Exodus 19 – The Scene at Sinai

You may well know where the Sinai Peninsula is even if you don’t know that you know it. It’s the triangle of land between Israel and northern Egypt. It’s part of the Arabian Peninsula, which connects the African continent to the rest of the Middle East. Oddly enough, the Sinai Peninsula is roughly the same shape as the Arabian Peninsula, only smaller, like a tiny peninsular fractal. Mount Sinai is toward the southern end of the peninsula that bears its name, and here the Israelites arrive and encounter God in today’s yesterday’s Friday’s chapter (oof).

Genesis 7 – The Expendables

Maybe it’s just a function of growing up evangelical, but sometimes it’s hard to get away from reading Genesis as a battleground for fundamentalists and skeptics. Here we are, about to go into a giant flood and a giant boat intended to preserve eight human beings and every kind of animal, while an ostensibly omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity kills every other living thing because the world has gone south. If it strains your credulity, then it strains your credulity; I get it. It’s weird. And it’s a story about God’s direct involvement in the world; true or false, you can’t expect it not to be big. But there is a time and a place for apologetics, and to me at least it doesn’t seem that today’s entry is that time or place.

Giving is Receiving – Genesis 29, Leviticus 7 & 22 [Totally Hip Gratitude]

Welcome back to our study on thankfulness, “Totally Hip Gratitude.” Get it? It’s a play on attitude? Like cool–you know, forget it. Before returning to the minor prophets, we’re going to look at thankfulness in the Torah, like we intended to in the first installment of this series before we got distracted by portions of the Torah where any mention of thankfulness is conspicuously absent. And this time around? There’s gonna be more of my other favorite food, Biblical Hebrew, so crack open your Strong’s Concordance and let’s get to word-studyin’.

2 Thessalonians 3 – Law and Orders (or, Beyond Lawful Good and Evil)

That said, let’s dig into Paul’s closing words to the Thessalonian church. I’ve found that how I react to different passages in the Bible tells me things about myself, both in general and where I am in my life at that particular reading. What resonates with me, what comforts me? What makes me uncomfortable, what makes me put up my fists inside? What do I have questions about? For me, reading the Bible is often an experience in being forced to get honest with myself before God.

Psalm 108 – Steel in the Meat Grinder

For the first time since Psalm 103, we have a psalm whose author identifies himself: it’s David. It’s a Psalm of Orientation, but the weird thing is it finds David asking for deliverance. Even confronted with adversaries, he speaks from a place of confidence, not disorientation. You can probably sense the trajectory at this point.

Isaiah 7 – Too Good to Be True

The first handful of chapters in Isaiah are a prophetic message from God to Israel, but chapter 6 begins a tradition into historical narrative, and by chapter 7, we’re fully into the story. The two Jewish kingdoms are at war with each other, and Pekah, the king of Israel, has teamed up with King Rezin of Syria to lay siege to Jerusalem in Judah. King Ahaz of Judah freaks out over the attack, so God sends Isaiah and his son out to reassure the king that Judah will not fall. If it seems like there’s a lot going on and it’s hard to make sense of, don’t worry; you’re in good company. I myself had to check out a study guide by David Guzik just to distill it all down to that summary.

[On Sabbath] Serious as a Hittite Attack (Leviticus 26)

You’ll find the final mentions of the Sabbath in Leviticus in the twenty-sixth chapter. It’s an “I have set life and death before you, choose life” situation, where God lays out the blessings that Israel will reap from obeying his commandments and the penalties they’ll suffer if they don’t. The passage opens by recapitulating the prohibition on idolatry, then adds, “You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the Lord” (2). Here the Sabbath is tied to reverence for God’s space and rejection of the worship of other gods. As an emulation of the example set by God in creating the world, it’s a way of joining him in one’s rest. The Sabbath is serious business.

[On Sabbath] Levitical Grab Bag (Leviticus 2:13, 19:1-4, 24:5-9, 25:2-7)

Today on our Sabbath study, we have a grab bag of Sabbath mentions from Leviticus. The first one in the English translation doesn’t even have the word “Sabbath” in it! Leviticus 2:13 contains the statement “The salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering.” See that phrase “shall not be lacking?” That’s a form of the Hebrew verb shabath, “to cease.” The salt don’t stop, y’all. This doesn’t really shed much light on the practice of keeping the Sabbath day, but it does occur to me: the religious use of salt adds a new layer to Jesus’ words about salt losing its taste in Matthew 5:13. It’s not simply a secular seasoning; the Jewish grain offering puts it to sacred use as well. An ordinary thing takes on a holy dimension–until it loses its flavor.

[On Sabbath] Hebrew Holiday Schedule (Leviticus 16:29-31, Leviticus 23)

Leviticus! Everyone’s favorite book of the Bible, next to Ecclesiastes! Seriously, though, ever since I read through it during the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I’ve found Leviticus interesting. Which laws are meant to be distinguishing marks for the ancient Hebrews as God’s chosen nation? Which laws constitute moral principles that all of us benefit from following? Which laws are oriented toward ancient agrarian culture and are of little concern to us in the 21st century because, for example, we don’t own any oxen? Sorting out what the laws say and what they mean for us today takes work, but I’ve found that it’s worth tackling.

[On Sabbath] Leisure Anarchy vs. Mandatory Rest (Exodus 23:10-13, 31:12-17, 34:21, 35:2-3)

The issue of the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai isn’t the only place in Exodus that God commands the Hebrews to keep the Sabbath. There are four more injunctions to seventh-day rest throughout the rest of the book. Exodus 34:21 and Exodus 35:2-3 briefly mention the Sabbath, the former noting “even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest,” and the latter adding “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.” The other two passages have a bit more to say about the Sabbath.