Redeeming the Old Testament Stories
So I've been doing some reading of scripture lately, mostly for prep for teaching Bible Study and Sunday Night X-files. Here's two totally cool intraconnnections that I've noticed in scripture. First comes from Psalm 46. It’s a song about how God is there even when things look like their over our heads (thanks Fray.) The song was written by some guy during David's reign and it was too be sung by a certain group of appointed singers. Hold that thought. Rewind back to the days of Moses wandering in the desert. He's trying to get the people to rely on God and get used to the 40 years of wandering. The funny thing is that God was probably REALLY excited about those years because it could have been the greatest time of dependence of the Israelites in their history, if they would have just sucked it up and stopped complaining. But they didn't. There was a guy from the Levites (the group that was to help out in the worship services) who wanted to his group to be the priests, although that was reserved for Aaron's sons. The guys name was Korah and he led a big rebellion of Levites who wanted to be priests. Moses said that God would judge between them. In the end 250 wannabe priests were consumed by God's fire. Also Dathan and Abiram's households and families, and Korah himself and his stuff were all sucked into the ground as it opened up and swallowed them. Pretty much the only stuff that wasn't 'devoted' to the Lord was Korah's sons. Fast-forward to the time of David. Korah's great great... grandson's were still Levites who helped out in the worship service, this time as singers. Note: the Levites were not a bunch of lunatics that stood on a mountainside casting down firebombs, nor were any of them to my knowledge known as Tim. But back to the point, I personally wouldn't want to be remembered as a 'son of Korah', but rather a few generations back to possibly a 'son of Levi' (which has problems as well). This wasn't the case for these singers though. They were referred back to that old story of a relative they probably didn't like too much. Here's were the irony comes in. Psalm 46:1-3. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. According to this song, we are to look to God as our salvation even when things are going bad. As bad as the earth giving way. Now I am no OT scholar but the only other time I remember the earth giving way was when Korah and his friends were swallowed by them. This amazes me that generations later, God is redeeming the sons of Korah. They now look to God as their help, EVEN when the earth gives way. Irony? Sounds like it, mixed in with tons of Redemption. Here’s another instance of redemption. The setting is John 4. Jesus in an act that most other Jews would completely resist crosses through Samaria to get home to Galilee. Most other Jews of his day would have taken every opportunity to avoid the Samaritans. The reason is in point #1 Background point number #1. The nation of Israel was split into 12 tribes, the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel. This tribe developed into nations, or sub nations. They all united during the Time of David. The disbanded shortly after. There were 10 in the north and Judah in the south. The northern kingdom fell, and its peoples intermarried with the captors and they stayed there. This came to be the Samaritans. The southern kingdom fell later, but a group of them abstained from intermarriage and in the time of Ezra-Nehemiah came back and established themselves as the ‘new’ Israelites. These became the Jews of the Jesus day. They Jews and Samaritans were sort of half related, but the Jews despised the Samaritans. Background point #2. In this day and age of Jesus (and further back and also for a long time in the future) women had an extremely low standing in society. They were looked down on as inferior and incomplete and were seen somewhat as property for the most parts. They were around the same level as slaves, and children. So for starters it is extremely big deal for Jesus to go up and just start talking with a Samaritan woman on his way home. This meeting probably wouldn’t happen with any other Rabbi’s of the day. This shows me that Jesus truly cares about the marginalized and people who don’t have a voice in our society. But it goes much further than that. Point #3 – The place that Jesus met her was in the town of Sychar, near the well that Jacob gave his son Joseph, and where Jacob fed his flocks. I don’t believe that Sychar is mentioned anywhere else, so I looked up info on Jacob’s well, or the land that Jacob gave Joseph. Genesis 48:22 tells about the land that Jacob gave to Joseph. “Moreover, I have given to you rather than your brothers one mountain slope*, that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” The one mountain slope*, could be translated possibly as a mountain ridge or shoulder. The Hebrew word (to the best of my knowledge) is ‘shechem.’ There was an area known as Shechem at that same time. Some scholars (and although not really a scholar, I myself) think that the ridge that Jacob gave to Joseph was Shechem, which many many years later would become the home of the Samaritans the same town now known as Sychar. By now you are probably saying, “Oh that’s absolutely amazing Andy, please tell me more.” Well, I shall. The other time we hear about Shechem is also in the OT, or as Pastor Paul would say Old School, in Genesis 34. This is my least favorite story in the bible. One of the Shechemites, saw one of Jacob’s daughters and lusted after her and took her and defiled her. Afterwards his family and friends ask Jacob’s sons for the girl to be given to him in marriage. The raped this girl and now they want to have a peace treaty. Well the brothers aren’t so sure, so they tell them that if they want to become friends then the whole town of Shechem must become like them and worship the One, True God. They Shechemites think, sure, that sounds fine well marry their daughters if we act like we worship their God. These Shechemites were the first people to go and become converted to ‘Judaism.’ The problem is that they didn’t last long. The conversion process to Judaism has one critical painful part, circumcision. Three days after the whole town of Shechem circumcised themselves, two of Jacob’s sons came in with swords and killed all the men. One of the sons was the aforementioned Levi. So in review, the town that Jesus visited was possibly/probably one and the same as the town in the OT where the sons of Jacob slew the Shechemites. Well how does this connect? Similar to the bad connotation that the name Korah had, the town of Sychar/Shechem had a rocky history. It was the place of the first converts to Judaism, and it was also the first place that Jesus preached to those outside of Judaism. The first converts to Judaism and the first converts to Christianity were in the same small town. So instead of remembering the town with the residual OT baggage, it is redeemed by its Maker as the place in which Christ is first proclaimed outside of the Jews. Not only that but Jesus actually claims that he is the Christ (John 4:26) for what is, to my knowledge, the first time. So in all the places that Jesus could have told people he was the Christ he chooses to do so in a small town, that has a history for savage violence in the name of religion, to a woman, a Samaritan woman, a Samaritan woman who has had 5 different husbands. If I have ever grasped how much God cares for the Lost, it may be right now. One last tidbit is that, (again to my knowledge) this is the longest one on one conversation that Jesus has with anyone in the entire recorded Gospel record. To say that God doesn’t care for the unknown, hurting, and lost is blasphemous. It also gives me a much greater appreciation for Redemption. God is so into redemption that he will go so far as redeeming the stories of the OT. Well that’s a lot of blogging for a day. Be blessed and get to know this God who loves all…..