Monday, June 4, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 12-13 and Luke 11

1 Kings 12 – Joash (Jehoash) of Judah reigns 40 years (837-800). His mother is Zibiah of Beer-sheba. He “did what was right in the sight of the Lord all his days, because the priest Jehoiada instructed him” (12:2). They kept the high places, but that appears to have been seen as a shortcoming of a different order than the Baal worship, etc.

Joash set about trying to set up a revenue fund to make repairs on the house of the Lord.  The money from the assessment of persons, the money from voluntary offerings was to be set aside.  But 23 years after setting up this fund, no repairs had actually been made so Joash calls the priests together and asks them why they are not doing it.  He tells them they will not be permitted to keep the money they receive; they will have to hand it over so repairs can be made (12:7). This sounds as if the “state” is taking charge of the money to assure that it is used as intended. Jehoiada takes a chest and puts it next to the altar and the priests guarding the threshold put offerings into it, and when it is full, they empty it into bags and turn them over to workers—masons, carpenters, stonecutters, timber sellers, etc. Nothing like silver bowls, trumpets or other vessels of gold of silver are purchased with this money—only basic repairs.  The priests continue to get money from sin and guilt offerings. There was no accounting demanded of the workers, for they dealt honestly (12:15).
King Hazael of Aram (Syria), meanwhile, takes the city of Gath and then turns to attack Jerusalem. King Jehoash takes “all the votive gifts” of his ancestors, his own and the gold that was in the treasuries of both Temple and palace and sends everything to Hazael to get him to withdraw.  Then Joash is killed in a conspiracy of his servants Jozacar and Jehozabad in the house of Millo. There is more to Joash’s story that is not told here. You can find more at 2 Chronicles 24. Once Jehoida was dead, he apparently went back to the worship of idols and also was involved in the killing of Jehoida’s son Zechariah. His son Amaziah succeeds him (800-783).

2 Kings 13 – In Israel, Jehoahaz, son of Jehu begins his 17-year reign (815-801). He does what is evil. Because the Lord is angry with him, he gives them “repeatedly into the hand of King Hazael of Aram, then into the hand of Ben-hadad son of Hazael” (13:3). There is a brief period of relief, which the writer attributes to an appeal by Jehoahaz to the Lord, but most of the reign is troubled. His son Joash (Jehoash) succeeds him. His reign is for 16 years (801-786). But he does what is evil too.
During Joash’s reign, Elisha is dying. The king goes down to see him and seems terribly grieved. He says to Elisha, “My father, my father! You have been the mighty defender of Israel!” (13:14) Elisha tells him to take his bow, open an eastern window and shoot.  He exclaims, “You are the Lord’s arrow, with which he will win victory over Syria” (13:17). Then he tells the king to strike the ground with the arrows, and he does, but only three times. Elisha tells him that if he had struck five or six times, they would have completely prevailed; but now they will only beat them three times (13:19).

Elisha dies and is buried. To show the power and holiness of Elisha in the memory of the people, the writer tells a story about some invading Moabites who were in the process of burying someone when they were attacked.  They throw the body hurriedly into the grave without noticing that there is another body there—Elisha’s—and when the body touches Elisha’s, it comes back to life (13:20-21).
Hazael oppresses Israel throughout Joash’s reign. The fact that they are not utterly destroyed is attributed to God's faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joash succeeds in retaking the towns Hazael took but only after Hazael’s death.

Luke 11 – Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. It is the Lord’s prayer but very short—hallow the Lord’s name and pray for his kingdom to come. Give us each day the bread (of heaven) we need and forgive us as we forgive those who “owe” us. Do not “bring us to the time of trial” (11:4).
A parable follows—the one about a friend you ask for bread to feed another friend. Even though he is hard to get out of bed, if you are persistent, he will get up and give you what you need. “So I [Jesus] say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (11:9-10). God is a Father to us.  Like any father, he will give us good things if we ask, but the good thing we really need from him is “the Holy Spirit” (11:13), not stuff.

We must ask God for the things we need—not expect him to anticipate our every need or read our minds.  God is calling us into relationship with him, a relationship in which we realize our dependence upon him and his desire to be a friend to us—even though he sometimes seems silent and unresponsive.
Jesus’ disputes with the crowd over the source of his power.  Some are saying that he is able to cast out devils because he is from the devil.  But Jesus argues that if Satan works what is good, he is working against evil rather than promoting it, which is the way he strengthens his kingdom.  Therefore, if he is doing good, his kingdom is divided and will fall.  Jesus wants them to see that the good he does flows from God, the source of all good. 

While I confess to feeling less than clear about the point of what Jesus says and does here, it seems to be that we must judge things by the fruits.  If a person does good, it makes no sense to say that person is evil. How we are to reconcile this with the idea that Satan can come dressed as an angel of light? (2 Cor. 11:13) I am not sure I understand how Jesus means us to discern this.  I think it was reasonable for the crowds to be skeptical.

Unclean spirits, when they are cast out, can sometimes return bringing with them “other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live [in the exorcised person] there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first” (11:26).
Some woman in the crowd blesses the womb that bore Jesus, and he rather rejects this by saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (11:28) I don’t think this is meant to be a put-down of his mother as blessed, but the reason she is blessed is her obedience to God’s word, not her simply being the vehicle of Jesus’ birth in a physical way.  The blessing she is entitled to here is a blessing all those who respond to God’s word and join in.
Jesus bemoans the fact that this generation (all generations) seem to need miraculous signs to have their eyes opened to God; but the only real sign they will get is the “sign of Jonah”—by this he seems to mean the sending of Jonah to a people outside the circle of God’s redemption, a responsive people.  He joins this to a reminder of Sheba’s recognition of Solomon’s wisdom—she too was an outsider.  He may here be prophesying about the response of the Gentiles as opposed to that of the Jews to him.
Then there is the parable of the lamps—that when we light them, we don’t set them in the cellar but rather set them out where others can see them (11:33).  But the point he makes seems different than the point Mark makes, a point obvious from just these few words.  Here Jesus goes on to analogize the lamps to the eyes we see by.  If the eye is healthy, the whole body is full of light; but if it isn’t, the body is filled with darkness. This is a different point entirely—as the eye sees, so is light shed to the mind and the soul.  If you do not see as God would have you see, the soul will be continue to wander in the darkness. Mark’s version of this is early in his gospel, in 4:21. There it seems to say, the light that is Christ will not remain hidden.  A light is not lit unless one plans to put it on the lampstand.  The secretive aspect of Jesus’ identity and work will not always be. I guess the message could be reconciled by saying that Jesus’ hidden work will soon be public, and will if we see it properly, illuminate everything for us.
The chapter goes on in its rambling way to Jesus dining with a Pharisee who is shocked that he does not wash before he eats.  Jesus uses the occasion to instruct him on the relative unimportance of outward things.  This too is a kind of commentary on what is important in our “view,” our way of seeing reality. It isn’t that Jesus doesn’t want the small details the Pharisees love to do right—“tith[ing] mint and rue”—but he wants these AND the important things too.  As it is they (the Pharisees) are “like unmarked graves” that people do not realize are full of death (11: 44).
The lawyers see in Jesus’ criticism of religious legalism, a criticism of them as well. And Jesus’ acknowledges it: “For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them” (11:46). This generation, Jesus seems to say, will be charged with “the blood all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. . .Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation” (11:50-51).  All of these criticisms make them all mad at Jesus, so they lie in wait for him, “to catch him in something he might say” (11:54).

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