Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas all!

I've got an email today from someone in Pakistan asking for prayer over the holidays, because the Taliban are threatening attacks. I read in the New York Times that Christians in Iraq are preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, I worry about my credit card bill and getting everyone's schedule to line up. I am glad I live in Canada and wish everyone every where a happy and safe holy day.

I've about six months left on my 1000 day goal. I started to re-read Fear and Trembling this week and one paragraph in particular spoke out to me:
In our time nobody is content to stop with faith but wants to go further. It would perhaps be rash to ask where these people are going, but it is surely a sign of breeding and culture for me to assume that everybody has faith, for otherwise it would be queer for them to be... going further. In those old days it was different, then faith was a task for a whole lifetime, because it was assumed that dexterity in faith is not acquired in a few days or weeks. When the tried oldster drew near to his last hour, having fought the good fight and kept the faith, his heart was still young enough not to have forgotten that fear and trembling which chastened the youth, which the man indeed held in check, but which no man quite outgrows. . . except as he might succeed at the earliest opportunity in going further. Where these revered figures arrived, that is the point where everybody in our day begins to go further.
Of course, Kierkegaard was being sardonic. We only assume we've arrived. We are saved and so His work in us must be done. Right?

Again, a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Matthew Study

Last week I got a surprise comment on a post I made some time ago. At the end of 2006 I decided to do my own study of the New Testament. I made a couple of entries, covering the first chapter of Matthew and then decided to restart at my other blog. But I only got ten verses into chapter two before it was abandoned. I didn't decide to let it go, but I did.

But this comment got me thinking. I have been thinking of ways to direct my Bible study in the new year. I could at least try this again. Even if I had only written a chapter a month, I would have have finished Matthew by now. So I am going to try again. I may not get much further, but we'll see.

I am creating a link to this called Matthew. If I do more, I'll rename it.

My posts:

Matthew 1: 1-17

Matthew 1: 18-25

Matthew 2: 1-10

Matthew 2: 11

Mathew 2:12-23

Matthew 2: 1-10

Orignally published at David Bird, February 12, 2007

Matthew 2: 1-10: The Wise Men Come To Herod

The second part of the Nativity story centers around Micah 5:2:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, but was a man of little status in their world. His book is considerably shorter as well, but contains some well known verses focusing on social justice: beating our swords into plowshares (4:3), that God requires justice, mercy, and humility before sacrifice (6:6-8), and the prophecy that the everlasting ruler will come from Bethlehem. Of course Bethlehem, in spite of being a small village, was already the home of a famous ruler. King David was born there.

This part introduces the famous Wise Men. We don’t actually know much about them. The Bible doesn’t say that there were three, or where they came from, or give us any other personal information. They are described as magi who had seen “his star in the east,” and who had come to worship the new King. A magi was an astrologer, or a sorcerer (it’s used that way in Acts 13). In Christ’s time the word was used to refer to foreign forms of magic, forms that were suspect, so it is strange that these men would come to worship the new messiah, but they recognized him for what he was and came to give him the worship he was due. Sometimes the children of the world are wiser than the children of light (Luke 16:8).

They presented themselves to Herod and his court. No one was pleased to hear the news. I’ll get more into Herod’s court in part four of the Nativity story. Herod didn’t know where the Promised One was to be born, which was interesting given his obsession with securing his place. He consulted with the chief priests and scribes and sent the wise men on their way to Bethlehem. Outwardly he was friendly. He told them that he wanted to worship the child too. Once they had finished with Herod’s court they saw the star and it stood directly over where Jesus lay. So why go to the court in the first place? It’s possible that they went to the court out of a sense of protocol. They weren’t conspiring against Herod, and honouring an alternative ruler without going to court might have made it seem as though they were. Alternatively, the star wasn’t constantly before them. It told them that a great king would be born to the Jews, but it didn’t reappear until after they saw Herod. That seems consistent with verses nine and ten:
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
Why would they rejoice to see it, if it were there all the time?

Three News Items

Here are three interesting articles.

Some American soldiers are trying to preserve an ancient monastery in Iraq. The monks who lived there were martyred - read: murdered - in 1743 for refusing to convert to Islam, putting an end to community that was over a thousand years old. Christians in the area are still under attack.

Pew Forum has published another survey on religious beliefs, this one detailing the tendency to mix and match religious ideas. Not surprising, but interesting.

On Salon a New York woman talks about her 'closet' Christianity. Its easy to think she doth protest too much, but then you get to her readers' comments...