23 June 2010

Jun 23

Reference links:
Old Testament

Elisha totally continues to prove himself the model which the New Testament writers looked to when deciding what miracles should be attributed to Jesus. He brings a boy back to life, he feeds 100 people with 20 loaves of barley bread and a sack of grain, and he heals a leper. In addition, he removes poison from a stew.

Today's reading also gives the impression that Elisha is not exactly social. Originally, he did not want to go to the dead boy. Instead, he just wanted to send his servant. The mother of the boy insisted that he come (and it is a good thing he did since the servant's action did not bring the boy back to life). Later, when Elisha heals Naaman, the leper, he sends a messenger out to him instead of meeting with him. Elisha later meets with Naaman after he is healed, but I get the impression that Elisha does not like to be too directly involved with the miracles. Maybe it is because he is shy or humble or anti-social. Maybe he figures that by not showing himself before the miracle has occurred, he can get the miracle recipient to focus on God instead of himself.

Also, we learn that Elisha's servant, Gehazi, cannot resist worldly temptation. Naaman offers Elisha many gifts. Elisha refuses them, but Gehazi later tricks Naaman into giving those gifts. As punishment, Elisha infects Gehazi with Naaman's leprosy (Gehazi and all his descendants, which seems a little unfair).

New Testament

The topic of today's reading is which parts of the Mosaic law do the gentile followers of Christ have to obey. In particular, Paul and Barnabas were dealing with the question of whether or not gentile believers needed to be circumcised. The general consensus is that since the believers are receiving the gifts of the holy spirit without circumcision, it need not be required. Instead, the gentile believers need only:
abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood.
The demands that the gentile believers were circumcised came from believers who were Pharisees. Given the way Pharisees are represented in the gospels, this might cause some people to immediately dismiss this concern. Of course Paul and Barnabas were right and gentile believers do not need to be circumcised!

I think, however, it is worth investigating more closely why the Pharisees might have thought this necessary. My guess is that, despite the representation of the Pharisees in the gospels, the Pharisees did not see obeying the law as a matter of right or wrong, justification or lack thereof. Instead, I hypothesize that they saw living by the law as a way of living a more pure life and, therefore, putting themselves in a mindset which would make them more accepting of God's presence. Thus, this debate was not just a matter of blind following of the law verses God's true desires.

And given that the decision in Jerusalem was only reached after a long decision, I am guessing that the apostles in Jerusalem did not think that this issue was trivial to decide either.

Psalms and Proverbs

Another psalm which cries for help. I find it interesting that this psalm seems to reinforce the idea that rebuke and correction should be welcomed when it is from the right person:
Let the godly strike me!
It will be a kindness!
If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.
Don’t let me refuse it.