18 November 2010

Nov 18

Reference links:
Old Testament

Back to visions and performance art. These are much more entertaining than the prophecies of doom. The theme of all of this is the eventual restoration of Israel. Ezekiel has a vision of bones brought back to life. The bones represent the people of Israel whose hope is dead. The restoration of the bones represents the restoration of the people and their hope.

The performance art consists of Ezekiel bringing together two pieces of wood, one which represents Judah and another which represents Israel. This symbolizes the eventual reuniting of the two kingdoms in everlasting peace and prosperity. How nice.

And then we're back to prophecies of doom and gloom against countries we don't care about. Ezekiel's God is really terribly consistent in his unpleasantness. Even his restoration of Israel comes gains a tingle of the unpleasant in so far as it arises from his desire not to let other nations think badly of him.

In any case, the main point of interest for today's gloom and doom prophecies is that they are about how Gog will be destroyed because they will take advantage of Israel in the future. This is in contrast to most of the prophecies which say that countries will be punished for things they have done to Israel in the past or are doing in the present.

New Testament

We start out with some good advice,
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
After that, the author goes on about how you are just fooling yourself if you do not take action based on God's word in your heart. Given that I am a big fan of action, I suspect I would like this if I were a believer.

I also like the bit about how people do not hold their tongue or care for widows and orphans have a worthless religion. As an atheist, I have been on the receiving end of many a tiresome lecture from people who think that they are superior to me just because they believe even if they are rude, condescending people who resist helping others as much as they can. Certainly, not all believers (not even all lecturing believers), are like this, but the ones who are could afford to spend some time reading this epistle.

And while they are at it, they might notice the next bit about not preferring some people over other. Judging people based on their appearance and social status is presented as a clear wrong. And if I were in the business of commenting on current events, I might make reference to these verses in a discussion on tax cuts for the rich and welfare for the poor.

This is followed by a short discussion about breaking laws: people will be judged for breaking any of them, not just for breaking all of them. It's also interesting to see a reference to any Old Testament laws as "the law that sets you free." While the laws referred to are not the detailed Levitical laws that Paul rails against, this author's attitude toward the law seems like another potential point of contrast between him and Paul.

Speaking of contrast, today's reading ends with the crux of the contrast between Paul and the author of this epistle.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? ... So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
I certainly would not go so far as to call this contradictory to Paul's view of faith, but it certainly provides  a strong counterpoint.

Psalms and Proverbs

Super short psalm. And today's proverb declares the wicked to be cowards.