Saturday, December 15, 2007

a short rumination about the division of the kingdom of Israel

There was a point in the history of Israel when the king had the opportunity to decide how he was to rule and he consulted with the old man of his father's household, those who advised Solomon, and asked them how he should rule. They advised to make the burden of the people lighter and to be merciful and generous. They said, "If you will be a servant to this people they will serve you for their whole lives."

But Rehoboam did not like this advise and went to the people who grew up with him in the king's court and asked them for advice instead. They advised him to make the task of being an Israelite harder not easier, even couching it in what may be termed a rather crude analogy along the lines of "My little finger is greater than my father's loins". At the word that he would whip them with scorpions and not whips the people rebelled and rejected his authority and left and the kingdom became divided.

When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
"What share do we have in David,
what part in Jesse's son?
To your tents, O Israel!
Look after your own house, O David!"
So the Israelites went home.

They all went to follow Jeroboam instead. Now Jeroboam was a man who had rebelled against Solomon, the previous king. Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam but did not succeed and the Lord gave Jeroboam ten tribes as promised. The Lord said "I will humble David's descendants through this but not forever." God promised that David's house would have at least one tribe so that His word would be kept.

Jeroboam feared that Israel would revert to the house of David if they worshipped at the Temple and offered sacrifices to Yahweh so he made new gods to ensure that loyalty would not bring his kingdom's subjects back to Judah. And so to secure his own rule he turned to idols.

Rehoboam planned to reclaim the ten tribes by force and prepared for war but the Lord stopped him. The Lord told him "Don't go to war against them for this is my doing." Rehoboam set up idols and was worse in idolatry than Solomon. It is curious to consider that to consolidate power over God's people both men turned to idols. It is hardly surprising but it is sad and it may serve as, so to speak, a parable about the history of God's people since the time of Christ as before. The Lord predicted division and strife within His kingdom before the time of Christ and so it is now since His coming. This may be taken, as it were, as a parable about the history of the Lord's people and those who are able to understand it will understand it well.

What I am struggling to understand is why Jeroboam and Rehoboam did not repent of their own sins. Why did Jeroboam choose to embrace his own power and influence rather than understand the kingdom had not been given to him over Israel forever? Why the lack of humility? Why did Rehoboam refuse to live as a servant in being king over Israel? Why did he choose to listen to the young men with whom had had grown up in the house of Solomon? Why did he make such a point of saying he was more a man than the leaders among God's people who preceeded him? His desire to rule powerfully divided the Lord's people when he could have chosen to be a servant and have reigned for his whole life in an era blessed by the Lord.

For reasons I can't really explain this has been on my mind a lot lately. Both kings who presided over the division of the kingdom, on either side, were finally crushed by the Lord, which is tragic because it was the will of the Lord to divide the kingdom. That was unavoidable and could not be stopped because the Lord called it in advance through a prophet. But the judgment turned out to not merely be against Rehoboam but against all of Israel.

Who are Jeroboam and Rehoboam today? Who has divided the house of the Lord to preserve their own station and respect rather than be a servant to the Lord's people? Who has horded up influence and power for themselves to defy what they have seen as an abuse of the Lord's people by those God has appointed? Are any of them above reproach in this story? It doesn't seem that they are, but all have the opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord who came and was the servant of all. It's a sad thing to see the Lord's people divided when the men who have power and influence seek to fight.

Friday, December 14, 2007

a clunky poem

So that he and his family would not wind up dead
All Elimelech’s house went to Moab for bread.
Naomi, Malon, and Chilion went with him
And left all the things they had known in Bethlehem
For the Lord had afflicted their home with a famine.
Now Isaac, ages before, had sensed the divine
Warning to not depart during the affliction.
Elimelech was of another disposition,
When wavering judges ruled over Israel;
And he had no father like Abraham to tell
Him, “God Himself will provide us our offering.”
Or of God’s promise and the decades of waiting;
Nor did he send his sons back to Judah for wives.
So his sons took the glances a Moabite gives.
There are no books that say what became of our friends
But we know most of them met some untimely ends
And Mara did not hide what she thought of her plight
She went out with blessing and returned from a blight.

A while back I heard a pastor go through the book of Ruth and the idea of writing a short narrative poem about this obscure fellow in the OT just wouldn't get out of my head. So this is my very forced, clunky narrative poem on the subject. No one in their right mind would attempt to make something rhyme with Elimelech unless you wanted to contrast him with Melchizedek (there, see what I mean?) and so I didn't go that route. The couplets are already pretty forced so I resorted to slant rhyme whenever possible. I think the slant rhyme works tolerable for the couplet about the wives with its forward allusion to Ruth joining the Israelite community through a second marriage to a Hebrew of more distinction.

Anyway, that's the poem. Not much to it is a poetic creation I suppose.

natural or social selection??

If Saletan is actually right, the subject of some discussion in itself, and the idea holds merit that what constitutes natural selection in human evolution may be less natural than social then his closing statement is merely an echo of sorts to a comment C. S. lewis once made, that every generation, within limits, gets exactly the kind of science it wants.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Schaeffer and Schaeffer part 3 (well, link discovered through iMonk)

Fascinating. Not sure that I have any plans to be Orthodox but reading this interview reminds me of how much I also feel Francis Schaeffer's real work has been distorted, misappropriated, and hijacked for political and culture war reasons that had nothing to do with what I felt was the heart of Schaeffer's real work.

Identifying the Christian Right as an activist right wing variation of the New Left makes sense. It's easy to see how the Christian Right has been attempting for the last twenty years to do what they feel the Left of the 1960s should not have done. Granted the Left of the 1960s advocated some stupid stuff, but that's not going to make the Right any better. I stand by my belief that Jesus was crucified by a bipartisan committee.

Fascinating interview. I agree with Michael Spenser that it's a must read. :)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Stockhausen dead,,2224073,00.html

Yeah, I know, lazy blogging to just link to a headline but Song of the Youths made a pretty big impression on me when I was a teenager and my brother brought it home one day, back when record players were still fairly commonplace. An amazing piece. Doesn't mean I'd own a ton of Stockhausen but I could never hear Revolution #9 (interesting as it was) as anything more than a Stockhausen knock-off of a good but decidely lesser order. What can I say? I guess I'm a music snob on that point. The Beatles were a great pop band that got dubbed a rock band but they were so open about who they copied I figure it's still good to tip my hat to the guy who inspired them and set them aside, so to speak.

But I couldn't blog anything about him or his music that couldn't have been blogged about more eloquently by others.