18 June 2010

Jun 18

Reference links:
Old Testament

Elijah flees for his life and, in the process, sleeps under a broom tree. And what's a broom tree? This is a broom tree:
I am guessing that it is a tree whose branches were suitable for making brooms.

After some wandering in despair, Elijah talks to God on Mount Sinai. I do have to admit that I like the description of Elijah's conversation with God. It really shows the transition between the older (violent, wandered around with the Israelites) and newer (more distant but also becoming more universal) visions of the God of the Israelites.
And as Elijah stood there, the Lordpassed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
God is not the violence, but he causes it. And yet, God's whisper is more awe inspiring than the earthquake or wind storm.

God gives Elijah a new assignment.
Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!
7000 out of who? Out of everyone? If so, then God is putting into motion a massive massive murder campaign. And yet, I cannot think what other group these 7000 could come from.

Finally, today's reading finishes when Elijah gets as far as finding Elisha in his new assignment.

New Testament

Apparently Herod Agrippa had James killed and Peter imprisoned. Peter then miraculously escapes from prison. This story reminds me of the recent story which included Phillip teleporting. It just feels out of place and made up in a way that Jesus' miracles did not. I think that is because Jesus' miracles were (a) in aid of others and (b) something that happened intentionally. In both today's story and the teleportation story, things just happen to people. Poof! A man disappears! Poof! Another gets out of his chains. They feel less like miracles and more like the tricks of magician.

In any case, Peter's escape annoyed Herod, so he killed some people and then went to Caesarea. I was in Caesarea. It was a very nice place, right on the Mediterranean. You can walk on the old Roman aqueduct that was built in the time of Herod the Great. Back to business. Herod died when the Lord struck him with sickness. He was consumed by worms. Ewww.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm has a different structure than the others we have seen so far. Every other line is the same:
His faithful love endures forever.
Between those repetitions are praise for God and a description of all the wonderful things he has done (most of which involve killing people).

This psalm also gives a hint of ancient Hebrew cosmology:
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
Many people think that Genesis describes creation from nothing. However, a closer reading of the Biblical texts show that the Israelites did not see the universe this way. Rather, they modeled the universe as a bunch of water-like substance in which God created the earth. With that in mind, we can read see the same imagery used in Genesis as in here:
The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
and later
Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. God called the space “sky.”
and finally
Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.”
In other news, we get some good proverbs today. In fact, we have had a pretty good run lately.  Much better than when we kept reading about wisdom.
Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate,
so stop before a dispute breaks out.
Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—
both are detestable to the Lord.