Betch'a didn't know that...  106-120

In Mark 10 Jesus promises that His followers would have all kinds of things multiplied- homes, parents,
brothers, sisters... and Heaven on top of it!  He said this in the context of an expressed concern by
some of His followers that they were had to give up so much to follow Him.  "What?  I'm actually
promising you more than you could ever have without Me..."  Except spouses.  Look at the list, there
are all kinds of things promised but He doesn't guarantee that He will help you multiply husbands or
wives.  How curious is that?  

One of the men who seems to have become very important in the early church actually did not belong
in the cluster of early followers by most accounts.  The "Ethiopian" who seems to be the first to take
insights of Jesus back into North Africa was not Jewish, was not of Judean or Galilean culture and would
have been culturally completely out of place with nearly every other early Christian.  More than that, in
the old system he would have been totally rejected because he was mutilated.  As a eunuch he normally
would not have found acceptance in anyone's synagogue.  Jesus really DID open the doors of the
Kingdom a whole lot wider than His followers were used to having as the norm.


Does anyone really, really assume that Peter read total "dietary liberty" into the vision of Acts 10?  Did
this veteran Jew actually believe that God was expecting him to eat cochroaches and rats?  I just don't
feel that was anywhere near what Peter first thought the vision represented.  Of course, by the time
he made it to the front door (where Cornelius' entourage was waiting for him) he certainly had it sorted
out.  He surely was able to give a correct application to the dream.  It wasn't about food.  It doesn't say
anything about dietary issues- either as a release from the old system or an affirmation of the old
system.  "Now I know..." tells us it was completely about people and not at all about food. 

God behind history is a fascinating study.  One of the areas that I enjoy is the contrast between the
world that Alexander the Great created and what the Romans did in its re-creation.  Both of those
powers absolutely contributed to "setting the world up" for the story of the gospel.  The Greeks 
unified language, but the Romans brought more stability.  The Greeks brought international interaction
but the Romans approved a degree of religious liberty.  There are many more complimentary contrasts
and each of them show that both the Greeks and the Romans actually helped create the soil for the 
birth of the gospel... and it had to be with the Greeks first!

When John sat on Patmos he was isolated from the world.  But, that's obvious.  What may not be as
obvious is that the world he once knew really didn't exist anymore anyway.  Judaism was totally
different for the destruction of the temple had eradicated the heart of what Judaism had been.  The
church wasn't exactly as he'd known it was increasingly a gentile movement.  That's not how it had
started.  Even the empire was in transition.  Instability in Rome had opened the door to a whole 
series of less-than-capable emperors.  Yes, he was isolated from his world, but that world really no
longer existed anyway.

Many who are interested in the Bible world really have no idea of the degree of tensions between
Rome and the populace of Palestine.  We know they didn't like each other much but let me give you
a statistic that will reveal how problematic the whole scenario was.  For the first 400 or so years of
the Roman Empire they usually had about 20-21 legions active throughout their world.  At any given
time Rome actually assigned 3-4 legions in the district of Palestine.  Really!  Basically 1/7th of Roman
military might was tied up in a section of territory no bigger than the state of Massachusetts!  That's
just flat astounding. 

Have you ever realized that the most important mountain in the Bible psyche actually doesn't exist
as a geographic location?  Sinai, Moriah, Hermon, Carmel, Olivet... these (and others) are all important
in the Bible story.  But, the most important mountain of all is Mt. Zion.  And, Zion doesn't exist!  You'll
never find it pinpointed on any Bible map.  Zion is where God dwells.  It's not permanently anywhere 
that you can point to on the page.  How curious is that?

Sixty-five years after the Jerusalem temple was destroyed there was one more major clash between
Judaism and the empire.  You don't read about it in the Bible for it's decades past the last of the Bible
writers were alive, but you can't really understand the big picture of the Bible without learning of this
last great revolt against Rome.  From that point forward it was literally the edict of the emperor that if
a Jew even got to the place where he could see the city of Jerusalem he could be crucified for it.  It 
surely is the sad conclusion to the question that the disciples asked in Matthew 24... "Lord, what about
this temple and this city?"

The "manna" story may give an insight into why some weeks at church you feel really blessed and other
times you feel like you walk away unfulfilled.  In that analogy God told His people that if they wanted
to eat on Sabbath they had to prepare for it.  They needed to gather each and every day, and then
gather twice as much on Friday if they wanted to eat on Sabbath.  Maybe I come away from some 
worship events empty because I didn't get ready for the filling!

There's a part of the observant Jew's ritual that really teaches a special lesson about what Sabbath is and
what it is to be.  On Friday night two separate candles are lit to start the sacred hours.  When the Sabbath
ends on Saturday night another candle is lit, this is called the "Havdalah."  It's a braided, twisted candle
of multiple wicks (usually 6 or more.)  The lesson is obvious- when you start Sabbath normal daily life
has fractured important things.  The Sabbath provides the time and opportunity to have those most 
important things put back together in unity again.  God, man, family, marriage, congregation... all of 
these things can be put back into their right priority when the Sabbath is allowed to do its work.

You may consider this a silly exercise in thought, but it intrigues me.  Can God break any of His own
commandments?  If you read the listing of Exodus 20 you realize that He can't steal... all is His.  He 
can't covet for the same reason.  He can't murder for life is His... He can give and He can take away 
whatever is His.  Can He take His own name in vain?  Can He build an image of Himself?  But, can 
God "break the Sabbath?"  That's a curiosity.  I'd actually encourage you to wrestle with this.

Did you know that the Shofar (Biblical "ram's horn") can be the horn of any clean animal except for a
cow?  What's up with that?  The Rabbis have a simple explanation- "We don't even want to be tempted
to remember the whole Golden Calf story.  Let's not have a cow be part of this at all!"  Curious!

Certain sounds have just been programmed in us to evoke a certain sense of the transcendent.  A chant,
a pipe organ, a gong... these each evoke something deeply embedded in many of us.  For Judaism it's
the sound of the shofar.  It's so significant that Judaism understands that the greater blessing is actually
not in being the one who blows the horn, but being one who has the privilege of hearing the horn!   

The "star of David" is actually not an ancient "logo" for Israel.  In truth, it's rather contemporary in reality.
But, if you look at the flag of the modern state of Israel it's actually not the "Star of David" that should
cause you to consider the long history of the nation... it's the colors.  The blue stripes on white actually 
triggers a long-held reminder of how God commanded He would "mark" His nation back in Numbers 15.

We surely might assume that Moses and his people didn't have a clue as to why God gave various
commands for issues of public health and hygiene.  Many of those areas of restriction can easily been seen
as being incredibly wise through the lens of contemporary science.  One of those, of course, would be the
commands related to issues of blood contamination.  Today we have deep insights into the repercussions
of blood-born pathogens.  In those days it was simply a matter of faith to assume that God knew best.