Each week, my faith group memorizes a verse of scripture. This week’s verse is Proverbs 21:21 – Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. This verse is an appropriate summary of the readings these past few days from the Old Testament. The point of history should be obvious by now. Seek God, follow God, align your life with God and the outcome (or consequence) will be life, prosperity and honor. Put yourself at the center, follow other gods, ignore God’s purposes, even enter into a treaty with others who do not follow God and the outcome will be destructive. There are natural consequences for the actions that we take. When we are living in the present it can be hard to recognize the consequences, but the perspective of history makes this clear. Pursue righteousness and love (God is love) and you will find life, prosperity and honor. It is a simple formula that I know from experience is not so simple to implement every day of my life.
Now, a few words about 1 Timothy 2 (yesterday’s reading). The comments about women have been used against women, when I don’t think that was Paul’s intent. Paul had not been commissioned to write a book for the Bible. Paul was writing a letter speaking directly to whatever was happening among the Christians in Ephesus. I believe there are essential truths in his writings that allow God to speak to us today, but as I read these verses my first question is “what did the people of Ephesus hear that I am not hearing?”
The main religion in Ephesus was a female-only cult to Artemis (Romans called her Diana). The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was considered one of the great man-made wonders of the world. The priests were all women. The women were dominant and kept men in their place. As a small Christian community formed in Ephesus, should women be raised up in the Christian community to be the leaders and keep the men in line? In verse 12, Paul said no – but he also did not say that men must be the dominant ones to keep women in line. All must submit to Christ. In verse 8, men must be devoted to prayer and not the stereotype of men at that time, arguing and angry. In verses 9-10, women must be set free from their stereotype to be an influence on the wider society of Ephesus. In verses 12-14, women must be allowed to learn. Remember the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was deceived. Therefore, women must be allowed to learn. Adam’s behavior was also reprehensible. In other words, men and women must be allowed to learn. And what about the comment in verse 15 about childbirth? Genesis mentioned the pain of childbirth as a sign of God’s displeasure. Paul was saying just the opposite. God’s salvation is promised to all.
Today’s readings: 2 Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 20; 1 Timothy 3