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Showing posts from February, 2013

Thoughts on 1 Chronicles, Day 14 of Lent 2013

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Today's big chunk of scripture reading for Lent is 1 Chronicles 10 to 2 Chronicles 2. Whereas the historian of the Kings focused on the court intrigues, the Chronicler focuses on the little people, everyone gets named, and the priestly things, and not the scandals. We learn about King David and his son Solomon, but not the scandal of Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, or the court intrigues in David's house.

I'm the kind of guy who tells stories the way I want to hear them; as if Hemingway were writing it. Every detail contributes to the impact of the story. I think Hemingway and the Kings historian and I would have pleasant terse conversations. But I am friends with people who like to enlarge on every detail in their stories, sometimes getting so distracted by those details of details that their story tends to get lost. The Chronicler is that person. There must be hundreds of unique names in this history that never appear again in the Bible. On the other hand, those names a…

Thoughts on 2 Kings, Day 13 of Lent 2013

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Today, in my blitz Lenten Bible reading, I finished 2 Kings, and listened to the beginning of 1 Chronicles. The first 5 chapters of Chronicles is mostly genealogies  with an anecdote here or there. If you are committed to hearing every word of the Bible, then I highly recommend The Bible Experience from Inspired By...Media Group. The readers and the background sound effects keep my eyes from glazing over. My reading started withe the beginning of Solomon's reign and ended with most Israelites deported out of the country. It's not uplifting reading.

The historian blames the decline on idolatry. The northern kings went for it and never looked back. The southern kings turned a blind eye to Solomon's shrines, or supplemented them. Only one king knocked down all the idols, Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18. Lots of sons were punished for the sins of their fathers, who escaped punishment from God. The length of reign and amount of depravity had no correlation. Let me state this loud and clea…

Thoughts on 1 Kings, Day 12 Lent 2013

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Today's massive reading plan covers all of 1 Kings and the beginning of 2nd Kings. The main characters that stick out in my mind are the monarchs Solomon and Ahab and the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

The historian connects violation of the Mosaic covenant with all sorts of national problems. Idolatry, greed, lust, and pride are all downfalls of each king. Solomon was guilty of all these things. Even though he built a temple for the God of Israel, he was inclusive of his wive's beliefs and built shrines for them as well. When one acquires 700 wives, this generosity can dilute the worship to the true God, to his anger. But Solomon does not bear the judgmental aspects of his sin, rather his son does. The nation divides under his son. There is one tid-bit I found very interesting. As I mentioned yesterday, David's kingdom seemed to be multi-ethnic and inclusive. Solomon decides to enslave all the non-Israelites in the kingdom.
1 Kings 9:20 There were still people left from the

Life of David, Day 11 Lent 2013

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In the mega Bible reading plan for Lent 2013, I started the life of David Saturday and finished it today, 2nd Samuel through the beginning of 1st Kings. In 1st Samuel, when Samuel tells Saul he's getting fired, he says God is looking for "a man after his own heart." That's a puzzling idiomatic expression to me, 1 Sam. 13:14. Fortunately, the NET Bible has a note explaining it, Heb “according to his heart.” The idiomatic expression means to be like-minded with another, as its use in 1 Sam 14:7 indicates. They translate it as, "The Lord has sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him." Most of the Psalms are a testament to David's devotion to God. He was so talented at music he could calm Saul when he got into real bad funks. He was also a brave warrior. He took down the giant Samson with a rock and sling. He led bandits on raids throughout the Negev. He took on big and small armies. He successfully conquered Jerusalem and made it his own city. Like …

Bible Reading Thoughts on the 2nd Sunday of Lent 2013

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The book of First Samuel has three main characters, Samuel, King Saul, and David. Samuel becomes the last prophet to judge Israel, Saul becomes the first king of Israel, and David's path to his throne is cleared. Samuel's replacment of Eli the priest because of God's rejection of Eli's family parallels David's replacement of Saul and God's rejection of him.

In the previous book of Judges, the blame for the nation's frequent oppressions, and it's subsequent need for deliverers raised up by God, was laid at the lack of a king which left everyone to do what was right in their own eyes. Those ways usually turned to the sinful activities of the inhabitants of the land they invaded. The people ask Samuel to anoint them a king, just like all the other nations had, 1 Sam. 8. Partly, this request stems from the history Israel had with the sons of it's deliverers. They weren't like their dads. Eli's sons were stereotypical religious leaders who exploi…

book response: American Colossus by Brands (2010)

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While I was watching the entertaining and informative History channel series The Men Who Built America, I wanted to hear more from one of the regularly consulted historians on the show, H. W. Brands. I found this book of his at my local library and spent the past few weeks enjoying it. My first mistake was expecting it to be just like the television show. Brands' focus is not just on the big name capitalists of the American Gilded Age, but also on the little people, the workers, some by name, who made the capitalists rich, who opposed the capitalists, and who exposed the capitalists. He also wove in and out the on and off again relationship of the government and the capitalists. The sub-title, The Triumph of Capitalism, is not very indicative of the theme of the book. While he does mention the different economic models attempted in America in the late 1800's, share-cropping (serfdom), socialism, and communism, he doesn't spend enough time in this massive book showing how …

Thoughts on Judges and Ruth, Day 9 Lent 2013

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The crazy amount of Bible reading continues, half of Judges and half of 1st Samuel. Like yesterday, I read the first half and listened to the 2nd half on my mp3 player. I'll write about Samuel tomorrow and focus on Judges and Ruth today. My feelings on Judges shifts to a better place than it has been in the Pentateuch. Previously, God was portrayed differently than I see Jesus portrayed in the gospels. Rightly or wrongly, I've pushed back pretty hard on the Pentateuch. I've wrestled with God, and like Jacob, the best I can hope for is a limp. The stories in Judges are very human, and God shows up as a savior, over and over again. The book seems to be organized by a pro-monarchy editor, because of a repeated phrase, which also concludes the book. Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. The funny thing is the woe and dread Samuel chastises the people with when he anoints them a king.

When I say the book is very hum…

Thoughts on Joshua, Day 8 Lent 2013

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The blitz Lenten reading plan was all of Joshua and 10 chapters of Judges. I listened to most of the reading plan today. I've wrestled with this book multiple times on this blog.
Joshua, God's ordained killer. 2006
Achan's family's punishment. 2007
Did God command genocide? 2010
The best understanding of Joshua's conquests. 2011
Been reading and thinking. 2012
No commentator I have seen talks about the contradiction between Do not kill, and don't leave anyone alive. That's a direction I'd like to see more exploration.
The great insight for me is in Earl's The Joshua Delusion? pointing out that Rahab and her family and the city or Ai were great examples of grace and compassion. Their survival was in violation of the rules given the Israelite army, yet, unlike other times, they weren't judged by God. Maybe Moses' influence permitted this.
One other thing that stood out to me is that most of the battles were defensive. The sack of Jericho was bad, i…

Thoughts on Deuteronomy Day 7 Lent 2013

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I was not able to read all of Deuteronomy before I left for work this morning. I had to finish it by audio later in the day. Yes, this reading plan, all of the Bible in six and half weeks, is over the top. This last book in the Pentateuch is over the top as well.

The first verse gives us no indication when this book was assembled, Deut 1:1a 1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness... and there are enough clues for the experts to suspect it was put together in the reign of Josiah and edited afterwards during the Babylonian exile. Even my conservative ESV Study Bible acknowledges this as a possibility. The wikipedia link at the Deuteronomy highlight above has a little more info on that topic.

Moses reviews their history with the Israelites while they gather to cross the Jordan River. Most of their history is about their failures and Moses blames them for his sin and subsequent judgment which resulted in his prevention to enter the Promised…

Thoughts on the book of Numbers Day 6 Lent 2013

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I finished the book of Numbers today in my Lenten blitz reading of the Bible. I have to say, this is probably the most dangerous reading plan of the Bible I've ever tried.

I'm still mulling over the people bored with manna, which angers God, and results in alot of them dying after eating a huge flock of quail, Num. 11. The thing that confuses me is the Israelites seem to be traveling with livestock. They have all these sacrifices to bring, and only perfect animals are accepted. So there must be lots of other animals left over to supplement their manna. I'm just sayin'. When I think about it this way, I really empathize with God instead of thinking he's a short tempered deity. If the manna that he freely gives supplements lambs, goats, and cattle, or provides the necessities for the poor without meat, and they still complain, it seems the issue is their laziness, not His anger issues.

My reading resumed with ch. 14, after the negative report from 10 of the 12 scouts…

Thoughts on Leviticus and Numbers - Day 5 Lent 2013

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The 2013 Lenten Bible speed reading resumes after yesterday's feast day. Today's reading goes from Leviticus 16 to Numbers 13. It is a big chunk. My tactics include getting up when the alarm goes off and not hitting the snooze bar, waking up by showering, making my tea and sitting under the light with a paraphrased Bible. I use the Message. Then I read and skim when it's redundant or superfluous material, like some of the chapters today. It takes me about an hour every morning so far. This is today's good, bad and ugly chapter by chapter.

Leviticus
16 - Rules for the annual Day of Atonement, when Aaron gets to enter the Holy Place and make sacrifices. Among the multitude of sacrifices on this day is the weird one of killing one goat for God and releasing the other goat, the scapegoat, to Azazel, v. 10. The IVP Bible Background commentary distinguishes between God getting a sacrifice and Azazel getting a freed one. I don't know how this prefigures what Jesus did. On…

Bible reading thoughts on First Sunday in Lent 2013

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I feel bad that most of my thoughts on my big gulp Bible reading this Lent have been more on the negative side. I've let the irritation exceed the gratefulness. Last night, as I lay in bed reading American Colossus, I appreciated the usury laws in Exodus. Farmers in the late 1800's were eased into bankruptcy by a thousand cuts. The fees and the high interest rates were only survivable when the harvest was good and the market demand was high. If the weather did not enable the conditions for a good harvest, or if the harvest was good for all farmers which increased the supply and dropped the prices, the farmer did not have enough to pay off their debt and have enough to start the next year's crop. The book also discusses the exploitation of labor, and their attempts at organizing and the strike breaking by the trusts in response. It's a huge contrast for the way God wanted things among the Israelites.
Exodus 22: 21 "Don't abuse or take advantage of strangers; yo…

Thoughts on Leviticus, Day 4 Lent 2013

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In my Bible reading plan this Lent, reading through the entire Bible in 40 days, I consumed Leviticus up to chapter 15, a little over half way. I studied this book a few years ago with some co-workers and was confused then. It misses context. It starts off listing the ingredients for different sacrifices. But what are the occasions for each type of sacrifice?
Ch. 1 - Burnt offering
Ch. 2 - Grain offering
Ch. 3 - Fellowship offering
Ch. 4 - Sin offering (this one is self-explanatory)
            lots of examples for bringing this sacrifice
Ch. 5 - Guilt offering (not sure how it's different from sin offering)
           more examples for bringing in this sacrifice
Ch. 6 - review of 1, 2, and 4
Ch. 7 - review of 3 and 5
           health tip - don't eat fat and blood
           making sure the priest's get the leftovers from all these sacrifices
Ch. 8 - Exodus 29 put into action and Moses's brother Aaron gets ordained. I appreciate this input on Aaron, the guy who made a…

Thoughts on Exodus, Day 3 Lent 2013

Part of my Lenten discipline this year is to read the entire Bible between Ash Wednesday and Easter, which works out to something like 27 chapters a day. I got the inspiration and reading plan from Margaret Feinberg. This morning I read most of Exodus. I'm reading it in the Message paraphrase to facilitate smoother reading. I really enjoy reading in big gulps. My concentration in college was ecology, which seeks the big picture and how everything fits together. I like that approach in my Bible reading as well. This is a post involving Biblical criticism, which could upset the faith of others. Please don't read this if your faith does not like too many questions. It's the faith I have, and this is my story of gratefulness and irritation, see yesterday's post.

When read in such a large serving, Exodus does not read at all like one book, but a collection of stories, that sometimes contradict each other.

Even without reading the Hebrew, it's easy to say Moses did not w…

praying about unanswered prayers

Personally, it's been a rough month. The day my last post went online, the one about forgiveness, I wrote it earlier in the week and scheduled it to post later, my son was hit by a reckless driver with a suspended license. Although the truck ran over and killed our dog, it sent my son air borne so that he landed in the grass. His injuries are minimal, not what his doctors expected from such an accident. He is still recovering and healing physically. As a family, we are all still recovering emotionally. We miss our dog. We are looking for a replacement still.

After Blizzard Nemo left it's two feet of snow at my house, I spent many hours shoveling. The long repetitive exertion leads me an enjoyable mental zone: contemplative, meditative, in the moment, peace. There's something that occurs in the haze of exhaustion, something not accessible behind a snowblower. I started praying as I dug, lifted, and tossed the snow.

I was thankful for the miracle of my son's accident, fo…