Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 31, 2015 Judges 6 (Fleece Prayer) (19)

Fleece prayer was where Gideon put god to the test. Asher (or Asherof) pole is indicator of where altar of Baal was located. Henny Youngman said “Jewish holidays are all alike they try to kill us they failed so let’s eat.” It was 7 years after Deborah to Gideon. The people were seduced into the religion of the Mideonites which was a sex religion. Baal was a fertility cult with religious prostitutes. This interaction is there are consequences for your deeds. God could have shown them how to leave peacefully with their neighbors like the pilgrims. Why didn’t He?
Why fleece prayer special? Some people have made it into a sign that if an unusual thing happened then something else happens that is a sign from God. How will our society of of sex get changed? Maybe we will be given over to ISIS. We persist in turning a blind eye to the prevalence of sex in our society. We got into a conversation about Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders as a symbol of sex in our society. What happens in our communities as a result of these shows. Why does the society in Amsterdam not lead to a society of objectivication of women? Jesus was a victim of the system. And so he prayed that he might not have to be crucified, but left that up to God the Father to decide.
Here are a couple of references to fleece prayer: http://www.gotquestions.org/prayer-fleece.html   http://www.brandonweb.com/sermons/sermonpages/judges3.htm  Flipping coins to determine God’s will as a fleece: https://924jeremiah.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/all-about-fleeces-asking-god-for-a-sign:

March 24, 2015, Judges 4-5 (22)

Rabbi Jeff Portman visited us today. We always enjoy having Rabbi Portman with us to give us the Jewish perspective on what is being described in the Old Testament.

Judges were active around 1200 to 1000, although some say they were around for 400 years rather than just the 200 years indicated bove. Judges is part of the writings describing what was happening with the prophets somewhat less important than the Torah but more than the songs and poetry of Psalms, Song of Solomon, etc.

Deborah must have been a very strong charismatic woman to be a leader at the time. Chapters 4 and 5 really show women having prominent roles in the life of the Israelites at that time.

How did God speak to the people at the time differently then than now. We don’t really know because so many of the good and powerful things that happened then are attributed to God, but we really don’t know if it really happened in that way.  There are different theologies represented in different books which means there is a different interpretations. In some we see the idea that God rewards you for doing good and punishes you for evil, but in others, good people have bad things happen to them, while evil people prosper. Did John Smith have fresh wisdom from God when he wrote the Book of Mormon that indicates God was speaking to John. Jeff says right behavior is more important than right belief. Rabbi Portman says he welcomes the struggle with scripture. It enhances his understanding and faith.

John read from a source that suggests that the writers of Judges may have embellished a squabble between two tribes in a small area into a major war. Deborah calling upon 10,000 men to go to battle sounds like a major war but may be exaggerated and obviously the number may be an “in the ballpark” estimate . We get different stories from different people who supposedly saw the same thing.

The Jewish exegesis of the scriptures is to take the scriptures and see how things today are fulfilling the words of a prophet or to shed some light on what our behavior today should be. Someone else would write a different account of our discussion this morning than I have. Jews recognize the Masoretic text as the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism, but they certainly have other versions as well.

Different aspects of the battle between chapter 4 and 5 are described. There is an incredible richness of the description and comparison between the prose and poetic version of the times. The role of women as leaders is certainly important here. Rabbi Portman says he doesn’t say too much about God, but rather it is up to us how we lead our lives and we use the scriptures as well as the role of God there to help shape our behavior.

March 17, 2015 Judges 2-3 (15)

Most people think judges was written in the 5th century BC. The events described happened somewhere in between the twelveth and tenth century BC. The commentaries note that when the people go away from God, they are called Israelites, while when they are with God they are children of Israel. We discussed hero’s as leaders but noted that many heros have worts. The word judges were some tribes people who became leaders. When you mingle the value systems there can be problems. The Israelites face the problems like all people and they needed people to sort out their disputes and some of these became very important leaders as well. Bill brought up the notion of priests from Samuel. Where were they during judges. What happens when the culture requires us to sacrifice our children? This was happening in the religion of Baal and Ashertof. We got into the promiscuity of today. What does it mean about our society? Is it wrong that we value some teachings of scripture more than others. For example, our lives today pretty much deny that adultery is a sin. Does convenience and our happiness trump our fidelilty?  We got into the promiscuity of today. What about the Bachelor? Curt says divorce and marriage happens long before the actual legal proceedings happen.

There was an interesting opinion piece in the NYT about the US being a Christian nation. The link to it is http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/a-christian-nation-since-when.html?_r=0

March 10, 2015 Judges 1 (19)

Joshua and Jesus spelled the same in Greek. Judges starts with a couple of prologues and 2 epilogs. Mark talked about Huntington as the first president of the continental congress. In Judgs, they cut off big toes and thumbs to prevent the captured kings from wielding weapons or running. The scripture writers wrote history after the fact to give God the credit. The Israelites were  ruled by the patriarchs but they now no longer were there and so they turned to judges to rule Israel. Note that old gezers come from v 19. They didn’t kill off everyone but made some slaves. The Israelites tried to assimilate people in some cases rather than kill them. This, however, sometimes led to serious problems. It may have been somewhat like the immigrant problem today.

How did it feel to be enslaved in Egypt and then be freed and how would they react to being in charge. Human genetics found rare diseases because of inter marriage in these tribes of the Negeb. Why are we surprised at the violence of ISIS but that is the way it  has been for a long time. The judges took over to accomplish a limited task of moving into an area. Joshua took over the promised land but this Era happened after that and there is a lack of leadership. They wrote this in 1000 BC and attributed much of what happened was due to God and his promises. These judges had the job of settling disputes among the people. Why did the people attribute activity to god. The constitution encapsulates our belief system and the supreme court interprets it for us. The judges back then had more leadership roles. God did good things through judges like Ehud, Gideon, Deborah, Samson, as well as some other individuals. Judges chronicles the moral decay that afflicted Israel and led to its oppression, at time recording shocking events. We can use these events as a warning against spriitual indifference and the moral decay that stalks our lives today. The providential decided. Next week Judges 2 and 3. The invention of lying is a movie.

March 3, 2015 Matthew 28 (17)

This morning was a very icy drive for all of us. Chuck Traw didn’t make it till almost 7 am. I had to wait for 30 cars to get on highway 1. But we all made it ok. Today is our last day on Matthew. We had a discussion about the women at the tomb and exactly what happened. each of the gospels tell it a little differently. John says Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and He told her not to touch him as he had not ascended to the Father yet.  All versions have Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Sometimes He appeared to either Mary or the disciples at the tomb, but most did not. I am sure there was a lot of confusion at that time, and as Mark keeps telling us, the Bible is not a DVR recording everything exactly as it happened. Matthew frequently discusses aspects of his ministry for Jewish Christians. Thus he is more interested in telling them about how different this ministry of Jesus was from that of the Jews. It is significant to him that Jesus was crucified for our sins. It is of lesser importance to him that Jesus rose from the dead, witness the shortness of chapter 28 as compared with 26 and 27 about the events leading up to the Crucifixion and the crucifixion. However, the resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from all of the other Messiah wannabes that were preaching at that time. Vatican 2 raised the stakes on Easter. The word for Easter comes from Origin of the Word Easter: This mythical figure is said to have been the goddess of the sunrise and the spring. She is the Teutonic goddess of the dawn. The direction of the sunrise, East, is named for her. In Norse mythology, the name is spelled Eostare. Another considered the Norse/Saxon goddess of spring is Ostara. Eastre is believed to be an ancient word for spring. – See more at: http://www.allabouthistory.org/origin-of-the-word-easter-faq.htm#sthash.7aMu1u6I.dpuf

Both Jews and Muslims recognize Jesus as a great prophet. The Muslims even recognize that he ascended into heaven.  But they also say that Mohammed ascended into heaven as did a number of people who claimed to be prophets in their sect would have ascension stories, usually to receive instructions from God for their people. http://religionresearchinstitute.org/Mohammad/ascension.htm

We talked about various Easter remembrances and experiences that people had as they were growing up. Gene talked about playing his coronet at Easter. Norm about the Japanese experience at Easter. They had all climbed a high hill before dawn to see the sunrise. Bob said that all of Saddam Hussain’s staff were Christians because he didn’t trust the Muslims. Mark noted that Luther was more interested in the incarnation of Jesus as opposed to his resurrection.

Next week we go to Judges!