It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reflection on readings for March 23

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of God's name;
give to God glorious praise.
(Psalm 66:1)

Numbers 36
The Lord had made a ruling about what would happen to family property if daughters married outside the clan (27:1-11) Some of the people affected by the Lord's command point out its unfavorable effect on their lives. Moses revises the earlier command.

Women with no brothers can inherit the land but have to marry within the clan.

Freedom is limited. What are our modern ways of ensuring rights of ownership versus equality of wealth?

Observations from the Theological Bible Commentary on Book of Numbers: God draws lines between Israel and other nations, then between priests/Levites and other tribes, then between Aaronites and other Levites, then between males and females. Gradually the circles of insiders permitted to stand close to God's holiness becomes smaller and smaller. But, God often refuses to stay within the boundaries. God is on the side of Moses when he is criticized for having a foreign wife; on the side of Balaam, a foreign seer; on the side of the daughters of Zelophehad when they're about to lose their property. Also, God moves from the center of the camp (10:21) to its front (10:33), even ahead of the camp (9:21-22), outside the camp (Ex 33:7-11); Num 12:4).

Deuteronomy 1
Scholars now assert that much of the book of Deuteronomy was produced in the 7th century and subsequently updated in the 6th the century, the period of exile. The book of  Deuteronomy tells us what Moses told that second generation of Israelites who were preparing to enter the promised land.

As we read Deuteronomy, we should notice these different audiences: those listening to Moses, those who were currently inhabiting that promised land, and those who were then in exile needing an explanation.

As they read, and we read today, this book, we hear Moses telling them and us to listen to what God wants us to do and to do it--and the consequences for not doing it.

Also, note that Deuteronomy revises narrative and law, demonstrating that time and circumstances matter, that laws change accordingly, and that stories are told differently. (Theological Bible Commentary, Gail O'Day and David Petersen).

Luke 5:29-6:11
Jesus approached an unapproachable and said "Follow me." This new follower invited Jesus to a banquet including a lot of people that the religious authorities didn't approve of. "Why is he associating with sinners?" the asked. Jesus responded, "I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."

The religiously scrupulous  asked Jesus why he didn't behave the way he thought a religiously scrupulous person should.  Jesus responded with two common-sense parables. Sharon Ringe in her commentary on Luke explains them: Both the old and the new garments, and both the new wine and the old wineskins are valuable. Don't put down religious practices of other groups, but Jesus' presence supersedes old traditions. Sometimes, we have to leave behind the safe.

On the sabbath, Jesus healed a man. He was demonstrating the true meaning of the law.

How do we distinguish between what powerful people think is godly and what God thinks?

Psalm 66:1-20
This psalm begins with a call to the whole earth to praise God, to acknowledge what God has done and has the power to do. An example of God's praise-deserving deeds is cited--providing a dry path through the sea for the Hebrews escaping slavery in Egypt and then continuing watchfulness and protection.

Past escape and even ongoing watch by God does not keep us from getting into trouble. Delivered from oppression into their own land, they faced temptation, had difficulties, underwent times of great trial.

And, as earlier in their history, God brought them through their difficulties.

We can imagine those exiles in Babylon reading the letter from Jeremiah and responding with singing this psalm. We can also imagine singing it in our own lives when we face our own particular difficulties in our own particular locations. As God has brought others out of their confinement, we can look forward to being brought out to a spacious place.

This psalm calls on all the earth to give God praise. I don't read Hebrew but I do read people who do, and they tell me that the command is in the plural. We Southerners might read "Y'all make a joyful noise to God, all y'all" (1) and "Y'all come see what awesome things God has done" (5) "Say it, say it loud. Say it where everybody can hear it" (9)

Off on an tangent: The psalm begins with the command for all the earth to make a joyful noise, to sing. All? joyful? I'm thinking even the portion of us in a sanctuary on Sunday morning aren't all singing, and that all of them don't sound particularly joyful.

How do we tell what God has done? Do we usually notice? Where and when is our praise heard? (9)

Proverbs 11:24-26

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms

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