Thursday, October 10, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Nehemiah 12-13 and My Own Article on "Genesis and John" (Part 2)

Nehemiah 12 – The names of the priests and Levites who came up with Zerubbabel are listed. In verse 31, it goes back to first person narration. Nehemiah says he brought all the leaders up onto the wall and they went in procession, one company to the right with musicians and the whole regalia; the other to the left. Again, particular people are mentioned and their place along the wall. It was a great affair. “They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away” (12:43).

Nehemiah 13– On that day “they read from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, because they did not meet the Israelites with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. When the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent” (13:3).

One of the priests, Eliashib, is related to Tobiah (an Ammonite) and prepared him a large room in the temple. Nehemiah was not in Jerusalem when this was done. When he returns and discovers the wrong, he was angry. He threw the household furniture of Tobiah out of the room, gave orders that they be cleansed and brought back the other things that had been stored there.

He also discovers some other problems. He prays that his work may not go to waste. He also tries to get a stricter observance of the Sabbath. He commands that the doors be shut at dusk on the Sabbath. He refuses even to permit them to wait in front of the city gates. He contends with some Jews who intermarry with Ammonite or Moabite women. He also “curses and “beats” some of them and pulls out their hair (13:25). “Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering, at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).

“Genesis and John”
Part 2
This vision of Christ as the Second Adam was pivotal for George Fox. The overturning of "the fall" as a condition that weighed us down made "perfection" possible - moral perfection. It made possible ALL the testimonies Friends made and have continued to make to this day: equality of male and female – restoration of the original equality, the peace testimony, the ability to love as Christ loved, the end of all worldly obsession with position and power.

I knew the importance Quakers had associated with this vision of Christ’s work. I remember asking the leader of my Catholic Study Group [Emmaus] why Catholics did not seem to give much weight to the “Second Adam” idea: Why was there still an assumption that mankind lived in “the fallen state” that Adam and Eve’s disobedience had led us to? It seemed like Christ’s redemption should be at least as potent in shaping the reality we all lived in as Adam’s “fall”. He responded that as the Church sees it, we have a choice – about accepting Christ and his being the Second Adam or not, but it didn’t change the underlying reality we lived in to start with. I didn’t pursue it, but inside I did feel that somehow something wasn’t right about this. If Christ was in fact that Second Adam shouldn’t we be dealing with a world fundamentally transformed? Please know, by the way, that I know I am dealing with a spiritual reality and not a simple historical reality when I speak of these parts of the narrative. This is a complex thing. There has always been choice.

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