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Bible Tuesday for Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Sunday, February 1, 2015

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.19Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

One of the challenges of Christianity is the duel nature of intimacy with God and distance from God. Distance is so painful and difficult. Adam and Eve are to be envied, walking in the garden with God. But there are aspects of God (I would suggest, most aspects of God) that are just too marvelous and terrifying for the average Joe, as the Israelites illustrate. “If I hear the voice of the Lord or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” The power, the force that can speak planets and solar systems into being is to be “feared” in the awe/great respect meaning of the word. The Israelites get that. They have eyeballed sticks turning into snakes, river turning to red stinky slick and waters split by a nice walking path. God terrifies them! However, they sacrifice intimacy with God when they admit their great fear and ask for an intermediary to stand between them and their creator. Being benevolent and craving relationship with creation, God condescends to mediation, but the prophets better accurately represent God to the people, or the prophets will die.

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.

Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.

He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful.

He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.

He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

Here is an acrostic psalm (acrostic-each line starts with a letter of a word or, in this case, a letter of the Hebrew alphabet) which assigns well known axioms about God to each letter of the alphabet. The final line, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” is well known and begs the question, “How is Wisdom defined?” In the Hebrew, Canaanite, and later Greek and Roman contexts, wisdom meant knowledge of secret things. Secret things were usually religious dogmas regarding how the world came into being or other natural phenomena. This wisdom was said to be revealed to religious cult members, little by little, as they rose in the ranks of the cult. The psalmist, and those whom he/she is quoting, insist that awe/respect/love for and devotion to Yahweh is the beginning of this secret knowledge since God is the creator and source of all things.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

The letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians are only the remains of correspondence between this church and Paul. We only have snippets of the letters and only from Paul’s side. Scholars think that “all of us possess knowledge” and “no idol in the world really exists” are phrases that Paul is quoting from an earlier letter from the church to himself.

Paul turns the whole concept of wisdom and knowledge on its head. Humans cannot obtain secret wisdom through religious cults, but rather can be known by God through loving God. Loving God is paramount. Disregard secret knowledge. Loving God is lived and shown by loving and serving others, helping them to know and love God also. So then, behaviors which are meaningless or harmless to one, but which hinders another from knowing and loving God, should be refrained from so as to not hinder the other.

Mark 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Here Jesus teaching, not with secrets or allusions to secrets so as to show off or lure people in, but rather with authority. We can only guess what is meant by that. Did the Jewish teachers of the day teach in an authoritarian manner, “You don’t get to ask questions. You must only believe what I tell you. You may not challenge me.”? In the gospels, Jesus doesn’t keep secrets, but rather reveals as much as his listeners can comprehend. Mysteries still exist, but not because Jesus wouldn’t show his cards.

Jesus teaches with authority. To exhibit that authority, and to exercise compassionate of Jesus’ authority, Jesus heals a man by casting from him an unclean spirit. Jesus’ teaching has power and teeth!