14 December 2010

Dec 14

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's book, Jonah, should ring a bell. It contains the famous story about Jonah getting trapped in the belly of a sea creature. Understanding The Bible has this to say about the book:
A narrative about the vast difference between a God of infinite compassion and a prophet of painfully limited understanding, Jonah provides both a critique of some Israelite prophecy and an illustration of God's universality. Utilizing folklore, humor, and hyperbole to make his point, an unknown postexilic author sets his fictional tale in the eight century BCE, when Assyria dominated the ancient Near east. 
Jonah is chosen as a prophet to tell the city of Nineveh of their sin and their doom. He did not want this assignment and fled. The ship he ended up on was caught in a storm. By drawing lots, the passengers identified Jonah as the cause. Jonah tells them to cast him into the sea. They try to avoid doing so, but it becomes their only choice. Throwing Jonah overboard immediately stops the storm, and so the sailors decide to worship his god.

In the meantime, Jonah is swallowed by a fish and spends three days and nights there. Johan prays to God and is released. And that's the whole fish incident.

Jonah is commanded, once again, to go to Nineveh, and this time he goes. He delivers his message of destruction and the people repent (which is how you can tell this is fiction; the Israelites never repented because of the words of a prophet =P ).

Because of this change of ways, God changed his mind and did not destroy them. This makes Jonah angry. Jonah, like many a modern religious fundamentalist, does not actually want people to be good. He  would rather be right than see people saved.

God teaches Jonah a lesson by providing a shade tree and then taking it away. When Jonah feels anger over the loss of that tree, God tells him that even more sorrow should be filled for a city living in spiritual darkness.

And that ends the book. It's a good story. I also think that the lesson of not taking prophets too seriously is a good one. Someone doing God's will, this story tells us, does not necessarily understand God's ways. When the prophets show anger and hatred, that anger and hatred should be seen as theirs, not their God's. I think that can certainly be applied to some of the angry rants of the prophets we have read.

New Testament

A scroll is sealed with seven seals. No one is worthy of unsealing it except
the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne
This being is also described as
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered
Most of the imagery in Revelation is pretty dense, but the surface imagery of this one is pretty clear. The lamb/lion == Jesus.

Today's reading ends with the 24 elders, the four winged beings, and all the angels praising the lamb.

Psalms and Proverbs

One proverb about justice and another which tries to simplistically divide the world into the righteous and the wicked.