Joshua/Judges/Ruth

I want to keep writing about each book of the bible that I finish reading this year so that I have these writings to looks back on and reflect on in the future. So here are my thoughts on the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. These thoughts are a bit scattered, and I’m sure that they aren’t explained in the best way, but I wanted to try to write something before moving on to the next books.

Joshua–God fulfills, in many ways, his promise to Abraham and his promise to Moses to give the people of God a promised land. Getting there requires obedience, and they stumble along the way, but eventually they fight off many tribes currently in the land and take possession, each tribe a portion, of this promised land of Canaan. God ordains a specific portion for each tribe, and I love how specific God gets even though it makes for a few boring chapters about property lines.

Judges–what a cycle these Israelites get into with sin, separation/punishment, repentance, and redemption…God gives them so many chances to do the right thing but they continue to each do “whatever is right in their own eyes.” I suppose this is exactly what our lives look like as we continue to make many of the same mistakes again and again, and we continue to need God to rescue us. The beautiful thing is that God doesn’t give up on us, and he didn’t give up on Israel.

Ruth–I have always loved this story of loyalty, but I was fascinated to learn about how perfectly the structure of the chapters is organized…for example, the story begins with the loss of a husband and son, then ends with gaining a husband and child. Also, each chapter has a part where Naomi and Ruth make a plan or discuss a plan for what comes next. This is also a nice little family story to break up the larger story of God’s people that continues from Judges into 1 Samuel (the next book of Scripture). Sometimes it’s hard to apply the stories of Israel with our own lives, but I find it much easier to learn from the story of one family, or from a small number of characters.

 

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Deuteronomy–the end of the Pentateuch!

I’ve finished Deuteronomy, and I continue to enjoy reading these books that I previously found to be quite boring. Deuteronomy is like a speech written to the people of God as they prepare to enter the promised land. In some ways I find it inspirational, as it discusses how God’s blessing will be poured out on his people if they obey all that God has commanded them through Moses to do. But in some ways it can be depressing, because Moses, the Lord, and I all know that Israel will choose wickedness over obedience.

So I wonder, why does God lay out all these blessings that will come with obedience if he knows that Israel cannot (or will not?) meet these expectations? It can feel like trickery to me, or like a fake promise that a parent gives a kid. “I will buy you whatever you want at the circus if you don’t fight with your sister at all this week.” Well, if you know that your kids will fight, then it isn’t much of a promise. But I don’t think the God I know and love is trying to trick his people. I think he just wants to give them a fair chance, and He wants them to know that they do have a choice to make. He also wants to point us readers to the need for grace and mercy, to the need for forgiveness through Jesus. We can’t do it alone.

One final note on Deuteronomy–the Shema. “Hear, O Israel” or “Listen, O Israel.” As far as I understand it, this isn’t just about hearing words, but responding as well. Deuteronomy 6:4 calls us all, as God’s people, to Listen as God speaks to us and to obey. This isn’t simply a text for past generations, it is a text for all of us. It isn’t just  part of the list of God’s hundreds of laws in the Torah, it is a central message for people of faith to heed.

ד  שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל:  יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד. 4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
ה  וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ. 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
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Numbers (the book of the bible)

I have finished reading the book of Numbers and just begun the book of Deuteronomy. God continues to show mercy to the Israelites in their mistakes, and the Israelites continue to seek God (sometimes) and fail (sometimes). This is a book of history, chronicling the people of God’s movements through the wilderness and their tribes and numbers of people in each tribe.

I’ve always thought of Numbers as being a historical book filled with lists of rules. It IS historical and it IS filled with lists of God’s expectations for the people, but that’s not the essence of the book. The book is a story, a tale of God’s people. It is its own story, and it is part of the larger story of God’s redemptive plan for his creation. That’s what I take away from Numbers, and it is to this truth that I cling as I continue reading scripture almost daily in 2017.

p.s.–Alongside the reading of the Pentateuch, I’ve also been reading a Psalm a day. I’ve been amazed by how often I see the same themes in the Psalms as I do in these first biblical books. I see the psalmist praying (or singing) to God, asking for forgiveness and rescue and care. I also see the writer comparing and contrasting the lives of the righteous and the wicked. The righteous are cared for by God, even in their struggle, and God blesses them. The wicked are not blessed by God. As God’s chosen people, but also a people who so often turn away from good, I wonder where the Israelites fit into this dichotomy of the Righteous and the Wicked??

Just some of my recent thoughts on Scripture reading.

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Exodus/Leviticus

First of all, I definitely had to look up how to spell Leviticus. Not a book of the bible I write or talk about a lot!

But I’m reading it. I posted last month about reading through the bible this year with the Read Scripture app and finishing Genesis. Now I’ve also finished Exodus and am in the middle of Leviticus. I won’t lie and tell you that it’s been fun or thrilling or life changing to read through the laws and rituals the Lord gave to the Israelites, but the process of reading it almost daily has been life giving.

Like in college, when I went to chapel 3 times a week–each individual chapel wasn’t that exciting, but the process of regularly inclining my ears to God and listening to his Word and listening for his truth is so good. It’s life-giving. It’s refreshing. It makes me feel good, not the “I’m doing what I’m supposed to” good. It’s more like the “my soul needs this and I’ve been starving it” good or the “I’m starting to remember what God is like” good.

All this to say, a few things I’ve been reminded of as I read Exodus and Leviticus include…

  1. God knows what he wants. He is a jealous God and he expects perfection.
  2. We are stupid. We are so far rom perfect, and even though we all say that we want to follow God, we don’t. Generally this disobedience begins as soon as it gets tough to obey.
  3. It’s OKAY that God expects perfection and we are imperfect, because God has made a way for us to be saved. He extends his arms to us, when he doesn’t have to, and gives us a way. For the Israelites, it’s through ritual sacrifices, and for us, it’s through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.
  4. Sin leads to destruction and does have consequences. People die from entering God’s presence in the tabernacle when they are unclean/impure.
  5. God’s story is just that–a story with rising action, conflict, climax, etc. I’m reading a lot of conflicts and seeing a lot of rising action now, but I know what the climax is–Jesus. The One who changes everything.
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On Genesis, Preparing my Heart, and God’s Plan.

Today I finished reading the book of Genesis. It wasn’t the first time I’d read it, but it was the first time I’d read it this quickly–in about 2 weeks. A friend of mine invited all she knew to read through the bible with her this year using the Read Scripture app. It’s produced by crazy love ministries, and the Bible Project has videos throughout the app that explain overarching themes of each book or section of a book and help me think deeper about what I’m reading. I also love that the videos don’t dive into the controversies (for example, whether Genesis 1 and 2 are meant to describe a literal 7 day creation or not), but they do cover what’s important–God’s story for humanity as shown through his Word.

I’ve been trying to be more consistent in my reading of the Word ever since I graduated from college, but it’s been an ongoing struggle. Mornings I’m too tired, or I don’t know quite what to read, etc. I’ve had a lot of phases where I’ve been focused on a part of Scripture, but nothing that lasted more than a month or 2. I can’t promise that this app will be something I’m faithful in reading for more than the next month, but I can tell you that it’s been good for my faith in the last 16 days. I know that as I get closer to baby coming and then in the summer when our little one, God-willing, makes his arrival, I will likely be tired. But I also know that this is a great time to prepare my heart just as I’m preparing our 2nd bedroom to be a nursery.

So what did I “get” out of reading Genesis? I was reminded of God’s plan for each person. Abraham lived for decades before God called to him. Sarah thought that she could never be a mother and laughed when God told her she could! Jacob was devastated when his son, Joseph, was “killed,” but his brothers’ betrayal led to the nation of Israel growing in Egypt and really surviving through the years of famine. Joseph thought his life was over as he was thrown in prison for doing nothing wrong, but he was rescued years later through an odd connection. Brothers were upset for not receiving a blessing they thought they deserved, but God had a plan for each sibling. God is at work, and he has been for so many years. I have every reason to trust Him. He knows what He’s doing.

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Faithfulness Springs Forth From the Earth

I have been memorizing Psalm 85:8-13 over the last few weeks. Verse 11 really stuck out to me today–so here are my thoughts.

I started memorizing this passage because verse 13 stuck out to me.

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

Psalm 85:13

I understood this to mean that my righteousness (moral correctness) would allow the Lord to come beside me and help me through each step. If I did the right things, the Lord would be with me. But as I studied verse 11 today it struck me that my role is really not righteousness.

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.

Psalm 85:11

I am not a righteous person. I fall short every day.

But the Lord, in heaven, is righteous. That’s why righteousness looks down from heaven.

My job, my role, is to be faithful (loyal, constant). I have been placed here on earth, and from the earth comes faithfulness. To trust in Him, to obey his Word, to walk humbly and seek justice consistent with the Gospel–this is my job as a faithful earthly servant of the Most High God.

So after thinking on this, I decide to look to Matthew. I read the first chapter, and right away notice Mary’s faithfulness is bearing God’s son, Jesus. Then Joseph’s faithfulness to God in staying with Mary even though the world said to divorce her. Then the Magi’s faithfulness in following the star, leaving their homes, looking for Christ but also heeding the dream which said not to return to Herod once they did find him. It goes on and on. Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt when told to and then going to Nazareth (as prophecy foretold) simply based on Joseph’s fear of returning where Herod’s son now ruled. Joseph responded to his circumstances and was willing to go wherever he was supposed to. He was faithful. And even the prophet’s faithfulness in saying what they learned or heard from the Lord even when they didn’t understand it, to the benefit of all of us looking back on how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies. In just 2 chapters of Matthew, I see how the people’s faithfulness to the Lord is a righteous act, and how that faithfulness is rewarded.

Just some thoughts…take ’em or leave ’em.

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Summer & 2 Timothy

It’s been much too long since I wrote, so here goes.

The school year ended yesterday for teachers at my school. However, I’m writing this from my desk in my classroom. Summer school supplies are ready to go (begins Monday), I spent the morning tutoring, and Nathan and I are trying to put together a schedule for next week. In short, summer is a different season, but still busy for this teacher.

Here is a quote that has been on my mind as of late:

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. -from 2 Timothy 4

Careful instruction? I know what that is, I’m a teacher. As I was dissecting this, I realized that reprimanding, rebuking, and encouraging other people with patience and careful instructions means that, as a Christian, I need to know my stuff. I can’t be a good instructor unless I have strong content knowledge and pedagogy. I have to know what I teach but also how to teach.

So what is the content I must know in order to “preach the word” as Timothy and all believers are charged? The Word of God and the story of God, which includes my story as a believer! And what is the methodology I need to teach effectively? This verse says it–I need patience. My take-away: I need to be in the word MUCH more than I currently am. And I need to stop being so quick to assume, quick to speak, quick to anger, quick to ANYTHING. I need to be patient and wait. (this might require some listening on my part)

Not to go off-topic, but this also reminded me to politics. In order to speak truth, whether in the form of correcting, rebuking, or encouraging–I need to show patience and I need to know what I’m talking about. I need to research my content, but also be patient.

That’s all, folks. I hope to write more this summer–because reading is the key to learning, but writing is the key to thinking.

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