How has your summer been? You probably know I love the summer. Personally I wouldn’t mind the hot weather lasting longer. If you have read, or are reading the chronological bible you would know that the summer is the time for readings from the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. It can take some getting through. Some of the themes are repetitive. There is a lot of focus on the destruction of Jerusalem, the time leading up to it, the reasons for it. There is also a lot of focus on the time after the destruction, and coming to terms with it, including having to live in Babylon for 70 years. There is much judgment in the reading; mostly on Israel.
I have struggled to keep up with the readings, partly because of summer distractions (I did some reading on the beach in Florida), and partly because when I read I have to pause a lot to think about how the reading might relate to our times today. For example, God, speaking through the prophets, condemns the people of Jerusalem and Judah and Israel for failing to keep the Sabbath law. That gets me thinking about how the Sabbath law might relate to our time now. Martin Luther interpreted the commandment about Sabbath keeping to be a command to listen to God’s word and to follow it. Personally I think he missed the main mark, and that is God’s concern that people get a break from work and commerce, and have some time to rest, and to reflect on God’s goodness. And I wonder how that fits in a very commercially oriented society where stores are open every day, where many people seem to have to work seven days a week to make ends meet. I wonder if the Sabbath law would apply to FaceBook and texting and other forms of social media. What would God tell the prophets to tell us these days?
God seems to be very concerned in my summer reading about the inequity between rich and poor. God has some very strong things to say about the poor, the widows, the orphans, the aliens, and their proper care. I have read that in the time of writing the bible that it was thought that there was a finite amount of wealth in the society, and that if someone was very rich, that this meant there would be less for the poor. In our time we tend to think that wealth is unlimited, and exponential. I wonder what God would say about the average salary of a CEO and that of the janitor.
God seems to be very disturbed about the amount of violence in the society of that time, and also about justice being perverted by bribes and corruption. God is concerned about adultery.
And most of all God is concerned about idolatry, the worship of idols. In that time it seems that it was easy to locate the shrines to other gods. Many of the laws in the Torah are boundary laws to keep the people away from the shrines, to stop them from making places of worship to other gods. In that time there was an addiction to fertility gods, trying to ensure that there would be sufficient children, and crops, and safety. And so people put their trust and their offerings there, instead of trusting the true God Yahweh to provide for them. This one has really got me thinking about where to find the shrines to others gods in our society and time. We don’t have obvious temples to Baal, one of the main gods of that time. But we can and do put our trust and offerings in many small gods. Jesus said often that you can’t serve both God and money, and yet we do try.
And much in our society encourages us to worship money and what money can buy. (The tenth commandment is about coveting, and we are bombarded with advertising encouraging us to covet.) We can be very concerned about body image, and image generally, and self-absorbed beyond what is healthy.
I’m thinking that those Old Testament prophets have a lot to say to us today. It does take some energy to reflect on how what they are saying connects to today. Their call to repentance is timeless. Their description of sin is universal. Their expression of hope in God is amazing. Their vision of a glorious future with God is powerful.
Just a few reflections on summer reading.
God bless you bible reading and reflection.
- Pastor Tim
OCTOBER SCRIPTURE READINGS