Monday, September 10, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Judith 15-16 and 1 Timothy 1

Judith 15 – As the men hear of the situation, there is a complete rout and slaughter. This is not a book pacifists will enjoy at all unless they can see it as an allegory for spiritual faithfulness, courage and ingenuity. The Israelite warriors seize enormous amounts of loot from abandoned camps.

Joakim, the high priest, and all the members of the Council of Elders come to see the riches and bless Judith with a song of praise. “The people looted the camp for thirty days. They gave Judith the tent of Holofernes, all his silver plate, his divans, his drinking bowls and all his furniture” (15:11). The women of Israel “formed choirs of dancers in her honor. Judith distributed branches to the women who accompanied her; she and her companions put on wreaths of olive” (15:12). Then she and all the people of Israel join in a hymn that concludes this book.

Judith 16 – What is interesting about the hymn that concludes the Book of Judith is that it celebrates a God who is the “shatterer of war.” We must remember that while the story involves a plot to kill an attacking general, a gruesome beheading and a slaughter that results in the looting of worldly treasure, it is a fiction. It is an allegory, if you will, of the victory that comes from spiritual faithfulness.

“Praise my God with the tambourine, sing to the Lord with the cymbal, let psalm and canticle mingle for him, extol his name, invoke it! For the Lord is a God who shatters war; he has pitched his camp in the middle of his people to deliver me from the hands of my enemies” (16:1-2).

“[T]he Lord Almighty has thwarted [the Assyrian multitudes] by a woman’s hand” (16:5).

“I will sing a new song to my God. Lord, you are great, you are glorious, wonderfully strong, unconquerable. May your whole creation serve you! For you spoke and things came into being, you sent your breath and they were put together, and no one can resist your voice” (16:13-14). For three months the people “gave themselves up to rejoicings in Jerusalem before the Temple” and Judith remained with them. 
When the celebration is over, everyone returns home. Judith is courted by many men but remains faithful to the memory of her deceased husband, Manasseh. She lives to the age of 105.

1 Timothy 1 – Paul addressing this epistle to Timothy, “true child of mine in the faith” (1:2). Paul calls himself an “apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by the command of God” (1:1).

He is concerned about people “teaching strange doctrines” – namely the “taking notice of myths and endless genealogies” (1:4 ) that are probably only going to “raise irrelevant doubts instead of furthering the designs of God which are revealed in faith” (1:4), and he asking Timothy to remain at Ephesus the help deal with this. It isn’t clear what false teachings Paul is concerned about according to Raymond Brown – see his section on 1 Timothy and the other “pastoral letters” in his Introduction to the New Testament, pg. 643.

Paul does not want Christian believers to become wrapped up in “endless speculation” (1:6) about the Law. The Law deals with obvious acts of immorality like murder, sexual predation and people who lie, etc. The Law does not help us to understand the “Good News of the glory of the blessed God, the gospel that was entrusted to me” (1:11) concerning Christ.

He thanks Christ for having changed his life and “called him into his service” (1:12). And he puts forth as fundamental doctrine that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1:15), and Paul is “the greatest of them” (1:15). And he believes that Christ brought him in “to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life” (1:16)

Paul asked Timothy to “fight like a good soldier with faith and a good conscience for your weapons” (1:19) for the gospel truths that are the fundamentals of the gospel. It’s interesting to me that he uses this language in light of the Old Testament book of Judith we've been dealing with.

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