Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Wisdom 18-19 and Hebrews 2

Wisdom 18 – For the Jews, however, this time of darkness – the three days described in Exodus 10:21-23 was a time of light. “[F]or your holy ones all was great light” (18:1).

To them God granted a “pillar of blazing fire to guide them on their unknown journey” (18:3).

Then, as the Egyptians had earlier (c.1200 BC) attempted to kill all the firstborn of the Jews, they now suffered the loss of their firstborn in the 10th plague. It is this horrendous plague that gets them to acknowledge that the Jews were God’s “son” (18:13).  This is the only place I am aware of where the chosen people as a body are referred to as “God’s son” – interesting!

“When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt. Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword, he stood, and filled the universe with death; he touched the sky, yet trod the earth” (18:14-16). There seem a good many “types” in this, but the writing is very dense and hard to understand easily.

The Jews too “felt the touch of death” in the exodus - referring to the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Nb 17: 6-15. Aaron, in his role as High Priest, helps resolve this

Wisdom 19 – The Egyptians are further punished for their stubbornness in going after the Jews they had freed.

“For to keep your children from all harm, the whole creation, obedient to your commands, was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature. Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud, where water had been, dry land was seen to rise, the Red Sea became an unimpeded way, the tempestuous flood a green plain; sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across, gazing at these amazing miracles” (19:6-8).

The seas became dry and birds were born from the sea to feed them (Nb 11:31); creatures that lived on land became sea-dwellers. 

Hebrews 2 – “We ought, then, to turn our minds more attentively than before to what we have been taught, so that we do not drift away” (2:1). Ray Brown notes that these words indicate that Christians of the second generation had in some ways wandered away from the key teachings of the apostles. But what teachings? That Christ was fully human as well as God? That Christ would return again – soon – to bring about the establishment of his kingdom? Maybe both?

The first thing he addresses is the full humanity of Christ. The teaching of the apostles on Jesus was that he fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 8: “What is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him. For a short while you made him lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and splendor. You have put him in command of everything” (2:5-8, quoting psalm 8:5-6). These words were probably originally seen as referring to human beings generally; I still think this is what was meant. But early Christians saw them being more appropriately applicable to Jesus, who was in their minds fully “man” AND fully God – “in command of everything.”

And they also saw that he was “put in command of everything even though the full glory and splendor is not yet completely visible. The world was still “hurting” during their time [and ours too]. The visible “kingdom” had not yet come:

“At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under his command” (2:8). But there is still “glory and splendor” in Jesus because of the atonement he achieved: “he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind” (2:9). It is his full humanity, the fact that “he took to himself descent from Abraham” (2:16) that made him “completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins” (2:17).

Note: After some struggle, trying to understand what I am meant to understand in these words of Hebrews, I turned to Thomas a Kempis and read the following – I have to admit it seemed like God speaking to me: “ . . .when we have trouble reading a verse, we should read the next one, then the one after that, and so on until the muddy pool clears. If you want to satisfy your thirst for the Scriptures, forget about scholarship. Read humbly, simply, faithfully; that’s the way they were written” (Griffen translation of Imitation of Christ, 11).

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