Sometime during the middle of 1933, my grandfather boiled a pot of water to use for his morning shave. His youngest child, a daughter who had yet to take her first steps, reached up and pulled down on the handle. Her shrieks rang out and the months to come were hard and sad for her parents, her eight siblings and for the child herself.
Reading the Old Testament prophets is a little like having a conversation with an aging grandparent. You know that it’s important and to be treasured, but a lot of what they say seems to belong to a world that no longer exists. If they carried an aroma, the words they use would smell like they’d been hanging next to worn out winter coats in an old wardrobe or like they’d been lifted from the pages of a Zane Gray western that’s been sitting on a basement bookshelf low these many years.
Even without a read-through-the-Bible plan I spend a lot of time in the Old Testament. It’s kind of a big part of my day job. But like a lot of people, I tend to go back to the same passages – or at least the same kinds of passages – over and over.
Reflections on 1 & 2 Samuel
In the opening monologue of the Bible’s most cynical book, Solomon writes, What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new?” (Ecclesiastes.
1:9 – 10). It’s a withering take on the world but I don’t think I can argue with it. Even our trust in technology is as old as that time in Genesis when the people living on the plain in Shinar discovered a revolutionary new building material. They believed that it would empower them to change the world. They called it . . . brick.
Go ahead. Chuckle. In a hundred years our descendants will laugh at our Blockchain, Big Data and all the other techy buzzwords that make us feel like we just added the 119th element to the Periodic Table.
As I read 1st and 2nd Samuel over the past week, I saw something else that is not new; low character among people in high positions. The first person you are likely to think of is King David. He certainly had some character issues. But before David there was Saul, Israel’s first king. In the beginning, Saul seemed the ideal man for the job. He was so unassuming that they had to practically drag him to his own inauguration, (1 Samuel 10:20-24). Five chapters later, he built a monument to himself, (15:12). The rest of Israel’s history, as you will see when you read Kings and Chronicles, is heavily weighted with low character kings. So if nearly all of their kings were corrupt, or at least highly corruptible, why did Israel want a king in the first place?
Reflections on the Book of Judge
Here’s one benefit to reading through the Bible that I’d forgotten about – rediscovering the stories you’d forgotten about. Everybody knows the Samson story. Long hair, big muscles, high libido and low morals. Bruce Springsteen even mentioned him in a song once. But do you remember Micah? His story follows Samson’s in Judges 17 & 18.
More reflections on the odd laws in the Old Testament
Looking back, I can’t think of a single rule or regulation that my parents enforced within their household jurisdiction that seemed arbitrary, injudicious or unreasonable. Note well the first two words in that sentence – “looking back.” As a child living under the jackboot of their parental authority, those policies were stifling.
If you are joining us in the effort to read through the Bible in 2018, we are coming up on the end of the first quarter. And for my money, it’s the toughest. Genesis was a joy to read. So, too, the first half of Exodus. (Unless you’re Egyptian). Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? Not so much.
Reflections on Numbers 11 – 30
You know what really scorches my grits? People who gripe and complain all the time. It’s like they roll out of bed on the wrong side every stinkin’ morning, drink a cup of bitter coffee and spend the rest of the day competing with each other to see who can win the gold medal of grumbling.
This post reflects on Leviticus 16 – 27
They say there are 600 separate laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I don’t think that’s right because I counted something like a million in the book of Leviticus alone. At least it felt that way when I (finally) finished reading it this week.
This week’s post reflects on Leviticus chapters 1 – 15.
When we lived in the country Lisa and I would take evening walks down a narrow, winding lane we called Christmas Tree Road. That wasn’t what the county called it, but at the halfway point there was a Christmas tree farm.
When you are a child, everything looks big. The house I grew up in on Shadburn Avenue in Buford felt like a mansion. The hallway in the center of the house seemed to stretch for miles. The back yard was as big as a Montana prairie. But when you return as an adult to visit those childhood haunts, everything has been downsized.
When our boys were growing up, we tried to expose them to as many different sports, music, theater and academic adventures as possible. We figured it was better to let them sample a wide variety than to force them to specialize in one thing. Your results may vary, but that seemed to work well for us and our guys.
I have never been very fond of the Bible-as-a-Love-Story approach to scripture. Other than Song of Solomon, it isn’t all that romantic. And whenever I hear the words “love” and “story” in the same sentence, I see two people running in slow motion across a field of flowers, falling into a tender embrace just as the soundtrack crescendos into a flurry of ecstatic violins.
Happy New Year! First, thank you for reading, commenting on and sharing the blog throughout 2017. Your thoughts, challenges and encouragement have been a blessing. I am looking forward to – no, that’s not quite right – I am excited about where we’re going next. Our church, Twickenham, has launched an initiative to be in the Word in 2018. We’ve committed to reading the Bible cover to cover, from the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the City of God in Revelation. I am inviting you to join us. But I wouldn’t blame you if you had some doubts.
A great and wondrous sign appeared.
Does that line from scripture seem familiar? Like maybe it’s somewhere in the Christmas story. Does it precede the angel’s announcement to the shepherds that a Savior is born in the city of David? Or the announcement to Zechariah that he and his old wife are going to have a baby who would grow up to be the forerunner of Christ? Perhaps that line goes with the conception of Jesus himself. A virgin becoming pregnant would certainly be a great and wondrous sign.
The first five words of Genesis 18 pull you to the edge of your seat: The Lord appeared to Abraham. You halfway expect the mountains to quake, the seas to boil or lightening to crease the sky. When God makes unscheduled visits, the special effects can be spectacular. The rest of the verse, though, is considerably less dramatic: Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him, (Matthew 2:1 – 3 NIV).
Let’s perform a thought experiment. It’s a Sunday morning a year from now. You arrive early and park in your regular spot at the church – a good distance from the entrance so as to leave the closer spaces for your older members and guests – and make your way across the parking lot to the doors.
What’s the opposite of fear? Courage? It is an excellent candidate, but it’s not the answer. Mark Twain said “Courage is resistance to fear . . . not absence of fear.” Ask any hero, “Were you afraid when you charged into that burning building . . . . when you ran toward the sound of the gunfire .
Kids who grew up hearing Bible stories, and even many who did not, are familiar with Daniel and the den of lions (Daniel 6). A rabble of conspirators, threatened by Daniel’s rising influence, failed to find any corruption or negligence in his service. He made Teflon look like the sticky side of Duct Tape.