Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (Isa 37:36)
This verse literally says that the dead woke up the next morning and found their own dead bodies. Different translators have handled it different ways . . . instead of “when they woke up,” the translators have changed it to “when the morning dawned.” Other translations say “when the surviving Assyrians woke up.” But the word “they” is only vague if you don’t think dead people can wake up to find their own dead bodies.
The translators didn’t think so. Hence, they scrambled to make sense of the verse. I don’t like it when the translators interpret in order to answer questions that the text doesn’t answer. I like reading the oddities. Sometimes they hold great mysteries. Sometimes they are just ancient grammar mistakes.
It makes me think… where do we interpret happenings in our own lives in a way that they make sense to us instead of facing the oddities?
Yep. It’s in the Bible! Pot is deadly. Or maybe what is in the pot is deadly . . .
When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the company of prophets was sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put the large pot on, and make some stew for the company of prophets.” One of them went out into the field to gather herbs; he found a wild vine and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. They served some for the men to eat. But while they were eating the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” They could not eat it. He said, “Then bring some flour.” He threw it into the pot, and said, “Serve the people and let them eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. (2Ki 4:38-41)
Someone a lot wiser than me explained the symbolism in this story to me once. You tell me if they are right.
The school of prophets are holding class and they get hungry. The story is about physical hunger, but the prophets are also spiritually hungry. It’s in a middle of a famine. I am told that if you get too hungry – famine kind of hungry – whether it is spiritual or physical hunger — sometimes you will eat (or believe) anything.
One of the students goes out and gathers food, but he gathers gourds that he doesn’t know anything about and brings them back to feed to the prophets. Spiritually speaking. . . he stumbles on some theology that he has never heard before and readily accepts it as right. He is so spiritual hungry that he will believe anything. The student-prophets accept it too. No one questions it and they all eat it up. But this food – this theology – is poison!
The students cry out to the Prophet Elisha. He grabs some flour. Spiritually speaking, the bread of life is made of flour. He throws the flour – the bread of life (the Jesus story) – into the pot. And suddenly the stew is edible. Spiritually speaking, he measures the new theology up against the teachings of Jesus and the theology suddenly takes on a right meaning.
For all of you who read this thinking my story was about the kind of pot you smoke . . . shame on you! 🙂 So… what do you think this story is really all about?
Last night I asked my son Brent – who is the original Bibliologist in our family (with three degrees in ministry, Christian education, and theology) turned software developer – “What is the weirdest story in the Bible?”
He immediately answered “the zombies in Matt 27.” He is right . . . this is a strange one.
Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Mat 27:50-53)
At the moment of Jesus’ death, there was an earthquake and a bunch of holy people were raised from the dead. The word translated raised means to “bring into being.” Yet, they stayed in their tombs for a few more days until Jesus was resurrected.
Weird enough! But why would they stay in their tombs – which had been opened in the earthquake? Was it because they had nothing to wear except decomposing burial clothes? If I find myself coming to life in a casket . . . I am out of there, naked or not.
But then, when Jesus is resurrected, they walk on into Jerusalem. Did they walk in a group? Did they dance like the Thriller zombies? Did they go home? If they had been dead a few generations, how would they even know who their living relatives were? Imagine your long ago buried great-great-grandma showing up at your door.
What happens to them? Do they live for some amount of time and then die again? Are they reburied in their old tombs? Still the questions gets weirder . . . Is it possible that they are still living among us? Now that is the way I want the story to end . . . I want them to still be here living and working among us. Look around . . . what about the guy one cube over?
Well, they are never mentioned again in scripture nor are they mentioned in the other three gospels. If all scripture is given for edification, what do you take away from this story?
It sounds right: Don’t Look Back. You’re Not Going that way.
Right? Good advice, but bet you didn’t know it is ancient advice.
Lot and his family have been living in a city that was ruled by rapists and violent gangs. But – let’s tell the truth – Lot was not a great guy either. To protect a couple of angels from one of the city’s gangs, he offered the gang his two virgin daughters to “do to them as you please” (Gen 19:8). Lot was not great. Lot wasn’t even okay. Lot was a faithless man.
Angels don’t need human protection. But Lot was willing to give up his daughters to a violent gang. Just so he could get a blessing from them? Who was more wicked? Lot or the violent gang?
Anyway… the angels, through supernatural means, end up protecting Lot and his family from the gang. Then they tell Lot…
Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed. (Gen 19:17)
Lot argues with the angels… it really isn’t his style to rush off like this. Besides he might not make it out in time anyway. But the angels moved him outside the city and kicked his butt down the road. With him are his two daughters and wife.
But… Lot’s wife, who has to be more than a little traumatized at having her daughters offered up to a violent gang the night before and was now fleeing town without her belongings, looks back as they are leaving the city. Upon doing so she is turned to a pillar of salt. A pillar of salt! That’s sci-fi.
Was this a punishment from God? Or did she do it purposely by choice? No one seems to grieve her death. She isn’t mentioned again in the story. She isn’t even given a name. What the heck kind of story is this anyway?
She looked back instead of looking where she was headed. Why? Perhaps because she was stuck with Lot, the scum of a man who would give up her daughters to a violent mob. Perhaps she wanted to revel in the death of the people who tried to hurt her family. Perhaps she was just curious.
I take away only questions from this story — stretching what details we have. But I wonder if Lot’s wife didn’t need to hear the following from a friend so she wouldn’t look back:
Maybe I have a friend who needs to hear these things. Maybe I need to hear them.
At any rate… “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” Can’t make this story fluffy like the bunny in the picture. Sorry… next blog will be funny and shorter. Promise! I got carried away.
What do you see in the story? You can read the original in Genesis 19.
In 2018, I enjoyed writing about love. All year!
But this year… I am going to write about scripture. Mostly the weird stuff and strange stories. Things that you might not know about. Things that might be controversial. You are welcomed to comment and even challenge me!
This should be fun! Please find the “Follow me” button somewhere on this page and follow along.
We all know St. Francis loved animals! We also know he preached to birds and even a wolf! So… you can read the first three chapters of St. Francis and the Christian Life to your dog (cats are giving it a 5 star rating too!) for free. Just click here.
If you are considering using the book in a small group or Sunday school class, you can check out the lesson plans at the end of the book on Amazon – just click on “Look inside.”
Gosh do I need to practice forgiveness lately! Maybe you do too. Jesus taught that we are to love everyone – even our enemies. But to love someone who has hurt you, you first have to forgive them! And that is not easy.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:43
Below is a spiritual practice to try. Set aside some time, get to a quiet place where you can think, and bring some paper and a pen (or your laptop if that is your style). You may need to do this practice over several days. Take your time.
Not your ordinary Bible Studies. Each book is a parable – a story – wrapped around a biblical commentary. These stories will make you think about ancient scripture in new ways, provide insight into what is happening in the world today, surprise you with laughter as you catch a vision of the journey ahead, and energize you to live out your faith on paths you never anticipated taking.
Jesus used parables—stories of everyday people and things—to illustrate spiritual truths. His parables were not nice tidy stories. They were disorderly and subversive. They were meant to dismantle ideas the listener thought were truth, but were not. With the Disorderly Parables Books, you will learn like Jesus taught, through stories of everyday people and things. You will walk away with both a story that will challenge you and a thorough understanding of the scripture. The books also contain a discussion guide designed for groups who want read the book together.
52% of all Americans say they are against the country becoming more politically correct and are upset that there are too many things they can’t say anymore. Overall, 55% of Millennials aged 18-29 are in favor of the country becoming more politically correct, while a majority of everybody older than 30 is against the idea. 76% of Republicans are against the country becoming more politically correct compared to 55% of Democrats. — NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll
Love isn’t what we do because it makes us feel good. Anyone can do that! Love is what we do that makes others feel good – or better yet, actually enhances their lives.
Being politically correctly, treating a person as they wish to be treated, is a big part of love. But apparently 52% of all Americans don’t get that. Yes, being politically correct is hard – it takes work – it means you have to get to know people, spend time with them, understand where they are coming from, and what they want and need. It puts their comfort before your own. You even have to be willing to be wrong and ask for forgiveness. You have to be willing to keep trying to get it right.
I watched a video not long ago which interviewed a dozen or more Native Americans. They were each asked how they wanted to be referred to. Some wanted to be called Indians. Others didn’t like that term at all. Some really didn’t like the term Native Americans, but were okay with Natives. Others wanted to be recognized as First Nation People.
There was no one right answer.
And you will find this same kind of “label diversity” across all races, all religions, all people. It isn’t a Native American thing. Its’ a human thing. Try to label any group of people and there will be people who don’t like that particular label.
So how can we ever be politically correct? It’s too hard. Right? Well . . . how can we ever love anyone then?
A true demonstration of love requires we get to know the individual people and groups God brings into our lives. Then should it ever become necessary or appropriate, we ask them what words they identify by and address them by their personal choice. This demonstrates that they are important enough for to us to make an effort.
And if we offend someone by accident, we apologize, learn from it, and use the language they prefer in the future. All of this applies to any words that might be offensive, not just labels.
Demonstrating love is hard and can be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean Christ hasn’t called us to the hard and uncomfortable things in life. Political correctness is a big part of demonstrating love. Do it because you love others!