“NEW LIFE” BULLETIN – VOL. 26, NO. 31&32 – UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE
I’m not about to tell you I understand everything in the Bible. But I have discovered that what I thought I understood can be wrong. I have discovered that some of it has to do with perspective.
For example, if I read the book of Genesis and the following history of the Jews, I can have a bad view of how women were treated. There is no doubt that women were basically property in most cases. They had little to say about the conditions under which they lived. So it is easy to see those conditions as the way it was supposed to be, and that God said it was the way it was supposed to be. So if I didn’t like it, I’d have to lump it, or find some way of explaining it away by saying that’s the way things were back then, which is also true. That would also be true of polygamy.
I was listening to something from a guy named Timothy Keller, who put a different spin on what could be going on back then.
He pointed out that among the most distasteful things we see men doing was having more than one wife. They bought them, worked deals for them and collected them like trophies. How those wives felt about it was beside the point. But what Keller pointed out was that if we read the Old Testament closely, we will find that there is not one case where polygamy was a happy situation. Every polygamous marriage caused problems. Well, we don’t know about Lamech and his two wives, except he brags that his ancestor Cain was (somehow) avenged seven times, but in killing a man who had injured him he was avenged seventy-seven times.
Abraham shows up and we know how that hand-maiden-wife thing worked out. Jacob will end up with two wives and there were problems. Then there are the kings. In the story of the kings the many wives they collected were a constant source of conflict. In fact, In Deuteronomy 17:17 Hebrew kings, when anointed, are to be told not to have many wives. The example would be both David and Solomon.
So, one way of looking at polygamy in the Old Testament is to look at how it turned out, rather than that it was a good thing. Which, according to the record, it never really was. Looking at the outcome should teach us, as well as those who want to justify it, to see it differently.
However, while I agree with Keller’s point, there is still the question as to why those prophets who spoke for God did not more openly condemn the practice. It may be because it was so culturally intrenched, that in their minds it was not a bad thing. That the rule in Deuteronomy is not sited is probably due to the books of the Torah not yet being assembled. At this point much of the law was oral tradition.
Another thing he pointed out was the constant rule that the oldest son was the one to receive the inheritance. However, in every case in the Old Testament, it is the younger son who receives the blessing that seems to count. Ishmael is the first born, and is blessed by God, but it is Isaac who is seen as the child of the promise. Esau is the first born, but it is Jacob who receives the true blessing from his father. But Esau does very well himself.
Jacob’s (now Israel) first born was Reuben, but Levi and Judah will have more prominence, and Joseph is the favored one who saves the day. Jacob does the same thing when he blesses Joseph’s sons. Gen. 48:14.
These culturally accepted rules of birthrights are being subverted at every hand in the Old Testament, especially in Genesis.
Another example of this is slavery. When someone says the Bible condones slavery, they are right. However, we think of slavery as the type that enslaved Africans, kidnaped and brought to America and other countries, where they were slaves for life. This was not the way slavery was in the New Testament. However, that is not to say it was the ideal. Paul’s letter to Philemon shows that, as well as other places where he encourages slaves to attain their freedom. That slave owners in America used such passages to tell slaves God wanted them to obey, was a perversion of the context.
Here’s another one, (not from Keller) and I have to admit it will change how I preach about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. When we think of “hem” we think of the hem on the cuff of our pants, skirt, or robe. The tassels that were commanded in Judaism were originally, as far as history can tell, the tassels on the end of a long robe, which is the image we get from the story of Jesus and the woman. However, with the passing of time the “garment” “tallit” in Hebrew, became the prayer shawl worn around the shoulders. It also had tassels which could be “enlarged” to make one seem more holy. So it is likely that when the woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was touching the hem of his prayer shawl, which makes sense. She was not bent over, just sick. In a crowd it would be easy for her to touch one of the tassels that hung from the shawl. The tassels were the most personal and holy part of the shawl, so that was the best place to sneak in a touch which represented his personal power.
I did find it interesting that while Keller did a good job in the wives and first born categories, he fell back into his own assumption when he talked about Moses and the Passover. He was talking about the seriousness of obeying God and he said, (this is a quote) “God said to Moses, ‘You all deserve to die because of your sins. Slay a lamb and put the blood on the doorpost and find shelter under the blood of the lamb. And when the angel of death passes over you won’t be paying for your sins.”
If you read Exodus 11&12 where the instructions for the Passover are detailed, the word “sin” or the idea that Israel’s sin, or lack thereof had anything to do with the death angel passing over them is just not there. What they escaped was death, not sin. So even when we do a pretty good job of understanding in one area, our presuppositions may get us in another.
CONCERNS: Stephanie Dixon had an evaluation at the UVA Medical center on Wednesday. Her brother, Dwayne will suffer no permanent damage from a nail puncture in his eye. Betty Branch had knee replacement surgery on Wednesday and should be home by today. T. J. Hall will see a neurologist next month. Nathan Beach is recovering from a virus which inflamed the area around his heart. Erma Williams’ cousin, Eleanor Bresee’s cancer is advancing. Leena Bolin’s aunt, Lee Nicklas, (leukemia). Kim (Hall’s) friend, Mary; Martha Foy’s aunt, Sue Huels, Sandra Anderson, and Gil Richardson. Also Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick and her mother, Helen. The Phlegars, Rich Crites, Jim Hunter, Deana McRoy, Stephanie Rigney, Marge Greenwood and Sharon, a friend of Del Bolin. Also remember Jenni Cullum, Tim Elder, Mary Smith, Mrs. Matara, Marie Barnett and her family and Wayne Flora’s postmaster, Todd Baumgardner. Bud McWhorter’s knee surgery has been postponed.
OUR DAILY BREAD: AUGUST 18-23
Monday: Joshua 24:14-28
Tuesday: Acts 9:1-9
Wednesday: James 5:1-18
Thursday: I John 1:5-2:6
Friday: Hebrews 12:1-14
Saturday: Psalm 138:1-8
OUR DAILY BREAD: AUGUST 25-30
Monday: Malachi 1:1-14
Tuesday: John 3:1-15
Wednesday: Psalm 65:1-13
Thursday: I Peter 2:1-10
Friday: Matthew 4:1-11
Saturday: Exodus 15:1-18
THE ANNUAL BAR B QUE
The time slipped up on us, but there is just thirteen days until the Saturday Bar B Que. A sign-up sheet is on the foyer table. All you need is to write your name and the number who are attending. We’ve done it so many years we now know how much pork, beef and chicken to fix based on your preference over the years. However, we do need the number who will be attending. As always, the meat will be provided. Those coming will bring the extras. We hope to eat around 4:00 PM Invite your friends and family.
THE WORSHIP SERVICE CHANGE
After more discussion, the steering committee has decided that the contribution will still be collected as before, but at the end of the service. The collection box on the rear pew may still be used by those who so chose. The collection will be accompanied by a song, after which the one making announcements will offer closing comments and a closing prayer, which will include thanksgiving for the offering. The service will close with a final song. Thanks for your help as we make these changes
Susan has returned from the Ezell Clinic in Guatemala and we hope she can give us a report about her week there at next Sunday’s service.
Today, August 17, is Super Sunday. These occasions give us time to be together and enjoy fellowship as a family. Plan to stay and eat following the service.
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING
There is some brief business there steering committee needs to address. They will meet in the library after the Super Sunday meal.
We have had to cancel Wednesday evening services on two occasions due to the hot weather and the inability to cool the annex and not knowing quite why this was occurring now and not before. It seems one of the electrical phases coming into the annex had failed, so the air conditioner was only working at half it’s efficiency. The AEP problem also fried a circuit in the smaller unit. It has all been repaired and things should be fine.