Behold: where we find the actual tale of the Tower of Babel! This is another favorite for the Sunday school classes. After all, it provides children with a narrative explanation of why some people speak using all kinds of strange words they don’t understand, and it also contains a cautionary tale against pride. But as I read it today, I found myself wondering what exactly motivates God to thwart the intentions of these would-be tower-builders. “Pride” may be a simple answer, reasonably accurate and easy to comprehend, but the reality may prove to be more nuanced than a single word.
Do you have regrets? Do you ever wish you could just blow it all away and start over? Do you delete your save file and start replaying that RPG from the beginning, just to get that feeling of a new world replete with possibility, a world that isn’t locked in on the muddled calamities and missed opportunities that its characters have sown? If so, you’re in good company: my company, for starters. And also God’s.
Today’s chapter introduces Joshua the high priest. Satan is prepared to accuse him, but the Lord steps in to his defense. Upon reading the passage, I wondered: who is Joshua? While I had some theories, I wanted to get my hands on reliable information about Joshua before I started speculating, and I have vast swaths of information from all over the globe at my fingertips because it’s 2017.
Ezra is a book about getting back in touch with your roots. Its events take place around 460-450 BC, generations after Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. King Cyrus of Persia sends a sizeable party of diaspora Jews to return to Jerusalem, reunite with the survivors, and build a new temple to their God in their holy city. And it would seem Ezra, who chronicled this expedition, took a few cues from the book of Chronicles, because when he uses the word “thanks,” he too pairs it with the word “praise.” In the scene from today’s passage, after the foundation for the temple is complete, the priests lead the Hebrew people in praise and thanks. All in all, it’s an extremely Hebrew scene, so let’s get Hebrew.
As we progress through the Bible in our study of thankfulness whose stupid name is so stupid that I am not even going to mention it, we begin to see more instances of the word “thank,” especially in the two books of Chronicles. And the trend I observed in 1 Chronicles 16 continues throughout 1 and 2 Chronicles: wherever we see thankfulness, praise is not far behind. This may come as no surprise; after all, as Li’l Spicy said in his famous “Thanksgiving and Praise Are Like Our Right and Left Arms” speech, thanksgiving and praise are like our right and left arms. But why do they belong together so naturally? Let’s see if we can figure it out.
Hoo boy. No sooner had I hit verse two of Micah than I was saying, “I can’t handle any more of this.” It feels like the minor prophets are just judgment after judgment, a divine lament of Israel’s protracted moral degradation and a statement of the inevitable consequences. And they’re not even told as narrative: it’s like if an entire book took the form of the protagonist’s impassioned speech at the climax. The book of Micah isn’t the story of Micah and God and Israel. It’s what God had to say to Israel through Micah. And it doesn’t open on an especially rough note, but the constant truth and consequences of the prophets can wear on a guy.
If you want to argue that God changes his mind, you’re probably going to turn to Exodus 32. In this well-known passage, after the Israelites make a golden calf and start worshipping it, Moses apparently talks God down from destroying them and starting a new nation with Moses. The text even comes right out and says it: “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14). But if you wanted to argue your case without reaching for the low-hanging theological fruit, you might opt to look at Amos 7.
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’.
The word “harlot” appears nine times in this chapter. The passage details Israel’s sins against God, and it’s pretty clear in what light he views their disobedience. He brings numerous charges against Israel, but at their core, they’re all forms of unfaithfulness: ways of giving yourself to things that don’t deserve you because they’re not your all-powerful, all-good Creator.
Do you remember Sega’s “Welcome to the Next Level” advertising campaign from the early 90s? No? That’s fine. You don’t need to be familiar with it at all to know that the seventh chapter of Hebrews has got some next-level theology about Jesus Christ as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Welcome to the next level.