The books of the Old Testament prophets can be so challenging to read that it’s easy to overlook the big concepts and the larger historical events that these books reference. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament books of Amos and Hosea lately and one of the most fascinating things to me about these men is that although they devoted their lives trying to save the people of northern Israel, they ultimately failed. What does it mean that God called Amos and Hosea to spend their entire lives doing something that was met with utter failure?
But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds. Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:16-21) As a physician, one of the things that always perplexed me was how two people could have such a different response to illness or death. At times I saw patients with the very same disease but contrasting reactions to it. Some drew closer to God and became increasingly grateful. Others cursed God or denied him. He had stolen from them or never existed at all, they claimed. What makes a person fall into one category or another, I often wondered. And now that I have my own disease, with my life goals and trajectory altered, I think about my response to illness. I never understood the … Read More
And God said to Abraham, “…You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised. (Genesis 17:9,11,24) What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ (Romans 4:1-3) There is no denying that circumcision is a bizarre ancient ritual. In fact, scholars from a wide range of disciplines continue to debate the purpose and origin of the practice. I’m the kind of person who gets tripped up on stories that aren’t clear to me and I’ve long wondered about this part of Genesis. Now, a couple decades later, I think I finally understand it (or at least, enough of it).
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) “…through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) I’ve found that the Genesis story of Adam and Eve is fascinating in many regards. But one particularly interesting dimension of the story is that it tells us about the first distancing that occurs in humankind’s relationship with God. This is not a trivial theological matter. This is the story of humankind’s first break from God. Doubt enters in. And humans no longer commune with God as they once did.