03 October 2010

Oct 3

Reference links:
Old Testament

New book! We start Jeremiah today, and signs point to it being a confusing read. What does our normal reference have to say?
Proclaiming a message of submission to the Babylonian Empire, which he viewed as Yahweh's punitive instrument against Judah for its covenant-breaking, Jeremiah suffered rejection and condemnation as a traitor. The book containing his oracles of warming and doom, considerably revised and expanded by later disciples and postexilic editors, can be divided into four parts: (1) poetic oracles uttered during the reigns of Judah's last kings, particularly Jehoiakim and Zedekiah; (2) biographical narratives interspersed with prophetic material, such as the promise of a "new covenant"; (3) a collection of diatribes against pagan nations; and (4) a brief historical appendix closely resembling 2 Kings.
Harris also says,
In its present form, the Book of Jeremiah is a bewildering collection of poetic prophecies and prose narratives, intermixed with introspective monologues, lamentations, messianic oracles, declarations of imminent disaster, and intimation of future hope. 
In short, we will be reading the confusingly context lacking prophecies of a man who was considered a traitor to Judah. Hopefully we will be able to perceive the impact of Jeremiah's counter cultural leanings without the surrounding context.

We start Jeremiah with a general introduction. Jeremiah is the son of Hilkiah from the town of Anathoth. He started to prophecy in the reign of Josiah and continued until the fall to Babylon.

Jeremiah declares that he was chosen from by the Lord to be a prophet before he was even conceived. Given the length of Jeremiah's career and the wording in this chapter, a popular guess is that Jeremiah was called when he was young; although he may not have literally been a child, he was probably young an inexperienced when he felt his call.

The Lord calls Jeremiah and shows him two visions. One is a branch from an almond tree. This somehow symbolizes that the Lord is watching over Jeremiah. I am guessing the almond branch symbolized something specific, but I don't know what it is. The second vision is that of a pot of boiling water spilling from the north. That is much more straightforward, and, and the Lord explains, symbolizes the destruction of Jerusalem by kingdoms from the north. I wish the Lord was also so forthcoming with explaining his symbolism.

After this, Jeremiah begins to state the Lord's case against the people of Jerusalem. They have strayed from proper worship of the Lord and instead worship idols. They have also compromised their integrity and shown their lack of trust by forming alliances with Egypt and Assyria. Because of these things, Israel is like an unfaithful wife or an animal in heat, eagerly turning towards others than the Lord. Because of their unfaithfulness, they deserve punishment.

New Testament

We finish Philippians today. In addition to the normal closings and admonishments to live as they should in the Lord, Paul includes a couple interesting personal messages. First he appeals to two women to settle some dispute. As part of this, he implies that they worked, possibly as equals, with him and others when he was with the Philippians.

Paul also shares his thanks for the gifts of the Philippians. At least when he wrote this letter, they were the only church that has shared gifts with him. Whether this is the cause or the effect of his love for them, we cannot tell, but it certainly signifies that he has a relationship with them that is much more genial than, for example, his relationship with the Corinthian church.

Psalms and Proverbs

The first of today's proverbs directly contradicts some of the vengeful sentiments we have seen elsewhere in the Bible (particularly in the psalms, but also elsewhere):
Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall;
don’t be happy when they stumble.
For the Lord will be displeased with you
and will turn his anger away from them.
That's a much nicer sentiment than those passages that imply that it is good to rejoice at the suffering of your enemies.