Listening to Ecclesiastes – it’s like listening to myself. The hopelessness – you asked for wisdom, dummy (Solomon did) – and what you got was insight. Into yourself, maybe. But insight without action leads to paranoia – and despair. Very evident in Ecclesiastes. As we know, Solomon blew it. He ended his life as a slave of other gods, not the One God we know as Yahweh.
Seems to me David is defined more by his flaws than by his greatness. I learned something about him when he killed Goliath; but I learn much more from episodes like these, in which he commits adultery and murder. In other passages, David dances naked before the ark in Jerusalem (says he is a “fool for God”); shows too much leniency for his son Amnon who raped his sister Tamar, turning Absalom against him; sides with the Philistines against Israel; and these are just episodes from memory and I know there are more.
I get a portrait of a man who is fatally flawed, whose flaws are literally fatal to those around him, yet who maintains a relationship with God in spite of all. And God loves and maintains him, seemingly in spite of himself. David gave it all to God. Then he took it back. Then he returned. What is the take away, what do we learn?
He was not guided by the law, clearly, at several critical junctures of his life. He committed murder and adultery when it suited him to do so. He ate the bread of the presence. He seemed to show mercy at strange times and to unlikely people: to Saul, whose life he spared at least twice; to Absalom. Both these men tried to kill him. All in all a picture of a man who is driven by self, who is not guided by the formal code, the Torah. But here we are 3000 years later, remembering his name and reading his story. Why is that?
Here’s another way to put the question: is David the image of God, the image God has been looking for since creating humans? Arbitrary, vicious, spiteful, as well as loving, forgiving, pious; yet his imperfections seem somehow perfect within him, they define who he is, as if to say this is the way he is supposed to be. His holy nature does not seem to be defined by what is good and what is evil, only by his acknowledgement of God’s supreme, final judgement and authority.
Some of the most hopeful lines in the entire bible. I keep this written out on the cover of my personal bible.
My bible tells me
4:16 “For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. ”
5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
5:23-24 “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”
And I can’t help feeling hope; victory; triumph. The promise is real.
The one and only hope: How do I explain it?
Someone said, to those who believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.
Well, that kind of shuts down the conversation, doesn’t it? If I accept that, then I have to accept this piece from 2 Thessalonians:
1:6-9 “For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,”
This doesn’t ring untrue, yet it conflicts with my spirit and soul. Because what if it’s me who’s on the receiving end of eternal punishment?
OK, that’s my anxious nature. And the answer is to go back to 1The.
Let’s track that. If I’m not where I ought to be — if I’m in a place I sense I shouldn’t be (fear) — then I need to go backwards to find out what I missed. There’s a piece of faith that will carry me through the fear, if I let God do this for me. So what’s the holdup?
I think I have a better idea. I think I can do it my way. If my way doesn’t work, OK, then we’ll go with God’s plan.
I would end the post here, except that I don’t like the ending. It’s a reality I face every day. But that reality is mitigated by another, bigger reality: the promise is real. How do I know this? I don’t know how. Sometimes I just know things. Yes, there’s that other voice in me that stands back and judges and evaluates everything and says, “Well, you can’t prove it.” Well, maybe I can’t. To you. But the only person I have to prove it to is me; and I don’t have to prove it to me. It’s already been proved. My faith is not blind; I’ve seen the evidence.
So: belief is easy. Faith is hard. Trust is harder. Living out the truth, harder still. So, just for today, I’m giving thanks and praying. It will be a good day.
What a day. This is retirement? It was dark when I got out of bed, 6 maybe, or 5. I don’t keep a clock in the bedroom. Jumped on the computer to work on the art ministry manual. Working on cloth dynamics– getting the computer to simulate cloth and cloth behavior, i.e. In motion, draping, etc. If I get this working it will be a) a useful instructional tool and b) a prototyping tool for mocking up sanctuary installations in the computer before investing time, effort and money in the real thing in the real world. If you call that thing out there real. Personally I’m much more comfortable in cyberspace. Continue reading
I’m remembering why I don’t like Proverbs. It reads like Daily Affirmations. Obvious, yet somehow false. God punishes the wicked and rewards the good? Not in my experience. So many devout folks love this book. It’s published as a standalone, or as a gospels+psalms+proverbs volume. People cherish and love it, yet I read it and I feel mistrustful What’s wrong with me?
I’m remembering a workshop I attended last spring on the Illuminated Saint John’s bible. There are so many wonderful things about this bible, I can’t even begin to list them all here. Check saintjohnsbible.org and you’ll see what I mean. But one of the most amazing things about it is that it was deliberately created oversized so that ONE PERSON COULD NOT READ IT ALONE. It’s too big for one person to handle. It has to be read in community. Think about that.
Which brings me to something that needs to be expressed, my disappointment in our bible study. Expectations = disappointments. We have not been reading it as a church, but I’m grateful for those who are making the effort. Worse, I find myself ready to give up on my daily reading. So the disappointment becomes my own in myself – but I’d really rather not give this up.
I suppose in any extended effort there are going to be periods like this. The start of a journey – entering seminary, for instance – must be very exciting! Settling down to learning Greek, maybe not so much. So. Back to the Book.
Lay in bed for awhile; when I got out of bed I think it was ten of five. Made coffee. Drank coffee. Read Proverbs 1-6, and you know, I’ve never liked Proverbs but today it was different. Maybe because I’m on a reading plan. I highlighted the principles: loyalty and faithfulness; trust; honor; sound wisdom and prudence. And the don’ts: don’t be afraid; don’t withhold goods; don’t plan harm; don’t quarrel; don’t envy; put away crooked speech.
Made breakfast: my signature scrambled eggs. Two eggs + one yolk, tablespoon of milk, and salt it before you cook it. Salt is an electrolyte which keeps proteins from binding, so the eggs will never be tough or rubbery. Don’t use too hot a pan, use a rubber not a metal spatula, and turn off the flame before the eggs are done cooking. Trust me.
Then worked on a client’s Facebook page, tweaked a logo and sent it off. Proceeded to the next job, which was scanning photos for online use for a friend to pitch antique clothing. Got about 65 images done and it was still only 10am.
So I went outside and moved some construction material that’s been in the way. It was heavy, I had to take it slow and not do it all at once. Then I began to disassemble the chainlink fence I had put up for the puppies. Got pretty far with that, pulled a few of the posts out of the ground, but some were too stuck and will have to be dug out.
Hungry. Lunch. Niece came by and we chatted for awhile. Tomorrow we’re going to fix the screen on my iPhone 5 which will be hers when it’s fixed. Went back to scanning photos but only got another 20 or so done, which puts me about halfway through the job.
Made bread and butter pickles.
I’ll be going out shortly to disassemble some more fence. At peace.