It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Digital Versions of Book of Resolutions and Book of Disciplines

God finds Jacob, Reflection on Genesis 28:10-19a

Esau had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. Then later, Esau loses the blessing due to an elder son. We weren't told that Esau resented his brother for taking his birthright, but we are told how angry he is over the loss of the blessing. When their mother, Rebekah found out that Esau had threatened to kill Jacob, she sent him to Haran to escape that fate and to find a wife while at her brother's house.

In this week's lesson, Jacob has begun the journey. He's on the way to the home of his father's father, Abraham, and his mother, Rebekah's. When it gets too dark to travel, he beds down. In a dream, he sees a ladder beginning on earth but reaching to heaven. Angels of God were climbing up and down the ladder.

The Lord God appears to Jacob and extends the blessing to him that had before him been received by Abraham and Isaac, promises a continuing presence with Jacob, and an assurance that Jacob will be able to return home.

Note that God came to Jacob where Jacob was. Jacob wasn't looking for God. Nothing is special about the place where he found God.

Questions that I ponder--
Why was Esau more upset about the loss of his blessing than of his birthright?
Why did Isaac never go to Haran?
Why does Genesis say the ladder (my NISB says that the Hebrew word could be translated as staircase) was set up on earth? Why didn't it drop down from heaven?

One of my favorite biblical theologians is John Goldingay. Here's an excerpt from his Old Testament Theology, Volume One, Israel's Gospel:

"At Bethel God promises to be with Jacob wherever he goes, yet Jacob infers that this particular place is one where God is present. It is God's house, heaven's door. Indeed, God later thus directs him back to Bethel and appears there, although also God speaks to him at Shechem (Gen 34:1-15). There is a rhythm about God's relationship with the ancestors, a rhythm of place and journey. It involves both fixed places where God appears and they worship, and journeys where they decide to go and God accompanies them...." (246).

Monday, September 18, 2017

Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23

A lot has happened to Isaac since last week's reading. He grew up but couldn't marry any of the local Canaanite girls. His father Abraham sent his servant back to their homeland to find a wife for him. He did. Rebekah. Isaac was 40 when they married. After 20 years, Rebekah became pregnant. She gave birth to twins, Esau (red-headed) and Jacob (who came out of the womb clinging to his brother's heel). Eventually Jacob tricked Esau out of his status as first-born. Esau eventual marriage to a Hittite woman made life difficult for Isaac and Rebekah.

In this week's reading, Isaac is now blind. He asked Esau, who was the hunter in the family, to go shoot some game and bring it back for Esau to eat. In exchange, Isaac promised to give him his blessing.  Rebekah helped Jacob disguise himself as Esau. Isaac was fooled; Jacob received the blessing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Lord Will Provide, Reflecting on Genesis 22:9-14

The altar is built, wood is laid on it, Isaac is bound, Abraham is holding the knife. And God intervenes. "Don't kill your son." Abraham listens then turns and sees a ram caught in the bushes. He names the place, "The Lord will provide."

God has provided a substitute sacrifice.

God has provided an act of grace for a man who has shown over and over that he needs it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Testing Abraham, Reflecting on Genesis 22:1-8

"After these things God tested Abraham." In their book, Narrative in the Hebrew Bible, David Gunn and Danna Fewell point out that Abraham has already sacrificed both of his wives twice as well as his older son Ishmael. They ask "What is the test? Does God think that Abraham won't risk this son in order to ensure his own safety?

He had argued with God about the proposed destruction of Sodom. Why does he not argue now? Gunn and Fewell suggest several arguments that Abraham might have used: "Take me instead. I'm old. The boy is innocent. You are a just God." Instead, Abraham gets up early and takes his son Isaac on a journey toward a place God had shown him.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When God is Resting, a Reflection on Genesis 2:1-4

On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.

In 586 BCE, the Babylonians took over their country, destroyed the temple, and carried many people into exile. They had lost their home and their sacred place, the place where they had been able to meet God. Yet, God was not absent from their lives. According to Samuel Terrien, in The Elusive Presence, "Deprived of sacred space, they discovered the sacrality day of the Sabbath....The creator may seem to be absent from history, but he is present in the cosmos and offers man a means of participating in divine creativity. The Sabbath, whatever its prehistoric origins, became for the first Jews a sacrament of presence."

They needed to feel God's presence because in their lives it felt a lot like God was absent. Many others through time have needed this reassurance that although they feel as if they have been deserted or forgotten, God is still there, is still powerful, and is still interested in our lives.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dominion, a Reflection on Genesis 1:27-31

God said to them, "Be faithful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every thing that moves upon the earth."

Well, we've done very well with the multiplying and filling the earth part. If that's what God meant about being faithful, then we have been. But, if God was more concerned with the dominion part, we may not have been.

If dominion means something like dominate, then we humans have been working on that. But, if dominion really means something more like having responsibility for the care of, then we need to improve our efforts.

Monday, September 4, 2017

In the Beginning, a Reflection on Genesis 1:1-26

Bible scholars tell us that this part of Genesis was edited by theologians after the exile. In part, it is an assertion that the God of Israel is superior to the deities worshipped by the Babylonians. And it is an assurance that this God we worship is God who cares for the earth and all the creatures on it. Although God had allowed the exile, God could be trusted to restore the community on its return. (with thanks to Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Old Testament.

Into chaos comes the word of God.

God speaks, and light overcomes darkness.

God enters the world and brings order to it.