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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’


2 Maccabees 9: Giving Up & Giving In

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

We might eliminate a good deal of treachery and betrayal from our lives if we first find a way of doing all things through, and for, and with God alone . . . for God alone guarantees an honorable path for living.  God alone assures us a life spent in eternal serenity.  God alone makes promises that are fully and truly kept. 

These are the closing words from Saturday’s Noontime when we reflected on Chapter 8 of 2 Maccabees.  Today we look at The Punishment and Death of Antiochus: the stories of Antiochus’ illness and death.  Verses 8 – 11: Thus, he who previously, in his superhuman presumption, thought he could command the waves of the sea, and imagined he could weigh the mountaintops in his scales, was now thrown to the ground and had to be carried on a litter, clearly manifesting to all the power of God . . . Shortly before, he had thought that he could reach the stars of heaven, and now, no one could endure to transport the man because of his intolerable stench.  At last, broken in spirit, he began to give up his excessive arrogance, and to gain some understanding, under the scourge of God, for he was racked with pain unceasingly. 

After suffering the torment of his pain, he capitulates to the will of God.  He vows to restore all that he has ruined, and even vows that he will convert to Judaism.  This is a story of a fearsome ruler who surrenders to an even more fearsome Old Testament Yahweh, a God who is relentless in delivering justice.   The story ends sadly, with Yahweh apparently deaf to this sinner’s petitions for mercy.  So this murderer and blasphemer, after extreme sufferings, such as he had inflicted on others, died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 

We have no way on knowing how this man is ultimately judged by his maker.  In the context of the times he was seen as one who sinned so greatly that he became a lost soul, succumbing to the temptation of sin.  This is a man who would have done well by listening to the words of Psalm 36: Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of the heart.  There is no fear of God before his eyes.  He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt.  In his mouth are mischief and deceit.  All wisdom is gone.  He plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed.  He has set his foot on evil ways, he clings to what is evil. 

The psalmist does not try to solve the riddle of evil into which souls enter when they begin to love lies and deception; nor may we for these are the inscrutable ways of Yahweh.  Instead, we might look at this man and ourselves with New Testament eyes, and we might continue with Psalm 36 as we sing to God: To both man and beast you give protection.  O Lord, how precious is your love.  My God, the sons of men find refuge in the shelter of your wings.  They feast on the riches of your house; they drink from the stream of your delight.  In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.

Superhuman presumption, excessive arrogance . . . a broken spirit, a believer in love.  Nicanor and Antiochus . . . Paul and Abraham.  Those who trust only power and self . . . those who trust only God.

Even if – and perhaps especially when – the path directly before us is shrouded in mystery, we are given a clear direction by the source of all life itself so that we might orient our journey.  When we suffer from a broken spirit, we will want to see this sorrow as what it is . . . a giving up of presumption and arrogance . . . and a giving in to goodness and light.


For an interesting post about journeying, click on the image above or go to: http://journeyintomidlife.com/contact.htm

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Romans 4: Faith

Monday, December 16, 2019

Yesterday we reflected on Nicanor, a man who trusted in himself above all else; today we reflect on Abraham, a man who trusted in God above all else.  St. Paul tells us that Abraham is justified – saved – by this great faith he holds in God the Father.

Notes will tell us that this chapter is an expansion of a themes Paul also hit when writing to the Galatians in Chapter 3 of that letter: O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?  Did you experience so many things in vain? – if indeed it was in vain. 

Paul continues in his iteration of how Abraham came to believe, and how Abraham held to his belief that God is present, compassionate and supreme.  Today in Romans, he speaks again of how the Law of Moses is empty without faith in Christ.  The Law – even if followed to the letter – cannot bring us the deep, comforting and always-present knowledge that we are the well-loved children of God.  The Law – even with all its intricacies – has nothing to offer us except when seen as fulfilled in Christ.

Jesus is our brother; he is God who walks among us still.  Given the testimony of so many witnesses at the time of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and given our own testimony of miracles worked in us today – how can we fail to believe that the Spirit continues to comfort, the Son continues to save, and that the Father continues to love us?  Using the example of Abraham, this is the question Paul put before the Galatians two thousand years ago; it is the question he puts before us today.   Are we so stupid that we do not believe the evidence we have even in our own lives that Jesus lives, the Spirit abides, and God protects and calls?  Abraham acted on his deep, abiding faith, and so may we.

Let us pray . . .

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body already dead . . . and neither must we weaken.

He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief . . . and neither must we doubt.

He was fully convinced that what God had promised to do he would do . . . and so must we be convinced. 

He was empowered by faith and gave glory to God . . . and so must we.  Even when we go through dry times, even when we go through pain, even when we have become exhausted from the race . . . we must abide in faith . . . for there is no other salvation or justification. 

In this week when we celebrate the light of Christmas and the joy of faith – whether we are alone, whether we gather we loved ones or strangers – let us acknowledge that we have been redeemed, and let us lay our weariness and woes at the feet of the only one who can bring us the serenity and joy we seek.  Let us give all back to God in the belief that we are loved, that we are treasured, and that we have been saved in order to live in and with God.   We ask this in faith, Amen. 


Image from: http://kehilath-haderekh-benzi.blogspot.com/?view=flipcard

An adapted re-post first written on November 25, 2010, and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hebrews 7: Melchizedek

Monday, December 2, 2019

Reubens: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek

The writer of this letter tells us today that with the arrival of one such as Jesus the old way of living in doubt and fear is ended.  From the resurrection forward we live by a new order, a new covenant, a new intercession.  Jesus has arrived to liberate all – no matter creed or race or origin.  Jesus supersedes all – no matter nationality or ethnicity or orientation.  Jesus fulfills all – no matter doubt or rejection or fear.  This is wonderful news for us for it means that all that is good that we might possibly hope for is now guaranteed to each of us – and this promise is foreshadowed in humanity’s earliest stories.

From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE: “Why is so much attention paid to a figure who appears only twice in Scripture?  Because both appearances point toward Christ.  In Genesis 14,7-20, Melchizedek is named a priest of God [although he was a Gentile!], whom even Abraham acknowledged.  Logically, then, a priest descended from him would be superior to one descended from Abraham!  And Melchizedek’s second scriptural appearance is in verse 4 of that very Psalm 110 which Christians regarded as a literal prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.  Melchizedek’s being ‘without beginning or end’ (because Scripture records neither his birth nor his death) is therefore an anticipation of the Son of God whose priesthood is eternally valid; conversely, Jesus is a priest ‘according to the order (rank) of Melchizedek’ (Ps 110,4).  In his resurrection, Jesus became priest “by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed” (7,16).  He ‘remains forever’ (7,24).  His sacrifice is ‘once for all’ (7,27). He ‘lives forever to make intercession’ (7,25).  The Jewish priesthood descended from Abraham cannot compete.  God’s revelation in Jesus does not merely continue the former story, it raises it to a new plane.  Jesus’ death and resurrection mark an absolute beginning”. (Senior RG 545)

Melchizedek comes to us as a unique figure; we know so little about him and yet he holds so much importance.  In a way, he mirrors many of us.  History will record little about us and yet we each make an important contribution to the collective human story.  Many will argue that we are far different from Melchizedek in that he was a priest and we are not.  Yet others will reply that each of us – as followers of Christ – has the potential to sanctify, to bless and anoint.

This reflection does not present a theological argument but rather it posits a thought for us to mull and turn over.  What do we know about Melchizedek?  What does his relationship with Abraham and Jesus have to say to us today?  How will our lives – and the lives of those we touch each day – improve as a result of our reflection on this mysterious man from the distant past?  What and whom do we sanctify with our belief in the Living God?  Why and when do we make our relationships holy – even with our enemies?  How and why do we bless and anoint others with our words and actions?

What does the man Melchizedek mean to us today?  And how do we show the world what we have learned from him?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 545. Print.   

A re-post from November 11, 2012.

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Genesis 26: Settling in Gerar

Monday, October 28, 2019

We might take time today to pause and reflect on the marvelous stories we find in this first Book of the Bible; we see humanity with all foibles and glories.  Today’s Noontime is no exception to this for today we read about Isaac, the precious son of Abraham and Sarah, and we anticipate that we will hear only good of him then we will have miscalculated God and his plan for us.  We will have missed the valuable lesson that the patriarchs and their families who established and passed on the covenant with the Living God are to be seen as ordinary people who make ordinary mistakes in their ordinary lives.  These people about whom we read are us.

When we allow ourselves to spend time with a commentary as we sift through the details of this story, we will see that the players in this drama behave much as we do today when faced with moral, physical and political dilemmas.  They weigh odds and consequences.  They make decisions. They have regrets, experience deep suffering and great joy.  They find that life holds no guarantees as they duplicate the labor of previous generations by re-digging Abraham’s wells.  They plan and execute deceptions and endanger their tribe.  They work toward and achieve success and so become objects of envy; and they are eventually sent away from the place they have made their home.  They are persecuted, separated and marginalized, and they watch all that they have gained through labor move into the hands of others. Their prosperity has become their curse.  Isaac, Rebekah, Abimelech and the others live out their lives struggling against their shifting circumstances and as they do they teach us much.

There was a famine . . . We too, suffer from famines and dry times in our lives, asking God what we are to do and how we are to do it.

So Isaac settled in Gerar . . . We too, make decisions about our families, our health, our jobs, hoping that we have not missed an important detail.

Isaac was afraid that if the men of the place would kill him on account of Rebekah because she was very beautiful . . . We too, enter into deception impelled by our fears.

Isaac sowed a crop and reaped a hundredfold that same year and the Philistines became envious of him . . . We too, experience prosperity that can bring problems of its own.

Isaac went up to Beer-sheba . . .We too, move house, change jobs, enter into and leave relationships as life pushes and pulls at the details of our living.

And all the while, as we are re-digging the wells first begun by our ancestors and as we call and count on God, others watch us to see what holds us up through struggling, what brings us peace in turmoil, what sustains us in desperate times.  And we might pray that despite our deceptions, and despite our fears we will have lived a life worth watching.  We may pray that our own Abimelech will come to us to ask: We are convinced that the Lord is with you, so we propose that there be a sworn agreement between our two sides – between you and us. Let us make a pact with you.

And when Abimelech offers this tangible sign of peace, let us also pray that we will be generous in our reply as Isaac is.  And let us hope that we too, prepare a feast of celebration that God has been with us and that despite our weaknesses . . . we have witnessed to the goodness of God.


A re-post from October 7, 2012.

Image from: http://www.pastorsebastiaan.com/2011/01/revitalization-before-church-planting/

Enter names and places into the blog search bar to explore. And to learn more about Gerar go to: http://bibleatlas.org/gerar.htm or http://www.bibleplaces.com/gerar.htm or http://bibleencyclopedia.com/places/Gerar_wheatfield.htm

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John 8:31-59: Seeing God in the Stones We Want to Throw  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Written on September 27, 2007 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Earlier this week we were looking at how much we trust or do not trust God when he calls us to wade into the quagmire of the world.  Today in John we see Jesus speaking with “those Jews who believed in him” about knowing the truth . . . and how this knowledge will set them free.  They answer that the truth they know, the Law they know, comes from Abraham – who also waded into an unknown land with an unknown idea, a truth that was new for his time – that there is one true God . . . and that this one true God will set them free.  These believing Jews question Jesus, hear his words, and do not comprehend them.  They are so literal!  Jesus explains, coaches, encourages, tells the truth – but in the end, they picked up stones to throw at him.  How often do I do this?

In MAGNIFICAT today there is a meditation from John Henry Newman.  He writes: A religious mind is ever marveling, and irreligious men laugh and scoff at it because it marvels.  A religious mind is ever looking out of itself, is ever pondering God’s words, is ever “looking into” them with the angels, is ever realizing to itself him on whom it depends, and who is the center of all truth and good.  Carnal and proud minds are contented with self; they like to remain at home; when they hear the mysteries, they have no devout curiosity to go and see the great sight, though it be ever so little out of their way; and when it actually falls in their path, they stumble at it.

So I am thinking about this and I am realizing that Abraham was called out of his comfort zone and was given the opportunity to see into God’s mystery.  He entered into this mystery because he had spiritual curiosity.  He responded yes to God’s call, knowing that this response would cause him to leave the protection of what he knew . . . but that he would also experience something too wonderful to describe or understand – a covenant with his Maker.

Jesus also answers yes to God’s call.  He becomes human and wades into humanity  . . . taking great risk, but knowing that he need rely on the Father.  And he says this so clearly to these believing Jews . . . yet they miss it.  They turn away from the mystery – indeed they stumble over it as they pick up the stones they are about to hurl.

Today we ponder God’s words, and I like to think that the angels are peeking over our shoulders as we do so.  We delve into footnotes, dig out old notes, listen in the silence for the Word to hum in us as a tone hums in a tuning fork.  And if we are patient, we hear the reply to our questions, we feel taken into an embrace which protects yet gives liberty, we feel set free.

May we never pick up stones to hurl.  May we never act in such a way that Jesus hides and moves out of the temple area.  May we never be contented with self.  May we transform our proud selves with the mystery of our God and our creation.  May we always have spiritual curiosity.  And when we stumble, may we take the time to truly look at what we stumble over.  For there will be our God.

 Amen.


A re-post from September 11, 2010.

Image from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/soraya1-450pix1.jpg

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 27 September 2007: 367. Print.

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Numbers 34The Lovely Paradox

Monday, September 3, 2018

We have tackled this theme before: The importance of knowing our appropriate limits.  We have reflected on the subtle ways in which vanity creeps into our lives, allowing us to believe that we do not need God or worse . . . that God does not exist at all.  We already know that if we are not prudent, humble and watchful, arrogance will make a stealthy entrance into our lives.  We preen a bit too much when we are complemented.  We allow ourselves to forget that it is God who creates us and fills us with the talents we so easily take for granted.  When we know our limits – and when we know God’s beneficence – we keep well away from the subtle snares of pride.

We may puzzle a bit over why the Lord is so particular about dividing the tribes into designated territories, and if so then we will want to recall that the land from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates is part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18.  The Lord understands that unless demarcations are made we humans will constantly squabble over control.  The Lord also knows that once we relinquish ourselves to God’s boundaries, we learn to rely on God rather than ourselves.   

We may object to this laying out of lines and the designation of supervisors.  We may believe that God does not really understand what it feels like to be in our shoes.  We may think that our burdens are too heavy, our challenges to great.  We may even think that God does not understand us, and in this we would be incorrect.

For the lovely paradox is this . . .

When we learn to rely on God alone for everything we are and do, we will find it easier to remain within the human limits that define us.

When we learn to thank God for all that we have and all that we are, we will find it easier to empty ourselves so that God might enter.

When we learn to ask God for help in everything we do, we will find it easier to overcome the obstacles in our path.

In doing all of this, we hand ourselves over to God.

In doing all of this, we find our own divinity . . . and this is the lovely paradox.

A re-post from Wednesday, August 3, 2011.


Image from: http://midwestpoet.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/stones/ 

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Hebrews 10:30-39: Trials Well Borne

Friday, May 11, 2018

James Tissot: The Mess of Pottage – Jacob and Esau

This reflection continues thoughts posed in the Revenge and Forgiveness post from September 9, 2012.

Obadiah, one of the Minor Prophets, offers us ideas we will want to examine further.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE we discover themes. We learn that Obadiah’s  name means “servant of Yahweh,” and many scholars believe that his brief prophecy was written between 586 and 553 B.C.E. We know that Obadiah does not specify that his prophecy is meant for any particular king or event; yet he indicates that a major calamity has occurred in Judah and that the Edomites have capitalized on this event.  In general, scholars believe that there was a post-exilic setback for the Israelites, and most believe it to be the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. They also remind us that Edom itself fell to this same empire in 553 B.C.E.  All of this sets up a story of intense tribalism, payback, and retaliation. We look a little further.

Who are the Edomites and where is their land? These people descended from Esau, the son of Issac, who was cheated of his heritage by his brother Jacob and his mother. Obadiah writes to the people of Judah (the descendants of Jacob) condemning the Edomites for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah.  He also rails against the people for their sins of arrogance and indifference toward God.  So this prophecy harkens back to the conflict between these two brothers.  Judah feels that the hostility shown to them when they are at a low point by the people of Edom is cruel and unjustified.  Edom’s arrogance was founded in its nearly impregnable mountain strongholds where the Edomites safeguarded their wealth (gained from trade) in rock vaults.  Obadiah teaches that God is sovereign over all nations. (Zondervan 1464-1465)

James Tissot: The Meeting of Esau and Jacob

So much of what we read here reminds us of the story we live each day; our modern world is occupied with ancient themes: indifference to a higher authority, arrogance of the ego, injustice of systems and structures, and the use of cruelty as a fair means to any end. The rivalries in this prophecy echo the petty rivalries we set up early in life and, as we grow older, carefully nurture.

Turning to today’s reading, we see these familiar words in verse 18: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”. Yet, despite our recognition of the truth these words bring to us, we need more urging. The prophet, knows that despite enlightenment we will have setbacks, and so he lays them out for us to examine in ourselves: the malignant hope for revenge, the overpowering force of hubris, the willingness to use any means to achieve our ends, the animal-instinctive fear of others. Obadiah asks us examine the suffering of our daily experience as we reflect on his prophecy.

As New Testament believers, we want to be poised for Jesus’ coming into our lives and receptive to the Spirit that lives among us. Feeling Christ’s call to our highest goodness, we might look at Hebrews 11 and determine to follow the example of the faithful lived by the Patriarchs: Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and the Judges . . . “all these . . . approved by the testimony of faith”.  We might look to these people as models of how and what we are to do, how and why we are to overcome our lust for revenge, how and why we are to practice love.  When we study their individual stories, we see that these ancestors do not lead perfect lives; but they strive for that perfection in their loyalty to Yahweh.  They listen, they obey, and they bear their trials well.

In the name of Jesus, let us call out our best selves to serve God, to fulfill his hope in us.  Let us be good and loyal servants who want nothing more than to discern our mission and to complete it well.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the one who dwells among us to lead us, to heal us, to restore us, to be one with us.

Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 27, 2007.

Read the brief prophecy of Obadiah and compare varying translations to better understand our tendency to seek revenge . . . and our need to rely on God’s wisdom rather than our own.  


ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464-1465. Print.

Visit the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/obadiah-outrageous-hope/  or the Revenge and Forgiveness page at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/09/revenge-and-forgiveness/

 

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Jeremiah 32A Pledge of Land

Monday, September 12, 2016ffs-sunset-pinkclouds-Jeremiah32

A Favorite from August 29, 2010. 

God made a promise to Abraham to bring him descendants, renown and a land in which his progeny might be secure.  In return, Abraham and his descendants were to obey God, worship him only, and keep to him always.  Today we read about a time when the Promised Land is breaking into factions and falling into hostile hands.  The covenant into which the chosen had entered has come undone; the descendants of Abraham have been taken into exile to be scattered by the four winds.  All looks bleak and yet, God tells Jeremiah, redemption, healing, transformation and restoration are all possible. Indeed, all of this is at hand.  This is how much God loves us.

Some few of us prefer the solitary life but most humans look for security in a landholding either individually or as part of a group.  Private homes, rented and purchased apartments, communes, even tent cities of the homeless indicate this common yearning to have a place we call home and in which we might be secure.  Many of us go home for a holiday.  We look toward the end of a day when we might go home to kick off the worries of work to rejuvenate for the next morning.  The people who had once known the protection and security of the pillar of fire and smoke in the desert now suffer the insecurity of not knowing where they will lay their head at night.  They are vulnerable to the whims of capricious captors.  The siege works have arrived at the city to breach it; the city will be handed over to the Chaldeans who are attacking it, amid sword, famine, and pestilence. 

And what does God reply when his people ask to be rescued from these hopeless circumstances?  Is anything impossible to me?

It is true that in the next portion of this story the people are handed over to their attackers as a consequence of their having abandoned the terms of their covenant with God.  It is true that in this story God puts Israel out of sight for the incense they burned to Baal and the libations they poured to strange gods.  It is also true that even as God promises to hand over the corrupt ones to the king of Babylon he also will gather the lost together from all lands to which they were banished.  He will bring them back to the same place to settle them in safety.   The Lord God says, they shall be my people and I will be their God.  One heart and one way I will give them that they may hold me in awe always, to their own good and that of their children after them.  I will make them an eternal covenant, never cease doing good to them; into their hearts I will put an overpowering love of me, that they may never depart from me.  I will take delight in doing good to them: I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Perhaps the soul yearns for the security of a firm relationship with God just as the mind yearns for a pledge of land through which to be secure.  Imagine what a world it might be if we sought the security of the pledge of the heart . . . rather than a pledge of land.

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1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part I

Friday, May 20, 2016family-tree-blue-hearts

Hiding or revealing our shared and individual past . . . 

The two books of Chronicles have four major portions: a genealogy of our leaders beginning with Abraham (1 Chronicles 1-9), a description of the monarchy under David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 9 – 2 Chronicles 9), the divided kingdom (2 Chronicles 10-18), and the period from Hezekiah to the Babylonian exile (2 Chronicles 19-36). This story of divine promise interwoven with human commitment and infidelity tell a story that we might see reflected in our own personal sacred history. This story is worthy of our time over the next few days.

What is that we prize? What stories are we happy to share from our own family tree? What do we want to hide in secret storerooms that others might not discover as the dark roots of our closeted past? What facts have we withheld from friends and colleagues? Do we really believe that God has no power – or no desire –  to pierce the shell we have carefully constructed around all that we want to keep hidden? And why do we feel compelled to dent segments of our story? Perhaps because we know that modern society both praises and criticizes those who step out of a norm; we ourselves may even participate in this two-edged response to others with both scorn and tribute. We may praise those who stand up and stand out at the same time as we disapprove of them for moving outside of the norms we create.

Today we take time to scan local, national or international news to find stories of our shared human story . . . and then to consider what we hide and what we reveal about ourselves in the opinions we hold and the stances we take.

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