Nerd is the Word

What You’ve Missed…
* Hosea continues to tell the people of Israel that they’re evil, that they’re spiritual prostitutes, and basically that they’re a bunch of selfish jerks.
* Also, I’m guessing he continued to get kicked in the shins. By everyone. Even little kids. And babies.
* Isaiah decides to get in on the prophecy action, basically telling Israel that God is going to Hulk out on everyone by shaking the earth and messing up their lives big-time.
* Also, “Hulk out” is a loose translation.

Day 193
Daily Reading: Psalm 119

We’re more than halfway through the Bible and so I think that’s cause to rejoice. I’d like to celebrate by repeatedly declaring how much I love God’s Old Testament Law, and how tailoring my behavior to all those intricate details is the best part about life and how the only thing I want to do day after day is obey His commandments and follow His incredibly specific rules! Yeah! Woo hoo!

Okay, not really. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who thinks like that. If I did, I assume they’d be the happiest Jewish rabbi of all time. Like Ben Stiller in Keeping the Faith. Though in the movie he makes out with a non-Jewish hottie and fraternizes with a Catholic priest while singing karaoke, so I’m not so sure he would have been obeying all of God’s commands to the nth degree.

However, in Psalms, we come across just this person. Whoever wrote Psalm 119 was friggin’ in love with God’s Law. I’ve met some nerdy rule lovers in my day (heck, even I come to a full stop at all stop signs, and rarely go more than 5 mph over the speed limit) but this guy takes rule following to a whole new level.

“I am always overwhelmed with a desire for your regulations.” (Psalm 119:19)
“Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” (Psalm 119:35)
“How I delight in your commands! How I love them!” (Psalm 119:47)
“This is how I spend my life: obeying your commandments.” (Psalm 119:56)
“Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold or silver.” (Psalm 119:72)

That is just a small taste of how much the author loves following God’s rules. Did you catch that last one? They’d rather have God’s rules than millions of dollars. I don’t know much…but I know that rules can’t buy an Xbox, or a cheeseburger, or a dinner nice enough to impress a lady.

Am I really supposed to believe the author loves God’s instruction more than anything? That seems a little extreme. But that’s just the beginning. The author continues…

“Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long.” (Psalm 119:97)
“I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise.” (Psalm 119:147-148)

They think about God’s rules all day? Really? I’m amazed if I can think about anything for more than 15 minutes, and that’s if I’m thinking about something crazy awesome like cinnamon rolls or swimming in a pool of Jell-o. Not a bunch of rules. And this person wakes up early, and stays up late to think about God’s law even more? Geez nerd, calm down. But here’s what really blows my mind,

“I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.” (Psalm 119:45)

Huh? You’ll walk in freedom because of restrictions placed on you? Um, I don’t mean to point out the obvious here nerd, but you do realize that commandments are restrictions, and restrictions RESTRICT freedom right? Freedom comes through independence baby! I guess you guys didn’t have any American History to study back then huh? That stinks, because ‘merica knows more about freedom than any other country. If you want real freedom, then you need to be free of everyone and everything. You can’t have people, or God, telling you what to do all the time if you want to be independent and free.
Or can you?  Can life with boundaries actually bring more freedom than life without them?

What has the author discovered about following God’s law that has him more psyched than a sixth grade boy being invited to a pool party, with girls? Why are they so jazzed about not just centering their entire existence on obeying God’s law, but loving every minute of it?  Why are they so joyful about something many of us are often resentful towards, or see as a burden?

What is happening here?

This is turning my world upside-down even more than when I discovered that playing the “Quiet Game” as a kid was really a trick to get me to shutup for five minutes. And that no matter how often any of us “won”, no one won as much as Mom.

Can a Person Actually Melt?

What You’ve Missed…
* Lots of psalms praising God.
* Lots of psalms asking God for help.
* Lots of psalms thanking God.
* In short. Lots of psalms.

Day 139
Daily Reading: More Psalms

As I’ve continued to read through the psalms of King David it seems each one falls into at least one of three categories. There are psalms of praise and thanksgiving. Psalms of David asking for help. And lastly, there are psalms of…what I’ll call…crazy bloodlust.

Turns out our friend King David is a serious Guns N’ Roses fan because the dude has a major appetite for destruction. (I really, really wish our Internet technology allowed me to insert some sweet 80’s guitar riffs right here. I mean, TED, Skype and icanhascheezburger.com are amazingly fantastic uses of technology and everything…I just wish it included more 80’s electric guitar is all.) Not only does David often ask God to help him, to rescue him from his enemies, but he usually takes it one step further. David often asks God to pretty much obliterate his enemies in the process. Exhibits A through D:

“Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and make their bodies shake continuously. Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger.” (Psalm 69:23-24)

“Let burning coals fall down on their heads. Let them be thrown into the fire or into watery pits from which they can’t escape. Don’t let liars prosper here in our land. Cause great disasters to fall on the violent.” (Psalm 140:9-11)

“Rise up, O God and scatter your enemies. Let those who hate God run for their lives. Blow them away like smoke. Melt them like wax in a fire. Let the wicked perish in the presence of God.” (Psalm 68:1-2)

“May they be like snails that dissolve into slime, like a stillborn child who will never see the sun. God will sweep them away, both young and old, faster than a pot heats on burning thorns.” (Psalm 58:8-9)

Melt them like wax in a fire? David, I thought you were a man of compassion. Let burning coals fall down on their heads? David, that sounds like medieval torture bro. Let them be thrown into the fire? David, ease up with all the fire and burning people alive talk buddy. Make their bodies shake continuously? Seriously David? You’re asking that they have a constant barrage of seizures? May they be like a stillborn child? Geez man! I’m not even fully sure what that means, but it’s repulsive.

What is the deal with this guy? To quote one of the great philosophers of our time, a brilliant and insightful woman known as Fergie, “Where is the love?” Seriously David…where is it? You seem to want God to shower you with love, yet shower others with…well with torture, pain and death.

Those were my first thoughts. But as I continued to read, I discovered more and more of this man’s humanity. He’s just a guy. A regular, imperfect guy. (Why is it that Christians tend to think of people in the Bible as “characters” who are one-dimensional, and only capable of displaying a single emotion or character trait? Aren’t they just as wildly dynamic as we are?)

And a regular, imperfect guy can be a little emotional at times, a little over-zealous. Even a little outrageous. (Me trying to live life in my 20’s is a solid example. I was Steve Martin in The Jerk, just less charming, way, way more jerkish and equally as aloof.) I think that’s what’s going on here. Regular guy David has been harassed, attacked and hunted by his enemies and he’s had enough. He’s ready for it to end.  And…he gets a little extreme in the process.

I’m not trying to give the guy an out to be a crazy pyscho or anything. I mean, I think we can all agree that the movie Seven does a great job of showing that weirdo torturers don’t mingle too well with the rest of society. But I am trying to see David as a regular dude, struggling through his emotions and thoughts like I do

So what am I saying?  I’m saying David’s desire to see his enemies suffer and die caught me a little off guard. Really off guard actually. Especially because I was beginning to think of him as a weak and humble man. But that’s the point! He’s not JUST that. He’s also a ferocious warrior who has real enemies and knows they are a serious threat to his kingdom and who need to be removed from the equation. He’s a multifaceted man, capable of grace and love, who’s also capable of seriously laying the smack down.

He’s like Andre the Giant. In the ring the dude would mess you up. In The Princess Bride he warmed your heart with charming peanut comments. In real life, he was just a man.

Cry Me a River

What You’ve Missed…
* David starts to get old.
* David helps his son Solomon prepare to build a ridiculously ornate temple for God. Like, over-the-top-Vegas-style ornate.
* David continues to get old.
* One of David’s sons tries to take over the kingdom, but it’s pretty lame and unimaginative by Biblical standards. D+.
* David gets older.
* David hands the kingdom over to his son Solomon.
* David gets even older. I mean really old. So old that even his new, beautiful, virgin servant girl isn’t enough to “rally his spirits.” Reading this has made me realize that it’s time someone does the American public a solid, and confronted our buddy Hugh Hefner, letting him know we’ve all been way too creeped out for way too long, and that it’s time to go ahead and hang up the ol’ robe. It’s time my friend. It’s been time. For a long time.

Day 135
Daily Reading: Lots of Psalms

So King David led a pretty bad ass life, full of some pretty intense war and tons of sweet hand-to-hand combat. But now I find myself in the book of Psalms, many of which he wrote, and it’s a definite change of pace. It’s like sitting down to a cup of coffee with New York’s craziest cowboy cop (clearly officer John McClane from Die Hard) and having the guy break down, crying in your lap. Sure David’s a giant-slayer, a magnificent war hero, and a king with more wealth and women than he knows what to do with (maybe David had a li’l more Hef in him after all), but at his core, he’s just a man looking for love (though, not in all the wrong places.)

David looks for, and finds, love in God. Throughout Psalms David cries out for God’s help. He also spends an ample amount of time praising God, proclaiming his loyalty to God and thanking Him again and again for His kindness and love. It’s amazing. This man of battle-hardened steel turns out to be much more of a lover than fighter. But more than that, he also turns out to be incredibly weak, and I think that’s my favorite part about what I’ve read.

This great man, great leader and great warrior, is constantly asking God for help. And he’s not just asking, the man is often at his wits’ end, begging with all that is in him for help from God. King David, Israel’s pillar of strength, is not a pillar of strength at all, but a man fully dependent on God’s strength, which he seems to trust fully and in every way. Here are just a few samples of the naked desperation this “strong” man of God reveals as he wears his heart on his sleeve.

“Return, O LORD, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love…I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.” (Psalm 6:4-6)

“O LORD, do not stay far away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid! Save me from the sword; spare my precious life from these dogs.” (Psalm 22:19-20)

“Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all!” (Psalm 25:16-17)

“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.” (Psalm 69:1-3)

(Clearly the man’s a crier.  Which would put me in good company if he and I ever decided to watch Marley and Me, or Forest Gump, or heck, even The Care Bare Movie if I’m being honest…basically pretty much any movie really.)

And that’s just a crazy small taste of David’s desperate cry for help. In other passages he talks about how he calls on God for help constantly. How he is depending on God alone to save him. He doesn’t simply pull himself up by his bootstraps like all good tough guys, coming up with some elaborate plan to save himself. Instead, he displays his helplessness without shame, and asks for help again, and again, and again. Then again, and again. And again.

Here’s a man, not trying to be the hero, but rather, a man who knows full well he isn’t.  He’s weak.  Very weak.  And he knows it.   And it’s this guy who’s considered a biblical hero. Something to think about.

Real Life > Cartoons

What You’ve Missed…
* King Saul dies.  So do his kids.
* David becomes the king of Israel.
* David goes from good-hearted underdog to wild man on campus when he becomes a total hornball, gathering together a solid concubine, then sleeps with a married woman, and then later has her husband killed.  Geez David…lay off the Red Bull man.
* David’s son Absalom starts a rebellion, chases his dad out of the city and takes over the throne.

Day 119
Daily Reading: 2 Samuel 17-19, Psalms 3 & 63

Today is going to be short and sweet.  Partly because what I want to write about is incredibly simple (ridiculous, but simple) and partly because I’m currently in Honduras with limited time and internet access.  (What am I doing in Honduras?  Two things really.  One, co-leading a missions group serving here for a month.  Two, enjoying local energy drinks I believe the FDA has banned from The States.)

So, back to David.  He’s run away from the capital with his supporters, armed guard, and of course his concubine, wondering how to recover the throne which has been stolen from him by his son.  The only problem is he doesn’t want his son to die…which makes it hard to lead an attack against the guy with the sole purpose of killing him.

So he sends out his personal army with the specific order not to harm Absalom.  They go out, start fighting up a storm and…

“During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men.  He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree.  His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air.”  (2 Samuel 18:9)

“Then Joab took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree.  Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.”  (2 Samuel 18:14-15)

What?  The dude was dangling from a tree by his hair?  This sounds a lot more like a really jacked up and violent Bugs Bunny cartoon than real life.  For starters, whose hair is long enough for this to even happen?  And if your hair is that long, wouldn’t it be tied up when you’re going into battle?
And while a horse could offer up some serious speed, is there a mule on the planet who could run fast enough to cause a man’s hair to become untied?  I mean…we’re talking about a donkey here.  Not Seabiscuit.  (Note: I have no idea if Seabiscuti was considered fast or not…I never saw the movie, but feel pretty safe in making the assumption he was fast enough to have a movie made about him.)

Seriously though, this really happened.  And while the Disney version may have the tree dangler charmingly talk his way out of the situation, later to become the dashing hero who has won our hearts through song and dance, The Bible delivers death by human pinata.

Way to come through Bible.  You never disappoint.