Tag Archives: Scripture

JSB #4 A Bow on the Rack

“No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people.  It was pointing up, into the heart of heaven.” (Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 47)

Noah’s ark is a necessary story for any children’s storybook or curriculum, but typically we miss the point.  We are working hard here to remember that the Bible is a book about God first.  The people (and in this case the animals) matter but are not the focus.

[Genesis 6-9 is a powerful read.  Some parts are confusing and beyond our scope.  Sons of God and daughters of men?  Nobody understands this.  Was it a pair of each animal (6:19) or seven (or seven pairs) of the clean ones (7:2)?  There are many other ancient flood stories in existence (most notably the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh) which may “vouch” for the historicity of the flood.  But most importantly, when we contrast the Genesis account against other ancient texts, we learn something about YHWH, Israel’s God.  The church’s God.]

The account of Noah in many ways is a continuation of the fall story begun in Genesis 3.  After Eve and Adam partake of the tree and are excused from the garden sin begins to take root in the heart of man.  In the next chapter Adam and Eve’s sons take it to another level as a jealous Cain takes “a walk in the woods” with his little brother and kills him.  Still in chapter four we see a second murder as Lamech confesses the evil deed to his wives (yes, plural…we are not in Kansas anymore) (Genesis 4:23).  By the time we get to Noah it seems he is the only one on earth listening to God.  God loves man, but after all man has done God repents of making humans. (Gen. 6:6)

This sounds pretty bad, but realize that in the other flood stories the gods have no concern for humanity at all.  Humans are nothing more than servants to the gods.  The God of Genesis seeks relationship with humans, and He finds it with Noah, a man whose faith stuck out as a lit candle in a dark room.  So, God hatches a plan and brings Noah in on it.  God will send water to wash the earth clean.  Noah will build a large boat based on the plans and dimensions that God is giving him.  On this boat Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives will be saved.

Oh yeah, the fun part, God cares about the animals, too.  He will bring to Noah a pair (or seven) of every “kind” of animal on the earth.  Why? It seems our fate as humans, is linked to the other creatures on the earth.  God gave Adam and Eve dominion, read authority and responsibility, over all the animals…and mankind’s actions got the whole world flooded…we’ve been bad at this from the beginning.  But the good news is that the animals get a second chance, as well.

There is so much we could talk about…the week spent on the ark after the door was closed and before the first rain drop fell…the forty days and forty nights of rain that turned into a year by the time it was dry enough to leave the boat.  But what interests me the most, the part that gives me pause for hope and reflection comes at the end (well almost the end) of the Noah story.

The idea of God flooding the earth and destroying 99.9999% of all leaving creatures can easily lead one to perceive God as heartless, ruthless and not so loving.  But the point of God’s story as it pertains to Noah is this: DESPITE IT ALL GOD LOVES US ANYWAY! Should we think that God expected humanity to be reformed after the flood?  Really?  As I alluded to before the end of chapter 9…a vineyard, a hangover and whatever Canaan did in that tent…quickly shows us that any amount of grace and mercy shown by God to man is unmerited.  Yet, God’s love and grand visions for humanity’s flourishing continues.

At the end of chapter 8 God commits to never take out His frustration upon the earth on account of man’s evil hearts.  In chapter 9:1, he echoes the command from the garden, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  Then comes the rainbow as a symbol reminding us that God will never destroy the world again with water.

The rainbow is such a rich symbol here.  Think about this for a minute.  Many ancient (and some modern) people had a view of God as one who stood in the heavens with his eye on humanity just looking for people to mess up so he could strike him or her down.  They could picture God the mighty warrior standing in the heavens, bow in hand, arrow pulled back and eyes scanning the earth for the next non-compliant human to be targeted and struck down.  But review God’s words in Genesis 9:11-17.  (I like to read it in the NASB because it translates the word literally as “bow” rather than the move to “rainbow” that is sometimes made.)  God is hanging his bow on the rack.  He is retiring from this perceived occupation of hunting guilty humans.  The bow in the clouds testifies to a God of love, a God of relationship, a God who desires to be a part of our lives.

Take heart and find peace today, knowing that the bow has been put away.  Let’s strive to be friends with the God of love, so that we can shine like candles in a world full of hate.

The LORD is ONE

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

It seems like a simple proposition, but it wasn’t then, nor is it now.  “The LORD is one.”

One God, what a strange concept to the ancients.  Abraham is often considered the first monotheist.  He was no doubt reared in polytheism; extra-biblical material  explains that his father Terah was a some sort of priest in a temple dedicated to a multiplicity of gods.  In those stories we read about Abraham recognizing the nonsense of the situation when his father has to repair the “gods” after they fall over and are cracked.  In comments reminiscent of quotes later shared by biblical prophets, Abraham tells his father that it is he who should be worshipped since he is the “creator of the gods.”  But alas, those ancients were so silly that they worshipped man-made objects.  Thankfully, we live in a more advanced culture…right?

One God, what a difficult concept to early Christians.  Though Israel struggled to maintain monotheistic purity through the times of the judges and kings, the exile seemed to communicate the jealousy of the one true God who expected to be the sole object of their worship.  The prophets explained to Israel that contrary to common assumptions of the day, exile did not represent the defeat of YHWH, rather YHWH was seen as the goldsmith refining his people by passing them through the refiner’s fire in Babylon.  The purified remnant that returned was still imperfect, but they became increasingly passionate about their God being the only one, so we should cut them a little slack about being so sensitive to Jesus’ claims to divinity.  It took Christians about three centuries to develop a consensus understanding of how the God we worship could be one substance yet three personalities.  The idea that God is 3-in-1 has rich implications for our faith and spirituality, so much so that we must take it up another day.

One God, what a challenge to the fabric of our culture.  We would like to sit back and cast stones at those ignorant ancients who put their faith in man-made things.  When we do so we avoid the painful analysis of our own selves.  Capitalism, Democracy, Military – could these be the trinity of components that unite to form the idol known as the American Dream?  Are we not guilty of putting our faith in our bank accounts, political heroes, and human alliances?  Do we ever put our faith in our human philosophies, religious systems or traditional methods?

I could go on…but suffice it to say, we aren’t perfect.  When it comes to idol worship let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  I am guilty of  trusting my intellect and interpersonal skills to protect me.  That has not always worked out so well!  Where are you looking for a savior?  What messiahs do your children see you worshiping?

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  In order to listen and obey, we must learn to hear the voice of the ONE TRUE GOD.  The Shema, this great daily prayer, calls us out on our idolatry and calls us to the God who revealed His name to Moses at the bush and His true nature to the world on the cross – LOVE.  May God bless us as we seek to identify and mute the competing voices in our lives and more faithfully live in response to the voice of the One in whom we live, and move and have our being.  May you sense this week the peace, hope and love that can only be found…

In Him,

Wes

 

Hear, Listen, Obey

So, with this post we start to become regular partners.  I’ve lived up to my end of the deal by making a second post and adding content especially to the “Prayers” page.  How are things going on your end?  Again let me encourage you to go to the PRAYERS page and download The Shema.  Say it with your family at breakfast or dinner, or use it as a bookmark in your Bible or that book you are reading with the kids so that you remember to pray it together.  You will have to work a little harder than they will to memorize it, but don’t let their fresh, young minds intimidate you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 

Hear will be our focus today.  This is an English translation of the Hebrew word Shema, the first word uttered by Jews when they pray this prayer each day.  In addition to “hear”, this word can also carry the weight of “listen” or “obey.”  Let’s consider each.

As parents we hear a lot.  Every mother has had days when she tired of hearing her title…”Mommy, Mommy.”  To hear is the most passive translation of this word, yet for us to even hear God in the midst of the loud cacophony in which we live is a significant accomplishment.  Do your family a favor this week and introduce them to a moment of silence in which God’s voice can be heard.  Pause for 30 seconds before or after you repeat the Shema together in silent reflection.  Kids may resist silence at first, but often, with practice, they will come to crave it.

Listen ratchets up the demand on our end.  It requires us to plug one ear, so that, what comes in one won’t go out the other.  Listening requires attentiveness, a conscious silencing of the other noise.  As you repeat the Shema this week listen to the words – not just with your ears but with your heart.  Ask yourself and your children, “How is God speaking afresh to us today through these ancient words?”

Obey is the ultimate intended result of our hearing and listening.  Appropriately, we usually associate obedience with action.  However, realize that  sometimes God calls us not just to go and do, but often first we must come and see.  As you listen to God this week what are you learning about him, your relationship with him, and your relationship through Him with the rest of his creatures and creation?

Practice the obedient action of hearing and listening this week.  Enjoy repeating the sacred, ancient words of the Shema with your children, reminding them that Jesus spoke these words every day of his earthly life.  Let’s pray that God speaks to and conforms their hearts and ours into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ this week as we seek to live more completely…

In Him,

Wes

Impressing Them

Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, The LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments I am giving you today are to be upon your hearts, impress them upon your children.  Talk about them as you sit at home and as you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them upon your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and upon your gates. (Shema, Dt. 6:4-9)

family1

am the father of 6 children ages 5 months to 12 years.  It is my heart’s desire to impress God’s love and desires upon them.  I want them to find their place as participants in the missio dei, the mission of God.  Beyond my own family, I want to partner with you.  I hope to learn from you and pray that I might share something helpful with you as you seek to impress your faith upon your children.  It is a daunting task, but one that we can no longer ignore.  Faith doesn’t just happen, it must be nurtured in us and our children.

Over my next several posts I will be reflecting on the passage above, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known as the Shema.  These words were and are the daily prayer of Israel.  It is safe to assume that Jesus uttered this prayer every day of his life.  This is evidenced by his quoting it when asked about the “greatest command”.  As a parent I challenge you to commit this prayer to memory.  Say it with your children.  We can talk more about it soon.

Until next time, may God bless you as you seek to impress faith upon your children as we bring them up together…

In Him,

Wes