The Left Hand of God

Mark 10:37
They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

Ezekiel 21:16
Go thee one way or other, either on the right-hand or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set.

Good Monday Morning to the week 07 of 2019

Reading on the wrong use of giving the right cheek I started wondering about the left hand of God. Yes, God must have a left hand as well!

The right hand is mentioned positively 100 times in the Bible, the left hand is mentioned only 25 times, mostly negatively while it presented the right hand as a symbol of strength and honor, in the left-hand are riches and honor.

Matthew 6:3 writes; But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right-hand does.

The Hebrew Bible mentions left-handed people on three occasions: the story of Ehud’s assassination of the Moabite king, the 700 Benjamites who could use the sling with deadly accuracy and the two-dozen ambidextrous warriors who came to support David in Hebron. All of these stories of left-handed people in the Bible appear in military contexts, and, curiously, all involve members of the tribe of Benjamin.

“The LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man”.

The statement that Ehud was a left-handed man and that he was from the tribe of Benjamin, is very significant. In fact, according to Judges 20:16, there were seven hundred specially-trained men in the army of the tribe of Benjamin and all of them were left-handed. The text also says that “each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target.”

To explain this peculiarity and how left-handedness was seen not only in Israel but also in other nations, Different nations derived their expressions for right and left from conceptions peculiar to themselves. Some are based on the idea of showing, pointing, with the right hand; sinister, from sinus, on the action of laying the right hand on the side of the heart. The left hand has everywhere been regarded as the weaker, which, properly speaking, did not wield arms.

When oriental custom placed the stranger on the left, it assigned him the seat of honor in so far as the left side seemed to be the weaker and less protected, from the idea of weakness, sprang such terms as,  laevus,  [Eng. left] because that side is harmless, smooth, and gentle.

Hence also the custom among Asiatic nations of inclining toward the left side, and resting on the left hand, when seated: the right hand was thus left free.

The threefold trinity can be pictured as having God-the-Father at the top, and underneath on the right side Jesus Christ our Lord, and on the left the Holy Spirit Christologically conceived!

So this question is actually not quite as absurd as it seems from the surface…

Another brain-stimulating piece of information: Did you know according to old and widespread Catholic traditionary sources the Archangel Gabriel sits on the “Left-hand side of God”? Some old authors even refer to Gabriel as “the Left Hand of God” Himself. Any interesting brainstorming?

Gabriel  “God is my strength”‘. In the Hebrew Bible, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel, to explain his visions. Gabriel the archangel is also a character in other ancient Jewish writings such as the Book of Enoch. Alongside archangel Michael, Gabriel is described as the guardian angel of Israel, defending this people against the angels of the other nations.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure Southpaw wrote one answer. It was surely could be concluded that God must be left-handed because Christ is sitting on his right hand!

But maybe God has no hands at all but much more a left side.  He is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

And now here we are back here on earth to both left and right hands and side inspired by His left side, His, Holy Spirit to guide these both hands of ours to do His inspired works here this next week!

I wish you a blessed week.

Philemon

 

Advertisements

Clustering the word “faith”

CLUSTER; to compare, to bind together. A cluster or bunch of grapes, a cluster of henna flowers, a cluster of dates.

Good Monday Morning to this week 08 of 2019

FAITH, is a precious possession, not visible or tangible, however, Jesus said to doubting Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls. The result of a living faith is both visible and tangible! The disciples saw it and touched it in Jesus, and our calling as Christians is to come to this same fullness of life – by faith!

Looking at individual faith, three professors of a Chennai University applied a fuzzy clustering to stories of individual faith in the Bible. They looked at well-known stories as:

Peter’s faith in the arresting of Jesus
Mary’s faith in the changing of water to wine
The centurion’s faith
Thomas and his portion of faith
Martha in the raising of Lazarus
Peter’s faith as he walked on water
Peter’s faith, catching a large amount of fish
Elizabeth’s faith with the birth of John the Baptist
Bartimaeus being healed of blindness
The disciples’ faith in the calming of the sea

These wonderful incidents in the Bible stand testament, that faith, is required if not to a greater degree, to have hope and to make us certain of the realities we do not see.

Significant about this observation is the higher the degree of faith greater to the extent of the miracle. But what needs to be noted is that eight of the attributes fall in the low level which indicates that even an individual with a mustard level of faith could definitely expect a miracle. Is faith, our spiritual hands simply accepting what is offered. Is faith a possession, a decision, an action of believing? Is faith greatest when you are least aware of it when you act like a trusting child? Yes, faith is letting God pick you up and carry you like a trusting child. Faith is leaving things to God, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.

While the raging storm swept the sea and threatened the safe journey of the disciples to the other side of the lake, Jesus was asleep in the hinder part of the boat. He wasn’t bothered by the storm. And while the lions roamed about in the den, Daniel lay down and slept in the face of danger in perfect peace and calm assurance. Why? Because Jesus and Daniel each possessed great faith.

Faith is a huge and wide spiritual concept. There is faith or saving faith, which is also a gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Or the faith mentioned in the cluster above is of the nine gifts of the Spirit. Faith is also a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit whereby, one is empowered with special faith for a situation. Faith, therefore, a full and unreserved confidence in God, in His love for me, and in His power to help and assist us.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith is the connecting power into the spiritual realm, which links us with God and makes Him become a tangible reality to the sense perceptions of a person. Faith is the basic ingredient to begin a relationship with God.

Faith is also but far more than believing in healing. Faith, belief, trust, and loyalty to a person or thing. Finding our security and hope in God as revealed in Jesus. There is an expression of persistence, a simple hope, or a waiting for. Another term for faith stresses on firmness and stability emphasizing the varied activities of God and our responses to him. Faith is a spiritual attitude involving activity. Faith is intimately linked to the covenant between God and his people. The meaning of faith in the NT is then both a reflection of its God’s continuity with His conventual promises. Faith, primarily confident trust based on God’s promise as understood through the relationship to Him. The results of faith are seen in the radical changes that people experience when they place their trust in Jesus. The Gospels make the faith response explicit in particular miracles.
Jesus asserts, in a discussion with skeptical disciples, that power is available to all who have faith, and that prayer is one means for expressing this faith. This paradoxical power of faith is seen not only in its “mountain-mover” quality, which is a kind of participation in God’s creative activity, but also in its comparison with a minute grain of mustard seed. To place one’s trust in Jesus is to open the door for a radical change in the meaning of life itself.

Faith is linked to baptism, confession, forgiveness, grace, healing, the Holy Spirit justification, purification, and sanctification. Faith is also portrayed as something one can be full of, turned from, remain true to, and be strengthened in. Basic to all of these ideas is the understanding that the act of believing is also a commitment to a community of worship the meeting of the needs of others and the sharing of this faith with all as Jesus told them.

The effect of faith can be generalized under the picture of a new creation, sonship, unity, love, hope, deliverance, healing, steadfastness, victory, being faithful, trustworthiness
fidelity, our side of the union with Christ, overcoming, movement from darkness to light, from death to life and living in a love that reciprocates the love of the Father.

Wishing you faith this week!

Philemon

Cultivating the soil of our hearts

I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11

Good Monday Morning to this week 07 of 2019

I just spent a very inspirational week visiting an ecological farming project in Moldova. Because it was during the depth of winter we didn’t speak too much about planting or about the harvest, but we spent most of the time speaking about the soil.

A degraded soil typically loses its ability to supply food and habitation to living organisms, in its surrounding. Characteristics of a degraded soil include high salinity, the decline in fertility, the decline in organic matter leading to declining in soil structure, soil erodibility, increase in alkalinity and acidity. Soil degradation can be caused by agricultural activities disturbing the soil structure and its drainage capacity.

Green manures and cover crops serve as mulch to the soil preventing the soil from wind/water erosion and moisture loss. They also increase the soil organic matter content as they decompose in the soil.

Organic compost is a great method of fertilizing the soils compared to inorganic fertilizers. Compost is a mixture of decomposed plant parts and animal waste. The key benefit of composting is that it increases soil organic matter content. Organic matter improves the soil fertility, the soil structure and its water holding capacity.

Crop rotation is a farming practice which involves growing different types of crops in one location sequentially.

In Bible times plowing was done with very light spear tip tines, which did not invert the soil, but instead loosened the soil to a very shallow depth for planting.

In many of the ways, we treat the soil of our souls or hearts, often like the current industrial farms plow their fields and use a quick fix for the land like fertilizers, destroying the soil on the long run.

What if this picture of organic soil management could help us understand the restoration of our soul?

There’s no question, we all want to have a heart likened to the well prepared, restored and fertile soil, where the seed of God’s Word is nurtured and the roots go deep so that we grow and produce good fruit. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The soil of our heart changes and we need to work at it to keep it soft and fertile. Just like a farmer prepares the ground to receive the seed he is about to plant, our Master Farmer prepares our heart for the truths of His Word.

Again and again, we heard from Toby and Urs the farmers, don’t plow, don’t uproot everything, plan to cover the fields, leave a mulch or “God’s blanket” as the guys from “Farming God’s way” in South Africa say.

Hosea 10:12 tells us, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now, is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.

I see many parallels in our personal lives. We could try to uproot all our history calling it bad, we could try to be perfect, we could try to have changed or imported (fertilized) soil of our souls, we could stir everything up not accepting who we are in Christ and who He is in us.

Christ in us, is the blanket, the cover, the nutrition, the restorer, the carer of the soil of our hearts. He doesn’t need us to be someone else, from the time He adopted us, He started to work the soil in us to return health and growth to our lives.

I wish you ” healthy cultivation of the soil of your hearts” and a very good week.

Philemon

God a tourist in his own land?

Why are you acting like a tourist, taking in the sights, here today and gone tomorrow? Why do you just stand there and stare, like someone who doesn’t know what to do in a crisis? But God, you are, in fact, here, here with us! You know who we are—you named us! Don’t leave us in the lurch. Jeremiah 14:8-9

Good Monday Morning to this week 06 of 2019

A rather scary thought indeed! God visiting his own as a tourist. A tourist, someone visiting a place of interest for a short while to move on again.

It reminds of the quote and then 2005 documentary, God Sleeps in Rwanda,  about five women affected by the Rwandan genocide, implying that he spends the day elsewhere but merely sleeps on his own land. But the proverb used to be applied in a different way, The Rwandans proudly used to say that their country was so beautiful that God spent the night there!

Before the genocide, Rwanda was widely considered to be one of the most successful examples of mission work. In 1991, about 90 percent of the population was Christian and a majority of 65 percent identified themselves as Roman Catholic. The country was widely considered to be an example of successful Christianization. But in the genocide, Christian values seemed to crumble rapidly in the face of ethnic hatred. In the face of genocide, the church was powerless. 

In the book “The Churches and Ethnic Ideology”,  there is a detailed study of two Presbyterian parishes in north-west Rwanda. In Kirinda both the leaders and the members of the Church were involved in the killings while in Biguhu they actively resisted the genocide. Longman comes to the conclusion that the major difference between the parishes was the way the leaders of the Church related to the population. In Kirinda, the clergy enforced the authoritarian structures while in Biguhu the leadership of the Church empowered the poor. Another interesting question raised was if the Catholic Church did repent for its role in the genocide. According to the authors, repentance was one of the pre-conditions in order for the Catholic Church to make a real contribution to the peace process. 

Jeremiah takes us to a very similar and dark place, the verdict is unshakeable. The Lord does not accept them. The relationship is no longer expressed with possessive pronouns (my people/your God; our God/your people). “This” is a long way from “my” or “your” or “our.” The distance is striking as he speaks of  “this people”. Does this imply the end of the covenant relationship? 

In this prophetic exchange, the immediate future is set by God’s commitment to remembering their iniquity. To remember iniquity means punishment. The severance of the covenant relationship does not mean out of sight, out of mind. It is not a matter of divine indifference; rather, the mind of God is focused on “this people.”  When covenantal blessing ceases, it is not a matter of a neutral absence of good. The cessation of covenantal blessing is the beginning of disaster, not merely the relenting of good.

In Rwanda very many crucial decisions were taking in the aftermath, one was that the restoration of justice was chosen in a different way, after many failed attempts in retributive justice, the restorative justice was applied.

Richard W. Nysse continues in his commentary that the false prophets had insisted that God would not reject. Instead, God, in their view, would only bless, even to the point of exempting them from the natural consequences of social injustice. They claimed that the community would not experience sword and famine. But the famine was already in place! Once God is active in punishment, the only way out, comes from God. That is what is being pleaded here, and the plea is rejected by God. God is, in this text, rejecting the intercession of the people,  not because it is insincere, but because the time for pleas is over.

We desperately want to be spared the thought that God is active in the dark cloud, not just against the dark cloud! 

Please, let’s just quickly move on to Jeremiah 31:34: “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” The move to forgiveness goes through the heart of God, and we know from the New Testament that it is not a facile move. It involves a huge price!

Yes, we know that this not be the last chapter in the story of the Lord’s people.  The Lord will put these people through a fire, but it will be a refiner’s fire rather than a destroyer’s fire.  Their redemption will be a long time coming, but it will come. The Lord is abandoning his people, but the abandonment will be temporary.  It is the Lord’s way of acknowledging that cheap grace is no bargain, no solution.  Cheap grace at this point would not help these people.  It is time for Tough Love.

The answer is no,  no, no, God was not a tourist on his own land. But yes He did choose to sleep or to abandon them temporarily. The people appeal to God not to break this long-standing covenant.  This covenant does have two sides, it imposes responsibilities on both parties,  it is the people rather than Yahweh who have broken the covenant.  They have broken it over and over and over again, but now they ask the Lord not to break it.  The Lord, however, is not breaking the covenant but is acknowledging its brokenness.

Many questions remain, many things unanswered as in Jeremiah 14 or in the Rwandan history, as well as maybe in the context of your life.

One of the deep findings of Jeremiah 14 is:

God is active in the dark cloud, not just against the dark cloud! 

I wish you a very good week.

Philemon

Quotes taken from various Bible Commentaries mentioned.
‘God spends the day elsewhere, but He sleeps in Rwanda’. About Catholicism, conflict and peace in Rwanda. Master Thesis 12/2011 by Henrieke Buit
History of International Relations Utrecht University