelites were easily fooled, supposedly because they did not consult with God. When the Israelites learned that the Gibeonites lived nearby, they regretted their oath. However, they were bound to uphold it for it had been made in the name of their God. This regrets prompts Joshua to ask a very stupid question,
Joshua called together the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? May you be cursed! From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God.”
The Gibeonites give the obvious answer: the choice was to fool you or to be completely and utterly destroyed.
They replied, “We did it because we—your servants—were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded his servant Moses to give you this entire land and to destroy all the people living in it. So we feared greatly for our lives because of you. That is why we have done this. Now we are at your mercy—do to us whatever you think is right.”
The next story is kind of weird. Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, decided to get a bunch of the local kings together to attack the Gibeonites for making a peace treaty with the Israelites. This seems kind of stupid. If they are going to go to the effort of banding together, they should attack the real enemy, the Israelites. In the end, the Gibeonites call for help, so they end up fighting the Israelites anyway.

The Israelites win, of course. This is the battle that gives rise to the reasonably well known story of Joshua causing the sun and the moon to stand still in the sky.
Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day!
The Book of Jasher is, according to Wikipedia, a lost book of the Old Testament. I bring this up because some people think that if the Bible is God's word, then God can be depended on to shepherd it through the ages. The existence of lost books does not discredit that belief, however, it does bring up something that those who hold to the belief have to explain.

Oh yeah, then the Israelites kill a whole bunch more people. =(

New Testament

Today's reading starts with a story whose whole point, I feel, is to provide build up for the punchline,
But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.
Really, I feel like we would have gotten the same amount of value with a slight expansion of that single statement.

Today's reading also contains a passage that illuminates the idea of forgiveness. I feel that people often assume that being forgiving means to be a pushover. However, today's passage provides insight into the process of forgiveness,
If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.
To be forgiving does not mean to accept wrongs. Wrongs can and should be rebuked. However, if a person is receptive to that correction, then they should be forgiven even though they may stray again. This does not address the issue of what forms the rebuke should take or how to know if a person is sincerely asking for repentance, but knowing that is not necessary for extracting wisdom from this.

Psalms and Proverbs

God's ignoring the Israelites again; they want him to wake up and kick ass:
O God, do not be silent!
Do not be deaf.
Do not be quiet, O God.
...
As a fire burns a forest
and as a flame sets mountains ablaze,
chase them with your fierce storm;
terrify them with your tempest.