Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 215

The scriptures read are Isaiah 1-3, Psalm 26 and 1 Thessalonians 3.

Isaiah. I decided to read Eugene Peterson's The Message because I'm so familiar with the Bible, I wanted the strangeness and freshness of reading it for the first time. What I didn't expect was his intros. His intros to books and sections of the Bible are wonderful. They are worth the price of the book. His introduction to the prophets is spot on, especially about how the prophets present a God too big to fit into our lives; we need to fit into his. I also like what he says about the secular and the sacred, one we think we control and the other we set aside to honor God but really to try to keep him in his place. Cracking good stuff.

What I would add is that the Prophets are like a minority report. The function of most religion in most societies is to bless the status quo: "God bless the king, God bless the movers and shakers and moneymakers. Rock the boat and you're going to hell." And Israel and Judah became like that as well. The kings had their tame prophets and their comfortable if not actually corrupt priests. They understood that whatever the original mission of the people of God, eventually, like all groups or organizations, their prime directive becomes the perpetuation of the system/organization/group. But the prophets are always chiming up and saying, "No. God's not blessing this system. He's not blessing this mess. If you don't fix it, he's going to dismantle it, dismantle this whole society if necessary and then build it up right!"

Isaiah was Jesus' favorite prophet. He quoted him more than the others (and Jesus quoted a lot of scripture!) You'll see why Jesus liked this epic prophet.

Isaiah 1. Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of 4 kings, from about the mid-700s BC to the turn of that century. The first part of this book is mostly about judgment. God asks the heavens and the earth to see if their judgment of his case isn't the right one. He raised his people well but they just don't get it. Their religion is so hypocritical that it makes him sick. Why? Because they don't treat the poor and disadvantaged justly. You'll see this a lot in the prophets. They make 2 points: (1) you're not really worshiping God and (2) you're mistreating the poor. The 2 things go together. If you really love God then you will love those made in his image. How you treat those who can't benefit you shows how sincere your belief in God is. Jesus uses this same principle in Matthew 25: What you did or didn't do to the least of my siblings, you did or didn't do to me.

God is reasonable, though. He is forgiving. But they have to show they really repent.

Zion, the mountain on which Jerusalem sits, is corrupt. And the presenting symptom is, as always, the plight of the poor. They are the canaries in the coal mine. When the atmosphere in a city is so thick with graft and injustice, the poor are the first to suffer. And, sure enough, the hedonists who have it well drift from the God of justice to the gods that make you feel good.

Isaiah 2. A vision of future peace coming out of Jerusalem, contrasting with a picture of the self-indulgent city of the present. That leads to a warning about the judgment this will lead to.

Isaiah 3. Jerusalem is on its deathbed. It looks like the end.

Back to the courtroom setting. God unloads on the merciless people of Jerusalem. It's reversal of fortune time!

Psalm 26. Not a lot of good videos to choose from. Check your work before you upload it, folks! Lots of electronic hums and one rocking version of this psalm that seems to have gotten cut off in the middle. Then I found this charming (mostly) animated version.

1 Thessalonians 3. When things started getting tough on Paul and his band, he worried about how the Christians in Thessalonica were making out. He couldn't get to them, so he sent Timothy. Tim's report was so good that they knew their prayers for the Thessalonians were being answered better than they had hoped.

No comments:

Post a Comment