Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
(from Psalm 104:1)
Demonstrating the part of the cycle where the people do what satisfies themselves rather than carry out the will of the Lord, Micah steals from his mother. When he confessed to her and returned the silver, she was so pleased that she used part of it to pay for an idol. Micah then hired a migrant Levite to be the priest. Micah asserted that the Lord would bless him now that he had his own priest.
The Danites are seeking a territory and like the way that Laish, the place where Micah lives, looks, so they decide to make it their home. (The back story to their loss of their original allocation is in Joshua 19:46-48, Leshem=Laish ). They took Micah's idols and priest, intiminated Micah enough to leave them alone, got rid of the inhabitants who had been residing in the part the Danites wanted.
A hint to what happens to people who do what they want while claiming that it's really what the Lord intended for them to do is in Judges 18:30--they are going to be overturned by another group of people and sent into exile.
Jesus has been upsetting the insiders. One of them, Nicodemus, comes by night. I am told by Bible commentators that "night" implies more "not understanding" than a time. I had always taken "night" as literal and read that Nicodemus was hoping not to be seen by anyone important when he approached this trouble maker. After thinking about it for a moment, I've decided to keep both meanings.
Nicodemus asserts that the miracles they have seen Jesus perform have been persuasive. Yet apparently not completely so. It's night after all.
After being asked about how anybody can have a second birth, Jesus answers him by asserting the necessity of the Spirit.
"What is born of the Spirit is spirit....The wind blows where it chooses..." Remember that the Greek word translated as wind also means breath or spirit. God breathes on us; a force moves us like the wind moves us and that force is as invisible as the wind as it is as potent as the wind.
"So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Who is this "everyone"? Who has been born of the Spirit? Am I reassured? insulted? puzzled? grateful?
Jesus says to his hearers, "The Son of Man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
We take "lifted up" to mean the crucifixion or the resurrection or the ascension, or all of these. He is in Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry yet his words will be understandable after his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Or, will they be? Nicodemus had seen signs, as had the other Pharisees, but he was unwilling to come publicly to Jesus. The audience for John's Gospel had seen even more signs; were they able to believe?
Jesus said that those who believe in him may have eternal life; also see, John 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27: and 17:14 (with thanks to The New Interpreter's Study Bible).
What is being promised? Not just heaven later after we're dead. The word we translate as eternal carries the meaning of a different quality of life, a new life free of the worldly, temporal concerns of the old life. Surely, all football fans have seen that sign in the stands saying John 3:16. Please don't stop with that verse. God's intention is that this eternal life is for us all.
The next time you hear somebody making a distinction between the OT God and the NT God, you might remind them of this quote from John's gospel: those who believe are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already.
We could deconstruct this passage by analyzing what "believe" means, what "condemned" means, particularly if the condemnation has already happened.
Further pondering on John's message could center on the nature of the judgment. Look at verse 19. Is he talking about a personal, individually-experienced punishment, or, is he talking about what happens to the whole community?
Come to think of it, is it even possible for an individual alone to be saved (whatever we might mean by saved)? Read verse 17 once more: God sent the Son in order that the world might be saved.
And read ahead in this Gospel: "I have have other sheep that do not belong to this fold," (10:16), and "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places," (14:2).
We are called by John to understand that God loves us, we who believe in Jesus. Can we further believe that God loves all?
The poor are disliked even by their neighbors,
but the rich have many friends.
Those who despise their neighbors are sinners,
but happy are those who are kind to the poor.
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.