19 June 2010

Jun 19

Reference links:
Old Testament

King Ben-hadad of Aram mobilizes his forces against Israel. Anticipating victory, he send a message to King Ahab of Israel:
Your silver and gold are mine, and so are your wives and the best of your children!
I find it hilarious that Ben-hadad only demands the best of Ahab's children. I guess he does not want to be bothered with the possession of inferior children.

Ahab seems perfectly happy to give all of these things to Ben-hadad, but draws the line when Ben-hadad insists that he also be allowed to send people in to take everything valuable in the palace. That, in my opinion, shows a bit of mix up in priorities on Ahab's part.

Now Ahab is motivated to battle, and, with God's approval and help, he beats Ahab twice. However, Ahab ruins any cred he might have earned with God when he refuses to kill Bed-hadad and, instead, makes a treaty with him. As punishment, an unnamed prophet tells Ahab that he and his people will die.

After that, we break the flow of the narrative for a story which gets the same result (Ahab is screwed) in a different way. This story also brings Elijah back into the thick of it.

Ahab wanted a vineyard for a vegetable garden but the owner would not sell it. Jezebel takes care of the situation and has the man murdered. Ahab then buys the vineyard. God did not like this and so had Elijah curse Jezebel and Ahab. Ahab repents and so God decides,
I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.
So because Ahab fasted and wore burlap, he gets to make his children suffer his punishment? God has a warped sense of justice (but then, we knew that).

New Testament

Saul and Barnabas do more preaching and travelling, travelling and preaching. We learn that Saul is also known as Paul (well, we all knew that, but this is the first time the text has mentioned it).

In one of the cities where Barnabas and Saul preached, we have another interesting use of miraculous powers. Saul is confronting a sorcerer who is trying to prevent them from preaching to the governor.
Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.
When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
Two things strike me about this story. First, Saul invoked the power of the Lord to cause someone harm. This seems very out of character with Jesus' use of heavenly power. Other than the fig tree incident, it seems like Jesus used his miraculous powers for good, not harm. If he wanted to cause harm, he pulled out his fists (okay, that was pretty much just in the temple, but still, he could have smote them then, but he chose not to).

The other thing that strikes me is that the governor is said to convert because "he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord". Based on what we saw, it seems like we never got around to teaching. The governor converted because he was impressed by Saul's power.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm seems to have been written while the Israelites were banished to Babylon (we haven't gotten there yet in our readings). I am not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, it conveys a touching image of homesickness and longing. On the other hand, it contains these lines:
Happy is the one who takes your babies
and smashes them against the rocks!
Not so big on that sentiment.