bible blog 691

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:

Black community prostest shooting of teenager by neighbourhood watchman 

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 11 So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. 13 The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21 Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast intothe Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”
In all probability the narrative of the exodus from Egypt existed in some form before it was linked to the story of beginnings recounted in Genesis. In its present form however it is linked to the narrative of Joseph so that the image of God’s purpose for his people includes a vast stretch of time. The treatment of the immigrant community of Israelites by the Egyptians reminds the modern reader of the treatment of Turks by Germans, Caribbean and Indian peoples by the British, African people by Americans. Leaders of the people exploit prejudice and fear to assist their own power and increase the productivity of their nations. The bible is ruthless in its exposure of classic forms of injustice. Some say that the imminent French elections may turn on whether President Sarkosy is able to exploit such prejudices.

On the other hand the bible notes the capacity of ordinary men and women to stand firm against injustice. The “midwives who feared God” more than they feared Pharaoh are the first of many heroines in the bible. They honour their profession by their reverence for the creator God who values all his children; and they use their professional knowledge to bamboozle Pharaoh as to why his orders have not been carried out. Their opposition gives the lie to all who have excused their actions by saying that they were commanded by authority. Above all earthly authority is the authority of God. The names of Shiprah and Puah are preserved because they testified to this truth by their actions.

Mark 8:27-9:1

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Peter’s Confession of Christ

27 Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They told Him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.” 29 And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” 30AndHewarned them to tell no one about Him.31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Forwhoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation,the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when Hecomes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” 

Mark 9

The Transfiguration

1 And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

Peter is simultaneously right and wrong. Right-because he sees in this carpenter from Galilee, in his teachings and healings amongst the countryside poor, the promised Messiah of his people. Wrong-because he imagines that the Messiah’s worldly power will grow from such humble beginnings and he’s devastated to be told that it will in fact be dissipated in failure, defat and death. Jesus deals harshly with Peter because he’s already had to deal harshly with himself as he came to accept the suffering which lay ahead.

This issue divides Christianity from Islam. The prophet Mohammed (peace upon him) was a good and holy man who stood for right and justice. But he would have taken Peter’s side in this argument. How can here be justice on earth if just people do not stand up forcefully against injustice? How can people be protected from the great killers of the earth, if not by the right use of force? What good is a crucified Messiah to the thousands of victims of imperial power? Many who have taken the Christian view have done so because they or their nation is in power and it’s convenient to ask the poor and the dispossessed to take the way of the cross. Jesus believed that God’s rule in the world would come only by patient, forceful, suffering witness to His justice and His love. The sincerity of his followers belief in the cross must be seen in their passionately peaceful pursuit of justice rather than in their passive acceptance of injustice.

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