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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Praying Scripture for July 10

Sunday School
Periodically I will be trying to post short reflections on a verse (or concept) from the daily readings and a prayer. It is intended to help jump start your own meditation on the word of God.
Sunday July 10 we pray Psalms 148, 149, 150 and we read Joshua 1:1-18; Acts of the Apostles 21:3-15 and Mark 1:21-27

Briefly, one model of prayerful reflection I offered a couple of weeks ago.
Always begin with prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide you!!!!
1. Read and summarize the scripture passage before you. (This may reveals something about your focus and thought processes too)
2. Read the passage a second time, underlining key words or phrases. Spend time with the words and let God speak to your soul (mind, heart, desire, will). If you have time, do a search on the blue letter bible to see other places that word shows up.
3. Read the passage in the context of the Biblical book. What takes place just before and just after the particular section you are reading. [this is more time consuming but it is a valuable tool for understanding]. Another context is other readings which are bundled together by the Lectionary. How do the text interpenetrate one another? (I plan to model that today)
4. Pray. Ask God to place the Scripture in your heart and life. What do I "do" now? Let it impact your thoughts or behaviors.

This is a remarkable book on many levels. Jesus?Joshua is a major "type" of Christ, and the name being the same was certainly not lost on the early church. The time setting is "post-Moses"--he is dead, there is "a new sheriff in town." (Ponder the flow of history) There is a promise (to be with you as I was with Moses; the Lord regularly renews a covenant promise with the next generation, think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The centrality of the Law is emphasized. Obedience produces blessing (a Deuteronomic theme). The recurring command "be strong and of good courage"

'abar "pass" the same word used in Ex 12:12, 23 for the angel of death passing through Egypt is used for Joshua passing over the water (another Exodus image) to the other side.
"Be strong and courageous" (repeated four times 1:6,7,9,18), also see Deuteronomy 31:6,7,23 for a similar pattern). chazak/strong is one of the words used to describe Pharaoh's heart (translated hardened but actually means strengthened) while 'amats (courage, strength) is used in a similar way of King Sihon (who would not allow Israel "abar/to pass!).

The emphasis on courage is not so prevalent today. We speak much of love and faith, but courage and strength are almost viewed with suspicion. Are such too manly? Certainly, we have learned the futility of war and the costs often outstrip the value, but even as we look at contemporary Israel one is reminded of the six million Jews rounded up and exterminated. Is courage needed to fight in the face of annihilation? Is it kill or be killed? The Book of Joshua raises existentially relevant and difficult questions. The Jesus ethic and the Joshua ethic are not easily reconciled. It is why prayer with the Scriptures takes us to places we would rather not go.

Mark 1
I mentioned above that one context is lectionary groupings and today we see it. Jesus (New Joshua) was baptized in the river Jordan, spent forty days (years) in the desert being tested and now He comes to Galilee. The tribe of Naphatali had this partition of the Promised Land, which is the northernmost part of Israel (above Samaria) and includes Mount Carmel. Jesus is teaching (recall Torah, usually translated as "Law" really means "instruction"). Jesus is a teacher. Part of His mission of salvation is instruction. We learn by listening and taking His words to heart. In addition, there is warfare of a spiritual type. Jesus cleans out the demons infesting the land (as Joshua "cleaned" the land of the "demonic" Canaanites). The Kingdom is always judgment; when we meet God we receive either salvation or destruction. The Exorcism is every bit an act of battle and spiritual battles are at the heart of all war.

How does Jesus see the world? Are we "modern" people allowed to ignore His view of things and simply side step the issue of the demonic? How would the call to strength and courage factor into Mark 1 and the mission of Jesus?

Another direction is to focus on the amazement of the people in response (or reaction?) to Jesus. The narrative is filled with questions and that is always a wonderful source of direction for meditation.
What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
What is this (new teaching with authority)?
How is our view of Jesus impacted by the answers to those questions? How is our response to Jesus as disciples following and apostles sent out in His Name?
What is the content of our teaching?
Where is the power and authority manifest in our lives?
What demons are we casting out?     

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