Thursday, January 31, 2008

Are You New or Behind in the BBC?

This is the last day of our first month of the 3 Year Bible Book Club. We are 3% there! Maybe you have gotten behind or you are just beginning with us.

DON'T BE DISCOURAGED!

The nice thing about going through this book slowly is you probably aren't that far behind!

I wanted to read through all the chapters in Genesis and the Psalms we have read so far this morning, and it took me two hours!

Only two hours! It is only about forty pages!


So, what you might like to do is look at your calendar, and schedule a date with the LORD. I love to go to a quiet library, coffee shop, or get up earlier than the rest of the clamoring clan and read without distraction. Make a date!

Don't worry about reading every single post on this blog and every single comment either. The main goal is to READ THE BIBLE!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Day 28: Psalm 7&8

READING: Psalms 7 and 8

BACKGROUND: The Prayer and Poetry of the Psalms
I, Susanne, love reading and praying the Psalms. One of the reasons that I have been so devoted to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is the Psalter in the back which lays out all 150 Psalms to be read during Morning and Evening Prayer over thirty days. So by reading the Psalms set out for the 1st Morning, 1st Evening, 2nd Morning, 2nd Evening, etc., I can pray through the Psalms each month. I have been far less than perfectly consistent, but still I have read through the Psalms at least five times (conservatively) last year, and I have been praying the Psalter for at least the past five years. You do the math. :)

Obviously, the Psalms are poetry – gorgeous poetry. Rather than having a rhyme scheme and metrical pattern, the Psalms are constructed around repetition. Certain words and phrases are repeated to create a certain effect, mood, tone, etc. Plus, poetry based on repetition is much easier to learn and memorize which is a true blessing to us who desire to learn the Psalms “by heart.” Rhyming and metrical poetry can be quite difficult to translate and maintain the original meaning and craftsmanship, so it makes perfect sense that God’s poetry is written in the most easily translatable manner.

The Psalms express the full range of human emotion, from joyful praise to heartrending contrition and repentance even to anger at God for His seeming indifference. Psalms were specifically designed to be repeated – truly they are an oral poetic form. In monastic life, and especially according to the Rule of St. Benedict, it was and still is common for a brother to read the Psalms aloud while the others eat their meals; in this way, the community listens to the entire Book of Psalms each week. Each week! So cool. Plus, after the Book of Isaiah, the Psalms are the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. So being familiar with the Psalms is an important aid to reading and understanding the New Testament.

PSALMS 7 AND 8
So let’s look at Psalm 7. Under the title for Psalm 7, my KJV Bible states that this Psalm is a “prayer of deliverance,” a “Shiggaion [a meditation or song] of David, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.” A footnote mentions that Cush the Benjamite was evidently one of Saul’s radical family members. As we read through this poem, we can see that David is quite confident that his own innocence will be proven (vv. 3-5) despite the slander spoken against him, and David is also certain that God will defend him and defeat this Cush guy (vv. 6-17).

The first and the last verses are the ones that draw my attention the most. Verse one gives us the assurance of trusting in God and also lays out the theme of deliverance of this Psalm: “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me…” (KJV). This verse provides an example of climactic parallelism in which the second line refines, develops, or completes the thoughts of the first line. I pray this verse when life seems to be coming at me from every direction and when I know I must depend on God’s strength and not my own. We all need deliverance, whether eternal deliverance through Christ or daily deliverance from our besetting sins as well as from the Enemy who seeks our destruction.

The last verse of Psalm 7 reads: “I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” Aaaah, that’s a wonderful verse to pray as we celebrate all that God gives to us, delivers us from, as well as whom we celebrate: The Lord Most High! I love that verse! It reminds us also that the Psalms were songs as well as poetry. The name for the Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Scriptures is “Tehillim,” which means “Songs of Praise.”

Psalm 8 is very dear to me as the kids and I memorized it last year as part of our Sonlight home school religion curriculum. In my study Bible under the Psalm’s title, it reads “God’s glory and man’s honor.” It’s one of my favorite praise Psalms as it acknowledges the majesty and grandeur of our Creator and His Creation in glorious language, most especially His creation of humankind. Verse 5 states, “For thou hast made him [humankind] a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.” Literally, that verse should be translated “a little lower than God” (Hebrew "Elohim," the normal generic word for God). However, the Septuagint translated the word as “angels,” and this translation using “angels” is quoted in Hebrews 2:6-8. The word can be taken loosely as “divine beings” which could refer to both God and the angels. Either way, it’s a wonderfully poetic way of celebrating our Creator and His joy in creating this world, and especially us.

REFLECTION:
Besides remembering the old praise song, I always thrill to the almost rhetorical question: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” And then as we read the rest of the Psalm, we find out the answers – the many answers – and the overall answer, which is: “It’s God’s perfect plan.” He made us – He gave us charge over His beautiful Creation – He “hast crowned [us] with glory and honor.” What an amazing, incredible, unfathomable God we serve!

APPLICATION:
I always read the Psalms aloud, just so I can hear the poetry. In my 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the Psalter translation is that of the Great Bible of 1540, predating the King James Version by 70 years. Sometimes it’s a little hard to fathom, but oh! The poetry!!!! It’s simply lovely!!! I encourage you to read the Psalms in one of the older translations that do justice to the grandeur and poetry of the Psalms. This is one time that The Message falls flat on its face – a modern “hip” translation loses the diction and repetition and beauty of the older translations. And I encourage you as well: Read them aloud. Slowly. Pray them as you read them. I love to read Psalms aloud with a candle lit before me – it puts me in the frame of mind to worship. And worship is central to the Psalms. They’re there as an aid to worship our amazing God. So enjoy them in a new way today – savor the language. Notice the repetition. And pray them.

PRAYER:
“O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” We honor and praise you, Lord Most High, for giving us the gift of Your Word. Thank you that You created Your Word in such a way that we can not only learn and receive instruction in righteousness but that we can also turn Your Word back to You in prayer and praise! Thank you for making the Psalms voice all our range of human emotion so that we can come to this incredible poetry collection and find a prayer that expresses our hearts, whether we feel joy, thanksgiving, and praise or pain, bewilderment, and repentance. We honor You as the true Poet of our Hearts, O Lord our God. Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Genesis 30 - Sibling Rivalry

READING: Genesis 30

BACKGROUND:

The stage is set for some major sibling rivalry between Rachel and Leah! Jacob has married both of them, but loves Rachel. God intervenes to compensate Leah for that lack of love by opening her womb and giving her four sons. Chapter thirty opens with an argument between Rachel and Jacob concerning her inability to conceive. Then begins the customary bearing of children through the wives' maids as concubines, so that by the end of this account Leah has six sons, Bilhah (Rachel's maid) has two sons, Zilpah (Leah's maid) has two sons, and Rachel herself has one son. Eleven sons in all. There is at least one daughter also, Dinah. She is mentioned because she will be involved in a major event that will happen later (chapter 34).
Mandrakes were thought to induce fertility. Rachel bought them from Leah but still remained barren. Only God could open her womb.
Once Jacob had worked off his debt of labor to Laban, he decided it was time to return to Canaan. He was ready to leave his cheating uncle, who kept changing his wages (see 31:7). But Laban had recognized that God was blessing Jacob, and through Jacob, he was receiving blessing himself. So he sought to keep Jacob around and offered to let Jacob name his own wages. Then Jacob made an offer Laban couldn't refuse. Jacob would take all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats and leave Laban the "perfect" ones. Laban was sure he would keep Jacob dependent upon him, because his flocks would be worth a lot while Jacob's would be worth little.
However, Jacob had other plans! He used the prenatal influence of the rods as well as selective breeding to increase his own flocks. It isn't clear how the rods affected the sheep, but here are a couple of explanations I found.
"Jacob placed partially stripped branches from certain trees in the watering troughs to stimulate the animals to reproductive activity." (Ryrie)
"He set up streaked rods before the ewes at the watering places, that the coloring of the young might be subject to prenatal influence. It is an established fact, declares Delitzsch, that white lambs can be guaranteed by placing a multitude of white objects about the drinking troughs (New Commentary on Genesis). Jacob also separated the spotted and striped lambs and kids from the herd, but kept them in plain view of the ewes, that they might be influenced." (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p 34)
Although Jacob used these techniques to increase his flocks while decreasing Laban's, he also attributes his success to God (see 31:7, 9). God has prospered Jacob and made him very wealthy in preparation for his return home. Tuesday, we will begin Jacob's journey back to Canaan.

REFLECTION:

Although Jacob was not willing to count God as his own LORD, he does see the hand of God at work in his life. He is aware that God is keeping His part of the bargain (28:20-21). God has blessed him with sons, is providing great wealth for him, and protecting him from Laban's schemes.

Yet, family relationships for Jacob are very strained and unhappy. The women are truly constant rivals of each other. Like Rebekah, they each want to be in control, and they both want to have the upper hand. That would have created an incredible amount of strife in their family!


APPLICATION:

No matter how we try to manipulate things, God is always the one who is in control. He keeps His unconditional promises of blessing regardless of the behavior of the one(s) He is blessing. God's actions are not controlled by man.


PRAYER:

LORD, you are the God who is in control, and you will bless whom you choose to bless. Help me to trust in you rather than try to manipulate events on my own. You have blessed me abundantly! I recognize that these rich blessings are from your hand and I thank you for them. In the name of the richest blessing of all, Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Genesis 28 & 29 - Jacob (by Rachel)

Link: Genesis 28 & 29

Background: Earlier in Genesis, we saw that God made a covenant with Abraham, promising, among other things, that his descendants would be numerous, that they would inhabit a land of their own, and that through his descendants all nations on earth would be blessed. For a childless man with a barren wife and a nomadic lifestyle, these promises were indeed amazing and would require miraculous intervention. God proved his faithfulness to Abraham by giving him Isaac, the child of promise.

The chain of blessing continued into the next generation; God renewed his covenant with Isaac and provided two sons to carry on the family line. Now in this third generation, again the question is raised whether the covenant would continue, and by what means it would continue. Isaac's generation showed that that the covenant was based on a promise, not upon man's plan, design, or intention. What will the generation of Esau and Jacob show?

Esau, the firstborn son of Isaac and Rebekah, is the next logical successor of the promise. To the firstborn goes the blessing of the father, including the lion's share of his wealth and the position of head of the clan. By natural right, the covenant would pass to Esau. But problems arise when Esau despises his birthright and apparently couldn't care less about protecting the legacy of relationship with God handed down through his grandfather and father. A second problem is that the younger son, Jacob, is a schemer who, along with his mother, seems willing to stoop to any means to get what should not rightfully belong to him. He deceives Isaac and gets the blessing for himself. So Jacob has the blessing, he has the money--everything should be fine and dandy to continue the covenant with God. There's only been a small matter of switching which brother will stand at the head of the family, nothing too insurmountable; Jacob stands poised to take over where the previous generation left off. Unfortunately for Jacob, Esau isn't too keen on the new plan and threatens to kill him once Isaac is dead. This, along with a desire to not have another Canaanite daugther-in-law, motivates Rebekah to send Jacob away to her brother's clan to get an acceptable wife and also to hide out from Esau's wrath.

Chapter 28 begins with Jacob's flight away from Esau. Along the way, he has a strange experience. Lying on the cold hard ground with a stone for a pillow, he has a dream in which he sees angels ascending and descending on a stairway to heaven. At the top of the stairs is the Lord, who speaks to Jacob many of the same promises he spoke to Abraham and Isaac; God is offering to Jacob a renewal of the covenant, offering him a place in the line of blessing. Jacob, the schemer who had deceitfully finangled his way into what he thought would be the good life and then seen his opportunity to enjoy that blessing disappear due to the wrath of the brother he had wronged, now sees something bigger. God repeats the blessing, yes, and enumerates the benefits of the covenant, but he also gives Jacob a picture of something even more wonderful--a pathway to God himself, a bridge from heaven to earth and earth to heaven. The distant God, who speaks and blesses from afar, gives a glimpse of his accessability, his nearness. If I knew how to do colors, I'd put a SCARLET THREAD notation here. Jesus later said, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:51) Christ himself is the ladder between heaven and earth, and Jacob, the guy who didn't get it, who didn't understand that God's promises were bigger than land and money and position, got to see heaven opened. Can you imagine? To see HEAVEN OPENED? I've been happy many times on a long journey just to see an open gas station with an unlocked, unoccupied bathroom, but to see heaven opened? That would be mind boggling. A way to heaven IS mind boggling. That we have been given a pathway to God is an amazing, wonderful gift. Jacob is amazed by it, too. He says, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." God becomes real to Jacob.

But what happens next? Jacob's life takes a turn toward the mundane--finding his uncle, getting a job, falling in love, speed bumps in the course of true love, a scheming father-in-law who beats Jacob at his own game by giving him Leah as a bride in the dark of night rather than Rachel (whom Jacob loved and had worked seven long years for), bickering wives, babies born. The normal stuff of life; the things that make up everyday life for most of humanity. And yet this normal man living normal life was abnormal in one notable way--he was connected to God by God's covenant promises. He belonged to God in a unique way; through Jacob, God's heart and intention and plan for mankind would be preserved, illustrated, and passed down to future generations. God would show himself to mankind through his interactions with this one family. It's as if God says to the world, "Yes, I'm big. Yes, I'm too much for you to comprehend. Yes, you're busy with other things, going about your lives and schemes, unable to grab hold of me. But just watch. Just watch this one family; watch what I do with them, how I come to them and interact with them. Watch this family, and you'll see what kind of God I am." As Genesis unfolds, the family gets larger and has many trials and adventures and challenges. The Old Testament is full of them. And then in the New Testament, the focus turns from the now-huge family to One member of it--the ultimate fulfillment of the promise--Jesus. Like the Israelites ("Israel" was the name later given to Jacob), we've got a long road to travel before we get there, but it'll be an eventful journey! Stay tuned!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the road from us to you is too long and hard; who can walk it? Who can ascend to your holy mountain? Like Jacob we fret and plot to arrange the details of our lives; we define blessedness for ourselves and lay down the plans and terms for how to achieve those goals. But you open a way bigger than our plans and better than our hopes or schemes. You come to us. Thank you that heaven is open to us. Thank you that all your promises are "Yes!!" in Christ Jesus. Amen

Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 25: It's All About Wisdom

READING: Proverbs 1

BACKGROUND:

This first chapter of Proverbs lays out the purpose of the book: to help us attain wisdom. And Proverbs is written for all types of people. Surely each of us fits in here somewhere: the simple, the young, the wise, the discerning (vv. 4-6) – that covers just about everyone!

What is wisdom and why do we need it?

Wisdom is an understanding of reality that enables good choices. It is the discernment to know the right action for a certain time and place. It is insight given by God into how to live and how not to live. Because God is the maker of all things, of reality, because He is reality, He is the beginning of all wisdom and knowledge. Fearing Him, living in reverent awe of Him, is the starting place for becoming wise (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10).

As Myrna Alexander says, wisdom enables us to “live life with skill, like an accomplished craftsman who creates something of lasting value – in this case eternal. Our brief-as-grass hours are filled with decisions over the details of living. Proverbs gives explicit counsel about how life should be lived for our own good, as well as that of others. This book makes us aware that God will be glorified through even our smallest action. Thus, Proverbs lifts everyday life once and for all out of what man calls ordinary into the extraordinary of permanent significance.”

Proverbs contains many proverbs. (Duh!) Most are from Solomon, but some are from others like Agur and King Lemuel. What is a proverb? In the ancient Near East, proverbs were common. It is important to understand the purpose of proverbs. They’re not promises from God. A proverb simply asserts a general truth.

“A proverb is a brief but vivid statement of reality that causes the hearer to reflect upon a proper perspective of practical everyday human condition that might otherwise remain obscure and incomprehensible” (Bruce Waltke). The proverbs in this book reveal God’s perspective on the best way to live everyday life.

Proverbs, along with Job and Ecclesiastes, is one of the books of wisdom literature, and is poetry. Poetry touches the heart and creates a response in the hearer by making the abstract concrete. The poetry in Proverbs uses figurative language, as we see in this first chapter, where wisdom is personified as a woman calling our for all to hear. This poetry also uses parallelism, with balanced or contrasting thoughts paired. Look for these balanced statements throughout the book – it’s full of them!

This book opens as if written from a father to his son, with advice for everyday life. But before the father gives his advice, and because he understands that the advice will go unheeded if the son himself isn’t motivated to seek wisdom, the father seeks to whet the appetite, to create a desire for wisdom within his son (and within us!).

REFLECTION:

Who wouldn’t want to attain “wisdom and discipline,” “understand words of insight,” “lead a disciplined and prudent life,” “ do what is right and just and fair” (vv. 2-3)? I can’t imagine rejecting those things. Yet I know some do. But just in case we’re not interested in wisdom, the father “paints” two pictures in this passage: the first of someone who is acting without wisdom; the second of what happens when wisdom is rejected.

The first story warns us not to be enticed by those who do wrong and hurt others to gratify their greed, their own desires. Even birds know enough not to fly into a net in plain sight! Those who do wrong in order to get what they want are their own worst enemy. They end up losing themselves.

Let’s reflect a bit on the picture of wisdom in the last part of the chapter. Wisdom is a woman here, perhaps to contrast with the adulteress we will meet later on. What is wisdom saying? How is she saying it? What are the consequences of not responding to her rebuke, of rejecting her and ignoring her advice? Whose fault are those consequences?

God is the true source of wisdom. So often we substitute other things for Him. Eve wanted wisdom. It says in Genesis 3: 6, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Eve wanted wisdom, but she left the Source of wisdom. So sad. Yet so often I do the same thing; I listen to the lies instead of the One who is Wisdom.

APPLICATION:

Who are you listening to? Do you hear wisdom calling? When you hear her call do you listen to her rebuke, to her advice? As I’ve written these words I’ve thought about that for me. If I truly believe God is wisdom’s source, that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), then I will want even my smallest actions and thoughts brought under His authority. I will long to obey so that I can reflect Him even in the unseen places.

Look up the definitions of “prudent,” “insight,” “discernment,” and “discretion,” in a good dictionary or in a Bible dictionary. Sometimes we use words without really understanding them.

PRAYER:

Dear Father God, You have made Heaven and earth and all that is.. You are the God of reality and have told us how to live in your Word. You are the source of wisdom. Help me to fear you, to trust you, to listen to you and obey you, so that I can begin to be wise.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Genesis 20 - Abraham and Abimelech

READING: Genesis 20


BACKGROUND


Abraham is traveling again and has arrived in Gerar, a city believed to have been near Gaza. There, he meets up with Abimelech. (Abimelech means father-king and is likely a title rather than a name.) Once again he tells the king that Sarah is his sister in an effort to save his own skin. Apparently he has been doing this all along since leaving Ur twenty-four years earlier (verse 13).


God calls Abraham a prophet in this passage. This is the first occurence of the word. The Hebrew word is nabi, which means "to proclaim, declare, speak as an intermediary." The emphasis here is that Abraham will act as the official intercessor for Abimelech.


Once Abimelech knew the truth about Sarah and Abraham being married, he was very generous to them with silver and land. Abraham prayed to God for Abimelech and his household, so the LORD allowed them to bear children.




REFLECTION


Christians can develop the attitude that God only works in their lives and ignores the unbelievers. This is far from the truth. Here we see God working in the life of a pagan king. He even speaks to him in a dream. The best thing God did for Abimelech, though, is He kept him from unwittingly sinning against God.


When God revealed the truth to Abimelech in his dream, Abimelech responded with great fear. He feared the true God as soon as He revealed Himself to him. Ironically, Abraham had lied to Abimelech because he thought "surely there is no fear of God in this place" (verse 11).


Abraham thought he needed to take things into his own hands and lied to protect himself. Then when he was caught, he came out with his rationalization to justify himself (verse 12). This is so much a part of our sinful human nature! We can always have a "good" reason why we sinned.




APPLICATION


Do I trust God enough to obey Him completely and let Him handle the details? Or do I limit God to what I think He can or will do? I wonder how many times I've missed seeing what God can do in my life, because I've rushed in ahead and made arrangements myself. Maybe I need to step back more and let God be God.




PRAYER


Lord, let me see your hand at work, not only in my own life, but in those around me. You are the God who can do amazing things! Help me learn to be patient and to allow You to be in contol. Let me learn to trust You completely and obey You completely. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 19, Part 2: Meditating with Music

Here is another way to meditate and mull over this passage. Again, the music really would help, but I can't find it on line anywhere. :)

God Will Provide a Lamb

by Michael Card
Genesis 22:1-14 & Hebrews 11:17-19

Three days journey to the sacred place
A boy and a man with a sorrowful face
Tortured yet faithful to God's command
To take the life of his son in his own hands

CHORUS
God will provide a Lamb
To be offered up in your place
A sacrifice so spotless and clean
To take all your sin away

Here's wood and fire, where's the sacrifice
A questioning voice and the innocent eyes
Is the son of laughter who you waited for
To die like a lamb to please the Lord

Chorus

A gleaming knife, an accepted choice
A rush of wind and an angel's voice
A ram in the thicket caught by his horns
And a new age of trusting the Lord is born

For God has provided a Lamb
He was offered up in your place
What Abraham was asked to do He's done
He's offered His only son!

What Abraham was asked to do He's done
He's offered His only son

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Poem Meditation on Psalm 3 & 4

The voices speak strong.
They shout my fear,
That God does not hear,
That He’s not near.
But are they wrong?

I watch and see to whom they flee.
Where do they go?
They trust in what their eyes can see,
A view that’s low.

They twist God’s power and His glory
To wring out shame upon His name.
And dream up stories…
Delusions… Lies…
And worship something tame.

I bow my head and sigh.
“My God!” I cry.

A voice speaks strong.
If I will yield,
He'll be my shield.
The Truth’s revealed.
Yes, they are wrong.

Becky (Dancingirl)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Psalm 1 Poetry by Becky and Susanne

In case you missed it in the comments section yesterday, I wanted to share two beautiful poems written by Susanne and Becky in 2008 as a result of their meditation on Psalm 1:

Psalm 1 by Becky

Parched ground,
Withered tree,
Water near,
How can it be?

Roots grow deep;
Water seeps.
Never fear
God is here.

Leaves do show;
Fruit will grow.
Dig in deep.
You will reap

Fruit that feeds,
Brings forth seed,
Leaves to heal,
Spirit's seal.

Musings on Psalm 1 by Susanne

My delight springs
from His Holy Word.
As the cooling waters
of His Truth
envelop my roots,
I am blessed --
renewed --
strengthened --
enabled to stand firmly
against wind and storm.

Reaching toward the Light,
my leaves stretch forth
with surety and wellness,
anchored by the Word made Flesh.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Your BBC Bookcase


From Living by The Book by Howard G. and William D. Hendricks.
This year, we will be reading the history books on the first shelf of your Bible bookshelf: