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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’


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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Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

The Lazarus in scripture whom we perhaps know well is the brother of Martha and Mary whom Jesus’ raises from the tomb in a prefiguring of his own resurrection. Today’s Lazarus is not this friend of Jesus but rather a poor man named covered with sores, [who] had been dumped on [a rich man’s] doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

In death we see the reversal of their stations; the rich man suffers in hell while Lazarus finds himself in the lap of the patriarch Abraham. This inversion of status is one we might easily predict if we only read the Gospel with care. Jesus is constantly reminding us that the first will be last and the last first. And yet we easily – and frequently happily – ignore this teaching.

We make our Lenten journey to our Easter home and today’s words from Luke ask us to consider our station in the eternal world with more care than we examine our position and status in this world. In the hubbub and noise of modern society we are easily caught up in gaining, storing, achieving and making a mark. Yet here we see that we are wise to focus instead on nurturing, tending, healing and transforming ourselves and – with the gift of the Spirit – making Christ visible in a greedy and foggy world.

As we think about our status in God’s eternal kingdom, let us examine more closely how we bring this Gospel message into our temporal lives and how we share this message with others. Let us be more attentive to the little ordinary moments in each day that we ignore and so easily bypass. And rather than work so hard at ignoring the people and events that bring us discomfort, let us work instead to bring the beauty of God’s kingdom into fullness today.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Tomorrow, rejecting the cornerstone.

 

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James 2: Faith and Wisdom – Part IV

Tuesday, October 13, 2015faithblocks

From the Book of Wisdom 7:7-11: I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things came to me in her company, and countless riches to hand.

God’s wisdom is greater than silver or gold, more treasured than gems, beauty, or health. Prudence, prayer, and daily orientation to God’s ways bring us to God’s love.

Both Abraham and Rahab recognize that faith must be lived and not merely thought; they see that with care and practice we learn to act with God’s wisdom. They understand that through faith interwoven with works we receive God’s countless riches to hand.

Today we conclude the second chapter of James’ letter with a prayer as we reflect on how God’s wisdom becomes evident . . . through the interweaving of our offering of faith and works. And so we pray.

Faith-and-worksDear Lord, we will have to remember that our goal is not to be powerful or popular as the world so often tells us. Continue to remind us that our goal must be to act as you act, with mercy, humility and compassion. Continue to share your presence with us and keep us always close to you. Help us to integrate with you through our daily practice of prayer and works. And continue to shower on us your countless riches of love. Amen.

 

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James 2:21-26: Faith and Wisdom – Part III

Monday, October 12, 2015

Murillo: Abraham Receiving the Angels

Murillo: Abraham Receiving the Angels

Certainly none of us set out to become a corpse in this life; yet James challenges us with two examples of how one man and one woman fuse together works and faith to discover disciple wisdom.

Abraham, our first patriarch who responded to God’s call to move himself and all he possessed to a new, unknown location. In faith Abraham responded to God’s call. Click here to follow the link to learn more about Abraham as we reflect on how we might likewise use works to accompany our faith.

Van Dyck: Abraham and Isaac

Van Dyck: Abraham and Isaac

Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

Tissot: The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies

Tissot: The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies

Rahab is an interesting woman and as a member of Jesus’ family tree she may hold particular interest for us. When we explore her life we give ourselves the opportunity to discover who and what she was, but who and what we are as well. Explore her story here or by clicking on the images.

Rahab the Harlot, Artist Unknown

Rahab the Harlot, Artist Unknown

The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

James tells us today about wisdom engendered by a fusion of faith and works. Tomorrow we take a look at taming the tongue.

For more about Women in the Bible, click on the image of Rahab by an unknown artist and explore using the search bar.  Read her story in Joshua 2.

 

 

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part Vlighthouse

Saturday, September 19, 2015

If we cannot believe in restoration after the desert, let us at least begin by asking God to strengthen our gift of faith. Just as a mariner trusts that the lighthouse will guide ships past rocky shores, let us trust the Gospel story of Jesus. The writer of the letter to Hebrews shows us the way. From Hebrews 11.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

If we do not have confidence, let us ask God for this gift of sureness.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

If we do not have understanding, let us ask God for the gift of wisdom.

hebrews_1xIt was by this faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.

If we do not have fidelity, let us ask God for the gift of certainty.

And even when Abraham reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.

If we do not see or believe in God’s promise in our lives, let us ask God for the gift of hope.

For Abraham was looking for a city with eternal foundations, a city whose architect and builder was God.

If we do not feel or comprehend God’s power in our lives, let us ask God for the gift of fortitude. And let us pray.

Nat geo lighthouse in stormGood and loving God, your fidelity lives in us although we may not perceive it. Being your creatures we are made of love for love; yet we might not believe this. Breathe new life into those who are discouraged or unbelieving. Bring new strength to those who falter. And shower us with your hope and encouragement so that we might come to fully know, and feel and understand that your only wish for us is our restoration in and for you. We ask this in Jesus’ name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

Tomorrow, laying a foundation for restoration . . . 

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Galatians 3:1-14

thebible-jesus-disciples-20130321Our Experience of Christ – Part I

Who has bewitched you?

We might ask ourselves this question a thousand times during the day and the answer is always the same.  It is our doubt, our lack of faith that clouds our vision.  Paul reminds us that our justification, or our salvation, comes “not through the law or works of the law but by faith in Christ and in his death . . . The gift of God’s spirit to the Galatians came from the Gospel received in faith, not from doing what the law enjoins”.  (Senior 297)  Paul appeals to our experience of Christ both in our daily lives and as we meet him in scripture, and he reminds us that while we might come close to Christ by observing the law, it is through faith that we are blessed and redeemed.  This was promised to Abraham and now – Paul reminds us – it is promised to the gentiles.

These new Christians in Galatia to whom Paul writes were former pagans and they were being encouraged by other missionaries to observe all Jewish law along with Christ’s law of love.  This even included circumcision. (Senior 293)  Having descended from the Celts who had invaded western and central Asia Minor three hundred years prior, the Galatians had little experience in discerning and living a relationship with one true creator who loves his creatures so much that he is willing to die for them.  We might find ourselves to be much like these Galatians.

 Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.293,297. Print.

First written on April 23, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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The Third Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2013

Hebrews-6-19[1]

Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6

Resting in the Promise

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality.  He is not lenient.  And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates.  If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ . . . for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light.  Christ himself exhorts us Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid.  We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand.  On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof.  Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham –   begin a kingdom of millions?  Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations?  Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek?  Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; his very goodness and honesty force him to keep his covenant with his people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words of hope we can never hear too often.  This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

In this Advent season when we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God among us, let us rest in this promise . . . let us acknowledge that when all is dark and appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear we must be still  . . . so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .

Adapted from a reflection written on December 11, 2008.

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