Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 23-26, Ecclesiastes 8-9 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 9

1 Chronicles 23 – David makes Solomon king over Israel. He assembles all the leaders, priests and Levites.  There were 38,000 Levites over 30 years old of whom 24,000 are given charge over the work in the house of the Lord, 6,000 are made officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers and 4,000 musicians to offer praise to God with instruments.  They are organized by division corresponding to the sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath and Merari.  They are named. Moses and Aaron are descendent from Kohath through his son Amram.

1 Chronicles 24 – The divisions of Aaron’s descendants are reviewed. Of Aaron’s four sons, two—Nadab and Abihu—die without children. Eleazar and Ithamar live. Zadok is Eleazar’s son. Ahimelech is Ithamar’s son. They are organized by lots.

The story of Aaron shows him to be a man not of the spirit but of a “pandering” kind of religiosity. There is little respect for him.

1 Chronicles 25 – David’s organization of those who are set apart for the service of prophesying with lyres, harps and cymbals (sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun).  Familiar names are Uzziel, Hananiah, Hanani, sons of Heman, the king’s seer.

1 Chronicles 26 – Divisions of the gatekeepers. The man Obed-edom is among them, the man in whose house the ark rested for three months on its way back to Jerusalem.  They are divided according to which gate they will be keepers of—north, south, east or west. They are also in charge of the treasuries of the house of the Lord, treasuries that arise out of dedicated gifts and booty dedicated by army generals.  The gifts of Samuel, Saul, Abner and Joab are mentioned.

Ecclesiastes 8 – “How wonderful to be wise, to analyze and interpret things” (8:1). Seems a little pride-full, but it is a temptation to feel this. 

“I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. I have seen wicked people buried with honor . . . This, too, is meaningless. When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong” (8:10-11).

“I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun” (8:15).

“In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim” (8:16-17).

Ecclesiastes 9 – “It seems so tragic that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. That is why people are not more careful to be good. Instead, they choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway” (9:3).

Accept the lot you have been given. And whatever work you think you want to do, get it done before you die because nothing is accomplished in Sheol. The “race does not go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; there is no bread for the wise, wealth for the intelligent, nor favor for the learned; all are subject to time and mischance” (9:11).

The wise and powerless sometimes accomplish more than strength can.

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
9 - Here therefore these men too evil, while they essay [try] to make void the Law, force us to approve these Scriptures. He is speaking of the “Christian” Manichaeans here. For they mark what is said, that they who are under the Law are in bondage, and they keep flying above the rest that last saying, "You are made empty of Christ, as many of you as are justified in the Law; you have fallen from Grace."

We grant that all these things are true, and we say that the Law is not necessary, save for them unto whom bondage is yet profitable: and that the Law was on this account profitably enacted, in that men, who could not be recalled from sins by reason, needed to be restrained by such a Law, that is to say, by the threats and terrors of those punishments which can be seen by fools: from which when the Grace of Christ sets us free, it condemns not that Law, but invites us at length to yield obedience to its love, not to be slaves to the fear of the Law. Itself is Grace, that is free gift, which they understand not to have come to them from God, who still desire to be under the bonds of the Law. Whom Paul deservedly rebukes as unbelievers, because they do not believe that now through our Lord Jesus they have been set free from that bondage, under which they were placed for a certain time by the most just appointment of God.

Hence is that saying of the same Apostle, "For the Law was our schoolmaster in Christ." He therefore gave to men a schoolmaster to fear, Who after gave a Master to love. And yet in these precepts and commands of the Law, which now it is not allowed Christians to use, such as either the Sabbath, or Circumcision, or Sacrifices, and if there be any thing of this kind, so great mysteries are contained, as that every pious person may understand, there is nothing more deadly than that whatever is there be understood to the letter, that is, to the word: and nothing more healthful than that it be unveiled in the Spirit. Hence it is: "The letter kills, but the Spirit quickens."

Hence it is, "That same veil remains in the reading of the Old Testament, which veil is not taken away; since it is made void in Christ." For there is made void in Christ, not the Old Testament, but its veil: that so through Christ that may be understood, and, as it were, laid bare, which without Christ is obscure and covered. Forasmuch as the same Apostle straightway adds, "But when you shall have passed over to Christ, the veil shall be taken away." For he says not, the Law shall be taken away, or, the Old Testament. Not therefore through the Grace of the Lord, as though useless things were there hidden, have they been taken away; but rather the covering whereby useful things were covered.

In this manner all they are dealt with, who earnestly and piously, not disorderly and shamelessly, seek the sense of those Scriptures, and they are carefully shown both the order of events, and the causes of deeds and words, and so great agreement of the Old Testament with the New, that there is left no jot that agrees not; and so great secrets of figures, that all the things that are drawn forth by interpretation force them to confess that they are wretched, who will to condemn these before they learn them.

The Old Testament is not to be condemned; it is to interpreted and understood through the grace offered in Christ. To understand the road we came and the “figures” of the narrative help to deepen our understanding of Christ. The Law is fulfilled not made void.

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