Monday, March 23, 2015

Mirrors and Windows

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Gen 1:3

When God speaks, words turn into deeds; chaos turns into order.

When God speaks to us, sometimes however, we pay little attention, misunderstand or simply choose to ignore.  

Nevertheless the Bible is one of the few known existing collections of the words of God in the tradition of the Judaism and the Christianity.

And the Bible has thousands of versions with thousands more of the various translated languages in this world throughout the centuries.

It is always a question of how we read and understand them.

I. Mirrors

Read the Bible as if it would reflect us in a mirror and see ourselves fresh again.

Example 1:
1The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”  5David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 2 Samuel 12:1-6 (NIV)

Most of us are like David with the same reaction: Who? Me? No way! It must be about somebody else and that somebody is absolutely wrong! 

Even when we read further down, it is still all about David.  We think we have nothing to do with that story. We think we are not like David, just as David thought he was not like that rich man. Think again!

Example 2:
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15: 25-32 (NIV)

Have we ever wondered that it is harder for us (the big brothers/sisters) to welcome the lost son home than the waiting Father’s loving embrace?  Are we somehow afraid that the bad boy is back to steal our share of the Father’s blessings?
Let us read the Biblical stories as though they are mirrors reflecting our own stories.

Let us read the Bible with the open mind and eyes to see exactly where and what we are in those stories. 

II. Windows

“So often the church has little room for inquiring and struggling, making those (who) so engaged feel guilty for so little faith.” – Fred B. Craddock 

Read the Bible like seeing through a window with the lens of the love of God.

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria. 2 Kings 2:23-25 (NIV)

If God is what we believe He is - our loving shepherd who treats all the people as His children at all time - Would He endorse Prophet Elisha’s action while Elisha was angry with the childish comments from those boys?

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. 1 Samuel 15:3 (NIV)

What if those fighters attacked the much hated longtime enemy Amalekites and had killed all the living people and animals, then “borrowed” the words of God to cover up their horrible actions as a “holy” war order, just like the old saying, "accomplished fact" (Fait accompli)?

Here is another perspective about these texts:

“Some years ago, one of Great Britain’s leading Jewish intellectuals was being considered for the position of Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth when rumors arose that he was not quite solid enough in his religious faith. An extremely conservative member of the selection committee called him in, opened the Bible to chapter 15 of I Samuel, and read Samuel’s words to King Soul: ”thus said the Lord of Hosts… Attack Amalek, kill men and women, infants and children, oxen and sheep, sparing no one.”
The committee member then said to the candidate, “That’s in the Bible. Do you believe that God said it to Samuel?”
The candidate answered, “I believe that Samuel heard it, but I don’t believe that God said it.” The authentic voice of God would demand that we be more compassionate and less cruel…
The candidate did not get the position.

-  Harold S. Kushner, “Living Life That Matters” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)

To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, His love endures forever. Psalm 136:10 (NIV)  

Can we call the God who struck down the firstborn of Egypt “a God whose love endures forever”?

Are these stories/words coming directly from God or from an ancient tribe with harsh revenge/hatred in their minds during the wartime in the battle fields?

Can we read some of these stories straight through the lens of the love of God?

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice. Prov 24:17 (NIV)

 “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Cor 3:6 (NIV)

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