Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bible Challenge: Ezekiel

The book of Ezekiel is named after a priest who was part of the people of Israel who were taken into captivity in Babylon.  He was serving in Babylon from about 593 to 563 BC.  The book is a collection of oracles or prophecies.  The book was edited and expanded at some point after Ezekiel's death and the return of the people to Jerusalem.

One of the main themes of the oracles were to assure the people of Israel of the presence of God with them, even though they were in a foreign land.  This was by no means a foregone conclusion.  At this point in history most people believed in God's of place.  So the fact that the God of Israel could be with the people while they were in Babylon was a rather new idea.

Ezekiel reminds the people that not only is the Lord with them but that the Lord is taking an active role in the events of their lives.

In Ezekiel we see God calling the prophet "mortal".  This makes the distinction between God and humans.  We are mortal, God is not.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bible Challenge: Job part 2

In the second half of the book of Job, God enters the discussion. God's point is that who do you think you are, you little human. I don't remember seeing you around when I  created the world.  What is it exactly that you think you know about me and how the world I made works?

From Chapters 38 to 41 we get the Lord God demonstrating exactly how much Job doesn't know.  God asks Job a series of questions that demonstrate exactly how small Job is and exactly how big God is.

The very end of the book is Job answering the Lord by basically saying, sorry, Lord, I didn't know what I was talking about.

We then end with a paragraph about God blessing Job.

All in all Job is not a very satisfying book.  There are no real answers to the problem of suffering and no real answer to the relationship between God and humanity.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bible Challenge: Job, part 1

This week we start the book of Job.  We have all probably heard the expression "the patience of Job" but in fact the book does not set out to explain the ways of God or to justify the existence of suffering.

The book is very much like Greek drama - there is the protagonist, Job.  God, and the Greek chorus - Job's three friends.  We see Satan, whose name means "accuser" taking the position of the prosecutor - asking God to prove that Job loves him and not just because Job has been blessed by God.

The real debate starts in chapter 3 when Job curses the day he was born.  Job and his friends throw speeches back and forth at each other, getting increasingly angry with each other.

Tune in next week for God's answer.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Welcome Back to the Bible Challenge

Welcome back to the Bible Challenge.  This week we are reading the books of Ruth and Esther.  These are the only two books in the Bible that are named after women (there are two books in the Appocrypha, Judith and Susanna, that are also named after women)

Neither book is probably a true story.  But both show important truths.

Ruth was probably written after the return of the people of Israel from exile in Babylon - about 500 years before Christ.  One of the major issues of the returning Israelite was how to deal with the fact that while they were in exile many men had married foreign women.  There was one side that felt the foreign women and their children should be welcomed into the nation.  The other side felt that they should be excluded and sent back where they came from.  The book of Ruth is written in support of the first group.  The importance of the story is in the last sentence, in which Ruth, a woman of Moab, is revealed to be the great grandmother of King David.

The book of Esther is the foundation of the Jewish festival of Purim, which is still celebrated to this day.  The basic point of the book is that we have to do what we can wherever it is that we find ourselves, oh and that good will triumph over evil.  I think Esther would make an excellent Disney princess - but the story is probably a little too violent and sexualized for that.