Friday, May 14, 2010

251: Wishful Thinking

Ezekiel 28-30
"They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God." - Ezekiel 28:26

[If you don't know me, you won't know that I've moved to Texas. The reason I'm mentioning it is that this blog is moving to central time. I make every effort to publish the blog in early afternoon, but I tend to get busy and sometimes I have to publish late (today for example). This means I reserve the right to publish between 12-1 am eastern time, though I hope I won't need to.]

Now that God has said he's going to destroy Tyre and had Ezekiel lament for the country, he sends down a prophecy for the king of Tyre as well. Couldn't we just presume that the king was going to be killed/sent away when the bible said that all of the people of Tyre were going to be killed or sent away? God has not yet mastered the fine art of brevity. This prophecy says that since the king of Tyre thinks he is God, God is going to have him killed at the hands of foreigners.

Next God has a prophecy about Sidon. God says that he is going to have Sidon destroyed so that they and the Israelites will know that God is really God. When has this ever worked before? God says that he is going to destroy people all the time to show his glory but it never quite seems to work. Especially when God has other countries destroy people, or has people killed in natural disasters. None of these show the glory of God unless you already believe that God causes everything.

The final two chapters for the day are a prophecy against Egypt, and a lament about Egypt. God says he's going to have the people of Egypt killed or spread out among foreigners for 40 years. After this 40 years he's going to allow them back. I'm not sure why they get this special treatment (being destroyed and brought back to your homeland is usually reserved for the Israelites). This brings up a big question, were the Egyptians ever kicked off their land for 40 years and then brought back? I'm not fluent in ancient Egyptian history.

God, in the lament about Egypt, tells the Egyptians that all of their allies will be killed and their idols will be wiped out of the land. At the end of the chapter God says that he has broken the arm of Pharaoh (is this literally or figuratively?). Immediately after this God says he's going to break both Pharaoh's arms, including the one he just got done breaking. He tells Ezekiel that he's going to strengthen the arms of Nebuchadnezzar so that he will be able to take on the Pharaoh. Pharaoh must be a bad ass if God needs to help Nebuchadnezzar defeat him after breaking both his arms.

The President of the American Bible society wrote an article lamenting the fact that 18-29 year olds have stopped reading the bible.
The Bible has yet to beat the perception of being a dusty old rule book among millennials largely because to substantiate relevance and garner interest, the text first must be read.
Speaking as a person who has read most of the bible, it comes off a lot like a dusty old rulebook. Sometimes it's also a dusty old history book, but that's not that much better.
As I see it, our job at the American Bible Society is to challenge the notion that the Bible is outdated and irrelevant, provide its content in a wide range of formats that appeal to millennials, and then demonstrate how the Bible addresses the most pressing issues of our day.
Again speaking as someone who's read most of the bible, it comes off as pretty outdated and irrelevant. Unfortunately, when the bible addresses the pressing issues of our day it tends to give the solution in a completely outdated way. Consider slavery. Using only the bible, would you conclude that slavery is abhorrent or acceptable? For an even more ridiculous example, consider working on the sabbath. If the bible was your only moral compass wouldn't you have to conclude that working on Sunday is the worst of offences? How is this relevant or not outdated?
When a reader is engaged, the Bible is a round-trip adventure, full of mystery and the miraculous. It is a sacred text that offers hope, contains the language for reconciliation for families, peoples, and tribes, and is a proven path toward the redemption of social injustices at home and around the world. In fact, a recent study by the Center for Bible Engagement found that individuals who read the Bible four or more time a week will curb or annihilate destructive behaviors like promiscuity and drug and alcohol abuse.
Whoa, whoa... Whoa. Wait a minute. What about Godly condemnation for the littlest offence offers hope? How can making some people infidels bring together families or tribes? And what kind of crazy study concluded that people reading the bible somehow correlates to less sex and less drug/alcohol consumption?
Even those with no appreciation for the spiritual benefits of reading the Bible should recognize what the decline of Bible readership means for America. Biblical literacy has formed the basis for a shared vocabulary, values system, and social mores in America. Without this common foundation, Americans are more disconnected from one another.
No appreciation for the spiritual benefits of reading the bible? *Check* However, I reject the assertion that the bible somehow brings people together, or somehow has a coherent values system. How can something that divides people based on race/gender/sexual identity in any way bring people together? As for the "values system". From what I've seen the bible doesn't even have an internally coherent values system (i.e. love your neighbor, but kill your neighbor if they worship idols). And the "values system" that people usually get out of the bible (i.e. don't have sex before marriage, don't be gay, etc.) isn't universally accepted/followed.

Lamar spends most of the rest of the article explaining that if only the American Bible Society could figure out all the social networking/communication the kids are using these days, people would start reading the bible again. Maybe it's just that people are starting to realize that the bible is completely insane (I certainly am).


  1. Getting back to the subject of the Babylonians (which we discussed in earlier posts):
    Ezekiel 29:20: "I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD. "

    What could be more clear the God approves of the work of the Babylonians and is actively encouraging it. This is not just a question of the Babylonians invading on their own initiative - they believed (rightly) that they were acting in God's interest. How could he possibly punish them for this behavior without being a complete hypocrite?

  2. It's not just a dusty old rule or history book. It is also a dusty old book of primitive myths (Genesis), whiny self-pity (Psalms), and unhinged rants (much of the prophets, particularly Ezekiel).



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