28 December 2010

Dec 28

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading contrasts a universal God with a partisan God. The opening of today's reading contains this statement:
This message is from the Lord, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the human spirit.
and continues with a lengthy discussion of how God will bless Judah and Jerusalem with military might, and they will defeat everyone else.

We also see what seems to be one of the inspirations for the story of Jesus:
They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son.
This is followed by a prediction of the restoration of peace in Israel. A fountain will cleanse all of the people from their sins and the Lord will erase idol worship. Sounds rather like Zechariah is not big on the whole free will thing, but I don't think free will is as Biblical a concept as many moderns make it out to be.

The Lord will also eliminate false prophecy by allowing murder for those who give false prophecy (with particular encouragement for parents to murder their children). Rather an extreme punishment for the crime, in my opinion. Also, one wonders how good life is when parents would murder their children. I certainly would not want to live in a world where the response to dissent was murder by family members. That sounds more like a dystopia than a utopia.

Today's reading ends with a bit of verse that may well have inspired Revelation. It talks of punishment and destruction. During that time, 2/3 of the people will die and 1/3 will live. These proportions should be familiar.

New Testament

Today's reading starts with a bunch of praise because God finally killed off all the evil people.

Then a white horse appears carrying a man who will be a dictator over all the nations. He will be called the
King of all kings and Lord of all lords
This is followed by a gruesome image where vultures are invited to feast on the bodies of humanity.

The man on the white horse defeats the beast and the kings of the earth. The beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into burning lakes, their followers were killed, and the vultures feasted.

One commonality in today's OT and NT readings is that they both present a time where God is reigning with his power, and they both sound like rather unpleasant times to be in. Not just the death and destruction; it is feasible to consider those are unavoidable side effects of getting to peace.

Rather, they sound unpleasant because they emphasize the dictatorial, unbending, restricted nature of those times. The people who are remaining in those times seem to be those who do not mind bending their will to that of an unforgiving leader, but, just in case their are dissenters, there are flaming lakes, vultures, and murderous families to take care of them.

It's as if the authors of these books do not really believe humanity can be reformed; rather, they seem to think the best that can be done is to select for the most obedient members and destroy all who do not toe the line.

Psalms and Proverbs

It's a long readings in proverbs today. According to the chapter heading, we are reading the sayings of King Lemuel. According to Wikipedia, no one really knows who King Lemuel was. Tradition equates him with Solomon, but that is just a hypothesis based on tradition and weak inferences from the meaning of the name Lemuel.

In any case, Lemuel claims that his mother taught him these sayings. The advice starts with a warning against wasting strength on women. If Lemuel was Solomon, he of many wives and concubines, he certainly did not listen to this advice from his mother.

Lemuel is also warned against drinking since it may prevent them from giving justice. Instead, only the dying and those in distress should drink. I am not sure I agree that it is good for those in poverty and distress to drink away their sorrows, but since this was targeted at a king, the point is: don't drink to excess.