An Appropriate Proverb

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.
Proverbs 21:30

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 31

Proverbs 31:10-31
When Debbie and I were little and we could talk our dad into not going to church (a rarity), he would make us sit down in his den and have 'devotion'. More than once, he read this scripture. And then he would repeat a proverb that his grandmother who had raised him and his brother and sister had told him "a bad woman can toss more out the back door with a teaspoon than a good man can shovel in the front door with a coal shovel".
I would like to say that I understood that then or that I understand it now but truthfully, sometimes I am that bad woman with her teaspoon and sometimes I am not.
That is what is good about proverbs. You have something to reach for, something to measure yourself against. And when you fall short, as you invariably will, next day, pick yourself up and try to do better.
The problem for me comes when I see others who SEEM to be that wife of noble character. Envy is really a destructive, hateful emotion. I compare. I contrast. And I fall short and have major difficulty pulling myself up.

So, in that spirit, let us take a good look at this lovely little piece of scripture. First, this is an acrostic. Oh, we can't see it, but in the original Hebrew, it is an alphabetical poem that lists the characteristics of the type of wife to aspire to having. Loyal, faithful, hardworking, trustworthy with money, industrious, and charitable. These are the characteristics that we should aspire to.
What isn't here? Famous, skinny, beautiful, young, up on all the latest gossip, popular,tanned and well-vacationed.
Lots of stuff to be pondered for both the things that attract us and the things that really bring us joy and satisfaction.

NT -- Revelation 22:1-21
The book of Revelation closes with John urging his readers not to amend or delete anything from his work. Remember this was a letter(s) that he was sending out to the 7 churches that John had cared for prior to his exile. Of course, when they got these messages, some would believe every little word, others would recognize them as apocalyptic messages but all who knew him could understand and appreciate the urgency in his words: "Behold I am coming soon!"
For John, this was the crux of his message. Straighten up, do the work of the Lord so that when the Day of the Lord came, you weren't found wanting. And that Day was coming and coming right quick.

But by far, the best ending to this blog is found in our psalm selection for today. It is what I believe with all my heart:

Psalm 150

1 Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Thank you for reading with me, encouraging me, challenging me, the emails, the cards, the phone calls, the tea dates and the luncheons. Grace and peace to each of you.

This benediction was lifted from a daily devotional Follow the Star that my friend Elizabeth Small recommended to me. You can have it come 365 days but I choose the option to just have it come during Advent. As this is my last day's post, I think it is appropriate for us. Today's message (December 30, 2012) closed with this benediction:

"Depart now in peace, for your eyes have seen the salvation which God has prepared for all people. Grow in strength and wisdom and bring forth a harvest of righteousness and praise.
May God smile upon you and make you strong and wise.
May Christ Jesus and his humble birth fill you with awe.
And may the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the presence of God’s Messiah."

Adapted from Nathan Nettleton,, ©2002

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 30

OT -- Malachi
My Bible in a Year breaks this book into 2 parts, today and tomorrow. So, I am going to do the complete book today and then save the lovely, lovely Proverbs piece for tomorrow.

Malachi was probably written late after the return of the captives and after the reconstruction of the Temple and the wall of Jerusalem. It is an 'oracle' or an oral prophesy. Basically, the book is a redemptive book for the Jews. It explains why the Jews were still to be redeemed by God -- "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated" but only if they straightened up and flew right. The whole concept of sacrificing 'blemished' animals, the withholding of the tithes to the Temple, the ill treatment of widows and orphans -- this had to stop in order for the Chosen to stay the chosen.

Malachi has some serious apocalyptic visions with the 'coming of the Lord' and the destruction of the wicked. But it also foretells a 'messenger', who will prepare the way for the Lord. It is no wonder that this is the last book of the OT for Christians.

One of the more interesting factoids that I learned in my Inter-Faith classes last winter was that the order of the Hebrew scriptures is different when it is Christian Bible vs. a Jewish Tanakh. The Hebrew Bible ends with Chronicles with the book of Malachi inserted into the other 12 minor prophet books somewhere in the middle of the book.
Why? The question was asked at the dinner that night. My guess is that Malachi specifically points to a messenger, one sent from God to proclaim the Day of the Lord.

NT -- Revelation 21:1-27
This is the New Heaven passage that is repeated so often at funerals. The city of Jerusalem, remade in fabulous glory and delight.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 29

NT -- Revelation 20:1-15
The Book of Life
Scare you or are you confident?
You probably know where I stand. Scared would be way too tame a word. And most of the time, the stuff that makes me crazy are the things I DIDN'T do rather than what I did, although, I have to say, there are plenty of those as well.
One of the things I am working on personally is regret. The other is generosity of spirit. My goal is to minimize the regret and have an open heart towards those in need, whatever their need is.
I am not sure that I think there truly is a 'Book of Life' any more than I perceive a giant dragon but what I do think is that God placed in my heart that still, small voice to push me towards things He would wish me to do and say. This kind of stuff takes practice and that is a big goal of mine for next year.
I hope that my column of 'good stuff' is better than my 'bad stuff' in the Book.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 28

NT -- Revelation 19:1-21
A very strange and imagery filled passage.
I have had to break it down into 3 parts:
vs. 1-8, vs 9-16, and vs 17-21

The first set of verses required that I go back to yesterday's readings to figure out what was happening. This was the destruction of Babylon aka Rome with the enormous millstones due to their gross excesses of materialism. With the destruction of Babylon, the 24 elders (the 12 sons of Jacob, the 12 steadfast disciples of Jesus) erupt in a chorus of hallelujahs, shouts of delight and songs of praises. That is what the poems are for. Thrilled would be too tame an adjective for the crowd.

The second set, verses 9-16, are another vision. And angel commanded John to write down what he sees and not to worship the angel but God. What John sees is an incredible horse leading a heavenly army. Gorgeous but immensely powerful and charged with destroying the evil kings, men, horses and their riders who do not follow God.

The Third set, vs 17-21 is the aftermath of that destruction. An angel, standing in the sun, calls out to the vultures and buzzards to come eat the flesh of those killed in the epic battle of above. The beast was killed, along with the false prophet who had proclaimed him. Those two went into the lake of firey brimstone but the rest, who had followed them, had their flesh stripped from their bones by the birds. Stinking, gruesome sight.

Because these three little episodes happen so rapidly, it is hard for my mind to grasp. I needed to break the scripture down into more manageable imagery for me to handle. I hope this was helpful to you as well.

3 more days and we will be done!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 27

OT -- Zechariah 10:1-11:17
More allusion from Matthew. Vs. 10-12:
Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. It was revoked on that day, and so the afflicted of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord. I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty pieces of silver! Judas, indeed!.
And that brings the question up, was 30 pieces of silver what people paid ANYONE does a detestable service or were the High Priests and scribes making a point with Judas? This part of the crucifixion story with the price of the betrayal and Judas' hanging only appears in Matthew although Judas is mentioned as the betrayer in Mark and Luke as well.
But still -- 30 pieces of silver. Something to ponder over. Clearly Matthew knew his Zechariah.

NT -- Revelation 18:1-24
The city of Babylon mentioned in these scripture is a pseudonym for Rome. Replace the names and re-read the scripture.

So, what does that tell you about how John feels about Rome? That he considers all the buying, selling, the trading and the merchandising to be one of Rome's greatest flaws? I think so. I think that John was probably an early proponent of 'buy local'. But we also have to remember that all the colonies existed to feed the whims and fancies of Rome. Up to 75% of goods, services, raw materials and foods went to Rome, much to the beggarment of the colonies. Romans NEVER went hungry, as a matter of fact, in their homes, they had rooms just to vomit in so that they could stuff themselves on more. Disgusting, but true. Meanwhile, common folks scrimped and starved.
Go careful here, now. There is so much temptation to extrapolate this forward to our times and while the message is still true, the predictions are not aimed at Americans. They are aimed at Rome.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 26

OT -- Zechariah 9:1-17
There are times when in this Bible study I have decided that parts of the OT are not applicable. And I started off reading that way tonight. But then I bump up against something that is so descriptive, so back-story Jesus that I wish I had read it long ago.
Look at verse 9:
Regjoice greatly O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Ever read that story of Jesus entering into Jerusalem? Ever wondered why he sent two of his disciples to get the donkey? Oh, I have heard the whole tale about how kings ride up to Jerusalem on war horses. Chargers of the finest. And this is true. But this part of Jesus' story is lifted straight out of Zechariah. John and Matthew even quote the scripture! This is one of the all 4 gospel stories.

So then I had to stop my cursory reading and start all over again.
Remember that Zechariah was written AFTER the return of the exiles and during the reconstruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Approximately at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. So, technically, they weren't at war with the Philistines or Damascus or Tyre. But this 'oracle' of Zechariah plots really doom and destruction on all those city states. Which brings the question -- why?
And for that we have to look back at Ezra and Nehemiah to realize that just because all those folks were part of an empire did not stop them from jockeying for position, plotting revenge and taking it out, undercutting and thieving from one another.
The old hatreds do not go away just because some is conquered.

But back to the scripture -- when the king does come into Jerusalem, and the savior, not the 'real' king, look at what all he is doing to do:
peace to the nations
rouse the sons of Zion
The Lord will appear over them
they will triumph over all

But that is not exactly what happened.
Want to see a great Christmas video? Click on this lovely thing.
Click here if your email does not support YouTube.

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 25

Merry, Merry Christmas!

7 more days, we will be finished. Although you may be busy in your revelries, stay in the Word!

NT -- Revelation 16:1-21
These 7 plagues closely mirror the plagues that God sent to Egypt.
Plague 1 -- sores
Plague 2 -- dead oceans
Plague 3 -- rivers and streams of blood
Plague 4 -- seared by the sun
Plague 5 -- darkness covering the sun'
Plague 6 -- water drying up
Plague 7 -- lightning, thunder, earthquakes, hail

And still the people cursed God because the plagues were so terrible. The correct response, Grasshopper, is to repent. I have to assume that if they had repented, God would have saved them.
But, same as the Egyptians, while they might give lip service to letting the children of Israel go, true repentance does not happen.

And the place of Armageddon is mentioned -- these are the plains of Meddigo, an actual place in Israel. It is the crossroads of the East/West travels through Palestine and has been a place of eternal conflict.

Much love, grace and peace to each of you.