Today’s first passage is from the Book of Judges:
11 Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped the Baals; 12 and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune, as the Lord had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord; they did not follow their example. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.” 22 In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their ancestors did, 23 the Lord had left those nations, not driving them out at once, and had not handed them over to Joshua.
Here we see the biblical pattern of God’s relationship with His people explained clearly:
1) God rescues his chosen ones from darkness
2) They follow him and fear him for a time
3) Then a new generation arises which never knew the darkness
4) This new generation is unfaithful to the Lord
5) As a result of their unfaithfulness the Lord withdraws his protection from Israel
6) Without the Lord’s protection Israel is plunged into darkness and is violated by its pagan neighbors
7) In their despair God’s people call out to Him for help
And then we move back up to #1. As far as I understand it (and my knowledge of Scripture is still very poor), this is the first time in the Bible where this pattern is clearly laid out. I find this cycle important to understand, because it is clear that we are undergoing our own descent into darkness right now. So the question arises whether or not this cycle will repeat again. The next passage, which is from the Gospel of Mark, seems to indicate that it will not:
Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5 Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[a]
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
12 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
One way to read this passage is that the arrival of Jesus brings about the final cycle. When next it comes full circle, the Lord will return and bring judgement upon the world. The final period of darkness will be the last. However, another way to read it (though not necessarily the right way) is that the master’s return is actually Jesus’ resurrection, and His putting them to death was a metaphor for setting in motion the destruction of their identity as a cohesive people. Nor is there anything to suggest that the new tenants (the New Israel) is not locked into the same cycle. I am going to devote some time into looking at various theologians and scholar’s take on this.
The final passage is from Sirach again, which I have become very fond of:
7 A bad wife is a chafing yoke;
taking hold of her is like grasping a scorpion.
8 A drunken wife arouses great anger;
she cannot hide her shame.
9 The haughty stare betrays an unchaste wife;
her eyelids give her away.
10 Keep strict watch over a headstrong daughter,
or else, when she finds liberty, she will make use of it.
11 Be on guard against her impudent eye,
and do not be surprised if she sins against you.
12 As a thirsty traveler opens his mouth
and drinks from any water near him,
so she will sit in front of every tent peg
and open her quiver to the arrow.
13 A wife’s charm delights her husband,
and her skill puts flesh on his bones.
14 A silent wife is a gift from the Lord,
and nothing is so precious as her self-discipline.
15 A modest wife adds charm to charm,
and no scales can weigh the value of her chastity.
16 Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord,
so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.
17 Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand,
so is a beautiful face on a stately figure.
18 Like golden pillars on silver bases,
so are shapely legs and steadfast feet.
Lots of interesting tidbits here. Verse 9 provides Scriptural support for the so-called “thousand cock stare” which many modern day harlots seem to maintain. Verse 10 can be translated several ways, I have seen wife or daughter used in different translations. In either case, the truth behind it is still spot on. Although I think it might be more appropriate when referring to daughters when considered in light of this passage from the same book. If I had to guess, the skill mentioned in verse 13 is probably the wife’s cooking ability. Verse 15, which I put in bold, is something that I really can’t add to. Other than to bring it up again. To close up, verses 17 and 18 hint that there is something divine in the nature of a woman’s beauty, which suggests that like all holy things, steps should be taken to keep it pure.