Secrets of God

Good Monday Morning to this week 42 of 2019

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. Ephesians 1.9

Jesus answered them, “To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been granted. Matthew 13:11

In this passage of Matthew 13, Jesus answers in terms of the elect, God’s chosen people, defined by those who have genuine faith in God in contrast to those with rebellion, spiritual dullness and unbelief.

Jesus answers with a well-structured chiasm. (Two ideas are interwoven in one narrative.)

“Chiasmus, the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism”

Jesus said:

While seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes,

otherwise

They would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and he would heal them. Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The literary beauty of the chiasm is apparent.

Another example of an ABCB’A’ chiasm in John 4.

A – But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:
B – For the Father seeketh such to worship him.
C – God is a Spirit:
B – And they that worship him
A – And must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Chiasmus is not a secret Bible code, although it is often hidden by translations which may obscure the occurrence of repetitions of keywords and phrases, and sometimes it is hidden by numeric verse and chapter divisions.

Jesus himself taught in chiastic structures. Take the parable of the workers recruited for a penny a day recorded in Matthew 20. The parable is bounded by the classic chiasm.

“The first shall be last, and the last first” which is repeated at the end of this parable but in reverse – “the last shall be first, and the first last”!

In between, the parable is a dramatized chiasm – the first laborers are called up last, and vice versa. This clearly demonstrates that chiasm is a conscious technique in the mind of Jesus for teaching disciples.

One more meaningful Chisam.

No one can serve two masters;
for either, he will hate the one
and love the other,
or he will be devoted to one
and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24 NASB)

Chiasms are usually arranged in the same top-to-bottom form as they appear in the text:

A – No one can serve two masters;
B – for either he will hate the one
C – and love the other,
C – or he will be devoted to one
B – and despise the other.
A – You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24)

In Western cultures, we are trained to look for the emphasis at the beginning and/or the end of the text. Therefore, we naturally believe that this verse is about serving either God or money.

Looking deeper at this chiasm, you see two places of emphasis: the center point focuses on loving the right master and the first/last elements focus on serving that master.

While serving God is good and proper, love and devotion to Him should be our driving force.

Wishing you deep insights this week as you look at the mysteries or secrets of God and discover beauty, right in the depth of the living Word.

Have a blessed week

Philemon

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(21+3) Quotes of faith and more

Good Monday Morning to this week 41 of 2019

It’s always good to learn from the past. Since I like reading quotes, I looked through the centuries (sounds amazing I can do that nowadays) and found one I liked to each period. Between the 10th and 12th, it was harder to find any. It seems like they were too busy preparing the crusades, with Pope Leo, Gregory and Urban completely occupied with another separation within the church.

Listed are 21 quotes of Christian Theologians. At the end, I then added three odd quotes in completion.  I wish you much inspiration as you read and discover!

1st Apostle James
For the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.

2nd Tertullain
Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

3rd Marcus Minucius Felix
The poor man is he who, having much, craves for more.

4th Basil of Caesarea
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

5th Augustine of Hippo
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

6th Gregory the Great
The spiritual director should not reduce his attention to the internal life because of external occupations, nor should he relinquish his care for external matters because of his anxiety for the internal life.

7th Isaac of Nineveh
There is love like a small lamp, which goes out when the oil is consumed; or like a stream which dries up when it doesn’t rain. But there is a love that is like a mighty spring gushing up out of the earth; it keeps flowing forever, and is inexhaustible.

8th John of Damascus
He who longs alway after God, he seeth Him: for God is in all things. Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is. God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.

9th Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Christ wears “two shoes” in the world: Scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God.

10th Anselm of Canterbury
God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no mind to give; but that, by enlarging our desires, He may give us the more largely.

11th Peter Abelard
The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

12th Hildegard of Bingen
You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.

13th Thomas Aquinas
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

14th William of Ockham
Keep things simple.

15th Catherine of Siena
Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.

16th Ulrich Zwingli
Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary, it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good.

17th John Owen
The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with Grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work. It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for.

18th George Whitefield
Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you. Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies.

19th Charles Spurgeon
A dark cloud is no sign that the sun has lost his light, and dark black convictions are no arguments that God has laid aside His mercy.

20th Reinhold Niebuhr
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

21st Eugene Peterson
I’m bankrupt without love. Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.

2nd Martin Luther King, Jr.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

23rd Dallas Willard
We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.

24th and the last quote of this series by Miroslav Volf
Faith is the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as the giver.
It is, empty hands held open for God to fill.

Wishing you a wonderful and inspired week.
Philemon

 

The voice of Jacob, hands of Esau!

I’m back again with the story of Jacob … probably some catching up time for me with stories I thought I understood having heard them already in Sunday School, yet continuing to finding new meaning in them.

Good Monday Morning to this week 40 of 2019

The voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau! Isaac takes a both/and approach.
Let’s have a look at it:

One verse in particular is fascinating. In Genesis 27, Jacob takes food and bread from Rebekah to his aged, blind father. “I am Esau your firstborn”, he says, as he hands Isaac the meal, asking for his patriarchal blessing, an act more assuredly political and symbolic than personal and intimate. At first, Isaac is surprised at how quickly the hunter had succeeded at his task and, perhaps because he is a bit suspicious, he asks his son to come close so that he can feel him, to determine whether or not he is really Esau. Then comes the crucial verse 22: “So Jacob drew close to his father, Isaac, who felt him and wondered, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau.'”

Is the assumption right that Isaac does not realize that it is Jacob standing before him, and so Isaac blesses him? Yet what does this peculiar remark “The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau” mean?

Here is one obvious possibility: Isaac uses his other senses to compensate for his blindness. When Jacob speaks to him, Jacob says that he is Esau. But Isaac is incredulous because the voice sounds like Jacob’s. So he feels his son’s arms and neck, which Rebekah had covered with the skins of kids, and they feel like Esau’s. Now Isaac is confused, and he utters the above statement expressing his puzzlement: Who stands before me? Who has brought me my favorite meal? Who seeks my parental blessing? The text says: “Isaac did not recognize him” but gives him the blessing nonetheless. Why? Does Isaac weigh the evidence? Does he choose to credit his sense of touch more than his hearing and his memory? Or does he decide to trust what his son has told him, namely, that he is Esau? We do not know. Isaac blesses even though he is confused: The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.

Who is this before me? Do I trust myself, my senses? Or do I trust my son? How about vocalizing the conflict: The voice, listen to the voice, its tone, and timbre; but the hands are the hands of Esau-this is what they tell me, indeed this is what he says to me. But I am his father. Would he lie to me?

What went through Jacobs mind;  … as I decked out in these skins to fool my old, blind father, hungry for his blessing, his power. A minute ago, I knew he was suspicious, but now, I think that I have persuaded him. He has stroked my arms and felt my neck; he is fooled.  He cannot trust his grasp of who I really am but must trust how I seem to be. My deception has worked. He blesses me because I deserve to receive his blessing.

To the storyteller; are the stakes greater, neither personal, nor familial, nor even political, but rather mythic? Here are two dimensions of human existence, culture and nature, speech and violence. Which shall receive the blessing of the future? Which shall flourish and rule? Which shall be the master and govern the ways of human life and the ways of nations? Or might it be that there is no alternative, no either/or? Isaac blessed the one who stood before him. He was worried but resolute. The decision would not be wholly rational and cultivated nor wholly violent and driven by passion. It would be both, for the voice is the voice of Jacob, and the hands are the hands of Esau.

Jacob may have thought that Isaac was fooled, yet this was not the same for Isaak. Feeling Jacob’s arms and neck did not resolve Isaac’s suspicions but deepened them. As verse 23 says, because of those hairy arms, Isaac “did not recognize him.” Why? Because the sons he had known were either/or, while the man who stood before him was both/and. Isaac was surprised by what it was going to be because his senses were confined to the past. But he did bless this man. Why? Because he accepted the past for what it was and the future for what it would be: All of his offspring would have the voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau.

Is it possible that this approach both/and, was an alternative version of the story that eventually found its way into the text. If so, Isaac did not ask the question once again, looking for confirmation but in doing so accepted their verdict. Rather, Isaac never recognized the man as either Esau or Jacob because he was both-a symbol of human existence as a struggle between culture and nature. He blessed him nonetheless, with the words ringing in his ears and ours: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” This passage was inpired by texts of M. L. Morgan.

The God of the Old was not invisible or an abstraction. He appeared to people – often when not expected or sought out and sometimes he was not recognized. Many of these moments often perceived as confusion in which an encounter, a special encounter was first mistaken as the confusion of ordinary people, was much more an encounter with God, purposely orchestrated by God! God was always there, but standing just behind the curtain of ordinary reality!

I wish you a blessed week as you keep discovering an awesome God, even in parts your mundane, ordinary life!

Philemon

Endless or Eternal Meetings

Good Monday Morning to this week 39/2019

When were you last in some meetings that seemed endless or tiring? As much as you know you want or need to be there, you just want to run out, grab a coffee, go for a walk, read the news, just find any reason to get out of it? Yes, I know it …

Jesus held meetings: A meeting with four – yes that’s a good number! 

While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple complex, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately. Mark 13.4

Well, this was an important meeting, they were talking about “Signs of the End of the Age”. Yes, those meetings go deep and are very serious stuff!

David held meetings: “The God and me kind”.

Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 2 Samuel 7:18

David was forced to meetings: Joab threated to kill all his men before nightfall if he didn’t. 

So the king arose and sat in the gate. When they told all the people, saying, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate,” then all the people came before the king Now Israel had fled, each to his tent. 2. Samuel 19.8

Martha had a “One to One” meeting with Jesus: Yes these are the kind I like!

Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Jesus said to her, your brother will rise again. Later she answered, yes Lord, I believe …

Here is the ultimate reason to have meetings where two or three gather in His name!
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Mathew 18:20. This was right after it was written that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by the Father in heaven.

Let check out John C. Maxwell 

“Effective teams have teammates who are constantly talking to one another.”

“What’s true for a teammate is also true for the leader: If you don’t grow, you gotta go.”

“Individuals play the game, but teams win championships.”

Here some other great quotes on meetings: 

Meetings don’t have to be endless to be eternal. James E. Faust

The world is run by those willing to sit until the end of meetings.
Hugh Park (really?)

Meetings move at the speed of the slowest mind in the room. Dale Dauton (aha!!)

Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.
Peter Drucker (that’s a bit rough?!)

Life is a series of meetings and separations.  Santosh Kalwar (oh yes, you’re at something here!)

You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question. Bill Gates (yes, I’ve been at this kind of meeting!)

A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. James T. Kirk (nice word game going on here)

Meeting new people is just remembering faces of God we’ve forgotten. Harry Whitewolf
(beautiful – nicely put)

The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished. Tim Cook (good you at Apple have the cool watch to help you with that now!)

Okay, I resume and sum up what I’ve learned:

Good meetings: 

– up to four people.
– meetings with God.
– meetings with Jesus.
– meetings with friends.
– meetings in a discipleship process.
– short meetings for eternity.
– meetings as a team with a practical goal
– meetings where decisions are made
– meetings with food, like fish and bread (Jesus was good at that)
– meetings that save the lives of others

In conclusion, the Bible has a really great one on meeting for worship, prayer and spirituality! 

Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning. Hebrews 10:24-25  (TPT)

Wishing you a great week with a “healthy bunch” of good meetings!

Philemon

 

 

 

 

 

The Pastures of the Wilderness

Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Psalm 85:6

Good Monday Morning to this week 38 of 2019

Spring 1859

Faith grew. Hope brightened. The power of prayer began to be known, felt and seen. A contemporary account describes the Year of Grace in this way; The winter was passed; the time of the singing of birds had come. Humble, grateful, loving, joyous converts multiplied the great concerns of eternity were realized as they had never been before. Many walked about in deep anxiety about the one thing needful; while others rejoiced in the experience of a present peace and a complete salvation. The community was altogether changed in its outward aspects, and a pervading seriousness prevailed a total transformation has been affected in the hearts and lives of those who were the subjects of the change, and throughout all the neighborhood was heard thanksgiving and the voice of melody. The 1859 Revival in Ireland edited by William E. Allen

Fruit of Revival 1859

Full sanctuaries, full Sabbath schools, full prayer meetings, brotherly love, increased generosity and additions by the hundreds to the communion of the churches. These are the fruits that remain to the summer Revival of 1859 in Coleraine.

Wilderness

Shortly before the “Year of Grace” they had  Joel 1: 19 ringing in their ears:

O LORD, to you will I cry: for the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame has burned all the trees of the field.

The sorrow of the people is turned into repentance and humiliation before God. With all the marks of sorrow and shame, sin must be confessed and bewailed. A day is to be appointed for this purpose; a day in which people must be kept from their common daily in’s and out’s.

The School in Coleraine in Summer 1859 

One boy after another silently slipped out of the classroom and after a while the schoolteacher looked out to see boys on their knees throughout the playground, each one in earnest prayer. He turned to the two boys and asked them; Do you think you can go and pray with these boys? They did so and kneeling down with one after another, they began to implore the Lord to forgive their sins for the sake of Him who had borne them all upon the Cross. Silent grief soon turned into bitter cries.

As these cries reached the girls’ school, they too fell upon their knees and wept in grief over their sins. The cries of the boys and girls at school reached passers-by in the adjoining streets and conviction of sin came upon them and they fell on their knees in the streets pleading to the Lord for mercy.  Pastors and men of prayer were sought and they spent the rest of the day in counseling and praying with these mourners. The sweetest of all toils, when to intercede for those who are brokenhearted by the sight of their sins,  dinner was forgotten, tea was forgotten, and it was not until 11pm at night that the school premises were freed from their unexpected guests.

The Pastures of the Wilderness 

Words translated as “wilderness” occur nearly 300 times in the Bible. A formative Hebrew memory is the years of “wandering in the wilderness,” mixing experiences of wild landscape, of searching for a promised land, and of encounters with God. The  wandering takes place in the, uninhabited land where humans are nomads. This common Hebrew word refers often to a wild field where domestic animals may be grazed and wild animals live, in contrast to cultivated land, sometimes “the pastures of the wilderness” (Joel 1:19–20). “The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice” (Isaiah 35:1).

The wilderness is a “given” for intense experiences, of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness. R. Homes

Turning to the New Testament,  the word most often translated as “wilderness” is “eremos” an isolated place. The wilderness figures at critical junctures in the life of Jesus. Jesus is baptized by John and then is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days. The Devil is there, but so is the Spirit. “A great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed”. This records a search for solitude, for self-discovery, for divine presence, but this process, crucially, seems to require the ambiance of the natural environment.

They drop on the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. Psalm 65.12

In those wastes, however, there would be valleys or places watered by springs and streams that would afford pastures for flocks and herds. Such are the “pastures of the wilderness” referred to here. God’s passing along those valleys would seem to “drop,” or distill, fertility and beauty, causing grass and flowers to spring up in abundance, and clothing them with luxuriance. The freshness and beauty of plant life, which suddenly, as by a miracle, clothes the hill-sides, resembles a fair mantle thrown around their shoulders, as if to deck them for some festival.

In conclusion, I summarize: 

Our dwelling place: The wilderness.

Our spiritual provision: Pastures.

Our heavenly refreshment: Thy drop.

******************

Wishing you a very good start to this week

Philemon

 

Merciful limitations.

Good Monday Morning to this week 37 of 2019

Observing at a distance a fig tree full of leaves, he went up to it to see if he could find any fruit upon it. but when he came to it, he found it had nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for that sort of fig. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”. And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:13+14

Last night I enjoyed an evening tour on the Bielersee with many sightings of the beautiful Church of Ligerz at a distance, far and near, in various shades of the evening light, reminding me of the importance it once and wondering about the relevance to this day.

The pilgrimage church of Ligerz was first mentioned in 1261. It was built in the vineyards above the village. It became a parish church of its own parish in 1434 but was still dependent until being rebuilt in 1526. Until the early 19th century there were no good roads into Ligerz, instead, goods and travelers came by boat. The church amidst the vineyards is visible from a long distance and is, therefore, the landmark to Ligerz and the region.

Back to the parable of the Fig tree being seen from far, covered in nice leaves:

Fig trees around Jerusalem normally begin to get leaves in March or April and do not produce figs until their leaves are all out in June. This tree was an exception that it was full of leaves early.

Jesus, approaches the tree in his hunger, with the expectation of finding fruit. But as he draws near, he realizes the fact that the tree, though full of leaf, is absolutely fruitless, he forgets his natural hunger. As he approached this fig tree full of leaf, but destitute of fruit, it stood before him as a striking or awful image of the Jewish nation, having indeed the leaves of a great profession, but yielding no fruit. The leaves of this fig tree deceived the passer-by, who, from seeing them, would naturally expect the fruit. And so the fig tree was cursed, not for being barren, but for being false.

A  church or community or individual whose religion runs to leaf is useless if it brings forth no fruit or furthermore being false. Do those around care about the ceremonials or the outward appearance, more than it bearing fruit?

These words of Jesus, in their application also have a merciful limitation – a limitation which lies in the original words rendered “forever,” which literally mean for the current age. “No man eat the fruit during the age until the times be fulfilled. A day will doubtless come when those concerned will say, “I am a dry tree,” I shall accept the words of Him and respond, “From me shall thy fruit be found,” and shall be clothed with the richest fruits of all trees.

Here the fig tree was growing by the road; it belonged to no one, and nothing had been done for its improvement;  it was destroyed when its uselessness was made manifest. It was fruitless, because the fruit season had not come, and no old fruit remained on the branches. The destruction of a senseless and worthless thing made known the power of God, the purpose not just to wither, but all the more to restore. To wither was within the power of anyone, but to wither by a word was a supernatural act only possible to one.

Jesus gives his answer or interpretation of the parable with these words:

“Have faith in God.”

In doing. The words “shall say unto this mountain,” are figurative. A magnificent promise! Not only such an act as the withering of the fig tree, but one comparable to the uprooting of the Mount of Olives on which it grew. It is spoken of moral and spiritual difficulties met, within fulfilling the great plan of God along with personal and individual spiritual growth.

In receiving the answer was not to be merely looked forward to a coming age, but of an age being imminent, already fulfilling itself in present experience. A secret of intense and successful devotion.

The story teaches us that the Master looks for fruit in the proper time for fruit. In the case of this tree, “the time was not yet.” Figs come before leaves on that kind of tree. So the appearance of leaves assumed the presence of fruit underneath them, but none was there. For some phenomenal reason, this fig tree was a hypocrite. Jesus caught it for a parable with which to teach His disciples, and warn them of mere profession without performance. God does not, in any case, come hurridly demanding fruit, as soon as trees are planted; He seems to respect the laws of growth and ripening. He never hurries any creature of His hand. But He gives help to the end He proposes. He certainly puts realities before shows; figs previous to leaves.

Not all is lost. When the disciples ask Jesus to explain what just happened, he turns the topic and talks about prayer. Why? Though they do not yet fully understand, they will be the new caretakers of God’s people. They will be instruments of transformation. And, as Jesus teaches here, they will do this by the power of faithful prayer. Thus the fig tree cursing is not just about historical Israel. It’s about us. It’s about all the people of God throughout time.

A challenging text this morning, yet full of promises. Knowing all too well about things withering, areas in our lives with no fruit, of times not being fulfilled. I draw from the thought that Jesus shared, as he turned to the concept of merciful limitation and the importance of prayer.

Wishing merciful limitations, along with transformation and restoration

of areas in your lives that have withered and no longer bring fruit.

Philemon

 

Kirche Ligerz, Bielersee, Saturday 07.09.2019, 19h30
Screenshot 2019-09-08 at 14.21.06

Prayer of Relinquishment

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Jeremiah 18:4

Good Monday Morning to this week 36 of 2019

There seems to lie in all people and times, a certain proportion to the strength of their understanding, a conviction that there is in all human things of real order and purpose, notwithstanding the chaos in which at times they seem to be involved.

Suffering scattered blindly, good and evil distributed with the most absolute disregard of moral merit or demerit, enormous crimes perpetrated with impunity, or vengeance when it comes falling not on the guilty, but the innocent. This phenomena present, generation after generation, the same perplexing and even maddening features; and without an illogical but none the less a positive certainty that things are not as they seem—that, in spite of appearance, there is justice at the heart of them, and that, in the working out of the vast drama, justice will assert somehow and somewhere its sovereign right and power, the better sort of persons would find existence altogether unendurable. This is what the Greeks meant by the Ἀνάγκη or destiny, which at the bottom is no other than moral Providence. Hasting

Back to Jeremiah, this implies the living presence of the Potter in this world which is being molded. It involves the constant, direct impact, if one may so speak, of the Divine fingers. The Israelites thought that God had selected them and wound them up like a clock so that they were to go on and on without further change forever. St. Paul says No. God has not taken His fingers from the work. He never bound Himself to have mercy on you and on no one else. “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.” And if you do not answer His purpose, He will change matters with you. And so, according to the picture before us, God is ever actively present,  the great Hand at work, touching every individual thing, allowing nothing, whether the law or anything else, to intervene between His living purpose and the world that is being molded by Him.

This week I was occupied with the task of disposal of materials as wood, steel, paper, aluminum.  In German, there is a nice word used as a verb and noun. (entsorgen, Entsorgung). Literally one could translate it as the opposite of worry. To rid of worry. It’s the same word we use to dispose of waste in the practical sense. To relinquish of one’s possession, to let go, to release, to renounce or surrender of even the right possession. I learned that plastic can be recycled 7-9 times, paper 4-6 times, while glass, steel and aluminum lose no quality during recycling and can be recycled endlessly! So translated to modern days Jeremiah might have used aluminum as his metaphor to explain how many times God can remake and mold us.

The potter does not fling away the marred vessel, but he breaks it and puts it on the wheel again and reshapes it. The potters’ skill is not to be baffled. He wants to give his ideal reality. And he will shape and break, shape and break again, till the clay has taken the form he wishes. Jeremiah saw what that meant for the Israelites as a nation. The prophet saw that God would still hold them, and by sterner discipline, by harder blows and hotter fires, would mold them to the use and form He wanted. That was the answer to Jeremiah’s question, What can God do with this nation? Break it and reshape it.

The patience and persistence of God with man is the truth which this sets forth. God will not easily let man go. He stands over mankind and over every individual soul with boundless patience. The gifts and calling of God, says St. Paul, are without repentance, without recall or change.

“So he made it again.”  He can remake us. God persists till His purpose is achieved.

Relinquishment is a kind of dying to self.  This is to trust that God will cause something better to develop from us ‘letting go’. Not that letting go is ever easy, but it does open us up to fresh ways God wants to shape us and mold us for his ways. We see ourselves no longer as the finished product, but rather as clay in the Potter’s Hand.

Thou, Thou art the Potter, and we are the Clay,
And morning and evening, and day after day,
Thou turnest Thy wheel, and our substance is wrought,
Into form of Thy will, into shape of Thy thought.

Wishing you a great week on His “wheel”!

Philemon

 


Spiritual Desires

Good Monday Morning to this week 35 of 2019

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4 

The interpretation of the Bible has its many options,  variations, questions and methods.
You might have heard many of  the arguments, here a few:

• The Bible should be understood literally whenever possible.
• The customs and culture of the biblical world must be understood.
• Knowledge of the structure of a passage can be valuable for interpretation.
• Identical things must be distinguished from similar things.
• The word “all” can be used in a universal or limited sense.
• The Bible is full of small words with big meanings.
• Time, and time words, are essential to proper interpretation.
• It is important to understand biblical prophecy.
• It is necessary to distinguish between a believer’s permanent spiritual standing before God and his “walk.”

For example Psalm 37:4 many only see the second part, and then mention the first. , “He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Only seeing this you miss a lot: if you follow the first part of the verse, and take delight in the Lord, those desires of your heart are going to change to what God desires for you. Many go to this verse when they’re already desiring something badly. They think that if they just take the minimum required delight in the Lord and wait a bit, then bam! What they desire is delivered to them. … not really! . This verse could be saying much more,  that the more you delight yourself in the Lord, the more your heart reflects His.

Interlinear
Of your heart the desires you, He shall give Yahwe in, and delight yourself.

New International Version
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

New Living Translation
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

King James Bible
Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Contemporary English Version
Do what the LORD wants, and he will give you your heart’s desire.

Good News Translation
Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire.

NET Bible
Then you will take delight in the LORD, and he will answer your prayers.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Hope in Lord Jehovah and he will give you the requests of your heart.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Be happy with the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

JPS Tanakh 1917
So shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD, And He shall give thee the petitions of thy heart.

Brenton Septuagint Translation
Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall grant thee the requests of thine heart.

Webster’s Bible Translation
Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart.

Young’s Literal Translation
And delight thyself on Jehovah, and He giveth to thee the petitions of thy heart.

Or some Cross References

Isaiah 58:14
Then you will delight yourself in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Matthew 7:7
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Psalm 145:19
He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry and will save them.

John 15:7,16
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…

Proclaiming the many deep truths, with the many angles of interpretations of this verse for your life and the week ahead!

A prayer:  “Lord, all my desire is before thee” (Ps 38.9); and I know You form the desires of my heart more like those of your heart! (Ps 37.4).

blessings
Philemon

 

Presence strengthens; absence sharpens

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139.7

Good Monday Morning to week 34 of 2019

Absence = “Ruach of God”
The wind to the fire; it puts out the little and kindles the great!

Presence = “Ruach of God”  is the mighty wind, the breath of God, the Spirit of God, the Burning Bush of Moses, the pillar of fire leading the Israelites, the eternal flame lit in the tabernacle, the incense, and the individual tongues of flame at Pentecost.

Every time you take a matchbox into your hand to take out a match, you hold it in your hand before you open it. What do you see? You see three sides of the box. Of course, you know it has six sides, even though you only see three.

Presence strengthens!
Absence sharpens!

Where shall I go from your spirit? – Where shall I go where your spirit is not; that is, where you are not; where is there no God?

Where shall I flee from thy presence?
Where shall I flee from your face?

A fearful thought, for those who fear or hate God.
A deep comforting word, for those that love God.

What do you see? Some examples in the Old Testament: 

Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times.

Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told.

Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you; for you have been brought here in order to show it to you!

What do you see, Jeremiah? And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.”

What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.”

Jesus: What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed, shaken by the wind?

Then again Jesus laid His hands on his eyes, and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.

If we go back to the metaphor of the matchbox and apply it to Psalm 139.7;
God’s presence is always real, the other three sides of the matchbox may be felt like absence, yet we know very well, the matchbox is complete and the other three sides are there and continue to make the whole box complete.

The Psalmist knew these thoughts only too well:
Psalm 139. 8 and following:

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
For darkness is as light to you.

Wishing you a good start to this new week.

Philemon 

Swifter than eagles!

Good Monday Morning to this week 33 of 2019

David and Jonathan 

Jonathan and David become friends and loved each other as themselves.
Jonathan swore eternal friendship David and gave him his robe.

David became successful pleasing Saul, killing even Goliath in battle.
David became the peoples favorite, making Saul jealous and suspicious. 
David committed to the friendship also his musical gifting on the harp.

Saul put the life of David in danger, not dealing with his demons.
Saul was afraid of David after his two attempts to kill him.
Saul, not David felt abandoned by God.

Israel and Judah loved David as a successful leader

Saul tries his trick David and promises his oldest daughter.
David had a good idea of timing and didn’t want to be joined to the King yet, nor did he take the bait given by Saul.
(With David having 7 wives, 19 sons, and one daughter in the time of his life,  there is more than timing at play here I assume.)

David changed his mind, fell in love with Michal,
this time delighted to become the kings’ son in law. 

The greater the love between David and Michael , David and Jonathan, grew,
the more afraid Saul became of David.

Jonathan told David of his fathers plans to kill him.
Jonathan stood to the friendship and commitment to David.
Jonathan intervened even to speak to his father in favor of David.
Saul still wasn’t rid of his demons and tried to kill David again.

Again David fled, Saul, followed close behind, Michal warned David and
him and let him down a window to escape.

Michal also stood to David and tricked her father, this time with goats hair on a pillow.
Groups of Prophets were gripped by God’s spirit when Sauls’ men came they too were gripped by God’s spirit and began dancing and shouting. The same thing happened to the messengers three times, then finally even when Saul went,
the Spirit of God took control of him in Samuels presence.
David fled again and went to Jonathan for advice and friendship.

Jonathan negotiates a plan, while David hid.
Saul threw his spear at Jonathan in rage.
Jonathan sent the arrow to warn David to hurry out.
Jonathan and David were filled with grief as they farewelled.

Jonathan blessed David.

The friendship of David and Jonathan:
They were swifter than eagles
They were stronger than lions.
The weapons of war couldn’t withstand their friendship.

Jonathan’s gifts to David; a robe, his armor, a sword, his bow, and a belt.
Were these a token of their ancestral friendship? When Jonathan makes “a covenant of love and brotherhood with David does he invest with his garments and weapons? By giving him his clothes, Jonathan gives to David, a personal pledge of love, by David’s accepting them, he accepted Jonathan’s invitation to become his dearest friend yet more also expression of “loyalty, service and obedience” as Jonathan pledges his allegiance to David, recognizing him as the next king of Israel.

J.P. Fokkelman (1986) proposed a three-fold meaning here: By giving David his arms, Jonathan “is transferring the title of a champion of Israel to David,” as the national hero and great liberator in the name of the Lord. By giving David his cloak, the crown prince hands over to him “his rights and claims to the throne.”

There is so much purpose, intention, symbolism, signs, methods, truths, and learnings in this short story of the Bible.

From Sunday school or early childhood memories we probably already have our interpretation and “takeaways” from this story.

Here a few of mine: 

– God values relationships and friendships far beyond our imagination.
– God has a plan and will reach his goal whatever detour he takes with his people.
– It’s good to deal with demons before they guide our lives and try to take all from us.
– God is the only who has the “big picture” in mind, every move he makes!
– The battles we win, are won in deep friendship with Him, our almighty Guide!
– Some secrets and hidden things stay hidden to then later reveal God’s intentions.

A personal takeaway:

A deep personal intimate relationship with God our Maker, Father and divine King,  enables us to be, swifter than eagles, stronger than lions, therefore the opposition formed against us can’t stand!

Wishing you a very good week!

Philemon