Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bible Challenge - the Ten Commandments

Bible Challenge Week Three

We are reading the first 24 chapters of the book of Exodus this week.

If you have seen the movie the Ten Commandments, you basically have the story that we are reading this week.

We start with the people of Israel kept as slaves in Egypt - they call to the Lord and the Lord, eventually, finds Moses.

Moses is the least likely champion of the people of Israel that any one could think of.  While he was a member of the tribe of Levi, he had not been raised among the people of Israel - he had really been raised as an Egyptian noble and he had fled from Egypt to avoid the consequences of a murder that he committed.

There are lots of things in this story - but I want to highlight two:

First - at the meeting of Moses with God in the burning bush, Moses asks who God is and God says, what get translated into English as "I am that I am".  Hebrew verb tenses are much more fluid than English ones - so this could as easily be translated  "I am that I was" or "I was that which I will become" or "I am becoming that which I am".  In other words - our God is not defined by time or space.

Second - when you see Christian depictions of the 10 commandments, they usually have 5 on one tablet and 5 on the other.  When you see Jewish depictions of the 10 commandments they have four on one tablet and six on the other.  That is because the first four commandments are about our relationship with God.  The last six are about our relationships with each other.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bible Challenge Week Two - Jacob and Jospeh

Welcome to Bible Challenge Week Two.

We have the end of the book of Genesis this week - it's basically the stories of Jacob (aka Israel) and Joseph.

This is the beginning of the nation of Israel - Jacob gets his name changed to Israel - which means one strives with God.  In Hebrew the word "el" means god, so any name that ends in "el" is something of or with God.  Jacob (or Israel) has 12 sons and these sons are the founders of the 12 tribes - that is the nation - of Israel.

Our God gives the name of his people - and thus his own name because he becomes known as the God of Israel - "one who strives or wrestles with God"

And the rest of the story of the people of Israel really is the story of people and a people who wrestle with God - they draw near, struggle, pull away and come back.  It's kind of our story too, we all wrestle with God at some points in our lives.

The other point of the story of Jacob is that God can use anyone.  Jacob is not a nice man, he isn't a role model.  He's a trickster and a liar and a coward - and even so God uses him to found the nation of his people.  God doesn't need for us to be good in order to be used for his will.

Then we have the story of Joseph and his brothers.  Joseph is, not to put to fine a point on it, a spoiled brat, and his brothers are really pretty nasty too - and yet God manages to turn a real family tragedy into a vehicle to save his nation.  God certainly didn't intend the behavior of either Joseph or his brothers or Potipher's wife, come to that, but God manages to work his will in spite of all of them.  And maybe that is another part of the message - that God can work his will through us in spite of us.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bible Challenge Week One - God in the World

Welcome to week one of the St. Paul's Bible Challenge.  We have started out reading the Torah - the first five books of the Christian Bible - this is what Jesus, and Paul, were referring to when they say, "Scripture says ..."

This week we have the first 24 chapters of the book of Genesis.

These chapters have a lot of the stories that we know:  The creation stories (yes there are two), Noah's Ark, Abraham and Sarah, Ishmael, the sacrifice of Isaac and Rebecca at the well.  There are also some of the stories that we don't hear very often (like Noah after he leaves the ark).

As I think about this section of Scripture, it seems to me that one of the overarching themes of this section is that God has called the world into being and has begun calling human beings into relationship with himself.

We begin with God literally speaking the world into being and it is good.  Then God begins attempting to build relationships with him.  We see that in story of Adam and Eve, of Noah and of Abraham.  God calls human beings into relationship with him - it basically involves letting him be our God.

These stories show that from the beginning God has sought to be in relationship with human beings and that we have mostly not succeeded very well in responding to God's call to relationship.  We mostly fail to let God be our God - but we try to respond to God's call.

What do you think?