Monday, May 28, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 1 and Luke 5

Introduction to 2 Kings: The original scrolls of what we call 1 and 2 Kings did not make any division. Together, they tell the story of the kingdom’s division after Solomon’s death, around 931 BC, and the series of kings who ruled over the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah). 2 Kings picks up the story around 853 BC with the rule of Ahaziah in the north and the continued rule of Jehoshaphat in the south. It will take us to the final conquest of Judah by the Neo-Babylonians (or Chaldeans) in 586 BC.

2 Kings 1 – Moab rebels against the northern kingdom of Israel. Moab was directly east of the Dead Sea in what is now Jordan. The people of Moab were polytheistic, and Chemosh was their main god. Apparently Solomon [builder of the Jerusalem Temple and gifted with great wisdom] had constructed a “high place” near Jerusalem in honor of Chemosh – probably to satisfy one of his many [estimate 700] wives. Associated with Chemosh was the consort goddess Ashtar. Human sacrifice was part of the religion.


Ahab’s son Ahaziah is now king of the northern kingdom. He is injured in a fall from the balcony of his palace’s roof, and he wants his men to consult Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, a Philistine town just west of Jerusalem, if he will recover or not.


An angel comes to Elijah and tells him he should go and meet the men and ask them “Is there no God is Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub. . .?” (1:3) and to tell Ahaziah that he will NOT recover.  They go back and tell him. Ahaziah knows it’s Elijah when they describe him.  He sends men out to talk to him, but the first two contingents end up consumed by fire called down on them.  The third contingent of fifty begs for Elijah’s favor and Elijah finally goes back with them to see the king.  He tells him he will not recover and he dies.  Ahaziah’s brother Joram [also called Jehoram] succeeds as king because Ahaziah has no son.

Luke 5 - Simon, James and John (the sons of Zebedee) are cleaning their nets after having been out fishing most of the night.  It has been a poor outing and they have little to show for their work.  But Jesus tells them to put out again and go to a certain place.  There they find the fish and haul in several loads, almost enough to swamp their boats.  Jesus does this as a way of demonstrating to them that he will make the harvest of men plentiful.  He asks them to follow him and become fishers of men and they go without looking back. 

This account expands somewhat what Mark tells us in 1:16 of his gospel. Jesus demonstrates here with fish what he knows will happen when he sends his disciples out to catch people in the net of faith.  Another difference is that before Peter follows him here, we hear him confess his unworthiness in the manner of Isaiah.

Jesus continues his ministry to the unclean and the sick by his cleansing of the leper. This too is taken from Mark (1:40). In both accounts the healed man is told not to tell, but here it is not recounted that he disobeys.

In Luke’s account of the man brought down through the roof, Luke makes sure to place Pharisees and teachers in the house where Jesus is; they just appear in Mark. They have come from everywhere.  The entire story is repeated here much as it is in Mark. The interesting thing to me is the fact that Jesus seems to equate the healing of disease with the forgiveness of sins.  We are kept in our blindness and our deafness and lameness by our sins.  This is the ultimate disability Jesus came to deal with.

Then comes the call of Levi, the tax collector, and the banquet in Levi’s home where Jesus mixes with the crowd of tax collectors, those in need of the physician God has sent, and the comment on fasting—that the guests will not fast until the bridegroom is taken away from them. Then follows the parable of the new wine in old wineskins, just as in Mark.

What is happening with Jesus’ ministry is a new thing.  It cannot be made to fit the old “pair of pants” or the “old wine.”  The creation of something new requires the introduction of things, which are totally new to contain them.  

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