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Talking back to God

Chapter 5

Good Monday morning to this week 5 of 2022

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And
he said “Here I am.” He said “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you
love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one
of the mountains that I will show you” (22:1-2).

So how does Abraham respond? Does he get angry, worried, doubtful, upset?
Does he ask for a second opinion? None of the above. He is silent.

Why is Abraham so strangely silent here? Why doesn’t he speak up and try to
save his son? Why is he silent?

The conventional answer is – Abraham had great faith and therefore he was silent.
And indeed Abraham has been a model of faith for the people.

The problem is, when we look at the whole story of Abraham in Genesis, we find
plenty of places where he doesn’t show such automatic faith at all.

Earlier still, when he feels his life threatened in Egypt, he doesn’t turn to his God
for help, but instead, has Sarah lie for him, claiming she’s his sister instead of his wife
In this case, he takes matters into his own hands. So this is very much in his character.

Three reasons why he should speak up:

1. Personally which father would rush to obey without first asking and talking back to God to spare his son?
2. The lament psalms, model modes of speech, asking God for help to intercede for something or for a situation.
3. In Gen 18 and other chapters Abraham does engage in such speach talking back to God.

So yes, something unusual is going on here.

Jawhwe mostly spoke to Abraham .. but here it is Elohim – It is Ha-Elohim. So is the narrator of this text signaling to us, that this instruction to sacrifice Isaak couldn’t really be what Yahwe wanted?

What then does Yahwe want to happen through the testing of Abraham?

1. For his discernment of God’s character?
2. For his trust in God yet without the blind faith?
3. A new relationship between God and man to begin? A relationship between the divine and the human?
4. For Abraham to keep posing many questions to God as he did before?
5. A new willingness to speak up to God?
6. Or does God want Abraham to bargin as he did in the other passages where he bargained all the way down to 10 people? Often Yahwe accepted what Abraham proposed !

Back to the basic question of the story:
1. Why doesn’t Abraham speak out to God ? Why doesn’t he get the conversation going?
Does he think that God is a harsch master?
2. Why different this time, when he knows Yahwe as God who listens?
3. Why does Abraham loose his voice to his son?
4. We don’t want to put his motives in question and only think the best of him but yes it’s different here.
5. Could this be a big moment of fear, fear of God in the life of Abraham?
6. Why is his grappling with God not applied this time?
7. Abraham knows how to lament. Lamenting is a petition for something that God has promised.
8. Did he no longer know the promises of God due to fear of him?
9. His actions or lack of showed his heart in this moment.

Many of the answers we will not know but we experience and learn
from God in many passages that He is a God that answers.

When our fear or dread of God is gone , we can lament without a disrespect of God.
We can even complain like Job did, and our relationship with God will blossom. When we know the character of God we can call on him as in the Psalms … my God, my God why have
you forsaken me .. and God will answer and he will grow in mercy. God is willing to hear us and is open to our suffering and lament. Even our protest he can handle. Jesus in the New Testament promoted the vigorous prayer as well.

No, silence is not always bad, it has it’s time is sometimes very appropriate. We just learn from this story the the family history of Abraham remained quite messed up, all the way down to Jacob speaking of his father Isaak as the father of fear. Did this fear come from the way he got to know God on the mountain with his father Abraham? Did his silence cause this fear to be passed on over generations?

Today, the story of Abraham to work on our image of God, it’s worth it!

Wishing you a good start to this week!
Philemon

Quotes from the message and book of Dr. J.R. Middleton; ‘Abraham’s Silence’



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Seized by joy

Chapter 4

Good Monday Morning to this week 4 of 2022

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matt 13: 44-46

Two people each come upon something extremely valuable and precious, and they give up everything they have to acquire it. But the two actors are very different:

Both parables are extraordinarily brief and could not be briefer. We have to ask ourselves: did Jesus really tell such short stories? What is more thrilling than stories about hidden treasure? Why, for example, didn’t he tell about how poor the worker really is, how he starts to plow the ground, then hits something hard with the plowshare, digs out a clay pot and sees that it is full of silver coins, looks around furtively and quickly shoves the earth back over the find—and then how he buys the field, digs up the treasure, rushes home, and dances for joy with his wife and children? What a wealth of story material!

Position 1
The point aimed at in both parables is the gigantic value of what is found. The reign of God is as precious as the treasure and the shimmering pearl.

Position 2
It’s not about the infinite value of the reign of God. It is about giving, about renunciation of possessions, about unlimited willingness to sacrifice.

Position 3
The day-labourer and merchant were faced with a unique opportunity that would never come again in their impoverished lives. So the parable is all about a unique situation. Now, at this hour, God is offering them the greatest gift, and now, in this hour, it must be seized.

Position 4
It’s all fraud, the day-laborer acquires his discovery dishonestly. He leaves the owner of the field in the dark about what he has found. Moreover, the wholesaler must not let the seller know what price he will demand from his own customer. Both of them are “immoral heroes”. What Jesus really wanted to put before the eyes, is about decisive action, total dedication, goal-oriented, uncompromising that it risks everything.
The reign of God needs people who act like that. “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it”

Position 5
The whole point is the overflowing joy with which the two finders sell everything. The accent lies there, and only there, and it is precisely from there that the whole parable has to be interpreted. The joy and and fascination with the find is so great that this determines the both events. Both of them are enraptured: by the brilliance of the treasure and the shimmer of the pearl. They have been seized by a joy beyond all measure.

Conclusion
Beholding and finding the beauty of God’s cause, being seized by joy, by desire for what God wants to do in the world, so that the “desire for God and God’s cause” is greater than the sum of human self-focusing.

Wishing you a good start to this week!

Philemon

Paraphrased from Lohfink, Gerhard. The Forty Parables of Jesus

A poor swimmer

Chapter 3

Good Monday Morning to this week 3 of 2022

All my bones say, ‘Jehovah, who is like Thee, delivering the poor from the stronger than he, and the poor and needy from his plunderer.’ Psalm 35.10

When the rabbi of Lentshno’s son was a boy he once saw Rabbi Yitzhak of Vorki praying. Full of amazement he came running to his father and asked how it was possible for such a zaddik to pray quietly and simply, without giving any sign of ecstasy. “A poor swimmer,” answered his father, “has to thrash around in order to stay up in the water. The perfect swimmer rests on the tide and it carries him.”

Tales of the Hasidim by Martin Buber (1878–1965)

Hasidism is a particular form of Judaism that developed in Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century. Among its fundamental ideas is that God’s glory is present throughout the world and can be experienced everywhere and in all things. For example, prayer can be ecstatic joy that envelops the whole body. That was not entirely new in Judaism, of course. People had long applied Psalm 35:10 “All my bones shall say, ‘O LORD , who is like you?’ ” to prayer, which is why many Jews move their upper bodies back and forth while praying, but in Eastern European Hasidism the sense was much stronger, so that leaping, dancing, and ecstatic joy were added. This tale should be understood against that background.

This tale makes a statement that is at first perplexing and yet for that very reason is a persuasive insight into an important aspect of faith.

Prayer that allows itself to be borne altogether by God and rests in God.

Wishing you a good start to this week!

Philemon

A bucket full of hope

Chapter 2

Good Monday Morning to this week 2 of 2022

Many drops make a bucket, many buckets make a pond, many ponds make a lake, and many lakes make an ocean. Percy Ross

When your neighbor’s house is on fire, you should help with a bucket of water. Yahya Jammeh

But your many foes will be like a drop in a bucket. Isaiah

Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? St. John

I was looking through old pictures of our family and found one of myself, I must have been about a year old, holding a bucket in one hand and a spade in another.

Isn’t it funny how some things constantly change and others remain the same. I was born in Asia – lot’s of buckets there. At home I have buckets for washing things, fixing bikes, carrying apples. The basins we use to plant tomatoes now …. When I travel to Africa, there are lots of basins and buckets there. One of the first bathes a child gets, is in a bassin. Somehow, probably all of us would say, yes we’ve had a bucket or two in our lives!

Many drops in a bucket … comes from the filling of a bucket. We could turn it around, remember the bucket showers? Punch a few holes into the bottom of aluminum bucket, hang it up, put it on a stand, or even better, get a pully and make a decent shower with it.
if done well, the water would trickel out slowly ..

Let’s get our buckets filled to the brim again, gather many more good things and share them drop by drop with all we’ve gathered.

Wishing a great start to this week!

Philemon



A brave new world


Chapter 1

Good Monday Morning to this week 01 of 2022

From one month to the next, on sabbath after sabbath, everyone, every living thing, will come to this holy place to honor Me as God of all. This is My word to you.
Isaiah 66.23, The Voice

From one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another. This phrase, used by the prophet is intended to express absolute continuance without an interval. The prophet still uses modes of expression, though speaking of a time and circumstances to which they are no longer appropriate. The literal meaning, all flesh, in all regions of the new earth, or to this holy place, could not worship in one spot, and so it was plain that Isaiah spoke of a worship other than that at any given place” – of a worship such as that whereof Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Following are a few thoughts of Macknight;

… a glimpse of perpetual sabbatism (occurring repeatedly; so frequent as to seem endless and uninterrupted), breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown before, and thus making it the nearest resemblance to the eternal sabbatism

The prophet wraps up his writing and speaks of the nature of that rest which is as a glimpse of perpetual sabbatism for those that worship God. It will resemble the rest of the sabbath, both in its employments and enjoyments resting from work and trial, from evils we are subject to in the present life; and we shall recollect the labors we have undergone, the dangers we have escaped, and the temptations we have overcome. And by reflecting on these things, we shall be filled with unspeakable joy. Being admitted into the immediate presence of God to worship, we shall pass a perpetual sabbath in those elevations of pure devotion. The Hebrews considered the sabbath as an emblem for the heavenly rest, or as another writer puts it: Shadows of the good sabbath to come!

As we start back into a hectic, busy and not less uncertain new year. The brave new world we are looking for, might not be a world free of trouble, illnesses or viruses. The brave new world might be the world in which we learn the secret of the sabbath, in finding the holy place of God in the very situation we are in.

Wishing a great start to this new week and new year.

Philemon