Friday, May 4, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 1 and Colossians 3

Introduction to Kings:  The two books called Kings open in the year 973, the last year of David’s reign. The book reached its final form 400 years after Solomon (6th C). Lawrence Boadt, in his book Reading the Old Testament tells us that the books tell us the story of the line of kings established around 1000 BC down through the conquest of Judah in the 6th c. BC. The focus is on the level of faithfulness each demonstrates to the covenant made with David and on the role of the early prophets in the unfolding of that history. The early chapters of 1 Kings tells of the succession of Solomon to his father’s role as king. Up through chapter 10, Solomon seems to be the ideal successor, but after this we see evidence of his gradual drift away from faithfulness, a drift that will ultimately lead to a revival of tribal tensions and ultimately to a split in the unified kingdom David managed to create. Then the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, emerge – the first prophets who seem to fulfill the prediction in Deuteronmy 18 that God would “raise up a prophet like Moses” who would lead the people correctly.

1 Kings 1 – King David is now old.  He has trouble staying warm, so his servants bring him a young virgin to lie with—Abishag the Shunammite.  Shunem was southeast of Lake Galilee, south of Mt. Tabor. The king did not have sex with her though she was very beautiful.
Adonijah, David’s 4th son by Haggith, decides he will be king.  He is the oldest surviving son with Absalom dead following his failed rebellion. He was a handsome man, and several very important men support his claim: Joab, David’s army commander [now going against David’s will – he has opinions about David’s sons that are the only area we can find any disloyalty to David in him] and Abiathar, the priest [of Nob—Ahimelech was his father]. Zadok [rival of Abiathar], Benaiah [rival of Joab] and Nathan (the prophet) as well as Shimei and Rei [this name is translated “and his companions” in JB from Gr.] do not support him.
Adonijah initiates his claim to the succession with sacrifices; he invites all his brothers and the royal officials of Judah, but he does not invite his brother Solomon.  Nathan approaches Bathsheba to tell her what is happening.  He tells her to remind David that he has said that Solomon should succeed him, and he tells her that he—Nathan—will come in and support her.  The king is very old.  Bathsheba does what Nathan suggests.  She says, “the eyes of all Israel are on you to tell them who shall sit on the throne. . .” (1:20). The Jerusalem Bible says the “order of succession” has not yet been determined. Nathan seconds her account.  David summons Zadok and Benaiah and instructs them to bring Solomon down to Gihon (Gihon Spring, main water-source for the city of Jerusalem) where Zadok and Nathan will anoint him king (1:34) over Judah and Israel.  Solomon rides to Gihon Spring on King David’s mule, and there Zadok anoints him with oil from the tent and blows the trumpet in a great festival of song and rejoicing.
Adonijah and those with him hear the celebration and ask why the city is in an uproar.  Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, comes to tell them what has happened.  All “the guests of Adonijah got up trembling and went their own ways” (1:49). Adonijah grasps the horns of the altar, fearing Solomon; but when Solomon hears, he assures his brother that if he proves to be loyal, he shall not be hurt. He is told he may go home.

Colossians 3 – What is it to be joined to Christ through faith? There are no greater passages in all of Scripture!

“You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory” (3:1-4).

Paul goes on to talk about the transformation that “life in Christ” should bring: the death in oneself of all that he calls “earthly” (3:5): sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions and greed. Put off “the old self” and put on “the new self . . . the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image” (3:9-10). Again, as in John’s writings, we are referred back to the Genesis creation story. We are more than natural creatures; we were made to live as God’s “image” in this world (see Genesis 1:26-27).

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body” (3:15).  Wives should be “subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly” (3:18).   “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord” (3:20). Even slaves, Paul advises, should “obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord” (3:22).

These passages are the ones we moderns cannot hear any more—they grate against the cultural achievements we have made as Christians, being consistent with the ethic of love we learned from the likes of Paul, and the implied ethic set forth in the Genesis vision of “male and female” created in God’s image.  Still, they seem difficult to accept - equality of persons is now so established with us.  But imagine you were living 2000 years ago when these cultural norm of female “subordination” to males was the rule and human slavery was accepted virtually everywhere on earth.  How would we have advised Christians to be Christian in that environment?  Would it not have been exactly as Paul suggests here? 

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