Nehemiah 12:27-13:31; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; Psalms 35:1-16; Proverbs 21:17-18
Today is the 17th day of August. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. I’m Brian and it is wonderful to be here with you for another day and another step forward together. And in this step, today’s step, we will conclude the book of Nehemiah. So, from the Holman Christian Standard Bible this week. Nehemiah chapter 12 verse 27 to 13 verse 31.
Alright. So, we concluded the book of Nehemiah just a few minutes ago. And Nehemiah is not a super long book but it gives us a really, really good depiction and look at leadership, especially in its first part. We saw that Nehemiah brought great reforms and restoration to the traditions of Israel among exiles who did not grow up with the temple in Jerusalem but came back and rebuilt it and were re-inaugurating the customs and rituals of Judaism. And, so, Nehemiah and Ezra were both very instrumental in this on the ground with the exiles rebuilding. But Nehemiah had to return to the king. And then he was able to come back at a later time, only to find out that it was starting to crumble again. Things that should not be going on were going on and it was sort of the beginning of the slide backward again. And it was horrifying to him. And there’s plenty that we can look at in our own lives in the ways that we begin to slide in certain directions that aren’t going to be healthy or helpful or we can see this going on in communities or in other’s lives or in societies. And, so, Nehemiah has done and does all that he can do and then he turns to God as we all should. And for Nehemiah, his prayer is, remember what I’ve done of done my best, remember me with favor. Because he knows, although he is very influential, he only has so much influence. And although he would like to see certain things happen there’s only so much you can do. And, so, his ultimate concern is that he’s done all that he can and that he himself, in his own heart, has stayed true to his convictions. And sometimes that’s how it works in leadership, since Nehemiah is so much about that. Sometimes that’s all there is. People are going to do what people are going to do. And once you’ve done everything that you can and have committed to your own integrity, then you can only go to God and say, continue to make me better, continue to make me stronger and truer, continue to grow my understanding in what it is you’re calling me to do, remember me. And, so, it’s fitting way to end the book of Nehemiah.
And then we get to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and we run headlong into a fog. We’ve got to talk about authority. We’ve got to talk about Angels. We’ve got to talk about head coverings. We’ve got to talk about men and women in roles. And since I happen to have the microphone I have to do one of three things - not talk about it, talk about it as if I know what I’m talking about, or tell you the truth. I don’t. And I don’t know why that’s so hard this day and age - for a leader to say I don’t know. But I think it comes from a tradition of needing to have all the answers in a nice linear fashion, so that everything makes complete logical sense, so that an airtight dogma can be wrapped around a subject that is universally true. And that’s mixed with the subtle pressure for leader to have all the answers, to somehow have transcended all mystery. I just don’t think that’s possible. And this passage, in First Corinthians, if nothing else, brings that front and center. Because the interpretations for this particular passage have been wrestled with for centuries coming to a wide array of conclusions that are all over the map. And usually how that works is that a scholar will look at previous scholarship and a pastor will look at scholarship trying to find the path. And, so, you may have heard brilliant sermons or teachings or read amazing things on this that make perfect sense. And that’s awesome. But I know that in the course of my faith journey, I’ve spent hours and hours on this - consulting old and new scholarship. So, rather than me trying give you a teaching us something that I’m not hundred percent sure about, I think I’ll just be honest and kind of show you how this works and share some conclusions that I think are safe and true. So, one of the biggest issues, you know, should a woman cover her head in church? And it looks like Paul is answering a question that he hasn’t been asked. So, allot of this letter Paul’s answering questions. But in this case, he’s just saying, I’m glad you are following the tradition I gave you about this. And he begins to unpack why give the tradition in the first place. So, Paul begins, I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman and God is the head of Christ. So, from a scholarship perspective, just that one verse, the one thing you’ve got to know is, what are we talking about when we’re talking about the head? What does that mean? Are we talking about authority or are we talking about a person’s head? And the way that this gets complicated is taking the paragraph as a whole. So, the way that it goes is, I want you to know that Christ is the head of everyman, the man is the head of the woman, God is the head of Christ. And then he immediately says every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head, but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. So, it’s like, we’re talking about authority, maybe or are we talking about the real head? Because it’s all in the same paragraph, all in the same breath. What are we talking about? And it gets even more complicated when cultural nuance language, where there may be a play on words, doesn’t translate into another language well. And, so, if there is a scholarly consensus, it would be that the first part of that is using the term head as a reference to authority and the second part is a person’s head. And, so we could say that Paul is revealing that there is an order to things that is then outwardly expressed physically. And I think that’s a safe enough reading of it. But even in that, embedded into that, is a tradition that almost nobody practices. I mean, I’ve been to hundreds of churches in many, many countries and if a woman has her head covered in church it’s more a matter of style. It’s like the outfit that she’s wearing as opposed to a spiritual discipline or expression. And I’ve been in lots of churches where men are wearing hats and covering their heads. So, why are we so willing to blatantly disregard this? And it gets even more complicated because in different traditions around the world covering your head to show reverence for God is part of the tradition. So, in the Jewish tradition, a man does cover his head. That’s what the yamaka is about. So, if you’re in Israel and you want to go pray at the Western Wall. Number one, men and women will be segregated from each other, they don’t pray together. And if you’re a man…I mean…like I’ve never been on the women’s side…because I’ve never been a woman…but I’ve been to the men’s side of it many times. So, if you’re going to approach the wall to pray and you’ve got a baseball hat on, you’re good. But if you have nothing on your head then they’ve got these little throw away yamaka’s that you can throw on your head because you need to cover your head to go approach God that way. Whereas Paul’s saying, you shouldn’t have a hat on at all. And the Jews are just following their traditional interpretation of the Torah. So, with Paul, we can at least clearly say that he’s making gender distinctions and saying that within those distinctions are different components that make up a whole. So, let’ just read through this and I will stop at the places where there have been differences of opinion and interpretation and you can pray into it yourself. I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man. So again, what is the head? We just talked about that. Of every man. What are we talking about? Males or mankind? And the man is the head of the woman. Okay. Pause. Is Paul instituting a patriarchal new way of looking at things or is Paul simply stating what is obvious in the culture in which he lives? And God is the head of Christ. So, we have this head thing again. Does that mean that God was actually Jesus physical head or was God in Jesus physical mind or brain or is it that God has the authority over Christ in some way, even though they are one in the same? What I think is safe to say is that Paul is revealing that there is an order to things. And in referring to the order, Paul then talks about covering or not covering your head. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. So, is he dishonoring his head? Like, you know, where his eyes and nose and mouth and ears and hair are or is he dishonoring the authority to which he has submitted himself? But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. Before we get to that, the way that this passage kind of moves around, some scholars have wondered if this whole portion of the letter isn’t a part of, maybe of that earlier letter that Paul talked about, or some other letter and these have been kind of consolidated. I don’t particularly think that because there’s no evidence for it and most scholars don’t but some do. But anyway, a woman should cover head because if she doesn’t she’s dishonoring her head. So, maybe her head with her face or that which she has submitted to, which would be God, which could also be an indicator of the fact that she’s in the covenant of marriage and you see that allot of these can be both. And, well Paul says if she doesn’t, she should have her head shaved, which, I mean, that’s definitely a sign of shame. In Paul’s day and age and place in the world and culture, a woman who had had her head shaved would be someone who had committed a sin like adultery. And, so, her head would be shaved and then she would, kind of, walk around with that shame. But it would grow back and she would be restored, which is not unlike what happened in David’s time. Remember, when David sent some emissaries to another country and they dishonored them by shaving their beards? And, so, David to go to Jericho and let it all grow back and then come back to Jerusalem. So, in that culture the beard was sort of the sign of masculinity and cultural standing and even religious devotion. For that to get shaved off would be quite a dishonor. Or it could be a sign of a vow. Many people would shave their head as they took a vow to God and let it grow back. Or Sampson could never cut his hair. And, so, as we move forward we begin to get a clue that Paul is talking about authority when he is talking about head even though he’s talking about covering a physical head. So, he’s kind of talking about an order of things as he unpacks this. A man, in fact, should not cover his head because he is God’s image and glory but woman is man’s glory for man did not come from woman but woman came from man and man was not created for woman but woman for man. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head. And, so, well, allot of people would say this is kind of demeaning, maybe, to a female then? While others would say no, this is actually kind of affirming and elevating because man is God’s image and glory but woman is what gives man glory and God glory. And, so, a woman being created for man by God simply revealed man’s inadequacy without her. But anyway, Paul is saying, it’s a symbol of authority. This is why a woman should cover her head. But then he says something cryptic – ‘because of the Angels’. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. So, what is that about? And those interpretations are all over the map because it’s even cryptic in the original language. And there are esoteric interpretations as well as practical. So, like, on the esoteric side of things, I’ve seen interpretations that this is referring to the sons of God and the daughters of Eve in the Old Testament and that a woman’s uncovered head is so intoxicating that even spiritual beings are seduced. And that this whole thing was about protection and protecting the beauty of femininity. Other interpretations of these angels will come from places like the book of Revelation, where there is an angel for a church and this angel would report back to God the goings on. Others would say that Angels means messengers and this is a messenger. So, it could be people visiting from other churches and Paul wanted uniformity in certain traditions. But then Paul turns the conversation again. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man and man is not independent of woman for just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God. So, on the one hand, part of this, people have seen this very patriarchal and then he says that and it’s not. And in other letters, he says, in the Lord that there is no male or female, like we’re all the same. But then we get to the end of what Paul is saying in this passage. Judge for yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it’s a disgrace to him but if a woman has long hair it’s her glory for her hair is given to her as a covering. But if any anyone wants to argue about this, we don’t have any other customs in the church. So, what Paul is saying here is, it’s kind of obvious, which is clearly referencing his time and place, because now all of those things are quite as obvious in this time and place. Women cover their heads or they don’t. Men have long hair or they don’t. I had long hair for a lot of my life and I might still if it were falling out but it never felt like it was dishonoring…it was just never a dishonor or honor thing. That’s not the culture I grew up in. So, you can see why I can come before you as a brother and just say I’m not sure, because linguistic scholars or theological scholars or cultural scholars have all wrestled with this and have come to different conclusions. And as hard as I am after God in my life, as deeply as I am aiming my heart toward knowing God, the further that I go, the more I realize that I have barely begun to scratch the surface. And the Bible continues to show me that I don’t know all I think I know. And that posture has actually opened me wide, to simply sit with the fact that I don’t know all that I think that I know. And there will always be more and it’s going to take billions of years in eternity, with God, in collaboration and in love with God to know what I want to know. And I think, even then, there’ll be more.
So, I bring this up today not to be disconcerting in any way. Although I don’t mind being disruptive. But this passage does give us an opportunity to come face-to-face with our dogmas and the ways in which we think everything, every problem, has to have a logical answer when life rarely works like that. When we’re able to hold in our hands the mystery and acknowledge that we don’t know all that we think that we do, we are no longer relying on our own strength. And if there’s one thing the metanarrative of the Bible teaches us is that we are hopelessly powerless without God. But another thing that is undeniable in the scriptures is that God is passionately desiring to be involved in our lives. Those things are fundamental and foundational and it becomes more important to say, I don’t know the answer but I do know God. And it is within that tension that we grow and ironically that is woven into the fabric of the culture in which the Bible, from which, the Bible came. Israel means one who wrestles with God. And, so, from that tradition is a different way of absorbing the Scriptures. It’s less about what you’re going to figure out and create a dogma around and more about what is happening to you, what you are wrestling with. And we’ve seen that so many times already this year in the Bible, where it becomes this mirror into our souls and begins to speak about things much deeper inside of us. It becomes less about reading words on a page and realizing those words are reading our mail. They are reading us. A mirror has been put up in front of us and we have to look squarely into our own hearts and it unlocks places in us that that we didn’t know. And allot of times, if I’m wrestling through or trying to understand something, I’ll go to Jesus first, I’ll go to the Gospels. But even Jesus practiced this. There’s this beautiful story, where a scholar, someone who had been trained came to Jesus and asked him about the great commandments in relation to eternal life. And Jesus says, you’re an expert, how do you read it? Which is so fascinating t me. We talk about it in the book, Sneezing Jesus. Because I think it’s so compelling that God would invite a man to talk about how he has wrestled with and understands the scriptures. That’s remarkably fascinating to me. And even Paul, in this passage, says, judge for yourselves, wrestle with this yourselves. At the end of the day, and Paul says this, at the end of the day this is just what we do. This is the custom. We don’t have any other custom. So, when I read a passage like the one we read today, I have to say, there is an understanding or was an understanding in the Corinthian culture that didn’t need to be explained that everyone knew. And we’ve lost that. And here’s kind of how that works. If I were to say to any of you, hey, you going to watch the game on Sunday? I don’t have to explain what I’m talking about. We know, generally speaking. Like, if you’re if you’re a sports fan and you, like, watch sports all year round. I could say, you going to watch the game on Saturday, you going to watch the game on Sunday or whatever. Depending on what season it is, you know exactly what game and what sport we’re likely talking about depending on where we are. If I’m in Tennessee I might be watching a specific game that is a professional team of our city. And for you it might be different in a different city but we kind of know what we’re talking about. But if we try to ask this question a couple hundred years ago, it would mean something completely different if we understood it at all. And if we take Paul’s writings in their totality, we know his heart. We know that all he wanted was for people to know Jesus and to grow strong in their faith. We know that he went through allot for that cause. We know that he was an outsider and cast away from his own people in his own culture who wanted to do away with him because of it. We know that this guy gave his life for the cause of Christ. And when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he wasn’t trying to put people in any kind of bondage. He had given his life to set people free from bondage. I don’t know why covering our heads or uncovering our heads was so important at that particular time but I do know that those traditions follow through. Why does a woman walk down the aisle with the veil and her head covered to give herself to her husband before God and to enter into a covenant with God and her husband? I’ve been to lots of weddings. I’ve performed lots of weddings. I have yet to find a bride that isn’t thrilled with the tradition. That she gets to walk down the aisle and she’s covered and her heads covered and she looks like a radiant daughter of God. And I have seen that image level the husband to be. I have watched husbands lift the veil in tears. And, so, our traditions, when they mean something, they mean something true. So, whatever was going on here is for good.
Father, we thank You for Your word and its ability to bring us to the end of ourselves and to bring us into Your presence because we know You are good and kind and merciful and loyal been beyond what we know how to articulate. And You love us and we love You back. And we sit with mystery knowing that it unfolds day by day by day by day and will continue to do this forever. And in Your kindness we get to live inside that adventure. So, come, Holy Spirit, implant the words in our lives and may it yield good fruit for your kingdom. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Community Prayers and Praise Reports:
Good morning from the UK, Nottingham. It’s August the 14th. Hello and blessings from the UK. I want to pray for us all. Lord, I thank You for community. I thank you that you brought us together under Your name, the name above all names, Jesus. And I bless each and every one of us that we can really find our purpose and goal in life and serve you with all our heart and mind. Even in our wondering, we’ll just gravitate back to You today. In Jesus’ name. Bless this community, I pray. Community, I’d like for you to pray for a lady in my life, that has come into my life…for friends really…in needing on our journey of faith to discovering Jesus. Her names Patsy or Samantha. She’s had a difficult time in relationships with her health. But the Lord has drawn her to my church. And she keeps wanting to come on Sundays and she’s very, very interested and loves children, particularly, my daughter. I’m a divorced dad and see my daughter weekends. And…you know…the Lords will be done. I’ve been divorced for nearly three years now, separated for eight. And…you know…I trust the Lord, that he has the right partner for me but who knows with this lady…dear friend. Pray for her that she’ll find…her eyes will be open to faith and discover more of Him and who He is and that distractions will disappear and the enemy will keep his hands off her by sending wrong people towards her. And I pray that she’ll have wisdom in all that she does. Thank you. family. God bless. Bye-bye.
My name is Rachel. I’m phoning from Scotland. I’ve just listened to the Daily Audio Bible podcast for the day the 14th of August and I wanted to pray for Mary C. from Georgia. And I wondered if she hears this if Mary, if you will contact me? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Father God, we pray for Your servant Mary. You know that she banged her head Father, and You know that she’s been suffering ever since. And her and her mother are going to be moving shortly and you know she’s not going to be able to go to school and we just pray that You will touch her today Lord, that You will heal her. That You will restore her to full health. Lord, we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen. God bless everybody. Take care. Jesus loves you. Bye.
Good morning. I’m a new listener. I love this app. I love what you’re doing. A friend of mind gave me your information and I started listening just a few days ago. God bless you for being there. I do have a prayer request. Number one is my son, Brice, who is Spirit filled, lost his job a couple months ago and he only has enough money for another month. He is Christian and Spirit filled but he’s getting very anxious and nervous. And my daughter in law is having a very hard time. Her name is Kelly. Brice and Kelly. I know God has a job for him and I know He has a job that when He opens the doors that no man can close. I just ask for your prayers for them, for their peace and that they would go in the right direction, the place that God wants them and that they would draw closer to God and they both need to know the Father’s love. And in this I’m praying and I want you to agree with me, that they know the Father’s love and that they have a testimony of what God did and what He’s doing and what He’s already done. And I thank you for praying. I also developed a rash on my abdomen and I don’t know what it is but I just want prayer for complete healing. And, again, God bless you for being there and I intend to keep listening daily. Thank you. In Jesus’ name…
Good morning DAB family. Deborah, Providence RI. Brain and family and all the other’s thanks for all that you do. I listened to the podcast on the 14th of August and this is for Valeri whose father is in hospice and mother who recently passed. Valeri, my prayers are with you honey. I pray and agree with you for your prayer for your dad’s peaceful and happy transition. I know it’s tough but just hold on knowing that they are both going to be in a better place. I pray peace in your heart. Also, for the young lady, the 16-year-old that got hurt and is asking for prayers for her healing, her home, a better home when they move, and for her sisters return to Christ. I stand in full agreement with You. God Bless Byron. Thank you for the story about the track with your son. Very uplifting. Tony, Blind Tony, I just pray for your healing brother and glorify God for you for the gift that you share with us regularly. I know there are calls about you not calling yourself Blind Tony. I tend to agree buddy. Honey, you are who you are, free of healing. I pray you’ll continue to hold onto your healing. It will come. No matter what you call yourself. You’re a child of God and you will be healed. In Jesus’ name. Thank you everyone. God bless. Bye.