27 June 2010

Jun 27

Reference links:
Old Testament
At about that time the Lord began to cut down the size of Israel’s territory.
The Old Testament is often presented as a record of God's role in the history of his chosen people. However, when I read things like the books of Kings, it seems to me more like a record of people trying to interpret the twists and turns of history as the manifestation of God's will.

Now that we are no longer isolated tribes and kingdoms but have a wider view of the rise and fall of countries and peoples, it seems almost silly the way that the books of the Bible attribute every success or hardship directly to God's plan. The very idea of a chosen people lacks credibility when you see that their ups and downs are no different than those of everyone else.

Back to the reading. In Israel, King Jehu dies and is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz. In Judah, After Ahaziah's death, his mother, Athaliah, kills all of his children and becomes queen. However, one child manages to escape with the aid of Ahazia's sister Jehosheba. Athaliah does not seem like a pleasant person. In addition to having murdered her grandchildren, everyone seems quite ready to rebel against her when the rescued child, Joash, is made king at age seven.

Joash is made king due to the actions of the priest Jehoiada (keeping all these names straight? I'm not). Jehoiada makes a convenant bewteen God, the king, and the people. He also starts a campaign of destroying the worship of Baal. As of this point, Jehu has cleared out the Baal worshippers in Israel and Jehoiada under Joash has cleared them out in Judah.

Joash has a long reign and acts in ways that are pleasing to the Lord (including repairing the temple). However, as is usual, he is still not perfect: he does not destroy all the pagan shrines nor does he stop people from worshiping there.

Worship of non-Yahweh deities is so persistent that it seems obvious that Yahweh was not considered the god of the people. Seen in that light, the systematic destruction of anyone and anyplace dedicated to worship of other Gods takes on the flavor of a military and priestly elite forcing their beliefs onto the common people. When I look at it that way, I feel sorry for the worshipers of Baal and the pagan deities.

New Testament

More travels of Paul: Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, and back to Antioch. The standard pattern is followed:  Paul preaches, some people are converted, others are not. Sometimes people get mad at him and chase him out of town.

I do find this scene entertaining:
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.”
This seems like rather unnecessary advice. One thing Paul has never been is silent. Over and over (and over and over and over) again we have seen Paul preaching and teaching his beliefs, regardless of his own safety.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing particularly noteworthy.