Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for February, 2019

Celebrating Purim

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Photo by Matija Barrett

Celebrating Purim!
Purim begins at sunset on March 20th in 2019. If you have never celebrated Purim, here are some ideas!
1. Make trifold cookies that represent Haman’s hat. Google Hamentashen cookies for recipes. There are a few varieties. Date/ fruit centers are traditional, or you could go with a chocolate option!
2. You will need noise makers. Clackers are traditional. Read the book of Esther. (If you don’t want to be there all night you can read a children’s version.) Whenever Haman’s name is to be read, drown it out with noise from the noise makers.
3. Since there was a ‘beauty contest’ for the king to pick a wife, it is also customary to dress up in costumes. Trifold hats are popular, as are masks, since Esther’s true identity as a Jewess was hidden.
4. Fast during the day leading up to Purim (or from sunset to sunset) to remember Esther’s fast.
5. Feast to remember the feast Esther invited the king and Haman to. (Try some traditional Jewish foods such as challah, knishes, babka or latkes. Recipes can be found on the internet. You may want to abide by kosher rules on this night: very simplified-no pork and shellfish, and don’t mix dairy with meat.)
6. Wine is traditionally drunk on Purim. (Grape juice can be substituted. We like Welches Sparkling grape juice- making it a little more festive.) The story begins with drinking at a feast, though this is more of a cautionary tale about why one should not over-indulge….
Celebrating Biblical holidays is a great way to teach children the Bible. Have fun and enjoy yourself, and don’t stress. Start small- there is always next year!

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Lessons from Joseph

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Lessons from Joseph (Gen 37)

The account of Joseph’s life is the story about how a family became a nation. The lesson: any time the family ‘fights’ is a loss for the nation of Israel. Jealousy and favoritism have dire consequences.
There are many ‘doublets’:
-Joseph has 2 dreams.
-Joseph is flung into a pit, and later is flung into prison
-The brothers make 2 trips to Egypt
-The youngest brother is at risk (first Joseph, then Benjamin)
-Two coats cause trouble (first the coat of many colors, then the coat Potiphar’s wife grabs to ‘prove’ Joseph’s guilt)
-The merchants Joseph was sold to had similar items to what the brothers brought to buy food with
-The 2 dreams of the baker and the cupbearer
-Joseph has 2 sons
-Joseph is younger and is put over his older brothers; Jacob puts Joseph’s younger son over the older when he blesses them
-Joseph is given new clothes in jail, and then when he is to be brought before Pharaoh
-Jacob being deceived by his sons/ Jacob deceiving his father

Parallels:
-Joseph is a Christ-like figure who is ‘sacrificed’ into slavery to save the family, Judah’s story, which interrupt Joseph’s tells of Judah having only one son left, whom he does not wish to risk sacrificing for the sake of his family line by having him marry Tamar, whose marriage to the elder two sons resulted in their death (remember superstition is strong in this culture). Judah later offers to lay down his life to save Benjamin’s, showing he has changed.
-Tamar uses the same phrase ‘please examine’ when showing Judah the objects he left with her as the brothers use when showing Jacob Joseph’s bloody cloak
-Brothers killing brothers is reminiscent of Cain and Abel
-Adam is put in charge of the Garden of Eden except for one tree, which he may not eat of. He failed the test. Joseph is put in charge of all of Pharaoh’s household, except his food (and of course his wife). Joseph passes his ‘test’ and is put in charge of all the food in Egypt.
-Joseph is put in charge, dressed in splendor and led around the city with a herald telling people he is to be honored, same as Mordecai in the book of Esther.
The same phrase used to describe Joseph being ‘flung’ into the well is used to describe Hagar flinging (or ‘left’ in some translations) (Gen 21: 15) Ishmael under a bush when she believes they are to die, perhaps indicating that Hagar blames Ishmael for her current situation (which is somewhat his fault as he was the one making fun of Isaac at his weaning party, triggering Sarah’s wrath… Gen 21: 9-10)
A few lessons/ application/ things to think about:
The brothers eat while Joseph is in the cistern. They fellowship while one of their own is hurting… (Oh the sermons write themselves here!)
God is with us regardless of our status: He is with Joseph when he is a slave, a prisoner, and when he is second in command of a country.
God is with us regardless of where we are. He is with Jacob while he is traveling in the wilderness (stairway to heaven), with Joseph in Egypt etc.

Irony: Joseph is trusted with everything in Potiphar’s house EXCEPT his food; Joseph is later put in charge of all the food in Egypt.
Why does the cup bearer not immediately tell Pharaoh about Joseph? In Egypt there are people trained in ‘houses of light’ to interpret dreams etc. The cup bearer is already on shaky ground as he was put into jail due to questions concerning his loyalty. To recommend a Hebrew slave to pharaoh would be to say that a non-Egyptian may be better than an Egyptian, something that may be seen as disloyal/ treasonous. It is not until the Pharaoh is desperate, and those trained in Egypt have failed that the cup bearer is brave enough to speak.
Joseph’s Family: His wife is a priestess of On. It is likely she is given to Joseph by Pharaoh in the hope that their children will be even more powerful in dream interpretation etc. It is normal for this culture to have more than one god, and a wife would be primarily loyal to her husband’s god, so his wife’s conversion into Joseph’s faith is not unusual. Her giving up her other gods is. There are many non-Jewish wives in the Bible. (Moses’ wife, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba, Tamar) These are women who converted to Judaism. Marrying a convert is Biblically okay.
Their sons’ names:
Manasseh: God has made me forget the past. (Notice that Joseph does not actually ‘forget’ his past, or his brothers would have had an easier time when they arrived. Instead he is saying that the past hurts are behind him and are not currently a factor in his present life. He is relieved of the burden of his past memories.)
Ephraim: God has made me fertile. This can refer to both having a second son, and to the prosperity God has blessed him with.
Joseph in Jail: Potiphar likely doubts his wife’s account of what Joseph may or may not have done. If a man as highly ranked as Potiphar believed that a non-Egyptian slave had attempted to rape his wife, that man would be dead. Likely Joseph is in Pharaoh’s prison to protect him from the wife, and any further punishment, as well as to protect his wife’s reputation. Potiphar cannot fail to punish Joseph or his standing in the community will suffer, but it is likely he understands the failings of the woman he married.

Joseph’s dealings with his brothers: While Joseph names his oldest son ‘one who makes me forget the past,’ when he is faced with his brothers he does not immediately trust them. Instead he puts them through multiple tests over the course of a significant period of time. (Remember, they go back home and do not return until the food they were given has run out.) It is clear from Joseph’s weeping that he desperately wishes to be reconciled with his family, but he does not rush into the reunion filled with hope until he is sure that they have changed and a non-abusive relationship has a chance to be formed. (Remember, they were going to kill him/ leave him to die, and then they did sell him into slavery. They then lied to their father, eliminating all hope that their father would find and rescue him. This is an abusive relationship!) After the first encounter Joseph could have followed them home and revealed himself earlier. In relationships that are this strained it is important to be sure before reestablishing a connection with those who abused you.

Judah and Tamar: Judah too leaves the family and returns. During this time he has a family of his own. His oldest son marries Tamar, then dies without having a son. As is the custom (Levirate marriage) Tamar is married to his next oldest son, in order to produce a boy who will inherit the oldest, now deceased, son’s inheritance. The second son spills his seed on the floor rather than risking getting Tamar pregnant. Why? First, he pretends to sleep with her because the marriage custom of the time likely has them in a tent with the wedding party just outside ‘witnessing’ the consummation. While he consummates the marriage in part, he makes sure there is no chance of actual conception. God ends his life over this deception, showing us how much God cares for women. At this time, without a son, Tamar would be an outcast, reliant on charity in her old age, assuming she lived longer than her husband. Further, a man is not able to divorce a levirate wife, but must care for her and her son in his brother’s stead. The inheritance of the older brother will be cared for by the younger brother until the son is old enough to care for it himself. This places an additional burden on the second son, without reward, as that portion of the family land will soon not be his to control. The second son therefore has more responsibility for a short period of time (his brother’s land and wife), but less inheritance in the end if the widow conceives. This system keeps large portions of land from amassing under one person’s rule if there is a plague or famine, as well as ensures that women are taken care of despite being widowed. The second son is thinking of himself alone. He is greedy and does not care if Tamar suffers. A good father does not mind sacrificing for his son (even though technically this child would be considered his brother’s son…). The child however would eventually become a co-heir, an equal, to the father, which lesser men like this son also have difficulty handling….

The Parable of the Four Soils

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Traditionally the parable of the four soils is taught as a cautionary tale, warning us not to let the cares of this world become so overwhelming that we lose our faith in God. But let’s look at this from a different perspective…

Let’s look at this from the perspective of a person who wants to see another person saved. Let us see this as a plan for helping others come to God. If the person is experiencing difficulties in life, it will be harder for them to care about eternity when their here and now appears overwhelming. It is therefore part of our responsibility to help others overcome the issues that are complicating their lives, so they have the peace of mind to be able to carefully consider the eternal as well.

This also means that we need to become the best we can be, so that we have the ability and the resources, including the time, to teach and aid others. One cannot help another out of their mess, if we are still wallowing in our own.

Mt 13: 1-23, Mk 4: 1-20, Lk 8: 4-15

Why Can Mary Not Touch Jesus?

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Why Cannot Mary Touch Jesus, But 8 Days Later He invites the Disciples to Do So?

The explanation in scripture is that Jesus has not yet ascended to heaven. (John 20:17) For most of us, that does not really answer the question. Likely this has to due with Jesus fulfilling the role of the High Priest in the Heavenly Temple. When a high priest is ordained, the process takes eight days. The night before the high priest’s ordination, there are people assigned to make sure he does not fall asleep, so he does not accidentally make himself unclean. This is likely the timing and the symbolism which is being recreated. On another interesting note, it is obvious that Mary is comfortable touching Jesus, which is not a norm for non-family members of the opposite sex in this culture. She is not likely His wife, as Jesus only makes arrangements for the care of His mother as He is dying, even though Mary is there as well, indicating that her care is not His responsibility. (Jn 19:27)

Some Biblical Geography… (not much though)

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Photo by Matija Barrett

Some Interesting Geography…
Genesis 13:14 ‘Raise your eyes and look out from where you are to the north, south, east and west…’
Genesis 13: 14 contains directional words which are currently translated as ‘north,’ ‘south,’ ‘east,’ and ‘west,’ as that is how they are currently used in modern Hebrew. These words however, are tied to the geography of Israel. North, tsefonah, refers to Mount Zaphon (which is now Jebel Agra). South, negbah, refers to the Negev, a desert, or wilderness area south of Israel. West, yamah, means to the sea. And east, kedmah, suggests going back to an earlier time and refers to the garden of eden. Gen 2: 8 tells us the garden of Eden is ‘in the east.’
There is also some interesting word play regarding direction in the New Testament.
When Jesus says, ‘You are from below, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world.’ (Jn 8:23) Christians today hear that He is from heaven, and those He is talking to are not so godly…. This is, in my opinion, a valid interpretation, but it was likely heard differently by His audience, or at least the double meaning left them in doubt of whether, or not, He was insulting them. Jerusalem, where the religious leaders did most of their ‘business’ was on an elevated portion of Israel and it was common to say that one ascended to Jerusalem, or ‘went up’ to Jerusalem. Galilee, where Jesus and His disciples were from, was closer to sea level, and was therefore a place one ‘descended’ to. There are even psalms of ‘ascent’ to be sung when one is going to Jerusalem, and psalms of ‘descent,’ to be sung when one is traveling from Jerusalem. Jesus turns this on its head and is seemingly saying that Galilee is ‘above’ Jerusalem. (And the people in Jerusalem did believe they were better than those raised in the ‘countryside.’) So, for the people at the time, Jesus could merely be saying, likely tongue in cheek considering His other words to them, that they think they are ‘better’ than Him since they are ‘from above,’ referring to the wonderful, more educated area of Jerusalem, and that He is merely an unlearned person from the poor side of Israel, but that in actuality His ministry is ‘above’ those in Jerusalem (which is also true). This could obviously be taken many ways by the people at this time and was likely the source of much discussion in a ‘did He just say what I think He said’ way.

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