Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Bible and the Land of the Book

I recently returned from a 10 day tour of Israel and Palestine. It was one of those "package" tours where everyone moves around in a tour bus in lock step with some internal and occasionally external schedule. We did not walk where Jesus walked -- we ran. The tour was my 5th (87, 92, 99, 07 and 13) of the Holy Land. I have found, through these many journeys, that understanding the language and structure of the Bible is dependent on understanding the lay out and land scape of the place where the biblical stories and events occurred. It helps to know that the only way to Jerusalem from any other part of the country is "up". Hence the psalms the pilgrims sang were called "songs of ascents" because they were going "up to the house of the Lord". It helps to see why Jesus seems to be passing through Jericho nearly every time he is "going up" to Jerusalem.

I get to see different things and here different perspectives on these journeys. This particular trip I was able to visit the "traditional site" where Jesus was baptized. The exact location is unknown but this location has been the "traditional" site since the early second century, it is in the right place where John was working and is near the Dead Sea. Needless to say I had to plunge into the water there and was blessed to know that, even if I was not standing where Jesus stood, I was pretty darn close.

I am not sure what the fascination is with "standing where Jesus stood" or "walking where Jesus walked" but I get certain chills down my spine when I think I am close or could actually be standing where my Lord and Savior stood so long ago. I don't want to venerate the land, nor do I feel a need to build a chapel there. I think, for me, it has more to do with an historical connection. Just to know and be reminded that Jesus is not some made up character made up out of someone's head -- but that he walked in real time, in a real place with real people.

I suspect, in the final analysis, that is what incarnation amounts to -- God walking with us in our own real time and place.

Numbers Introduction

Numbers: This book is known in the Hebrew Bible as “in the wilderness” (this phrase occurs in the initial verse.) “In the wilderness” is a better description of the whole book than “Numbers.” The title in the English translation of the Bible comes from the census in the first chapters (counting the people, hence, numbers). However, the book’s main theme is life in the wilderness between the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of the Promised Land. The book of Numbers was written during the time of Moses by unknown author or authors, most likely scribal members of Moses’ staff.

The Book of Numbers can be outlined as follows:

·                     Numbers 1-10:10        Preparation to depart from the sacred                                    mountain: Sinai.
·                     Numbers 10:11-12:16 Journey to the oasis at Kadesh
·                     Numbers 13 – 20         The stay at Kadesh
·                     Numbers 21 – 36         Failed attempts to enter the land of Canaan.

            A vital lesson from this book is that the wilderness is a time for forming, shaping, and deepening of the people’s reliance on a relationship with their God. The writing prophets look back to this time in the wilderness as a time of close fellowship and deep communion with God.

Leviticus Introduction

Leviticus: This book gets its name from the tribe of Levi. The Levites were set aside by God to be priests for the entire nation of Israel. They were to receive no inheritance of land but their portion was to be the Lord. Their primary call was to be ministers and priests to the Lord.
            Although the book of Leviticus contains critical information for the performance of priestly duties, its scope is much broader and gives vital information on how to live “holy before the Lord.” The Book of Leviticus was written during and shortly after the time of Moses by an unknown author or authors.

A vital lesson from Leviticus is that God expects his people to live lives separate and different from the world around them. In the Old Testament this difference focuses on externals: the people of God wear different clothing, eat different food, and serve their God in a different way from the peoples and religions around them. 

Introduction to Exodus

Hi Everyone: This is a little bit late in our reading this year but here it is:

Exodus: This book takes its name from the central event of the book, the exodus of the descendants of Abraham from slavery in Egypt and their initial journey toward the Promised Land. Written during the time of Moses by an unknown author or authors, Exodus tells one of the two defining events of the Old Testament: the deliverance from slavery in Egypt. (The other defining event was the Babylonian captivity and restoration.)
Exodus can be divided into two main sections. Chapters 1 through 18 tell of the enslavement of the descendents of Abraham in Egypt, the call of Moses, and God’s deliverance of the children of Israel. This section can be outlined as follows:
·                     Exodus 1 – 4     Moses’ birth and call
·                     Exodus 5 – 11   Moses before Pharaoh and the 10 plagues
·                     Exodus 12 – 18  Institution of The Passover and journey to Mount Sinai

Chapters 19 through 40 present the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb) and the initial organization of the people of Israel. It can be outlined as follows:         
·               Exodus 19    Israel at Sinai and the covenant
·                     Exodus 20 – 24 The 10 Commandments and other regulations
·                     Exodus 25 – 28 Design and regulations for the Tabernacle
·                     Exodus 29 – 40 Consecration of priests and construction of the Tabernacle

            Vital lessons from Exodus deepen our understanding of the purpose of God by showing that God is forming a people for himself. It is a people that began with Abraham and now continues through the descendents of Israel under the leadership of Moses. We also learn that God’s power can move the hand of leaders at critical times in history.