Friday, July 14, 2017

Fester

She shines
But more as a blister
Oozes seduction
That hides open sores
Scratch that itch
Give in and kiss her
Avoid wise instruction
You’ll suppurate more
Down that path
Lie ruin and murder
A black-painted card
Is tacked to her door
So, my sons
Drink your own cistern
Avoid ulceration
And mind your own store

(Poetry Scales 61)   

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lentil Stew (Genesis 25:19-34)

With the “records of the generations of Isaac” we really get into the story of Jacob. It starts, as is often the case, with his birth. It is a vivid account. A fraternal twin, Jacob comes out second fighting with and grasping at his brother. And he could not be more different than Esau—both in appearance and personality.

For the longest time, I read my own misunderstandings into the story of Jacob and Esau. I would always use the story of the lentil stew to excuse Jacob’s deception. Sure, Jacob lied to his father and stole the blessing that belonged to the first born; but Esau had sold that right to Jacob, right? That misses the point of the story, and is likely an attempt at self-justification. We always look for a way to say that we deserve God’s favor.

The truth is that the picture of Jacob and Esau here is one of two broken, despicable people. Esau does disdain his position in life. He does not value the blessings God has to offer. He throws away that abstract but real value, to satisfy a more tangible, temporally passing, physically fulfilling itch. But Jacob is conniving and double-dealing. He sees his brother in need and takes advantage of the situation. Once again, this is a bowl of beans! That is hardly something worthy of Esau’s birthright.

And, even though the story is recounted here, it is hardly something we should expect Esau to be held to. It does not justify what Jacob does later on. It shows us that both of these brothers are not the sort of people we would chose if we were trying to save the world.

Ultimately, that is the point. We wouldn’t choose one of these guys, but God did. He chose Jacob before the boys were born. Before they could do anything (or fail to do anything) to merit such a choice. God works throughout history with sinful humanity to accomplish His purposes (showing our desperate need for Him) right up to the point where He breaks into creation and saves us Himself.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Edelweiss

There’s a price
To be paid
For a man
Who is brave
     In the way that he proves his courage
Who finds it honorable
    To defend one’s own honor
Who takes pride
    In what he is
    Like a color or where he lives
And not what he does
    Or does not do.
True nobility,
What is rare and special to find,
Is a man who is humble, capable, and assured

(Poetry Scales 60)  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Final Thoughts (1 John 5:13-21)

Have you ever heard one of those speakers who delivers a super well-thought out talk, who then ends it in a sort of fugue—repeating the themes a few times. Like a song on that doesn’t end, but rather fades out on repeat as was so popular in the eighties?

That feels a bit like what John does here. He has laid out his case and repeated it once to great effect. Then he states the thesis succinctly: you can know that you are on God’s side. Now it feels like he almost rambles the themes out once more. We see the ideas of avoiding sin, obedience, worldliness, and the true faith again.

This is where we get things that are not as spelled out, as if the audience has heard these points from John before, or maybe they were to be explored in another later in a writing or sermon we do not have today. Sins that do or do not lead to death is one obvious example. But we too have seen some of this in John’s other contributions. The idea of effective prayer, for example.

The final sentence seems to come out of nowhere, but it is the overarching story of Scripture. One of the ways we could sum up the story of the Bible in a theme would be as the story against idolatry. And that is something John has been writing about this whole time. We live in a world and among a humanity that has chased after every idea of worship and authority except for the One True God. Walking in the light and becoming His children is all about turning our backs to the idols we have created and back to the One who created us.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Isaac: Part 2 (Genesis 26)

As already mentioned, we don’t truly get Isaac’s story in Genesis. Chapter 25 sees Abraham’s story end, and then we get the structural divider of Ishmael’s line. “Now these are the records…” verse 12. In Verse 19 we start the new major section, “Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac.” But this is Jacob’s story. That said, chapter 26 is devoted to Isaac.

With Isaac we see four interesting story-points.

One, unlike Abraham, God tells Isaac to stay where he is and he will be blessed. God does not work in everyone’s life the same way. If He commands us to do something, we are wrong to think everyone should also be held to that expectation.

Two, like Abraham, Isaac makes the bone-headed decision to claim that his wife is his sister. Fortunately for him, the local ruler realizes the truth before anything bad can happen. Sons frequently fall into the same mistakes and sins of their fathers.

Three, Isaac is a great example of Kingdom diplomacy. Jesus will later tell his disciples to love their enemies. He commanded His followers to not seek justice or fair treatment but rather to trust God to care for them. Isaac is repeatedly run off from his place and the efforts he invests in setting up a home for his vast people and property. God continues to provide.

Four. Later on, God will command His people to cleanse the land of its idolatrous cultures. But here Isaac makes a covenant with Abimelech. God has told him to stay and the right thing to do in normal circumstances is to make peace with others. The conquest of the land later on is the outlier, the special circumstance.
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