15 June 2010

Jun 15

Reference links:
Old Testament

Ack! Too many characters possess similar names. Bad Bible author, bad! No biscuit. Ahijah prophecies that Jeroboam's son Abijah will die (and he does). Later we read how Abijam rules Judah after Rehoboam. I am guessing that after today, I will have no memory of which one was which.

In any case, back to the plot. Jeroboam send his wife to a prophet (Ahijah) to inquire about the sickness of their son (Abijah). Despite her disguise and the prophet's blindness, he knew that his visitor was Jeroboam's wife. He informed her that God would,
will bring disaster on [Jeroboam's] dynasty and will destroy every one of [Jeroboam's] male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone. The members of Jeroboam’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures. I, the Lord, have spoken.’ ... Go on home, and when you enter the city, the child will die.
As usual, this group punishment grates upon modern sensibilities; we just no longer accept that it is appropriate to punish a man's family for his sins.

The child dies, of course. Then Jeroboam reigned in Israel for 22 years. His reign was not a peaceful one, but still, 22 years seems like a long time for someone to rule after a threat from God. In addition, his son Nadab became the next king.

At this point, the narrative gets a bit confusing because the reigns of the kings of Judah are interleaved with the reigns of the kings of Israel. In Israel, we have Jeroboam then Nadab then Baasha. In Judah we have Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, and Jehosophat. This seems to be a period of frequent, if not constant, war between the kingdoms. As far as we are told, the only one of these kings who followed the ways of God was Asa (although even he was willing to use bribery to get another king, the king of Aram, to break his treaty with Israel and agree to a new treaty with Judah).

New Testament

Today we learn about the devout Roman officer, Cornelius. Spurred on by a vision from God, Cornelius invited Peter to his home. He was given this honor, at least in part, because his
prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering
The idea that gifts to the poor count as offerings in this new religion is a nice one. It certainly beats out the Deuteronomic standard where offerings were for the priests.

(That said, we should not fall into the mistake of assuming that Deuteronomic Judaism or the beliefs and actions attributed to the Jews by the authors of the New Testament were representative of actual Jewish belief at the time. At the time of Jesus and his contemporaries, Judaism was a dynamic and changing religion, and many of the ideas that gave rise to Christianity were floating amongst the Jews at the time.)

Back to the plot. Peter accepts the invitation from Cornelius, but not before he has a vision telling him to eat all sorts of things that he considered unclean.
Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”  The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
I can tell Peter what this means. It means it's time to go eat some bacon!

Psalms and Proverbs

Short psalm today, but a nice one. The psalmist is reflecting on harmony.
How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
Harmony is wonderful and pleasant!

The second of today's proverbs is about bribes. It is rather interesting in light of today's reading about Asa. Both that reading and this proverb imply that bribes are not necessarily bad (although I think they are).
A bribe is like a lucky charm;
whoever gives one will prosper!